V (2009): Season 2
My friends know my position on the trend commonly referred to as re-imagining. This term has the denotation of reworking a previous film or television show in order to infuse it with more contemporary and relevant themes. In while this is a good idea, at least in theory unfortunately, the practical implementation of this technique is far from ideal. In fact it frequently gives the term the connotation of lacking imagination. It must be noted that some stories commonly found in literature are such classics that it becomes the responsibility of each generation to reinterpret them adding their own distinctive spin on the proceedings. After all from a strictly technical stand point ‘West Side Story’ is a reimaging of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ but you would never place it in the same category as a retread of some horror flick like ‘Friday the 13th’. Let’s consider those examples are the extremes, the bookends on either side of the spectrum. Admittedly the distribution is skewed more towards the later than the former but there is still some uses of this formulation that manage to keep the technique viable. There is one glimmer of hope for re-imagining that has appeared on the recent scene in the form of resurrection of classic television science fiction series. The high water mark in this trend is represented by the SyFy channel’s ‘Battlestar Galatica’ which easily surpassed the campy original in every possible metric.
One series that followed attempting to continue this means off success is the remake of the classic TV mini-series and later regular series, ‘V’. The original appeared in 1983 as a tightly constructed allegory for the rise of a fascist state using extraterrestrials as the new Nazi regime. This utilized one of the most sociologically significant uses of Sci-Fi, the exploration of cultural issues guised in the entertaining venue of science fiction. This allows the writer to cocoon the themes that would be controversial in what seems to be innocent fiction. In 2009 ABC commissioned television producer Scott Peters to take the concept created by Kenneth Johnson with the goal of bringing it into the new millennium. Naturally, the theme of fascism would have to give way to the current fear pervading our society, terrorism. The downside of this particular remake is although it got off to a strong start a legal dispute between Warner Brothers and Johnson derailed the series early on. The network wanted to remove Johnson’s name from the credits citing the new show was sufficiently different to warrant a more original production credit. In a series like this that depends on a rather large ensemble cast and numerous intricately entwined plot points the writers have to get readily into the plot building momentum. The legal interruption broke the flow necessary to establish the back story and fundamentals of character development result in an irreparable loss of audience interest. This resulted in curtailing the number of episodes for season two from 13 to 1o followed by the news of the series’ cancelation. While not quite brilliant but cancelled it certainly deserves inclusion in the prematurely cancelled list, given time and better treatment this series could have been a contender.
There has been a case made that the focus of this series was an allegorical exploration of the Obama Presidency. The alien ‘Visitors’ offer the ultimate in social reform through their own version of universal health care and correction of the environmental damage that has threaten our planet. While there is some validity to this hypothesis the structure of the resistance fighting the aliens is formulated along the lines of a typical terrorist organization; discrete, semi-autonomous cells. The twist here is the organization has goals beneficial to humanity rather than out to destroy. Supporting this view is the inclusion of religious tropes by means of a renegade Catholic Priest, Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch) as one of the leaders of the resistance. In order to garner favor with Sci-Fi fans most of the casting for this series appears to have been done at the autographic tables of a Comic Con. Gretsch previously had leading roles in two recent genre favorites ‘The 4400’ and ‘Taken’. FBI agent turn freedom fighter Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) stared on ‘Lost’. Visitor leader Anna was played by Morena Baccarin late from ‘Firefly, while her daughter Lisa was portrayed by ‘Smallville’s Supergirl, Laura Vandervoort. In a touch of stunt casting Anna’s mother and previously Visitor Queen, Diana represents a return to the part from the Original ‘V’s Jane Badler. This thread introduced some ambiguity as to whether the series from the eighties is contiguous in some ways with what is shown here. This may have been a last ditch effort to increase ratings but it strained the story line too far.
The quality did suffer once the writing was on the wall concerning the impending cancelation. It felt like the cast and crew knew their time was drawing to a close and they diverted their attention to lining up their next project. I can’t blame them, actors need to work and no matter how promising the foundation for this series had been it was doomed and beyond reconsideration by the network. The acting was a notch above a well done soap opera which was entirely consistent in this venue; it worked well. The stories were just beginning to gel leading to some potentially interesting plot point including genetic manipulation motivating the visitors and dissenting factions in both the aliens and resistance. Given the proper opportunity to flourish this would have provided a means to some interesting twists in character development. Treachery on all sides could have infused the series with a nice espionage vibe but that was not to be.
The look of the series was slick and sufficiently futuristic. The special effects could hold their own against many contemporary Sci-Fi films. It is just enough beyond what exists today so that it seems realistic. For example transparent computer displays is probably less than a decade out from reality. There was enough differences in foundation and execution to permit it to stand on its own apart from the original but unfortunately the series met an untimely demise.