V the Series

October 26, 1984, to March 22, 1985

Executive Story Consultant David Ambromowitz

NBC

Characters

Humans

  • Mike Donovan (Marc Singer)– former TV cameraman and leader in the Resistance.
  • Sean Donovan (Nicky Katt) Episodes 5–6–Mike Donovan’s son.
  • Juliet Parrish (Faye Grant)– Resistance founder and former medical student)
  • Elias Taylor (Michael Wright) Episodes 1–11–after the war he started a restaurant called Club Creole.
  • Nathan Bates (Lane Smith) Episodes 1–13– CEO of biotech company Science Frontiers, that mass-produced/produces the Red Dust.
  • Kyle Bates (Jeff Yagher) Episodes 3–19–the adult rebellious son of Nathan Bates who goes on to date the two-year-old Elizabeth Maxwell.
  • Robert Maxwell (Michael Durrell) Episodes 1–2– Scientist father of Robin who is unfazed by the inexplicably loss of two children. I mean that them being missing or never mentioned is not explained.
  • Robin Maxwell (Blair Tefkin) Episodes 1–12- teen mom to physically teen Elizabeth and apparently now the only existing child of Robert Maxwell.
  • Elizabeth Maxwell (Jennifer Cooke) Episode 2–19–The extremely underage child of Robin who has begun a relationship with the very adult Kyle Bates. Chronologically she was not more than 2!!
  • Ham Tyler (Michael Ironside) Episodes 1–12–dark and brooding dangerous character that is awkwardly nice in a weird Christmas episode.
  • Chris Farber (Mickey Jones) Episodes 9-11– Ham’s best friend. He also had a very minor part in the original Total Recall in which Ironside had a major role.
  • Howard K. Smith as himself in Episodes 3–13–a newscaster that never interacted with any of the characters and discussed off camera events

Visitors

  • Diana (Jane Badler)– despite her bungling in the miniseries and its sequel she got a promotion to Supreme Commander of the Visitors
  • Willie (Robert Englund)– Visitor and Resistance member
  • Lydia (June Chadwick) Episodes 2–8 and 10-19–a fleet security officer sent by the Leader to Earth to begin the second invasion.
  • Martin and his twin brother Philip (Frank Ashmore) Episodes 1 (Martin) and 14–19 (Philip)–Fifth column member TWICE!
  • Charles (Duncan Regehr) Episodes 10–13– Personal envoy of the Visitor Leader and a member of the Royal House of Raman. Since when did they get royalty? All indications this was a dictatorship.
  • Oswald (Peter Elbling) Episodes 15 and 17–18–I do not mention him below, but he was such a caricature of a homosexual I felt it needed to be noted. Even then his depiction was offensive.
  • Lieutenant James (Judson Scott) Episodes 11–19–ambitious Visitor soldier.

The Visitors are back. The Red Dust is toxic and requires freezing temperatures to regenerate allowing Visitor troops back in Los Angeles and other warmer climates.

I have a soft spot in my heart for this show, but it is by far the worst iteration of this concept. What started out as an allegory about fascism coming to America (and the world) ended up as a campy adventure of the week story about fighting an occupying alien force. Gone were the themes of fascism and the allusions to Nazism. The Visitors were now just generic oppressors with only casual mentions of them finding humans tasty.

For ages science fiction on film and television tended to be more fanciful than serious. They tended to be influenced by the camp of the early Flash Gordon films. Star Trek and The Twilight Zone were the most consistently serious for ages.  The Incredible Hulk had flashes of serious but something akin to the original Lost In Space was the norm. Until the appearance of Star Trek: The Next Generation and its success few studios were willing to do a 100% serious weekly science fiction series. V the Miniseries was a rare island of drama and allegory in a sea of goofiness. The Final Battle while less serious was still far more serious than this.

The Visitors had a pretty stable cast in comparison to the humans. Characters among the Visitors came and went as the stories among the aliens logically necessitated. I will give them credit where credit is due on that part, but the stories became more soap operatic as the show progressed. There were forced marriages and significant bed hopping and the usual catty behavior among the female characters you would find on Dynasty. The aforementioned arranged marriage was between Diana and, well, alien royalty calling himself Charles (Duncan Regehr). Jane Badler (Diana) excelled at keeping her performance from being hokey with the drivel they were forced to do but sadly she could not play everybody all the time.

June Chadwick as Fleet Security Officer Lydia was a welcome addition to the cast. The dynamic between her and Diana was clearly meant to emulate the entertaining dynamic that Diana had with Pamela during The Final Battle.

Judson Scott as Lieutenant James always struck me as an attempt to replace Stephen/Steven with a touch of primetime sexual escapades. Scott is one of those actors with talent that gets relegated to supporting roles. I was very happy with his addition to the cast. He took his material very seriously.

Frank Ashmore returned as Martin in the pilot and later on as his twin brother Philip which was basically Martin back as a Visitor officer. I was pissed when they killed Martin but was happy when the actor returned as his twin brother Phillip. The actor had good chemistry with Marc Singer.

