Wednesday, October 13, 2010

From The Annals Of Just Plain Terrible: V: The Complete Series Is Bad Television/DVD!

The Good: I've got nothing
The Bad: Acting, Character development (or devolvement), Plots, Special effects, Everything!
The Basics: Following the Liberation of Earth, the Visitors return for one of the worst-ever series' on television and now DVD.

V is a classic science fiction mini-series that made an allegory of oppression and dictatorship by introducing apparently benevolent aliens (The Visitors) who come to Earth under the guise of friendship to rape the planet of water and use the people as food. Because of the success of V (click here for that review) they followed up with V: The Final Battle (reviewed here!) which chronicled the Resistance on Earth as they attempted to liberate the planet from the Visitors, who were now mostly exposed as the villains they were.

Yet the passably good V: The Final Battle was not to be the end of the saga. Regrettably, a television show was made of the events that followed V: The Final Battle and it is now on DVD as V: The Television Series. If you wish to save yourself the time on this review, here's the advice: Run! Don't bother getting this DVD set. It's appallingly bad. It makes one wish they had never seen V, never gotten invested in the characters from the mini-series (both of them), makes one wish the '80s would just stay off DVD and die.

Now, I can see how V The TV Series ended up on DVD. I take the blame. There were people like me who loved V, enjoyed V: The Final Battle and were intrigued by the concept of V: The Television Series but did not have cable or bootlegged copies of the series on tape. There were those of us curious enough asking, "How could they possibly make a television series of this after V: The Final Battle?" The short answer: they couldn't. At least, not the way they did.

A year after the liberation of Earth, celebrations are going on around the world and those characters in the V universe that we know are adjusting to their new lives. One might imagine that unemployment is no longer a problem, whatwith the populations of people abducted by the Visitors for use as food. Mike Donovan is muckraking as a reporter once again, working to cover the trial of Visitor leader Diana. Julie Parrish is part of the team working to unlock the secrets of the downed mothership and Robin has gone into hiding with her alien/human hybrid daughter. Elias and Willie have opened a restaurant and Elias is working on being a legitimate businessman.

On her way to her trial, Diana is set free and escapes, alerting Visitor ships that are waiting behind the moon. The Visitors return and the Resistance must start again. There are new complications now, though. The Visitors do not have surprise on their side and humans must compete with each other, most notably businessman Nathan Bates. Nathan is extraordinarily wealthy and is able to negotiate a simple deal with Diana. The Visitors can do what they wish anywhere in the world they want, but Los Angeles is a neutral territory.

Through Nathan, the Visitors devise a new strategy; using humans against each other. They play off ambition, they use humans to enslave other humans in areas that the red dust bacteria still prevents them from moving and they begin a desperate hunt for Elizabeth, Robin's daughter.

V The Television Series starts on shaky ground. V: The Final Battle ended fairly decisively, though with a bit too much science fiction mysticism for my tastes. Restarting the series with the Visitors coming to attempt to take over again after the resources they came for are largely contaminated, is a rocky path. When in the first few minutes of the first episode they reused special effects shots from the original mini-series, it became clear this show did not have the budget to pull off the quality of work the prior movies had done.

Unfortunately, this does not have the writing to pull off the quality of stories that one might expect from this franchise. Lacking entirely in the social and political metaphors of the original V and missing out on the purpose and action of V: The Final Battle, V: The Television Series quickly devolves into the worst, campiest science fiction melodrama I've ever seen. And yes, that includes Blake's 7, which had its moments.

First off, the television series is clearly geared toward a younger audience. Mike Donovan and Julie Parrish - costars of the first two movies - are focused less on than Robin, Elizabeth - who suddenly metamorphosizes into a barely legal young woman - and Nathan Bates' son, Kyle. They develop a silly love triangle. Similarly, on the Visitors' end, Diana is balanced by a poofy-haired blonde commander named Lydia and as the series nears a close, the two compete for the affections of Charles, a close attache to the Leader.

The series features several car chases used to fill time in the weak scripts. It seems every one of them involves a hubcap falling off the car, apparently the mid-80s sign of a vigorous, fast and exciting car chase. So, we have young, supposedly-hot things zipping around in poorly constructed cars trying to save the world. Woo-hoo.

Is it all bad? Just about. Ham Tyler, easily my favorite character from V: The Final Battle soon resurfaces to supply the new Resistance with gadgets and paramilitary expertise. Unfortunately, he is tamed and his character is eventually dropped along with half the cast in the latter half of the season.

Indeed, more than Kyle - who gets quite a bit of airtime -, Nathan Bates has the most potential in the show and he is part of the wholesale cast cut mid-season. Nathan is played by Lane Smith, who seizes the role of the businessman/scientist with gusto, playing the strong-armed negotiator quite well. But, again, he's not a young skinny thing, so he got bounced.

Having seen the V movies, there is nothing but disappointment for the acting in V The Television Series. No one gives a reasonable, or even passable performance. The characters are gutted and this is just plain camp, but in the most unpleasant sense. I could not go back and do Mystery Science Theater to this it was so painful to watch.

And there are big issues as far as the story, etc. goes. The Visitors no longer have their distinctive sounding voices (they vibrate in the movies), Julie and Mike's relationship seems to die a quick death and the voices of experience from prior guerrilla movements are absent from this incarnation.

As for the DVD, there are no bonuses, no extra, nothing to justify this medium other than the opportunity to see this "work."

Save yourself the time, money and energy and enjoy V and V: The Final Battle and allow yourself to believe that nothing comes after that in the saga. I only wish I could.

For other science fiction invasion stories, please check out my reviews of:
Robert A. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters
"Operation: Annihilate"


For other television show reviews, please visit my index page!

© 2010, 2005 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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