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"'To Serve Man'... it's... it's a cookbook!"
on November 15, 2010
Shady aliens once more among us. When comparing this remake to the original, it's not the old ongoing television series in 1984 that comes to mind but its predecessors, the two mini-series that aired in 1983 and 1984 (V and V: THE FINAL BATTLE). Both those mini-series were thrilling and epic, fraught with suspense and so thought provoking. Part of the success was due to the constraints of the limited series format; the story had to move fast, make its points quick, no effing around. With this 2009 adaptation - and an ongoing series, at that - the pace tends to be leisurely; it plods, frankly. I do like this show but I admit to, at times, having gotten impatient.
The pilot episode opens by asking questions such as "Where were you when JFK was assassinated?" and "Where were you on 9/11?" The intent is to hint at the momentousness of the event which transpires minutes into the pilot. But, also, these questions may lead you to pondering conspiracies. And now factor in the current crippling economic condition? The benevolent Visitors picked the best time to announce their presence, their twenty-nine gargantuan alien mother ships hovering over major cities across the globe. These Visitors from another planet claim that they "are of peace, always." That theirs is merely a sojourn, a temporary stay. And that they possess technological advances they wish to share with humanity, along with their friendship.
As the Visitors seek to cement diplomatic ties with key governments across the world, Earthlings are invited to tour the mother ships, to take in the marvels exhibited within. For humans seeking respite from troubled times, the Visitors are viewed as saviors and miracle workers. It's not too long before humans are recruited as Peace Ambassadors and Visitor churches are contemplated. But, down among the dirt, deep in the shadows, there are those who harbor nagging doubts. They are the human resistance. For humanity, that's a good thing. Because there are aliens posing as humans, and sinister schemes lurking behind the Visitors' many gestures of kindness. There is a cook book.
(You did see that Twilight Zone episode, right?)
Think what you will of Marc Singer, he was on point as the original V's dashing hero. This modern incarnation doesn't feature an Indiana Jones type like Singer, and that's to its detriment. I don't see anyone here as sympathetic or likable as Robert Englund's vulnerable alien Willie. Charles Mesure doesn't have Michael Ironside's presence. But Morena Baccarin is this show's great get. She improves on Jane Badler (who, given, was a hottie in the original V). To cover all bases, though, Jane Badler comes on the new V in Season 2 (as Anna's mother, Diana).
As Anna, the charismatic, press-savvy Visitor High Commander, Morena Baccarin is mesmerizing, and I couldn't resist her wiles. But, then again, I've loved Baccarin since her stint in FIREFLY. Anna is one of the show's focal points, and her Machiavellian character is the most crucial element in the show. The other main lead is Elizabeth Mitchell (from LOST) whose FBI agent/anxious mom character heads up the human resistance. Scott Wolf as the news anchor who becomes Anna's media voice rounds out what's interesting in this cast. The rest of the supporting cast are blah.
The special effects are flawless. The predominant themes of media manipulation, closet fascism, and the gradual erosion of values that result from compromise are old hat. We all knew going in that some humans will choose to collaborate with the Visitors. Some will defy them. I realize that the show is in the midst of world-building, trying to establish its own mythology. But it really could've done with more action sequences and maybe more timely reveals. And more inventiveness. Even worse, the episodes frequently dragged. So it comes down to this: Is the sci-fi alien-among-us premise enough of a hook? Despite the sluggishness, were you entertained anyway? Were you intrigued enough that even that long hiatus in between new episodes kept your patronage? It did, me. Barely. But I wonder how much of that is because I loved the original so much. Season 2 had better pick up tremendously.
V - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON, with its 12 episodes, comes in three discs, with the following bonus material: "The Actor's Journey from Human to V" lets you go behind the scenes with cast & crew interviews (00:16:54 minutes); "Breaking Story: The World of V" is an overview of Season 1 (00:16:36 minutes); "An Alien in Human Skin: The Makeup FX of V" is self-explanatory (00:11:52); as is "VFX: The Visual FX of V" (00:15:07); 6 Deleted Scenes; and audio commentary on the episode "Fruition" by Executive Producers Steve Pearlman & Scott Rosenbaum.