Aside from the characters of Mike Donovan (Marc Singer) and Juliet Parish (Faye Grant), few human miniseries characters remained for the entire run of the show. They either died meaninglessly onscreen or departed for what felt like a casual reason. Persecuted scientist Robert Maxwell died in the second episode. Robin Maxwell (Blair Tefkin), Ham Tyler (Michael Ironside), and Chris Farber (Mickey Jones) all departed for Chicago. Speaking of the Maxwells, Robin had two sisters that survived both the original miniseries and its sequel but failed to get an onscreen appearance or even a mention in this show. From the pilot episode to the finale there was no indication they even existed. The same goes for Elias’s father Caleb. Not even mentioned. Huh?

From the first time Mike and Juliet met they had been moving towards a romance before more or less having one by the time of The Final Battle. Yet here they completely dumped the idea of them being romantically involved so that dashing Mike Donovan could possibly romance a one-off character every now and then during the course of the show. Ugh! And a throwaway line where Juliet says how Mike and her decided with everything they had to do they couldn’t engage in a romance was just bad. It reeked of trying to shut the fans up. Mike could put the moves on some country mom but not on Juliet?

This show descended even further into the use of space magic. The juvenile Elizabeth (sometimes referred to as The Starchild and now played by Jennifer Cooke) aged into a young adult in the first episodes inside of a cocoon with lots of glowing and weird noises going on. She also had implied supernatural abilities that no human related to her or Visitor in general have demonstrated. This was very out of place in the series and is something that works to the detriment in what had started out as serious work.

But what was the worst part about this development was that Elizabeth who was not more than a year or two old at the time (yet gifted with an adult intellect) was given a romantic interest. That is right. The rapidly aging girl got a romantic interest. That bothered me then and it still bothers me today.

Kyle Bates (Jeff Yagher) who was this stereotypical young and dangerous rule breaker was almost immediately drawn to Elizabeth. In true soap opera fashion, there was even a brief storyline where her mother Robin was hot for Kyle and it caused friction between the two. Really? This is not Falcon Crest! This dangerous and moody young man was the estranged son of the business mogul that manufactured the Red Dust.

Nathan Bates (Lane Smith) was the CEO of the biotech company Science Frontiers which either manufactured or manufactures the Red Dust. If it is “manufactures” that makes things a little confusing. Being a bacterium it would seem that once introduced the defense would be self-perpetuating. Diana implied that in The Final Battle when she realized what was going on. If it is “manufactured” then how did this corporation pull off mass producing a biological weapon in secret under a fascist dictatorship?

Bates was all hammy caricature of a businessman with his sinister mechanizations and all sorts of double dealings. Again they went primetime soap here.

This show had a fluctuating cast. Some of those mentioned above left abruptly during the run or were added to fill gaps. Word is some of the cast were upset with the quality of the scripts while others just did not like what they had to do in context of the scripts. Regardless, people left with extreme regularity. This made it difficult to have a cohesive narrative. This was the era of standalone episodes, but a consistent cast allowed for cohesion and this show did not have one.

V the Series had one of the higher production budgets of any show of its time, but it still had less per episode then the miniseries had per hour. Despite this shortcoming the producers tried to do epic science fiction in every episode. Rather than try to have epic battles and epic visuals in every episode they probably should have kept the stories smaller and more focused on the characters. They should have been written so that they minimized location shooting and guest stars and stuck with as many existing sets as possible. Make the stories more personal. This might have required a slightly more serialized format closer to a soap, but it would have kept what they needed to do closer to what they could do.

The show notoriously reused stock footage to the point you could not miss it. Science fiction shows can be expensive and sometimes even today they use stock footage, but the series best known sin was the heavy reuse of stock footage. Sometimes it would even be stock footage that had first appeared in the previous episode. There was no attempt to hide it given everything.

The series dropped the Visitor voice reverb. The Visitors had it in their voices since the first minutes of the first miniseries. It was a trademark of them being aliens but for whatever reason it disappeared. It had even been part of the plot of The Final Battle. The Resistance used a voice changing device to fake it to pass as lizards.

One of the biggest sins the show committed in my opinion though was in the final episode. The leader of the Visitors had been built up to basically be space Hitler from the first miniseries through most of the television series. Martin said as much in the original miniseries. Yet at the very end Elizabeth goes up the shuttle ramp with the Visitor leader and with the remaining cast of the Resistance smiling and waving as Elizabeth flies off with space Hitler. Huh? How does that even track? I guess it does since the Visitors being space Nazis was completely forgotten at this point.

The thing was that when V the Series worked it really worked. But it did not work often enough. They tried to do too much with too little and the show failed. If they had kept it smaller then I think the show would have run for a little while longer. It is not a bad show, but it is not as good as it could have been. It is a definite slice of 80s cheese that will appeal to your nostalgia. It is comfort food but nothing too deep.

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

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