Produced by: ABC Studios
Starring: Elizabeth Mitchell, Joel Gretsch, Morena Baccarin, Scott Wolf, Morris Chestnut and a lot of other people of whom you’ve probably never heard. Except for Alan Tudyk.
Summary Judgement: I really want to like this show, honestly I do. However, the characters are flatter than cardboard, the plot is horribly contrived – and that’s saying something for an alien invasion show – and the storyline seems content to move only an inch per episode.
NB: This review was written after watching the first four episodes of the series.
The original V mini-series came into my life when I was in university. My discovery of V came at a time when Canada’s Space channel had bought the rights to air a number of sci-fi shows from the late 70s and early 80s. Since I came into sci-fi with Star Trek: TNG, Babylon 5 and the short lived Space: Above and Beyond, the V mini-series represented my personal science fiction renaissance. Before V, I never would have believed ante-Babylon 5 television capable of rising above mere Buck Rogery.
For the record, I loved the Buck Rogers novels and the TV show wasn’t without its high points. But it also had Gil Gerard dancing.
Back to V, which was a history/sci-fi nerd’s dream; an alien invasion show that was a giant allegory for the Nazi occupation of Europe. In addition to being fascists bent on stealing the Earth’s water as a prelude to serving up humanity in a giant buffet, the Visitors were space-lizards who wore human skin to lull us into a false sense of security. For the dark ages of television, that was some pretty good writing.
However, I don’t want to be accused of being an irate fanboy, so let me say for the record that I wasn’t expecting the new V to live up to those standards. In this post-Battlestar world, my expectations are not high. To win me over, a show should offer a plot that carries from one episode to the next and kills off a main character from time to time; is that too much to ask? Apparently so for the good people at the American Broadcasting Company.
V’s plot is one of the oldest tropes in science fiction: The “We come in peace” aliens who actually want to conquer the world. But what I wouldn’t give for these new Visitors to get on with it already. Four episodes into things and all the visitors have managed to do is give a nod to conspiracy theorists by releasing a flu vaccine that serves to low-jack those who receive it. Seriously guys, flu shots that let you track people? “But Adam, the visitors are working with the FBI to catch terrorists in a gambit to win humanity’s support while simultaneously pre-empting any possible resistance leaders.” Again, seriously, flu shots? Terrorists? Free health care? Somehow I expected more devious plans from a race that mastered intergalactic travel. In fact, given that the network aired a mere three episodes of V prior to a three month hiatus for the Olympics, V’s return to the air should have been paired with a more tantalizing maguffin than fucking flu shots. At least do something that will give me a reason to try and remember some of the characters’ names.
Then there are the troublesome plot holes surrounding the Visitors’ plans to subjugate the Earth. Instead of utilizing their air superiority and mastery of human genetics and physiology, the Visitors want to conquer us by winning hearts and minds. What’s the first step in this master plan? The visitors want visas. Surprisingly enough, the Americans actually do issue passports to the Visitors, seemingly overnight. Mental note: Americans will give papers to Aliens but not Mexicans, good to know. How exactly passports fit into the Visitors’ endgame is beyond me. Call me crazy, but if I was the supreme leader of a race of space-lizards that had mastered interstellar flight and xeno-biology, I think I would cook up some sort of virus that when released into Earth’s atmosphere would put every human into a coma. Then I wouldn’t need to win hearts and minds. I could round up all the humans I wanted, catch a flight to the Caymans and spend my space-lizard retirement eating Wall Street fatcats while sitting on a big warm rock. Sun-Tzu these aliens are not.
Honestly, Fox News seems to get up to more evil deeds than these alleged invaders. Perhaps the executives at ABC think that ramming the biggest issues in the contemporary media down our throats will magically tap into the Zeitgeist of 21st century North America? But wait, it gets worse. Joel Gretsch’s character is a Catholic Priest, Father Mike or something. As I mentioned before, I have no reason to care about any of these characters so I don’t yet know all of their names. Father Mike’s crisis of faith, instigated by the Visitors’ arrival, absolutely stank of that horrible Contact movie. Wake me up when Father Mike starts calling for a crusade against the Visitors. Spinning a yarn about a resistance movement driven by a right-wing Christian militia would at least make for some interesting viewing.
“At least the show has good special effects, right Adam?” No, fail again. The powers that be behind V decided to take a page out of George Lucas’ playbook. Everything aboard the Visitors’ starship is done with green screens, post-production and an absolute minimum of props. Perhaps some people will marvel at the wonders of our technological age, but all I see are actors standing/sitting/laying on a sound stage. In truth, this less than perfect CG gives a significant portion of the show a very two-dimensional feeling. This is both fitting and poetic considering that everything else on the show is as flat as card board.
The cold hard truth is that there’s nothing really redeeming about V’s new incarnation. With science fiction moving more and more into the main stream, V serves only to validate the opinions of those who think that tales of the fantastic are cheap and silly. If you want to set a drama in contemporary times, you have to do more with contemporary issues than hodgepodge them into the script as V so painfully does. As a devoted Browncoat, the tragedy of V’s reboot is all the more poignant as it employs/employed two former Firefly alumni. Sorry Alan Tudyk and Morena Baccarin. Perhaps Nathan Fillion can pull some strings and get you in as recurring guests on Castle.
Overall Score: 45% That’s right, I like Spartacus better than this show.