When I heard that ABC was spearheading a reboot / remake / reimagining / re-whatever of the 1980s alien invasion show V, my often-optimistic self immediately devolved into a surly SF curmudgeon. It was embarrassing: Leave my childhood alone! A Michael Ironside-less V is no V at all! Where are the white Skyfighters? You newfangled Visitors get off my lawn!
And then I watched the pilot. I was blown out of my socks. Thoroughly impressed. I do recommend you check if out, if you haven’t already. I also recommend that you stop reading here if you’re keen on a spoiler-free experience. It’s a worshipful V Spoiler-A-Thon 2009 from here on out—even the cruel 1980s Visitor leader Diana can’t stop me!
I was mighty skeptical of the V reboot, mostly because I feared that its core premise—aliens come to Earth in peace, and quickly create a fascist government using superior tech/firepower so they can enslave and eat people—wouldn’t stand up to modern-day scrutiny. The present-day setting of the new V-verse must be faithful to our real world (like the original series’ was), and our world is a setting that exists post-Independence Day, post-9/11, etc. The obvious World War II parallels seen in the original V series would do more harm than good, I reckoned. They’d feel quaint. Been there, done that. What’s new?
Enough to keep me hooked, thankfully. At the time of this writing, I’ve seen the first three episodes of the new series. Rather than simply parroting the original storyline, V’s current showrunners have built a compelling and convincing mythology that accommodates not only the preposterous notion that alien spacecraft could enter our atmosphere without humanity losing its collective mind, but that humanity would indeed welcome the Visitors’ help.
The geo-political and economic situations in V are nearly identical to our own. Things are bad out there, and people in the States and beyond are in a bad way. Terrorism runs rampant (as it does in the real world), people are despondent and desperate (as they are in the real world; I’m presently a victim of the toilet-bowl economy, so I know this feeling all too well), people have their heads down, praying for miracles (as millions do each day in our world). As seen in the original series, the Visitors come down from above and promise universal health care and beneficial technologies—in exchange for some of our water.
But in a new, conspiracy-fueled twist that I can totally get behind (my own sci-fi thriller novel, 7th Son: Descent, is packed with secret histories and present-day science/government conspiracies), there’s a reason why things are rotten on the V-verse’s Earth. The Visitors secretly infiltrated humanity’s ranks long ago, and established a network of terrorist-style cells across the planet. According to a human in the know (who’s whacked most mercilessly), these Visitors have orchestrated the very geo-political circumstances that brought us to this painful place.
They manufactured humanity’s desperate need for salvation. Very clever.
Equally clever: These infiltrating Visitors look like us (lizard skin still lurks beneath the human flesh, though), and since they’ve been Earth residents for presumably decades, they are trusted within human communities. This means that, much like in Battlestar Galactica—and in my own 7th Son: Descent, and in the real world—anyone can be an enemy agent. Before their public worldwide debut, the Visitors were among us, gathering intelligence. That’s a sly way to build even more paranoia into the story.
From an aesthetic perspective, I’m digging the show’s visual effects; they’re very convincing. (I do miss the white Skyfighters, but that’s pure nostalgia speaking. I also miss the old-school saucer-shaped Visitor motherships. Ironically, Independence Day—which ripped off the original V’s city-sized mothership concept—now makes the opportunity appear derivative.) I also like how the underside of the ships transform into massive video displays. Humanity must look skyward, as if to God, for the Visitors’ messages of hope.
The casting seems solid—lots of SF TV veterans here—and there’s plenty of character-building and inner/external conflict brewing. We’ve got an FBI agent, a priest, a Visitor turncoat who loves a human woman, an ambitious newscaster who’s torn between journalistic ethics and exclusive access to the Vs . . . and the ever-enigmatic Anna, the Visitors’ High Commander. I can’t wait to see her eat a mouse.
The creators of the new V series owe a lot to the success of shows such as BSG, Lost and The X-Files—and like those programs, it seems clear V will take its time unveiling the Visitors’ master plan (which may or may not include eating people, or mice).
I’m okay with that. The first three episodes have me hooked. I’m ready to dive deeper into the rabbit hole, my original series-lovin’ childhood be damned.
J.C. Hutchins is the author of the sci-fi thriller novel 7th Son: Descent. Originally released as free serialized audiobooks, his 7th Son trilogy is the most popular podcast novel series in history. J.C.’s work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post and on NPR’s Weekend Edition.