Tune in Tuesday, November 3, for a first look at “V”, the re-imagined series based on the 1983 miniseries and 1984 TV series of the same name. This new scifi TV show, airing on ABC at 8 p.m. ET, is about an alien invasion--except that they say they’re our friends. How do they plan to dominate? Through devotion.
THE ORIGINAL SERIES
As you may recall, the classic show featured a flotilla of 50 motherships that landed above cities around the world. As humans came to know the aliens that descended from these ships, some became closer to them while others discovered the truth about their mission on Earth. The Resistance, led by med student and scientist Julie Parrish (Faye Grant), TV cameraman Mike Donovan (Marc Singer) and (later) guerilla fighter Ham Tyler (Michael Ironside), attempt to alert people to the danger the Visitors faced and chase them from the Earth. The leader of the Visitor fleet is a beautiful alien named Diana (Jane Badler), whose ambition and brutality is not to be underestimated.
In what became an allegory of World War II, the two mini-series “V” and “V--The Final Battle” created an expansive, 10-hour story about the way regular people came together to form a Resistance, how they received help from Visitors who realized what their people were doing was wrong, and the battles they waged to keep Earth from becoming a desert wasteland, devoid of life and of water. Back then, the Visitors considered scientists, not journalists and military folk, to be the biggest threat--and they were the first ones targeted by the new regime. Along the way the story included some watershed TV moments, including an abortion debate regarding a half-reptilian fetus and a scene in which bad guys in spaceships chased a hero on a white horse.
The TV show, “V--The Series” was more camp, more nighttime soap opera, and less interesting than the miniseries, but it still had its good qualities. It lasted about a season while Diana and her new rival Lydia (June Chadwick) fought physical and psychological battles on the Mothership. In the meantime, the Resistance kept dying off. In the end about five people were left, and during the cliffhanger that ended the show two of those five flew away on the Visitor Leader’s shuttle, which Diana then blew up. End story.
THE NEW SERIES
In the series that airs Tuesday, the leader of the V’s (as they’re now called in shorthand) is Anna (Morena Baccarin), and she’s as dangerous as Diana ever was. Some counterparts to the original cast members have been created, although of course they’re designed to fit more modern sensibilities and their fates will likely be different. For example, there’s Father Jack (Joel Gretsch), who might be considered the younger, hipper version of Father Andrew from “V: The Final Battle.” There’s Chad Decker (Scott Wolf), whose original counterpart was Kristine Walsh, the TV news broadcaster who became spokesperson for the Visitors and was killed by Diana as she attempted to alert her audience to the truth about the Visitors on live TV. And the main female character‘s son, Tyler (Logan Huffman), is shaping up to be a combination of Daniel Bernstein and Robin Maxwell--a teen fascinated by the Visitors in general and by one in particular, a female named Lisa.
A QUICK REVIEW OF THE NEW ”V”
The Good: Actually, we found “V” the re-imagined pilot episode to be closer at least in tone to the original “V” than the re-imagined “Battlestar Galactica” was to the classic “BSG.” The epic proportions of “V” aren’t there, and there minor changes to conform to modern sensibilities, but you can see the beginnings of the same kind of drama that fascinated those of us who loved “V.” How those ominous UFOs floating above the major cities gave way to relief when it turns out they’re friends--how people discover by accident that maybe it IS too good to be true--how families and friends are eventually torn apart as the Visitors make headway into our lives--and how we find new and creative ways to fight them every step of the way.
We're looking forward to seeing more scenes of the inside of the Mothership, and we think the serene countenance of Morena Baccarin is a perfect portrayal for the villain for the piece. We appreciated the humor, as when Anna basically tells humans that the V’s will provide them with universal health care, and when Chad Decker ingratiates himself with the Visitors by asking them in at a press conference if any of them are unattractive. And we liked how the pilot juxtaposes certain key events with one another, a technique that highlights the danger of the way the Visitors are trying to win our hearts and minds. We almost liked Father Jack, and we did start to warm to a few of the other characters who will almost certainly prove important in the next weeks.
A pilot episode is usually difficult because it has to introduce the situation while not indulging in so much exposition that it gets boring. We think this one kept our interest enough that we want to see the second episode, so it did the job.
The Bad: The main female character, Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) is not terribly interesting right now. She is, and this is a shocker, I grant you--an FBI counterterrorist agent. We’ve never seen THAT before in a TV show, have we? And she’s not particularly likeable, having a really messy yet boring personal life and establishing herself early on as someone who will use her FBI badge for personal gain. Her determination to find out about the terrorist chatter spiking in the days after the Visitors land seems single-minded instead of clever. She gets better as the pilot goes along, but we’re hoping for an early death.
One of the big ideas in “V” was that the show was about regular people--people like you and me--finding it within themselves to be part of something bigger. Who wasn’t moved by the scenes of Julie, newly minted Resistance leader, falling apart because she had no idea what she was doing, and Ruby telling her to “fake it,” because no one will no the difference, and they need a leader like her? This new version of “V” apparently needed an expert, the same kind of expert that every single TV show about anything related to crime has to have these days. Been there, done that.
In other ways, from a modern standpoint, the new "V" actually comes off as rather formulaic. You've got the specialized law enforcement encountering a situation for which her training has never prepared her, who happens to have a teenage son who looks like he's going to get into trouble fast (see "24," "Sanctuary," etc.). You have a cast of people who are being drawn into the conflict in various ways; some will be good, some will sell their souls. Like many of today's shows, and unlike the original "V" where older people and teens were an integral part of the story, this one has very little diversity of age. Welcome to Hollywood.
