The Mother Brain Files: The â€œVâ€ Legacy
By Mother Brain
In the spring of 1983, NBC aired one of the most unique and groundbreaking alien invasion mini-series of all time: V. The original incarnation of the show was inspired by the Nazi-occupied Europe during the Second World War and ironically enough the show was initially intended to be a fictional depiction of a fascist-dominant United States. It told the tale of an alien race called the Visitors who arrive on earth in 50 massive motherships over every major city worldwide. At first, they reveal themselves as a peaceful species offering to share their technology in exchange for natural resources to save their unnamed ailing world.
Many strange things begin to happen. Scientists disappear left and right and characters who were critical of the visitors suddenly show strange behavior in favoring them. Then a series of characters including TV cameraman Mike Donovan (The Beastmasterâ€™s Marc Singer) and young L.A. scientist Julie Parish (Faye Grant) soon begin to make startling discoveries about the true nature of the Visitors: Underneath their human-like skin, the Visitors are actually man-sized lizards who eat humans, animals, and even rodents!
The series caught on very quickly when it was first aired and it led to a sequel, V: The Final Battle, a short lived television series that followed the sequel, and recently a remake of the original story that currently airs Tuesdays on ABC. I was practically a baby when the original show existed but my dad watched it religiously and tried to get me into it once I got big on Star Wars and the movie Independence Day. V had the combination of what made those movies so memorable: A big story, spectacular visual effects, great battle sequences in and out of earth, and most importantly memorable characters. Here I break down all the incarnations of the V franchise:
V: The Original Miniseries (1983)
The four hour movie is where it all began. Kenneth Johnson who created the series was very intent in having a lot of subtext within the images of Nazi allegories. The red Visitor uniforms (which some believe influenced Michael Jacksonâ€™s famous red leather outfit from the Thriller video) resembled the Nazi SS uniforms right down to the Swastika-like emblem on them; the Visitors utilize the media to broadcast their propaganda just like the Naziâ€™s; and their treatment of Scientists was undoubtedly a reference to the Nazi persecution of the Jews. But most importantly, the human characters all have very different reactions to the Visitors as Julie forms an underground resistance movement to stop them while characters such as Mikeâ€™s mother and a teenage boy named Daniel Bernstein get seduced by the Visitorsâ€™ power. Other characters such as Mike and L.A. hoodlum Elias Taylor (well played by Michael Wright) join up with the Resistance only after losing loved ones by the Visitorsâ€™ hands.
The most compelling of all the characters stories, however, is the story of Robin Maxwell, a young girl who becomes attracted to a handsome Visitor named Brian who seduces and impregnates her as part of one of the Visitorsâ€™ devious experiments. The payoff to the story leads to the most shocking moment of the sequel. Weâ€™re also introduced to the individual Visitor commanders, in particular the vicious bitch known as Diana (Jane Badler) who not only became the central villain of the franchise but is also considered one of the greatest TV villains of all time. She was constantly hungry for power and would manipulate and/or kill anyone who stood in her way, human or lizard.
V: The Final Battle (1984)
Aired a year after the first miniseries, this was a six hour event over the course of 3 nights. The battle-lines are drawn at this point but the emotion on both sides gets increasingly intense. Julie gets captured and Diana attempts to â€œconvertâ€ her; Mike gets his missing son back only to find out later that heâ€™s been converted as a Visitor spy; and Robin has not one but two alien-lizard babies. One dies while the other is revealed as a magical messiah who could possibly end the war.
New characters are added to the Resistance including the badass, uzi-wielding mercenary Ham Tyler (Total Recallâ€™s Michael Ironside) as well as nice guy Visitor turned human sympathizer Willie (Freddy Kruger himself, Robert Englund). Also the anti-Visitor elite Fifth Column joins forces with the Resistance to defeat the Visitors in spite of some mistrust among some of the human characters. Everything ultimately builds up to the Resistance creating a red dust that can kill the Visitors and have it shipped out to other Resistance teams around the world and finally have a full scale attack against them.
While the sequel was more exciting than the original and tied up a lot of loose ends (and purposely created new ones), it lacked the substance of the original, becoming more like Return of the Jedi and less like Empire Strikes Back. The Nazi allegory of the original was replaced by childish fantasy (i.e. the Starchild, a vaccine that doesnâ€™t kill Fifth Column members, Julie resisting the conversion process, etc). It wasnâ€™t the final battle but it was the beginning of the end.
V: The Series (1984-1985)
It starts immediately where Final Battle left off as earth is liberated and Diana is captured and set to be tried by the world. But with the help of a science corporation, Diana escapes, kills the Fifth Column leader, and regroups with more Visitor fleets to start a second invasion. The red dust is obsolete. So the Resistance reforms to fight the Visitors once more. This time, however, Robinâ€™s now super-grown teenage daughter Elizabeth becomes vital in controlling the destinies of the two races.
It wasnâ€™t such a bad series to begin with as it helped to develop the older characters while introducing new ones to add to the conflict; however, the quality of the show decreased due to a smaller budget which meant more reused action footage from the two TV movies and a ton of continuity errors. The episodes were more uneven as some were very strong in moving the story along while others were a waste (i.e. the special Christmas episode and even an episode about clones!). By this point, interest in the series wained and it ended with a lot of unanswered questions.
V: The New Series (2009-Present)
For years, talks of a new V series and movie always got shot down. Some ideas were intended as sequels to the original while others were going to be re-imagined versions of the original mini-series. It only seemed right after Transformers and the new Star Trek movie that the alien invasion genre sparked interest again.
The re-imagined V follows the same basic premise and preserves much of the same story ideas like the human-lizard baby and the main human characterâ€™s son sympathizing with the Visitors. This time, however, the context is more post-9/11 with the Visitors having spent decades infiltrating human governments, businesses, and religious institutions and are now in the final stages of their plan to take over the Earth. The two central characters this go around are Erica (Elizabeth Mitchell), an FBI agent who becomes the Resistance leader while trying to protect her son from being seduced by the Visitors and Anna (Morena Baccarin) the Visitor queen who is less like Diana from the original and more like an evil Sade Baderinwa from ABC news. Thereâ€™s also Visitor sleeper agents like Ryan (Morris Chestnut) who discovered human emotions over time.
I wasnâ€™t hooked on the show immediately because of all the changes. Thereâ€™s no red uniforms, no lazer gun fights, no reveal of the lizards under human skin, and no Marc Singer-like characters in the male parts. Theyâ€™re all kinda sissies in their own ways. Some critics have said the show is an allegory of Barack Obamaâ€™s presidency because of the Visitorsâ€™ manipulative message of hope and universal health care to earth. I am a bit optimistic about the upcoming second season where Jane Badler will reprise and reinterpret her role as Diana and hopefully open doors for more actors from the original to return as well.
All and all, I would highly recommend the original V mini-series to anyone who loves science fiction and skip everything that came after. Although the new series is still worth a look. Itâ€™s a much better revival of an 80s show than Knight Rider!