Tuesday, November 3, 2009

V Returns to TV

Kenneth Johnson's original 1983 mini-series V - along with its 1984 sequel V: The Final Battle - was oddly one of my favorite television shows. Actually, it still is. But I say "oddly," because although the story was trite - aliens landing on Earth, claiming they want to help us, only to eat us - the media savvy and political implications were compelling.

Damon Knight's 1950 short story "To Serve Man," adapted into one of the most enduring Twilight Zone episodes in 1962, told the story best. Aliens land, cure our illnesses, bring peace, want happiness for us - because they view us as livestock. V in 1983 expanded this story to show the aliens - The Visitors - manipulating the media, and provoking underground freedom fighters all over the world who discovered the truth about The Visitors. Indeed, V posted a dedication "to the heroism of the resistance and the freedom fighters, past, present and future." In 1983, freedom fighters encompassed everyone from the Hungarians who bravely stood up to Soviet tanks in the 1950s (viewed as heroes by most Americans) to Contras fighting the Sandinistas in power in Nicaragua in the 1980s (viewed as heroes mostly by Ronald Reagan and his supporters).

Tonight's V had political analogies, but a little more obvious and less complex than the 1980s version. Tonight's Visitors promise "universal health care," a clear and unnecessary shot at the good work Obama and the Democrats are trying to do right now in Washington. A more apt connection was made tonight between the Visitors and terrorists.

Actually, the Visitors are referred to as the "V's" in this incarnation, and I prefer the "Visitors". But V 2009 does have Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch, who played Frank Vasser on Journeyman), which opens up some good theological threads (I'm suspecting his superior might be a Visitor undercover), and Lost's Elizabeth Mitchell has a top role as Erica Evans.

The new version also has the winning mix of good and bad Visitors, and Visitor-collaborator and rebel humans as the original, as well as some echoes of Battlestar Galactica (the Visitors as Cylons), and an appealing media criticism component, so I'm going to give it a chance. And kudos to ABC for stepping up with science fiction a lot more than once this decade - Lost, Invasion, FlashForward, and now the return of V.

5-min podcast review of V

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