Thursday, November 12, 2009


The original 'V' miniseries was an interesting but severely flawed bit of sci-fi paranoia that lifted its central, defining image (a massive flying saucer hovering over a city) from Arthur C. Clarke's chilly evolution-is-progressive classic novel Childhood's End. By the time the second miniseries came around, humans on horseback were outrunning spaceships, and the short-lived series just made things worse -- and diluted creator Ken Johnson's 'aliens as Nazis/Soviets' central metaphor.

The new 'V' gets one thing very right -- it's got a terrific cast, led by Elizabeth Mitchell as a Visitor-fighting FBI agent, Morris Chestnut as a good, rogue alien, Morena Baccharin as alien High Commander 'Anna' and Scott Wolf as a smarmy but smarter than he looks TV anchorman. The rest of it is compromised by a couple of dumb ideas that scientists in the universe of the show would have immediately jumped on, chief among them the ridiculous premise that aliens with gigantic interstellar spaceships would need to go to a planet to pick up water, a bit of idiocy that's also showed up on Battlestar Galactica, Stargate Universe and Star Trek: Voyager, to name just three. Obviously the aliens aren't really here to drink our water, but the show should at least address the fact that a billion scientists would call 'bullshit' on this pretext.

Other problems? Well, are we really going to believe that aliens, even aliens that look exactly like us, are going to have names like 'Anna' and 'Lisa'? Or that aliens going to break up a resistance cell are going to follow up their nifty little floating bomb with...crowbars and knives? Who are these guys, Vinnie and the Jets? The attack on the resistance cell is a good scene in the pilot, though I enjoyed it more when it was a scene in Stephen King's "The Ten O'Clock People."

A lot of the problems of the show can be ironed out. My overarching complaint is that the show revealed the perfidy of the aliens way, way, way too early -- about 35 minutes into the pilot. That pretty much eliminated any suspense attached to 'are they or aren't they?' and dumped it all on 'what are they up to and how do we stop it?' It's as if the X-Files series finale was its pilot.

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