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November 4, 2009

V, Episode 1

The new, re-imagined version of V was shown last night in the US. In the UK it will be shown in the new year, however I saw a preview of the first episode yesterday, courtesy of the UK Sci-Fi Channel.

If you’re unaware of the original V then go and read about it. What’s important is that it was a Science Fiction series which achieved mainstream success, and delivered some classic SF moments.

As a re-imagined show it has work to do to win me over. I can’t help feeling: why? Yes BSG was a success (for a while) and offered something new, but that’s the exception so far. I’d rather new shows be developed, with new ideas, or at least new fusions of old ideas.

Most fans will know the plot of V, and hence the original surprise is lost. So it has to win us over in different ways. The initial appearance of the spaceships is handled in a pacey set of cuts that introduces the main characters. As a pleasant surprise this includes Elizabeth Mitchell (aka Juliet from Lost) and Alan Tudyk (aka Wash from Firefly and Alpha from Dollhouse), both of whom I like and play FBI agents. On the downside it includes the annoying teenage son of the FBI agent, who does things like argue with his mom and lust after aliens.

I’m not convinced by the actual initial reaction of the population to the arrival of the spaceships: they stand in the Manhattan streets, point upwards and scream. There’s one mention by a teenager that it’s like Independence Day, but it’s there as a fanboy joke, and the rest of the population are assumed to be in a vacuum, cut off from SF films and literature. And perhaps cut-off from real world events. You’d think that the Manhattan population would run first. The doubt over the aliens is at least handled, with some exploration of how religion would cope, but it was a bit shallow, crammed into a single episode.

The special effects of the spaceships are mediocre. The main spaceships don’t create the looming sense of menace that the ship in District 9 did, and they hover over stereotypical landmarks such as The Houses Of Parliament, The Eiffel Tower and The Pyramids. The shuttle craft special effects didn’t look that great either.

However after the initial reaction to the Visitors the episode starts to show some promise. There’s a bit of intrigue, a splash of action and a disappointment, all of which could develop into something promising in later episodes.

In summary: shows some promise but must tread carefully and aim higher.

I’m now going to talk in more detail about the episode and there will be…

 

SPOILERS….

 

 

So, as most people know from the original series, the Visitors are not friendly. This gives rise to the strand of the plot which shows the most promise: the resistance. The visitors are embedded throughout the world, sleeper cells, so how are the resistance going to fight them? A priest and a FBI agent, and no one can be trusted.

Also promising was the outburst of violence. People died. Innocent people. No sentimentality. And worse Alan Tudyk dies. Again! It’s no surprise if you’re following his career, he always seems to die. But it was a shame. I was looking forward to a Wash and Juliet FBI against the aliens show.

The teenage son obsessed with sexy alien joining Hitler youth plot was heavy handed and cringey. The devoted V fans versus the resistance could be an interesting plot, but it needs to be handled a bit more subtly.

There’s definitely enough raw plot and ideas to do something interesting, it just needs to be executed well.

3 Comments

There's some weird Behind-The-Scenes stuff going on with this show that I don't fully understand. A lot of the press over here have seen the show as a thinly-veiled jab at President Obama, and evidnently the Network was already squirreling around this problem before it even aired. Production was halted, and it looked like the show was dead before it hit the air as a result, but the pilot got unexpectedly massive ratings (like 14 million viewers), so they'll probably go back in to production and at least fill out the first 13 episodes.

It is the same old V story, I agree, told - if anything - a bit less compellingly than the first go 'round. I think they're trying to play up the paranoia angle a bit more, though, since they've basically said the Visitors are the Illuminati or some other favored bugaboo of paranoid schisophrenics the world over. So hopefully the've got some clever payoff for that.

To be honest, I didn't really didn't see the "Universal Health Care" thing as anything other than a throwaway gag, (or if it was, I didn't get it, it was too clever for me) but the political climate in this country is a mess at the moment. Basically, the left sees any criticism whatsoever as tantamount to treason and blames all its troubles on the right, and my own side basically does nothing but insult and gainsay the other side, rather than do anything constructive. Both parties seem to want their opponents to die. It's very, very disconcerting.