I’m aging myself here, but I remember when the original V miniseries aired back in 1983. I was about 13 years old at the time. V was a huge deal for us young teens – everyone seemed to be talking about it.
Some 25 years later, I still remember the main characters from V: The nice, shy, sweet alien (played by Freddy Krueger of Nightmare on Elm Street). The beautiful but evil Diana. And our main hero, the adventurous cameraman. The miniseries spawned a second miniseries and then a one-season TV show, but for its brief lifespan it sure had an impact.
I recently watched the original V miniseries again and also the new ABC version of V, which premiered as a one-hour television episode. I was surprised at how well the old V held up, though the new V is also quite promising.
The old V does look dated now (if just that everyone watching news of the aliens is doing so on old console TV sets), but it is still a very compelling story. The basic plot is that aliens (the “Visitors”) land on earth, promising peace and harmony, but they are hiding a sinister plot instead.
The original V, dedicated to “resistance fighters,” shows parallels between the transition to martial law under the Visitors and Nazi Germany. Scientists are the Jews in the original V, and we are shown scenes of families hiding out and being persecuted as scapegoats as the Visitors use a concocted plot to clamp down on American freedoms.
The original V, despite being born of a more innocent age on television, does a surprisingly good job at showing the differing reactions and motivations of people living under the new regime. Some help others, while others turn their neighbors in to the “authorities” due to ego and a lust for power.
The special effects of the original V are actually surprisingly good for 1983; while the spaceships are a little clunky, the flying scenes are decent, and I actually kind of miss those obvious blue laser beams used in old sci-fi.
One thing we loved as kids when the original V came out were the alien voices. The strange reverberation is a neat effect to this day. As a 13-year-old in the 80s, this was seen as pretty darn “cool.”
(SPOILERS!) The original V also had some great reveals missing in the new version. The alien Diana eating a live mouse and guinea pig was probably one of the most shocking and surprising things ever shown on TV. And who can forget the alien hybrid baby that came about later?
Of course, one of the main things that gets updated with a redo of an old sci-fi show is the special effects. The new V, of course, benefits from the enhanced special effects of our day, but these still would mean nothing without decent characters and plot. Special effects done for their own sake can get tired. Fortunately, the special effects in the new V are used to good effect. The visual of the alien commander Anna giving her initial greeting to the world through a big screen created on the bottom of each spaceship was exceptionally memorable.
It was also quite dramatic to show the city undergoing an earthquake as the large mothership descended.
As for the plot, so far, the new V keeps the general theme of the old, with some new twists.
The new V, for example, does not hit you over the head over parallels between the Visitors and Nazi Germany in the way the old V did (at least so far). Instead, the Visitors are greeted with a hysteria that some journalists have compared with the Obamamania that hit the nation in 2008. I personally did not see the first episode of V personally attacking Obama per se (except for one obvious “HOPE” sign). Still, you could find some vague parallels to the Obama craze with the selling of V t-shirts and merchandise. The show seems to caution against getting too enthralled before all the facts are known. But the parallels with Obama end there.
My feeling is this: It’s not that the show was trying to say that Obama was like the Visitors; rather, I think the show was trying to say: Look at what might happen should blind devotion be given without critical thought.
The biggest threat, we are told, is that the Visitors have a powerful weapon…”devotion.” So it looks like we’ll be seeing more exploration of the idea of “celebrity hype” and the Visitors.
(Perhaps we are lucky Obama isn’t secretly a reptile – though David Icke and other conspiracy theorists might dispute that!)
As for the Visitors themselves, they are updated from the original in that they are sleeker and better dressed. The old red uniforms, hats and cheesy sunglasses are out: Fashion-forward beige dress suits are in.
The alien commander, “Anna,” is a beautiful woman with a trendy pixie haircut. Diana’s big 80’s hair is out.
They are still lizards underneath the human-looking skin, but instead of showing us rigid masks underneath the fake skin, we just get to see glimpses of reptile in a more subtle fashion. Sometimes less is more.
As for our dear alien leader: The casting of Anna was perfect. She manages to give the creepiest smiles in her role as Supreme Stepford Wife.
As for the plot itself: Instead of the aliens going after scientists as in the original, we have aliens acting as terrorists who are infiltrating all aspects of American life and government. A counter-insurgency group is the only resistance at this point. This is a sophisticated and modern update of the original V story. I find both versions interesting.
I would say the only thing that I missed about the old V in the new V was the lovely pacing. The old V took a bit of time to do its revealing – of course, that was due in part to the mini-series format. The new V hit us over the head in a single episode with the whole shebang: “Here are the Visitors. They are promising peace. Whoops, they are actually evil reptiles. Surprise!”
So the new V has a little less mystery than the old V…but that’s OK. It seems to be starting off in a good direction.
If I have one minor gripe it’s that they flipped the use of the spraypainted Vs in the new version. In the old version the “V” spraypaint was a sign of the resistance – it meant “Victory.” In the new V, the “V” stands for the Visitors, and for some reason they are encouraging their followers to “tag” with it. Kind of silly, really.
Otherwise, I think the new V looks really promising.
P.S. Doesn’t Joel Gretsch (the priest from the new V) look like the long lost brother of Marc Singer (the cameraman of the old V)? Maybe that’s just me.