V A Review — Everything Old Is New Again

morena baccarin, joel gretsch, morris chestnut...
Image by hyperbolation via Flickr

I’ve been look­ing forward to ABC’s remake of V for some time now. Eagerly absorbing the initial news and then worriedly consum­ing the more recent tidbits of infor­ma­tion. There’s a well known phrase: “You can’t go home again”. Revis­it­ing the past can often lead to disap­point­ment. Was this going to be one of those cases?

Kenneth John­son’s orig­i­nal 1983 V minis­eries holds a special place in my heart. I was 11 years old at the time and just really getting into science fiction as a genre rather than indi­vid­ual works.

You have to under­stand the time period. The early 80s wasn’t just pre-inter­net. It was before most people had home comput­ers. Unless you were connected to a local fandom (and at 11 I wasn’t) then all you had was the small number of profes­sional maga­zi­nes that were avail­able.

And there wasn’t that much TV scifi to choose from. In the UK there was Doctor Who of course and a hand­ful of Amer­i­can imports, but not much else. A big budget sci-fi mini-series, that was unheard of. V was a big deal.

Since then I’ve not only watched V multi­ple times, I bought both the mini-series on DVD. Admit­tedly I did skip the dodgy series. So a rework­ing of this show had a an awful lot to live up to. Does it?

Well, honestly, no. Noth­ing can live up to the weight of those memo­ries and I don’t think any new scifi show can have the signif­i­cance that V had when it was broad­cast. But that doesn’t mean that the new V is a bad show. Quite the contrary.

In many ways it’s a more sophis­ti­cated, more mature show than the orig­i­nal. V was full of people escap­ing alien space­ships; running around; shout­ing; shoot­ing. It was very 80s. This is more subdued. Where before the refer­ences to Nazi’s and the holo­caust were quite blatant here we get a more modern subtext with sleeper cells and terror­ists.

This time round the visi­tors aren’t march­ing in with jack­boots, they subverted from within before they even arrived. I could have done with­out the leaden “Univer­sal Health­care” line mind you. No subtlety there. All of the orig­i­nal elements are at play here, but shifted to refer­ence the new mille­nium. In the old show V was a refer­ence to victory. Now tagging V on walls is part of the visitor’s (now called the V’s) propa­ganda battle.

Visu­ally the show is a success. Obvi­ously special effects have come a long way since the 80s and they make good use of them here. But again it’s subdued. After the arrival of the V’s ships we don’t see much spec­ta­cle until the end. Instead the effects are used to present the scale of the V’s craft and what they are capa­ble of.

So I like the visu­als and I like the concepts of the new V. But it’s not all roses. The biggest prob­lem was time. They really should have made this a two hour première. They were really strug­gling to intro­duce all the cast and set up all the plot lines in a normal length episode. As a result most of the char­ac­ters come of almost one dimen­sional in nature. 

I feel that V has a good cast to work with. Morena Baccarin is well suited to her role as the ice cold leader of the V. Alan Tudyk as always excels in his rela­tively minor role. Outside of Whedon alums we have Joel Gretsch (best known from The 4400), Morris Chest­nut and Eliz­a­beth Mitchell. All capa­ble enough but hamstrung by very little mate­rial to work with.

That prob­lem can be fixed in subse­quent episodes of course if they give the indi­vid­ual char­ac­ters some time to shine and build up their back­grounds a bit.

The other prob­lem that came from only having one hour was pacing. A lot of stuff happened in the first half hour, but we didn’t really see it. We just had it refer­enced as having happened. It was like watch­ing a recap and this makes for dull TV. At the half way mark I was really ques­tion­ing whether the show was worth contin­u­ing with.

However, they were able to suck me back in during the last 10 – 15 minutes of the show. I was actu­ally cheer­ing on for Erica to rip Dale’s mask off. I came away from the show feel­ing that they had sent up a lot of poten­tial plots to explore and look­ing forward to seeing the next episode.

Do me a favor ABC, don’t cancel this show after only 4 episodes please!

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About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of eoghann.com. You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?