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October 23, 2014

Review: V - Pilot (series premiere)

by Jason Hughes, posted Nov 4th 2009 1:30AM
We were promised a modern re-imagining of the classic '80s V mini-series, and that's exactly what we got. Gone were the allusions to World War II Nazism and the treatment of Jews in Europe. Instead, we're offered allusions to the war we've been fighting for eight years now.

I wasn't sure how they could modify the storylines from the series I remembered to accurately find parallels to our war on terrorism, and the terrorist movements themselves, but they did. And they did it all while staying true to the struggles and fears that's kept the original series fresh in our minds for 26 years now.

Even better, I watched this with my 10-year old son who's never seen the original, and he was absolutely riveted. Everything I loved about V back then is here, and there's so much more to get excited about. I always thought V should be an ongoing series, and even though we eventually got one, I think this time they've finally got it right.

I'm very interested to see how they hook us for the long wait until the continuation of the season. V, circa 1983, was a four-hour mini-series that ended on a cliffhanger and led to the continuation of the series in another six-hour blast the following year. And here we go again.

We'll get four hours through November, and then the series will disappear until March of next year. That's a long time for fans to wait, so it's incredibly important that they hook us good to lure us back. I'm very worried about the series' future because of this strange scheduling strategy. Partially, because this pilot was so damned good I want this Resistance to fight on for several years.

I'll admit, in the beginning when Elizabeth Mitchell's FBI character Erica Evans was tracking down a terrorist sleeper cell, I made no connections between that and the arrival of the Visitors. I just thought it was a way the writers were showing us that this is happening in the real world. What they did, instead, is show us that the Visitors are coming at us just like terrorists would.

They have sleeper cells and agents already amongst us, in disguise, awaiting the next phase of their operation. This part seemed like a pretty heavy nod to the reimagining of Battlestar Galactica, with sleeper agent Cylons infiltrating the human colonies to lay the groundwork for the ultimate siege.

It succeeded in adding a whole new layer of malice to the Visitors. The big reveal that Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut) is himself a Visitor was huge. Even Erica's friend and confidante at the bureau, the always delightful Alan Tudyk, is an alien in disguise. Which has me wondering just how widespread this infiltration is? Is it as bad as the Skrull infestation of the Marvel Universe a few years back? Did that question just mark me as a huge nerd?

It's great, though, that the war will be much more challenging. The Visitors now look and sound like us -- they had different voices in the original mini-series -- which means it'll be harder to know who you can trust and who you can't. And what about those aliens who have betrayed their original mission? Surely the Visitors will have something to do about that. And they're a lot more mysterious. We've seen far fewer of them and very few from the ships have interacted with anyone other than Scott Wolf's reporter Chad Decker.

How about the effects of this? Obviously, we've come a long way in 26 years, but the ships are absolutely beautiful. I love how open and spacious they are, but we've still seen so little of them. We've also seen very little of the Visitors themselves. We got the classic skin rip revealing their reptilian skin underneath, but the human layer of flesh is much thicker than the original Visitors, making me think these newer aliens are much thinner and sleeker than their counterparts from the '80s ... again, like Battlestar Galactica.

But you know, a comparison to the new BSG is actually one of the highest honors I can bestow, as it was one of the single best science fiction narratives to hit the airwaves. Time will tell if the new V can achieve anything close to those heights, but I think it's off to a great start.

It's a very smart move to shape the war like our war on terror, as it makes the series more accessible perhaps to fans who might not be so inclined to watch a science fiction series. I can't wait to see how it does in the ratings for this premiere, but I'm even more excited to follow along and see what's in store for us the rest of this month.

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