V the Miniseries

Written and Directed by Kenneth Johnson

1983

NBC 

Giant flying saucers descend over the earth carrying aliens that say they are friends but have sinister motives.

Characters

Humans

  • Mike Donovan (Marc Singer)-cameraman who first photographs a Visitor ship.
  • Sean Donovan (Eric Johnston)-Mike’s son.
  • Eleanor Donovan Dupres (Neva Patterson)-Mike Donovan’s mother, Sean’s grandmother and a collaborator.
  • Arthur Dupres (Hansford Rowe)-Eleanor’s husband and refinery manager.
  • Juliet Parrish (Faye Grant)-doctor and Resistance leader.
  • Robert Maxwell (Michael Durrell)-scientist and Resistance member.
  • Kathleen Maxwell (Penelope Windust)-wife of Robert.
  • Robin Maxwell (Blair Tefkin)-daughter of Robert and Kathleen.
  • Polly Maxwell (Viveka Davis)-daughter of Robert and Kathleen.
  • Abraham Bernstein (Leonardo Cimino)-Holocaust survivor. Father of Stanley. Grandfather of Daniel.
  • Stanley Bernstein (George Morfogen)-son of Abraham. Husband of Lynn. Father of Daniel.
  • Lynn Bernstein (Bonnie Bartlett)-wife of Stanley. Mother of Daniel.
  • Daniel Bernstein (David Packer)-local bully. Leader in the Friends of the Visitors organization.
  • Ben Taylor (Richard Lawson)-doctor and member of the resistance.
  • Elias Taylor (Michael Wright)-small time criminal and brother of Ben and son of Caleb.
  • Caleb Taylor (Jason Bernard)-father of Ben and Elias.
  • Kristine Walsh (Jenny Sullivan)-ex-girlfriend of Mike Donovan and eventual Visitor spokesperson.
  • Ruby Engels (Camila Walsh)-friend of Abraham and eventual Resistance member.
  • Tony Wah Chong Leonetti (Evan C. Kim)-Mike Donovan’s friend and coworker.
  • Sancho Gomez (Rafael Campos)-landscaper
  • Harmony Moore (Diane Civita)-food truck worker and eventual girlfriend of visitor Willie.

Visitors

  • Diana (Jane Badler)-ambitious Visitor scientist and high-ranking Visitor officer.
  • John (Richard Herd)-referred to as “Supreme Commander of the Visitor Fleet” by humans but is closer to an admiral.
  • Steven (Andrew Prine)-Visitor officer.
  • Martin (Frank Ashmore)-Visitor officer and Fifth Column member.
  • Willie (Robert Englund)-Visitor tech originally assigned to the Middle East who is mistakenly sent to Los Angeles and has trouble with English.
  • Brian (Peter Nelson)-young Visitor officer. As part of Diana’s experiments, he impregnates Robin who does know the Visitors are actually reptilian.

V is one of the best science fiction miniseries ever (not that there have been many). The opening was amazing and is one of the few openings that perfectly sets the tone for the story. It just built and built, and then you see this massive UFO move slowly through the sky and you are hooked from that point onward. From there the miniseries is off and running. The opening scene worked because it was something you could see occurring in the real world that got interrupted by extraordinary events. It was an all too real issue of the time and this ship stopping everything drove home the point everything had changed.

The initial encounter with the Visitors when John arrives atop the UN Building is typical enough of the friendly alien trope. But these friendly aliens quickly insinuate themselves into all aspects of society culminating in the control of all forms of communication.

Aside from Mike Donovan and Juliet Parrish, the human characters in this are largely ordinary people. Only a handful are in the Resistance or are involved directly with the Visitors. You see the soft invasion of Earth through the eyes of everyday people. You watch as these extraordinary events change their lives.

The Bernstein Family exemplifies this. They are a small family consisting of grandfather Abraham, father Stanley, mother Lynn and listless son Daniel. Nothing really special about them but as the story goes on you watch as they are changed by the extraordinary events. Daniel who was little better than a bully and petty criminal finds his niche in the Friends of the Visitors. Events eventually spur them at the behest of holocaust survivor Abraham to action and they (without the knowledge of Daniel) start with hiding their neighbors the Maxwell Family whose father is a scientist.

Sancho Gomez is a landscaper. Harmony Moore works a food truck at the plant. Caleb Taylor is a chemical plant employee. Not extraordinary people. Just everyday people whose lives are changed by all this.

