SF Obscure: V

V: The Original Miniseries (1983)
V:The Final Battle (1984)
V: The Series (1984)
V (2009 TV Series)

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V: The Original Series was a big deal when it premiered in 1983. I remember it as one of the few times I watched a miniseries. (Do they even make miniseries anymore?) Since then, V has become a staple of SF-even those who haven’t watched it in a while, such as myself.

The basic premise of V in all its incarnations concerns a group of motherships arriving on Earth with aliens, called the Visitors, who share their technology. At first, they claim to be helping humanity, but slowly a nefarious agenda becomes apparent. A resistance develops to fight the aliens.

That’s a very general outline because V: The Original Series, its follow-up, and the 2009 remake all took different approaches to the Visitors. The original 1983 Miniseries was intended to be an allegory about the rise of fascism. The Visitors claim to be friendly, but are quick to infiltrate major institutions. Their human appearance is a disguise: they are reptilian creatures that eat rodents. They also have huge sunglasses and weird 80’s TV stereo voices.

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Despite some of the kitschy design and special effects, the original V is effective in showing the ease with which propaganda and manufactured fear can quickly take over a populace. The Visitors persecute scientists-capturing and imprisoning any scientist, their family members or those who associate with them. They also form a youth group, “Friends of the Visitors” which is very effective at recruiting young people and turning them into informants, who willingly turn in their parents for anti-Visitor sentiment. The parallels to Nazi Germany are not subtle, nor are they meant to be. A Resistance forms to fight the Visitors and they begin to use the V symbol-for Victory.
The second miniseries, V: The Final Battle (1984) picks up after the first miniseries. It’s obvious that the heavy messages about fascism and propaganda have been downplayed in favor of SF thrills-alien hybrid babies, mind control, humans turned into food coccoons-that kind of thing. There is a group called the Fifth Column, Visitors who work with humans and want to stop the take-over. It was still a fun miniseries to watch at the time, but the important messages about fear and social control part took a back seat, which I think was unfortunate.

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V: The Series (1984) follows up from the miniseries with more details about the Vistiors vs. Resistance battle, and alien babies, and lizard people. They even re-use quite a bit of footage.

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V: The Series 2009 was the reimagining-which I take to mean you have more leeway to change things around than a remake. To be fair, V did need an update. Though I will always favor the original- it looks really, really dated. Once again we have the Visitors, a youth program with suspicious goals, and a Resistance movement. We still have lizard people, with far more convincing make-up. And some good actors, Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut, Joel Gretsch, Morena Baccarin all do a good job. The plot seems to fall apart a bit at times, thought it was getting better before cancellation. They made an attempt to go back to the original series and address the political themes-though I felt it was still pushed to the side. It felt very similar to Earth: Final Conflict or you can argue that Earth: Final Conflict was similar to V, which was similar to the Twilight Zone’s To Serve Man.

The world of SF goes around and around.

So, blog readers, any thoughts on V? Any similar shows I may have missed?