Next Tuesday, the Sci-Fi channel in the UK will copy it’s American counterpart and rebrand to the rather silly name Syfy. But the rebrand will bring with it a bunch of new programmes, including the comic-book based action series Human Target and V, ABC’s remake of the 1980s classic some of you might remember from very late at night on ITV. I’ll be blogging each episode of V as they’re shown here in the UK, but I’ve already had a look at the first hour, which I really enjoyed. Read on for more about the alien invasion series…
The history of the series is quite interesting. It all stems back to a 1935 novel by Sinclair Lewis, called It Can’t Happen Here, about the rise of a fascist politician who becomes President and dictator of the United States on a wave of popularity after promising riches to all who vote for him. In 1982, Kenneth Johnson wrote a television adaptation titled Storm Warnings but NBC decided it was far too intelligent for the average viewer, demanding a few changes in order to make it a little more commercially appealing on the back of the sci-fi mania that was sweeping the world in the late 70s and early 80s in the wake of Star Wars. The fascists became aliens, and the mini-series became V.
The remake stars Lost’s Elizabeth Mitchell as an FBI counter-terrorist agent and single mother, Joel Gretsch as a priest, Scott Wolf as a TV news anchor and Morena Baccarin as Anna, the High Commander of the aliens who are known as the Visitors.
The first episode gets off to a very quick start, with a nod to Independence Day as enormous space craft arrive above the major cities of the world. Suddenly something opens up below the ships, but just as everyone is expecting to be obliterated, a friendly face appears. It’s Anna, who brings a wonderful message of hope and peace to the world. They say that they need to bring water back to their home planet and in exchange will bring the Earth new technologies and cure diseases. Most of the world is won over by the charm of the Visitors, with tourists flocking to the cities where the alien craft have arrived, even getting tickets to go on board. But not everyone believes that they have come in peace, and soon some of our characters start to suspect that their motives might be more sinister, while others start to work together with the Visitors, convinced that they are a force for good. It is here that the original 1930s influences come to the surface, with some being collaborators, while others form a resistance.
Unlike many other pilots from the 2009/10 season (I’m looking at you, FlashForward), this was really well put together, with a decent set of characters that we got to know quickly, an absorbing and generally well-written script and some excellent, movie-like special effects. Elizabeth Mitchell was particularly good, while Morena Baccarin struck a perfect balance between tranquillity and malice. In fact, all of the cast were good, there wasn’t a bad performance in there.
There were some criticisms that some of the messages of hope the Visitors were bringing and in particular one scene with a mention of “universal healthcare” were connected to President Obama, meaning that the text could be read as being an anti-Obama allegory. The producers have categorically denied this, but it was an unusual and quite clunky choice of phrase to use, so I think it is a valid talking point. However, it is only that one scene which jars, the rest of the episode can have whatever subtext you want to read into it, so I wouldn’t say it’s a major issue.
I found the pilot episode of V to be an engrossing hour of sci-fi, with interesting characters, a couple of exciting action scenes, high production values and a captivating (though, obviously, entirely unoriginal) premise. It’s perhaps not as cerebral as it sometimes seems to think it is, but as visual eye-candy with a very good cast and an intriguing story, it’s very enjoyable. I’d suggest giving it a try, by the end of the first episode you’ll probably find yourself hooked in for the whole series.
V, Tuesday 13th April at 10pm, Syfy & Syfy HD