This miniseries is heavy on themes of fascism. It does not try to sugarcoat and hide too much what they are saying. The symbol used by the Visitors gives you the distinct impression of a swastika. The styling of the Visitor uniforms is reminiscent of the flourishes of a Nazi uniform. The Friends of the Visitors that Daniel joins is an allegory to the Hitler Youth and much like those youth he even informs on his parents. This is a warning about fascism and the people not realizing it until it is too late.

Rather than have Jews as a scapegoat for problems in this allegory, the scapegoat becomes the group most likely to uncover the reptilian nature of the Visitors-scientists. They are discredited as often as possible. Some disappear while still others have an abrupt and inexplicable change in attitude with the most common sign being a difference in hand preference. Many are linked by “evidence” to vast conspiracies while others publicly confess to their connection to these conspiracies. Members of Congress even go on about plots by intellectuals to hide scientific advancements for reasons of profit and frame intellectuals as acting from greed and their own self-interest.

These space Nazis do round up people up just like their real-world counterparts did. Not only is it scientists and other individuals they perceive as threats, but they also take entire random neighborhoods. Rather than just exterminate people, they seek to use us as slaves, cannon fodder in their wars and most disturbingly as food. The Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man” is the only other time I heard of invading aliens coming to eat us in televised science fiction. Us being snacks was a shocking revelation. But this was not just some macabre shopping trip for them. They also had designs on our liquid water. Our world was being turned into a dessert to replenish their own.

From the get-go we knew these aliens were not as human as they appeared. They hinted at it from the start with them never being seen eating or by caged birds getting agitated, but how inhuman they were was a huge surprise. Seeing Steven (apparently changed to Stephen in the follow up miniseries) eat a mouse was a shock. Seeing Diana down a gerbil was a “Holy crap!” moment. Seeing the Visitor with part of his fake face removed revealing his reptilian form beneath slammed me back in the back of the couch. I could not believe my eyes. This miniseries knew how to shock and surprise viewers and keep them coming back for more.

The series does not skimp on the characters. Though a large cast, each one is not only given something to do but is fleshed out to the point you can at least understand their motivations. Mike and his mother Eleanor have a very strained relationship which is destroyed by her instinct for survival and eventual collaboration with the Visitors. While there was not much of an on-screen spark between Mike and Kristine, we get real chemistry between Mike and Juliet. Elias is shown to be more than a thief while Daniel just becomes a thug with a uniform. Abraham and the Bernsteins are driven to do for others because of the past.

Even though John was the face of the Visitors, Diana was the standout villain here but truthfully, she did not do too much here. She was all attitude and cool demeanor. She plotted and schemed but nothing really came to fruition until the sequel. It is the same this as Boba Fett. Great villain but what did he ever do onscreen? You just knew both were up to no good and very dangerous. That is a credit to performance, script and direction.

In a nod to reality there were even relationships between Visitors and humans. You really wanted what was happening between Willie and Harmony to work out in the end. It was so sweet and innocent. The relationship between Robin and Brian was more like what has been spoken of between German soldiers and French women in occupied France. He professes love and a future but all he is doing is using her. Martin is the Visitor character that makes an effective Resistance possible. Without his addition to the cast of Visitors much of what occurs would not be possible. He provides assistance and information.

The miniseries ends on a very downbeat note. There is an attack on a rebel camp led by ambitious and devious Visitor scientist and officer Diana where a large number of people die but Visitor forces are driven off by the timely intervention of Donovan. This is followed up with what amounts to an epilogue where a few of the rebels are sending a message into deep space in the hopes that the Visitor’s enemy will hear it and come and help humanity. They do not even know if this enemy will be friendly to them or if they will be trading one problem for another.

By that point in my life I was spoiled by the special effects of Star Wars so what I saw had to measure up and I think the effects here measured up. Some of them are a little dated these days but by and large it still looks good. They did some really effective shots here with the spaceships. The ships looked cool and the costuming was on point. While story in science fiction must come first, the environment must look good no matter the cost of the production. And this looked great front to back then and it still does now.

The script was amazing. At no point did it back away from what it was trying to say. You knew the parallels they were drawing. And this amazing script was supported with very good acting. They all played their parts perfectly.

V was an amazing miniseries. Nothing else like it had come before. It was an amazing work that left things on a cliffhanger note. It is an effective allegory and an amazing work of science fiction television. A definite classic you should check out.

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

One thought on “V the Miniseries

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