The beginning of my profound love affair with sci fi didn’t begin with Star Wars or Star Trek. It began with V. I first saw it when I was 8. I saw it a second time when I was 10. This series was key not only to my development as a sci fi fan, but also to my development as a woman. Why is that? There are two reasons:
1) As a kid, I wanted to be like intergalactic super bitch Diana. A strange role model, I know. But there were elements about her that were admirable, because despite her evil, EVIL ways, she was a strong, intelligent woman capable of going against men and women alike in intellectual and physical combat.
2) I very often joke with friends about Michael Ironside being my first love, and they mercilessly make fun of me. But his character on V, Ham Tyler, was in fact the very first man I had a crush on. Yes, I thought he was dreamy. And I became a fan of Michael Ironside. He’s awesome.
Anyway, TMC began re-airing V two weeks ago, and with the upcoming modernized version of this series, I decided to rewatch the whole thing. So what did I think 18 years after my second viewing?
Let’s break it down —
A little background…
V was created by Kenneth Johnson, the man who years later brought Alien Nation to life, gaining my eternal love and admiration.
V: The original miniseries aired in 1983, followed by V: The Final Battle and V: The Series in 1984.
Kenneth Johnson wrote and directed the original miniseries. He briefly worked on V: The Final Battle (leaving the project due to disagreement with the peacock bastards – NBC). He had no participation in the TV series but received a “Created by” credit. More on that coming up…
Here’s my feeble attempt at summarizing the whole story, so be warned: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Donovan is a fearless reporter. Juliet is a doctor and a student. Robin is an annoying, boy crazy teenager who doesn’t want to die a virgin.
The Visitors come to earth in their big ass motherships and park at every important city around the world. They say “We come in peace. Take me to your Leader”. The Visitors, looking as human as any human but with funny voices, propose they be given substances that must be produced on earth in exchange for technology and training. Almost everybody seems happy with this and The Visitors are welcomed.
Humans and visitors begin to coexist. Pro-Visitor propaganda is spread around the world. Donovan befriends Martin the Martian, a visitor who gives Donovan rides on his shuttle.
The Visitors, led by scientific officer Diana and head honcho John, make promises they don’t intend to keep, like providing the cure for cancer, meaning no harm to humans, and peace.
Then people from the scientific community begin to disappear, and they’re also accused of anti-Visitor activities. Donovan becomes suspicious and infiltrates the mothership.
Juliet REALLY wants a piece of Visitor tissue.
Robin REALLY wants to have her way with a dreamy blond visitor. But her family is being prosecuted because her dad is an anthropologist, and they skip town.
Donovan discovers that The Visitors are lizards and they’re on earth to take all the water and to harvest humans to munch on.
When things get worse, Juliet and other scientists go into hiding and form The Resistance. They capture Willie, an adorable dumbass Visitor. They experiment on him but later he becomes part of the resistance. At some point Donovan joins the resistance, as well as Ham Tyler, a mercenary Donovan met some time somewhere. They cause all sorts of trouble for The Visitors with the help of a group of dissident visitors called The Fifth Column.
Robin’s family joins The Resistance, but since she’s in heat, she leaves her hiding place and gets captured. So Diana has the brilliant idea of having the dreamy blond visitor impregnate Robin for an experiment. As Diana’s boy toy, the dreamy blond visitor obeys and impregnates Robin.
Robin is rescued by Donovan, who walks in and out of the mothership like it was his living room, thanks to Martin the Martian.
Robin gives birth to half human/half lizard twins: one more human than lizard, who they name Elizabeth; and one more lizard than human, a green gooey baby that dies of a bacteria that’s later weaponized and called “Red Dust”, tested on the dreamy blond visitor by Robin herself, and later used to send all visitors packing, but not before developing an antidote for The Fifth Columnists.
The Red Dust becomes dormant in areas with hot weather, so the Visitors return. Martin The Martian is killed by Diana.
Elizabeth skips a whole lot of years and becomes an 8 year old in about two years. She can move things with her mind, she can spit poison, and she sparkles! Then she becomes a slimy green cocoon and emerges as a cute 16 year old weakling. She falls for Kyle, the son of Nathan Bates (an associate of the Visitors), who suffers from chronic youthful rebellion and joins the resistance. Robin also falls for Kyle, but she has to be the mom and leave Kyle for her daughter.
