This reimagining of the classic 1980s television miniseries starts off on the right foot.
The premise remains the same: dozens of massive spaceships suddenly appear over major world cities. The human-looking aliens, who become known as the Visitors, claim that they come in peace and wish only to help humanity, but it soon becomes apparent that they have a more sinister agenda, and an underground human resistance movement is formed to combat the invasion.
The original V miniseries was created by Kenneth Johnson and arrived on American television screens in 1983, followed by the sequel miniseries V: The Final Battle in 1984, itself followed by V: The Series later that year, which aired a single season of nineteen episodes before being canceled.
This reimagining was developed by Scott Peters, co-creator of The 4400, an underrated science fiction drama that ran for four seasons (2004-07) on the USA Network. Peters also serves as showrunner for the first four episodes before former The Shield and Chuck staff writer/producer Scott Rosenbaum replaces him in that capacity (some sources say Peters stepped down, others say that ABC network executives forced him out). Johnson retains a creator’s credit and a co-writer’s credit for the first episode, but he has no actual involvement in the remake.
The first season was given a thirteen episode order. Only four episodes have been produced so far and are being aired now, with the remaining nine episodes set to go into production in January under Rosenbaum’s supervision and scheduled to air in the spring after the Winter Olympics.
This episode, written by Peters, wastes no time in getting the audience into the story, and the first five minutes are as memorable as the opening of the original miniseries. The writing is crisp, replacing the fascism allegory of the original with a post-9/11 one, while still maintaining the core of what made the original good. Some critics have pointed out that certain elements can be seen as a satire of the personality cult surrounding Barack Obama, although Peters has denied that interpretation.
If I have one complaint, it’s that this episode is too fast paced, with so much plot development shoehorned into its forty-two minute running time that character and thematic development suffer a bit. It’s not a major flaw, and now that the setup is out of the way, hopefully they can slow the pace down in future episodes. Capable direction by Yves Simoneau, who also directed the first episode of The 4400, holds everything together from beginning to end.
The main cast is comprised of Morena Baccarin (Firefly) as Anna, the leader of the Visitors; Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost) as FBI Agent Erica Evans, whose investigation of a supposed terrorist cell leads her to the resistance; Logan Huffman as Erica’s rebellious teenaged son Tyler; Joel Gretsch (The 4400, and incidentally William Shatner’s son-in-law) as Father Jack, a Catholic priest who doesn’t trust the Visitors’ motives; Laura Vandervoort (Smallville) as Lisa, a Visitor who recruits young humans to serve as spies; and Morris Chestnut as Ryan, a man with a secret that could derail his happy life with his girlfriend Valerie, played by Lourdes Benedicto; and Scott Wolf as ambitious reporter Chad Decker. Firefly‘s Alan Tudyk also guest stars in the first episode as FBI Agent Dale Maddox.
The cast is solid across the board, with several core actors having previous genre experience, and Baccarin in particular makes an impression as Anna, capably portraying both the seductive and alien qualities of the character. Baccarin is a gorgeous woman, making the response of some human men to her entirely believable, and then her acting talent takes it to another level by suggesting a creepy otherness.
Based on this first episode, V is a generally successful reimagining of its source material. Crisp writing, solid cast, lots of potential. I want to see where the story goes from here and how the change in showrunners affects the show.