Tuesday, November 03, 2009
**Spoilers Included in Review** I'm at the age when shows I grew up with are now being remade with some regularity. Sometimes it works out well, BSG-- good, other times not so much, Bionic Woman-- bad. I was in high school when "V" the miniseries first aired and it was love the first time I saw the alien leader Diana eat a live rat. Yeah, I was always this weird. But there was a lot to love about the original series. It wasn't just the aliens, but the social commentary. There was an intentional subtext to the show that drew strong parallels to Nazi Germany including everything from SS-style uniforms to a pseudo-Hitler Youth. Intertwined with all the special effects was the cautionary tale of becoming too enamored with anyone offering anything that seems too good to be true. So the question in my mind was whether or not the revamped version of the original show stayed true to the original. Turns out, the newest series seems to have a few things to say about our current political climate. The first thing we see as the show opens are the words "Where were you when JFK was assassinated?" "Where were you on 9/11?" and "Where were you this morning?" as the alien ships come into view. Scattered all over the world, the alien ships make their presence known through the tremors that shake the Earth and the military jets that fall from the sky. As panic begins to spread a giant image of the alien leader, Anna (Morena Baccarin from "Firefly"), appears on the bottom of the giant ships with a message of peace. Shockingly, they look just like us. Saying that they need resources that are plentiful on Earth, the aliens offer to trade advanced technology in return for our help. Predictably, people on Earth react with either varying degrees of adoration and suspicion to the "Visitors" as they become known. FBI Counter Terrorism Agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell from "Lost") is one of the skeptical ones and notices almost immediately that one particular terrorist cell is unusually active when the aliens arrive. As Agent Evans tracks down information on the terrorist cell her son Tyler (Logan Huffman) becomes increasingly enamored of the Visitors, visiting their ship and vandalizing property with the large red "V" that has come to symbolize their presence. The Visitors work to ingratiate themselves with humanity as quickly as possible with their medical technology that cures many previously incurable diseases. But there is still a feeling of unease that permeates the population, as Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretch from "The 4400") quickly notices as his church experiences a sudden boom in attendance. Father Landry has his own doubts about where the aliens fit within his preconceived notions of God, but is told by his superiors to embrace the alien presence-- which only further increases his feelings that something is wrong. The show moves at a pretty good pace since it has to establish itself quickly but does a good job at laying a solid foundation. But, by far, the most intriguing thing about the show is the political subtext. The Visitors are determined to be portrayed as benign and helpful. As noted by a reporter soon after their arrival, they are uniformly attractive and many people are quickly drawn to the beautiful mystery they represent. The Visitors quickly try to make themselves indispensable by pushing their miraculous medical technology-- with the same reporter asking with some unease-- "you're proposing universal health care?" As the populace becomes more divided among supporters and protesters, Anna insists on giving an interview to be broadcast across the globe with one stipulation-- no questions can be asked that will portray her in a negative light. What was a commentary about Nazi Germany in the original series could now be construed to be a jab at what many call Obamamania. Given the context of the original series I don't think "V" is going to have any drawn out anti-Obama message. I think it's merely trying to expand on the message of the earlier show by skewering any over-blown adoration of a public figure, which, given the "Peace Ambassador" program, designed to appeal to the world's youth, is likely to return to the reminders of Nazi Germany. Additionally, the Visitors are represented by one leader, but she isn't enough on her own to create the kind of devotion given to them, as they all display a kind of strange disconnect to human emotion. Yet the allusions to current U.S. politics are impossible to miss. And frankly, I admire any show willing to take on that hot potato. Unlike most political leaders, they don't make promises so much as immediately deliver what appears to be the cure to all our problems. And like pretty-much all political maneuvering, the cost of the solutions are not revealed until after we're already on the hook. And if the premier is any indication, I don't think there are going to be any sacred cows as far as the show is concerned-- with Father Landry being the voice in our head that wonders what in our religious pantheon covers alien invasions. I liked the show a lot. I think it's the best premier I've seen so far this season. I know my opinion is somewhat swayed by my nostalgia toward the old series but I think this updated version succeeds quite well. Seeing old favorites from "Firefly" (Baccarin as well as Alan Tudyk) was great and it's been rumored that regulars from the original series might be making an appearance in future episodes. I also know that the show's producers have promised to include some of the memorable events from the original show -- with some twists of course-- into this new incarnation. So there's a lot to entice me to keep watching. And you know I will.