Julie Parish -
Mike Donovan -
Robert Maxwell -
Robin Maxwell -
Abraham Bernstein -
Daniel Bernstein -
Peter Nelson BR>
OTHER V SEASONS
V The Final Battle
OTHER ALIEN INVASION SERIES
Giant alien spaceships come to Earth and the inhabitants, who look just like us, announce that they come in peace. They makes friends and promise to share their technology with us. Then the rumours about scientific conspiracies against them start. Scientists are hunted down and become social pariahs. One intrepid news cameraman aims to find out the truth about these new friends whilst a biochemist starts to organise a nascent Resistance movement.
V was seen in the USA in 1983 and then was broadcast as a 5 night special in the UK along with the sequel mini series V The Final Battle, scheduled up against the coverage of that year's Olympics. Rarely has a science fiction series been given so much primetime coverage in the UK, but then V was, for its day, something special.
From the arrival of the spaceships above our cities at the start through the revelations of what the aliens look like and eat right to the big final truth about why the Visitors have come to our planet, V was a quality production. It was epic in scale, had a huge cast of characters, was willing to have a slow build up of dread as the aliens slowly take over and was willing to kill of major characters and see others injured.
The aliens themselves don't really feature that much. They are more the catalyst for the changes. As the community starts to turn on itself under the Visitors' campaign of misinformation, it is humanity itself that is the enemy, not the aliens. Then the revelations come and they are both shocking and brilliantly handled.
Seeing Diana eat a small mouse, on screen, is something that no impressionable viewer will ever forget, though the effect is only partially successful in retrospect. The make up of the unmasked visitors, though is genuinely impressive and the arrival of the giant ships is undeniably impressive. Some of the following shuttle effects aren't all that great, but the brooding alien discs are always there in the background.
Marc Singer is the male lead and really only has to run around and look heroic, something that he can manage, but every time that he opens his mouth he shows his limitations. Faye Grant fares much better as Julie, the biochemist thrust to the head of the Resistance. There are so many characters, however, that this is truly an ensemble piece and everyone plays their part in making it convincing.
Yes, it is an allegory for what happened in Germany between the World Wars (the youth movement are dressed in brown, how much more do you need?) and that is hammered home a bit hard by the presence of the survivor of the nazi camps, but the actual scenario is scarily plausible.
V was a big science fiction television event, probably the biggest ever at the time and for all its faults there is an awful lot to be impressed by.Top
Giant alien spacecraft come to Earth, hanging over major cities. The inhabitants contact humanity in all its languages and request the Secretary General of the UN to meet them on the roof of the building. There, they reveal themselves to be like us and to come in peace, looking for help in turning our waste into synthetic materials for the survival of their own planet. In return they promise scientific advancements that are years ahead of human technology. A youth corps is promised for teenagers who are interested. There are, however, clouds to this particular silver lining. Some prominent scientists go missing after looking a bit too closely at the Visitors and a worldwide conspiracy against the aliens is announced, leading to a registration scheme for all scientists and their families. Mike Donovan smuggles himself aboard the New York Mothership and learns that the synthetic chemicals that the Visitors supposedly prize so highly are just being vented into the atmosphere. He discovers some unpleasant truths about their table manners and finds that they are wearing human facemasks over their real, reptilian faces. Before he can get this information on the air, the networks are taken over by the Visitors who announce that the scientists' conspiracy has attacked factories all over the world. Martial law is declared and the crackdown on scientists' families gets even worse. One is forced to take shelter in the poolhouse of an ageing jew who understands what they are going through. A fledgling Resistance cell forms under the leadership of biochemist Julie Parrish, but on their first raid one of their number is killed and she is wounded.
This opening episode certainly doesn't lack for ambition. The arrival of the ships over the cities of the world is very impressive, as is the visit to the top of the UN building and the sheer size of the cast, dozens of characters all touched by the awe of our first contact with aliens. It starts off explosively with a shootout just over the border in South America to provide a bit of action and then settles down into the awesome arrival of the aliens.
The special effects are pretty impressive, although occasional shots of the alien shuttles do struggle to break the matte barrier.
Special effects, though, are not what this is about. This is about the shock and awe of just what the arrival of aliens on Earth would do to the population of the planet. Some would be stunned, others excited and others would look to see how they could make a quick buck out of it all. The characters here aren't particularly deep, but then there are so many that we barely get to know any of them, only see their initial reactions to the aliens' arrival. The soap opera hints around TV cameraman Mike Donovan's love and home life are farily unimpressive, but there is fortunately not too much of that.
Then the story starts to get a bit uneasy. Scientists go missing and it is made clear that the aliens are behind that. They are hiding something. The creation of a youth programme is unsettling and the sudden news of conspiracies and the tagging of scientists and their families is the sign that things are not going to be all fun and roses. This build up is done carefully and in a slow, measured fashion, leaving the audience wanting more as the credits roll.
The the action kicks in as the Resistance starts to fight and the truth behind the aliens is revealed. Exactly why the visitors speak english aboard their own vessel is a question that isn't answered, but the sight of them swallowing live mice whole is pretty impressively revolting, though Diana's unhinged jaw effect is very poor when compared to the throat-swallowing action. The fight in the alien's cabin that reveals the Visitors' true reptilian nature is also a mixed bag since the human face with striking tongue is clearly prosthetic whilst the alien face with flapping human mask is very effective.
The oppression of the scientists continues in sinister fashion and it is ironic that the main scientist family is forced to take shelter with the jewish family that has come to doubt the loyalty of their own son, believing that he could inform on them at any time. The fact that he fancies the scientist's daughter Robin whilst she fancies alien Bryan makes for a very uncomfortable situation.
It is also impressive that the show is willing to sacrifice major characters. Just when it seemed that the aliens could hit the side of a barn with their guns, but nothing smaller they actually bag their man and even injure the would-be leader of the nascent Resistance, giving the show a lot more credibility, which the heavy-handed coda takes away almost immediately.Top
Daniel tries to get Robin to agree to marry him and when she refuses, he informs on her family. By the time that the Visitors respond, the scientists are smuggled out of the city, but his own family are taken instead. Julie and the Resistance set up home in a derelict building and finally make contact with Mike Donovan after he escapes from the LA Mothership. Taken prisoner whilst trying to find out why the Visitors are transporting large groups of people there, he discovers that he has friends amongst the aliens. He manages to sneak himself back onto the mothership and make contact with the alien sympathisers' leader Martin, who shows him what the aliens' real purpose on Earth is. He then steals a shuttle and arrives at the Resistance's mountain hideaway in time to help fight off an alien assault.
Mike Donovan clearly has a season ticket to the alien spaceship as he gets on and off with more regularity than the shift change. The revelations about the true nature of the Visitors' plans, to harvest Earth's water supplies and the human race as a food supply, is even more shocking than was the initial revelation of their reptilian nature.
It's certainly far more effective than the action as again the aliens seem to take ages to hit anything and the shuttlecraft continue to be unconvincing as they fly around the screen with black matte lines all around.
Still, the cast take it all very seriously and whilst some of the acting is pretty ropy (yes, Marc Singer, we're talking about you), some of it is pretty good (yes, Faye Grant we're talking about you). It's just as shame that some of the plotting, especially towards the end, is just too silly.Top
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