directed by Kenneth Johnson
As a 13-year-old kid in 1983, the original V miniseries was huge; it seems like all of my friends watched it and talked about it. Certain memories of this small-screen epic have stayed with me for many years, and I was overjoyed when the miniseries was released on DVD. What kid could forget the images of the giant motherships hovering above our major cities, the first glimpse at the true, reptilian faces of the visitors underneath their human masks and -- above all else -- the horrible yet incredibly cool sight of watching the visitors eating live rats and other small creatures?
This really was a landmark event in television and science fiction; if my memory serves me, this was actually one of television's very first miniseries and did much to lay the groundwork for future successes in the genre. V no longer packs quite the punch it did in 1983, especially in terms of special effects, but its classic status does nothing to lessen its impact.
The story is rather simple. A fleet of giant alien motherships appears out of nowhere to hover over the world's major cities. When communication is established, the aliens announce they come in peace and want to share their knowledge with Earth in exchange for assistance in producing chemicals needed on their home planet in the Sirius system. Reporter Christine Walsh soon becomes the spokesperson for the Visitors, but her colleague Mike Donovan becomes suspicious when charges of a vast conspiracy of scientists against the Visitors are announced.
Donovan manages to sneak aboard a mothership and obtains visual evidence of the true natures of Earth's so-called friends. When he tries to present this evidence, the Visitors take control of all the networks and announce the fact they are going to work in conjunction with the government in order to maintain law and order. Having established martial law, the Visitors begin taking large numbers of people away, especially scientists. L.A.'s remaining scientists start a resistance movement to protect themselves and work to thwart the aliens' intentions, eventually incorporating Donovan in their ranks.
The second half of the miniseries deals with the resistance and the stepped-up efforts of the Visitors to destroy it. There are many characters and many subplots thrown into the mix. Comparisons to the Holocaust are both obvious and explicit, represented powerfully and eloquently by a Jewish survivor of a Nazi concentration camp. A crucial plot point in terms of setting the stage for the follow-up miniseries revolves an anthropologist's teenaged daughter who is smitten with one of the young Visitors; Diana, the second-in-command and most attractive Visitor, arranges for a biological "experiment" between the human girl and her alien friend.
Marc Singer (better known as that guy you recognize in other stuff but cannot remember where you've seen him before) stars as Donovan. Faye Grant is the reluctant leader of the band of resisting scientists; her balancing act between victim and revolutionary gets a little sappy at times, but overall she plays her part well. Jane Badler is wonderful as the beautifully devious alien Diana. Robert, Englund (yes, Freddy Krueger himself) is quite funny as a clumsy, bumbling alien who has yet to learn the nuances of the English language (you see, he learned Arabic for his mission, but a screwup led to him being assigned to Los Angeles instead of the Persian Gulf area). Leonardo Cimino as Abraham serves as the moral voice of the resistance effort and clarifies the point that "V" stands for victory.
One thing to keep in mind is that this is only the original miniseries, and, as Faye Grant's character says, the war is just beginning. Resolution and a sense of completion are to be found only in the V: The Final Battle miniseries.