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 premiere. 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?