Written by Caballero Oscuro
I’ll get my disclaimer out of the way first: when I was a wee lad I didn’t like the original ‘80s V miniseries. At all. The aliens looked dumb, the spaceships and costumes were boring, and the story couldn’t even capture my childhood imagination. With such bitter memories, I greeted this new series with a total lack of interest and assumed it would be dealt a fairly quick and unceremonious death like its predecessor. But hey, it’s hard for me to pass up any sci fi Blu-ray box set screener, so I took the plunge into a viewing marathon of the new complete first season with absolutely zero expectations. As such, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
The core conceit of the original show is still present: aliens have arrived in gigantic spaceships above Earth with promises of friendship and goodwill that mask their shadowy ulterior motives. They’re also masking their true reptilian forms behind pretty human skins that ease their acceptance into human society. In fact they’re masked so well that we get through the entire season without seeing a fully exposed alien, so other than a few glimpses of scales in wounds and creepy reptilian eyes we still don’t really know what we’re dealing with. Led by their charismatic and gorgeous ruler named Anna (Morena Baccarin), the Visitors (Vs) offer medical and technological miracles to humankind in return for basically nothing, just some rest and replenishment. At least that’s what Anna tells the world. Behind the scenes, she’s plotting…something, although the grand design of her master plan remains a mystery throughout the season. Do they want to eat us? Sell us into slavery on their homeworld? Tune in next season!
While most of the dumb Earthlings are content to go along with the fantastic offer of V friendship and aid, a resistance movement arises to expose the true intentions of the Vs and fight for their removal. Leading the resistance is plucky FBI agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell), growing increasingly concerned about the protection of her dopey teenage son Tyler (Logan Huffman) in light of his infatuation with comely young V Lisa (Laura Vandervoort), who also conveniently happens to be Anna’s daughter. Agent Evans is aided in her resistance efforts by turncoat V Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut), soldier-turned-priest Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch), and mercenary Kyle Hobbes (Charles Mesure). A news anchor named Chad Decker (Scott Wolf) walks the line between V and resistance fighters, building a rapport with Anna while also confiding in Father Jack. With all the relationships and shifting allegiances, the series quickly becomes a tense game of figuring out who to trust and who to fight, pulling its key players further into the inevitable conflicts.
The series certainly isn’t the smartest, but it’s consistently exciting and nerve-wracking as each side attempts to conceal its objectives from the other while figuring out who they can rely on to further their goals. It’s a considerable strength that the show has one principal storyline and keeps tight focus on that story rather than wasting time with standalone episodes like Fringe or X-Files. Sure, there are subplots, but they all contribute to the main story arc rather than divert attention to meaningless side paths. That attention to constantly moving the plot forward is the single best reason to appreciate this series and has me anxiously awaiting season two.
The series is incredibly effects-heavy, with all of the environments on the alien ships constructed in CGI. Unfortunately, the CG integration is pretty bad, pulling viewers out of the action as we easily imagine the massive green-screen sets the actors inhabited. The producers should be commended for attempting such a high level of CG in a weekly format, but it’s not ready for prime time yet. Maybe add some more actual props and a few tangible backgrounds here and there to foster some sense of realism? For now, the Vs frequently look like they’re running around in the middle of a video game. There’s also some wonky camera work, with a recurring use of over-the-head-looking-down angles on actors and sweeping, rotating camera movement in the virtual environments that just adds to their fake feel.