The original V, a 1983 science-fiction miniseries, garnered a warm critical response and high-end viewing figures. Its success spawned sequels and a cult following. Now the story returns in a revamped 21st century format, riding the wave of popularity currently surrounding epic, serialised US dramas.
Although the plotlines and characters have changed, the basic premise has been carried over from the original series, and tells the story of the ‘Visitors’, a race of intergalactic aliens who show up in giant spaceships around the world promising peace and harmony. Obviously, anyone who falls for that old chestnut is going to be dead rather quickly; the Visitors clearly have ulterior motives. Cue a fragmented first episode outlining the basic stories of a series of characters including Elizabeth Mitchell’s FBI mum and Joel Gretsch’s suspicious priest. The show wastes no time in bringing them together for a climax which, in true modern serial style, is filled with twists and revelations, as well as multiple concluding facets overlaid across each other before the credits roll.
As has been mentioned, the show is attempting to board the good ship of drama success, but unfortunately finds itself paddling along in a lifeboat just behind, struggling to keep pace. It’s as formulaic as they come. The pilot feels contrived; in an apparent attempt to harness audience interest, the show’s writers play their hand too quickly, shoehorning in a series of twists in the final third that simply haven’t been given the weight or time they needed to be remotely effective. Instead, it feels like they’ve been trying way too hard for a killer opening and have forgotten about little things like structure and balance.
The performances are for the most part passable, but every now and again descend into painful melodrama and unbearable cheese. Witness, for example, the first time Logan Huffman’s troubled teenager lays his puppy dog eyes on Lisa, sexy alien air hostess. There was ironic laughter in the screening we attended. Morena Baccarin as alien leader Anna manages to inspire some interest, lacing her warm smile and non-blinking pleasantness with an undercurrent of menace, but overall the characters come across as derivative.
V is spectacularly underwhelming. When a pilot episode’s most successful moment is a dig at Independence Day, you know you’re in for a bland experience. Granted, this review is aimed solely at V’s first episode – it may pick up as things move along – but this is not a promising start for a series that may end up disappearing rather quickly.