Actionscifi's Blog


TV Series Review – V, Episode 1

Aired Australia – 7 March 2010
Aired USA – 3 November 2009

Aliens have been visiting Hollywood backlots for a good 50 years now, so we action/sci-fi fans get a little shiver down our spines when a fresh new concept comes along. And Hollywood producers get so excited that they flog it to death and then remake it at the earliest opportunity. Hence V, the blockbuster 1983 series and the 2009…erm…cult classic? We’ll see.

So, we begin with the “visitors”, as the aliens call themselves, making a conspicuous arrival on earth and proclaiming that they have come in peace to do what those in the international aid industry call a “technology transfer”. The visitors need water and “a mineral commonly available on earth” and offer in return lots of fun gadgets that Apple hasn’t invented yet. Then we learn that the visitors’ arrival is not really the first contact. They’ve been living among us for years, inhabiting invariably hot bodies and preparing for the day when they take over the earth. As the hot people always do.

When our visitors arrive, they come in huge ships which settle over 29 of the world’s major cities. Actually, 28 plus the pyramids, which the visitors of course constructed 4500 years ago and are probably just checking in on.* The sequence is not so much an homage to Independence Day as a blatant rip-off, but with a smaller budget and a much smaller screen to show it all on. As they peer upwards at the ships, the masses in the streets look as underwhelmed as we are. It’s not a promising beginning.

The show begins to pick up as we witness the visitors’ first days on earth through the eyes of five people: FBI Agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) and her oversexed teenaged son Tyler (Logan Huffman), young priest Fr Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch), wannabe TV anchor Chad Decker (Scott Wolf) and banker with a shady past Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut).

Erica’s work tracking terrorist cells drives the story. She notices that terrorist chatter on the internet falls silent when the visitors arrive, which I thought was a clever touch. There is one pocket, however, which starts chattering like schoolgirls, and we soon learn that it’s a resistance cell which has been fighting the visitors for years. When she infiltrates the cell, Erica meets Fr Jack, who’s also come along undercover as a civilian. Fr Jack’s main role in the series is clearly to let us explore the effect aliens might have on religious belief, because those little green fuckers aren’t in the bible. Hollywood seems to have missed the email reporting that most Americans worship in evangelical churches these days, so Fr Jack’s a good ol’ preacher with a dog collar. Nevertheless, his discussions with his fellow priest provide some philosophical ballast to the first episode as Fr Jack, the young cynic, is challenged by the old idealist determined to believe that the visitors are all part of God’s plan. Also at the meeting of the resistance cell is Ryan Nichols, who turns out to be a lapsed rebel, and so we have our good guys – Ryan, Fr Jack and Erica – ready to fight the good fight.

On the other side of the ledger are the visitors – led by Anna (Morena Baccarin) – and their human enablers, principally Tyler Evans, who quickly falls for one of the hot young visitors, and pretty boy Chad Decker. Chad’s going nowhere in TV land until he catches a break by sticking up for the visitors in a doorstop interview and is rewarded with a one-on-one encounter with Anna. From there his career skyrockets.

Like any sci-fi show, V sets itself up as a commentary on modern society, and so far it’s not a very good one. The lowlight comes when Anna, on a roll from a wave of positive publicity, promises to start up free healing clinics, ensuring “universal health care”. (If she can do it without adding to the budget deficit, maybe the Republicans will even jump on board.) It’s been said that the show is a critique of the Obama administration, but Anna’s preferential treatment of Chad Decker could just as easily be mimicking the Bush Administration and its close relationship with Fox News. The visitors have been here for decades, long before Obama came along, exploiting positions of power to  instigate disasters and start unnecessary wars, so George Bush and Tony Blair are aliens too! Whatever their aim, the producers should stick closer to the core of the show, which is obviously an alien-human smackdown. Or at least that’s my view.

Despite the weaknesses, there was enough in the second half of the pilot to suggest that this show has legs. If it can lose the simplistic allegories about US politics, its exploration of hope and change could be worth watching. But the most promising aspect of the show is the same thing that apparently made the original series of V great – a mismatched battle between a huge force of occupiers and a small band of fanatical resistors. As long as they lay off the Iraq War references.

* OK, so the pyramids are in Cairo, but they’re way on the outskirts. It would be like the mothership going to New York and hovering over Staten Island.

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1 Comment so far
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I remember liking the original, with its WWII/Nazi parallels. I haven’t seen any of the new one yet.

Comment by Dennis the Vizsla




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