Diana discovers that Robin is the only human on the planet capable of procreating with lizards, so she sends Bruce Davison to impregnate her again. But the plan backfires, the impregnator is killed, and Robin skips town with Ham Tyler as her escort, never to be seen again.
Diana and Lydia, her second in command, snipe at each other, conspire against each other, and very rarely work together. The Visitors fight The Resistance, The Resistance fight The Visitors. Martin The Martian’s Twin brother, Phillip, works against The Resistance, then he befriends Donovan and becomes a Fifth Columnist, convinces the Supreme Lizard that humans are good, and The Supreme Lizard orders The Visitors to stand down.
The Supreme Lizard comes to Earth, Diana is charged with insurrection, and he and Elizabeth unite in his shuttle to work on a peace treaty, but not before Kyle goes after Elizabeth and Diana plants a bomb in the shuttle.
And The Supreme Lizard and Elizabeth fly away into the vast void of cancelled TV land.
The good stuff
From the red uniforms and the use of political propaganda, to the secret experiments and brainwashing practices, V and V: The Final Battle perfectly portray the birth a totalitarian regime in a very organic way, and this process seems heavily inspired by the Nazi regime.
The formation of the resistance was also a highlight, particularly the evolution of their leader Juliet, played by Faye Grant. Juliet was the only character that actually developed from beginning to end. She began as a doctor, reluctantly becoming head of the resistance after the invasion, to later reconcile with her new role as a leader.
There are a few images that stuck with me from my first viewing of the original miniseries. Those images had the same impact on me during this viewing as they did back then. Two of those images were my very first introduction to the effects of liquid nitrogen on a man’s arm, and the first time Diana had a snack, though my reaction to this image in particular changed from fear to uncontrollable laughter. I remember this moment being so scary when I was a kid, but taking into account modern special effects, can you blame me?
The very first reveal of the visitors’ true selves was a great moment.
And despite Robin’s annoying personality, her whole story, culminating in the birth of the half human – half reptilian twins and the death of her baby daddy was pretty interesting and scary.
And on a lighter note, Robert Englund is in it! Seeing him pre-Freddy Krugger is fascinating.
Well, the bad was the whole TV series! The original creative voice was completely lost and we were left with episodes that at their core were simply repetitive. The excessive recycling of footage from the original miniseries became tiresome and important characters like Ham Tyler left for no reason.
Everything that happened with the resistance worked as a drama, but everything that happened with the visitors that didn’t involve the resistance felt like a bad daytime soap. Every time Diana and Lydia were sniping at each other inside one of the rooms in the mothership, I expected Alexis from Dynasty to walk in on them and say “That’s what closed doors are for: to keep out the curious” as the camera zoomed in on her face, giving a lingering look at nothing in particular.
The love triangle between Robin, Elizabeth and Kyle was ridiculous. But the worse aspect of the TV series was its focus on Elizabeth, a character that had the potential to be great but ended up being the most boring character of all, particularly in relation to the introduction of the secret forbidden lizard religion called Zon, and her role as the creature prophesized to be the bringer of love and peace to the universe.
What I mean is, the story was supposed to be more of a sci fi political thriller, and instead it became a cheap melodrama with pseudo-religious elements that came completely out of nowhere and did nothing for the story. All Elizabeth did was look pretty and occasionally move things with her mind.
There were a few elements that kind of saved the TV series. Philip, Martin the Martian’s twin brother, was a late addition to the story and it brought back the alliance between dissident visitors and the resistance, along with the episode when Willie gets hurt and the resistance kidnaps a visitor doctor that ends up being a member of the Fifth Column. The episode were Ham Tyler’s story is explored is also a highlight.
The rest of the TV series is disappointing.
The 80s cheese factor
Being products of the 80’s, both miniseries and the TV series couldn’t escape some 80’s trends that are embarrassing by modern standards.
1) The hair and makeup:
2) The lame saxophone music during makeout scenes.
3) The wavy fade effect used to represent the beginning of a flashback.
I do NOT miss these things from the 80’s.
The new V
ABC’s new take on the original miniseries airs in November. The trailer’s already out and it looks damn good. It’s too bad they decided to forgo the red uniforms. But Joel Gretch is in it. *Giggles like a hormonal teenager*
V and V: The Final Battle are brilliant miniseries that everyone should watch. They feel as fresh and original as they did in the 80’s. However, the TV series falls apart in many aspects and the bad far outweighs the good.