And the abbreviation “V’s” bothers me. Maybe that’s just me. I don’t like it. Maybe because in the original the "V" also stood for victory, as a symbol of human rebellion, and there's no sign of that double meaning here, which reduces it to a mere letter of the alphabet.
The Conclusion: Although we miss the old-school characters and the lack of any scientists whatsoever, we are enjoying this new “V" and think it has the potential to be great scifi TV. We hope that airing the first four episodes, then waiting months for the rest of the episodes to air won’t kill it too quickly. We pray it lasts longer than "V--the Series." There just isn't enough scifi TV out there right now.
A SHORT INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT WOLF
BELLAONLINE.COM Can you start off by telling me a little bit about the situation your character faces in “V“?
WOLF: Well, my character’s name is Chad Decker and he’s a news journalist who is incredibly ambitious. He’s somebody who has been kind of looked over a bit and doesn’t feel like he quite has the spotlight that he deserves. So, when aliens arrive on earth--whereas for most people in the world it’s either an incredibly scary thing or an incredibly inspirational thing--for him, its a huge opportunity. And he seizes it and puts himself in a position where he’s granted the first live interview that the leader of this alien race is going to give. But he quickly finds himself in a position where he’s forced to choose between his own ambition and his own integrity, and in an ongoing way I think his journey will be that sort of wrestling match between accomplishing the things he needs to accomplish and wants to accomplish as a news person and somehow managing not to completely sell his soul to the Visitors.
BELLAONLINE.COM: It certainly seems that in the pilot he’s wrestling with himself about what to do, that he feels backed into a corner by Anna there.
WOLF: Yes, absolutely. I think Chad is someone who is pretty able to get the things he wants to get. I think he feels like he’s going to sit down with this woman Anna, who’s the leader of the visitors, and basically grill her and get all the information that people are curious about. And she completely turns the tables on him, backs him into a corner and forces his hand. He’s forced to basically make huge compromises that really sting, and as our story continues on we see a guy who’s out to reclaim himself and turn the tables back around on her.
BELLAONLINE.COM: What is it about this character that appeals to you personally?
WOLF: Anytime I get to play a character that is somehow hard to pin down, I think it’s great fun. I typically don’t have a bad-guy face so I don’t get cast as a lot of really sinister people. So for me it’s more finding guys who are much more okay-looking on the surface but underneath they’re pretty deeply flawed. I think the most interesting things to explore and to play lie in that murky area that’s a little less definitive. To play a character that is conflicted in some way, that is wrestling between huge things in their lives, is really fun--and in this instance the stakes couldn’t be bigger. You have a guy who is basically interviewing the head of the aliens who have arrived on Earth. The world is watching him and waiting for him to relay to them what they should believe, and he’s now been put in a position where he might need to alter his perception to keep this opportunity. It’s a really great challenge for this character, and it’s just one of many in our story where every person, every character we come to know in our story, has a different reaction to the aliens arriving on earth. It’s really pretty great--a really fun, entertaining ride.
BELLAONLINE.COM: It seems like Chad’s relationship with Anna will be interesting. How would you like to see that develop?
WOLF: Well, when we jumped into it I think we knew that obviously there was a sense of this cat-and-mouse game between the two of them. Anna, as the leader of the Visitors, and Chad, as this news journalist, both have an agenda. They both have an agenda that they’re sharing with each other that’s on the surface, and they both have a hidden agenda that they’re not sharing with each other. Each one of them really wants to control this relationship because it’s at the center of communicating the things they want to communicate to the rest of the world. Also, because I think Morena and I have a really interesting dynamic, it makes this question of does their relationship seem like something that will exist on a personal level in addition to just this professional level. It’s been great fun to explore so far. It’s been the most fun relationship I’ve ever had on camera, so I’ve been excited about it.
BELLAONLINE.COM: I’ve heard that you’re a fan of some scifi shows yourself. What do you find compelling about the genre?
WOLF: I think the most compelling thing about this particular genre, which is alien arrival on Earth, is that most people don’t think it’s as farfetched as it would seem on the surface. I think a story like this keeps being retold in different incarnations and different versions because it’s intriguing to us, and I think it’s intriguing because its possible. The only thing that seems to make it science fiction is that it hasn’t actually happened yet. I think the exploration of what would the world look like if it happened tomorrow morning is really compelling to people, and the level of imagination that can go into telling a story like this is really limitless. So not only is this on a personal level--in terms of the characters and relationships--really intriguing, but it’s visually stunning. I think we’re creating a world that is all at once intriguing and fascinating because it’s sort of fantastical. But it’s also intriguing because it’s possible.
BELLAONLINE.COM: Did you ever see the original “V”?
WOLF: I did. But you know in preparation for this I stayed away from it a bit. As compelling as I know it was, and as passionate as the audience has been about the original, I really just wanted to stay focused on the story we’re telling now, which really is its own story. It’s faithful to the original. I think fans of the original will feel like they’re getting their show back. But for people who have never seen a frame of it, it really is a brand new story that feels very much like a story that exists in today’s world. I’m really excited for an audience to get to see it. I feel like it’s rare to have something that feels all at once incredibly entertaining and like a thrill ride, but also talks about our society in a way that’s really interesting and worthwhile. It’s just a great combination. It has a little bit of everything.