The original two mini series, V and V – The Final Battle, were ground-breaking 1980s Science Fiction TV fares about an alien invasion of Earth that at least for a short time made stars of their leading men (and women) who appeared on the covers of practically every notable magazine and also seemed to have inspire David Icke to go and visit cloud cuckoo land. Whereas the first mini series with its WW2 overtones very much focused on establishing a tight state of paranoia, introducing the characters and creating the underground Resistance network, The [Not So] Final Battle was more of an all out action spectacle.
And then came V, the weekly TV series.
Initially shown in 18 episodes this DVD release also has an additional episode that now blatantly appears out of continuity with the rest of the season and was initially considered too violent for a TV production. From the first bars of its tacky opening synthesizer tunes, you just know that the budget must have been much more limited. Listen to the bitchy dialogue between our sassy Visitor ladies or watch a mother and daughter fall for the same guy and it’s clear that the main inspiration for the writers did not come from Isaac Asimov (or even George Lucas), but from popular daytime soaps. This is The Young and the Restless with laser guns and evil lizards.
Let’s face it: Despite its cult following, even the initial two mini-series were never really examples of intelligent science-fiction, but just entertaining bubble gum sci-fi at its best. The main issues humans in those shows seem to have with the Visitors is not that they run a quasi-fascist Government, but that they are ugly lizards who eat mice as a delicacy. Thought provoking this surely wasn’t. Unless you see this as an indictment of the shallowness of American politics in general.
The weekly series, however, brought the bar down to a preposterous level. Just looking at the final episode will have you simply agog with disbelief. Never mind the unresolved cliffhanger that raised hopes (or fears) for a second season, but after watching ‘the resistance’ battle the Visitors for the duration of two mini-series and an entire weekly show, just when Mike Donovan & Co end up in an otherwise impossible-to-win stand off with the Visitors, their Mysterious Leader decides to simply call a truce to the battle and offer peace to Earth. Apparently he has learned to appreciate the beauty of human nature. Or something. Call it Deus ex Machina or lazy script writing, you can’t help but admire the sheer chutzpah of trying to get away with such a stunt.
The most enraging aspect of the show is the blatant disregard for its story arcs or actors. Plots are first developed and then dropped off the radar altogether (What happened to Donovan’s son?) just to be resurrected again in some form: That whole Star Child nonsense e.g. appeared to become more of an excuse for Elizabeth (Jennifer Cooke) developing super powers that she couldn’t properly control (read: that pop up whenever it’s convenient and there’s no way out otherwise).
Apart from Donovan (Marc Singer) and Julie Parrish (Faye Grant) as well as Diana (Jane Badler) and newly created character Lydia (June Chadwick), pretty much all the actors appeared expendable. In actual fact there was such a lot of coming and going of main and semi regular actors that midway through the series a new intro had to be created to acknowledge that half of the initial characters were not even around anymore and had either passed away or were simply written out off the series.
One of the victims of this was Michael Ironside, the only actor to be able to hold his own as bad ass Ham Tyler, who disappeared without a mention two thirds into the series. (Incidentally, his character was also ultimately responsible for freeing Diana and causing all the havoc in the first place, yet no one seems to ever pick up on that.)
For the rest of the cast, however, the acting seems to consist of a series of smouldering looks, raised eye brows and hands on hips. Special kudos should go to the various guest-starring male Visitors (Duncan Regehr and Judson Earney Scott as Charles and Lt. James) who manage to even upstage Diana and Lydia in the Big Hair and Tits department.
The series is of course utterly ridiculous and easy to hate, but in a weird, hallucinogenic way it does actually grow on you and you end up welcoming its – dare I say it? – charming idiosyncrasies.
What’s not to like about real life anchor man Howard K Smith’s overly earnest Medals of Valour on the Freedom Network? A Casablanca style match of national anthems between the American “Stars and Stripes” and a weirdly wonderful lizard tune? A guest appearance by Sybil Danning? Seeing Alien Fifth Columnist Martin (Frank Ashmore) die in the first episode, yet having the actor return in the last couple of shows as Philip, Martin’s twin brother of sorts? Cat fights between Diana and Lydia? Lane Smith (Lois and Clark’s Perry White) chewing cigars and scenery as power hungry Nathan Bates? Willie’s (Robert Englund) comic relief of not speaking English properly? (OK, I am drawing the line here!)
Even at the risk of losing my street cred, this is a show that I enjoyed much more than I probably should have. With the right mind set, this is strangely addictive stuff and well worth a view.Interview with Kenneth Johnson, creator of ‘V’
‘V’ – The Complete Series is released on the 11th of August