I’ve not seen the original series of V, and when I heard it was being remade by ABC, I thought they were remaking the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name. But that would be bloody treacherous to adapt in the first place. And foolish to remake it even then. But whatever the character of the original V show, the first episode of this remake is brimming with confidence and polish. That said, it’s conventional to the bone, and nothing is particularly spectacular. Oh, and the dialogue is, at times, dreadful.
The plot is that aliens reveal themselves to Earth peacefully but the slickness of the Visitors (Hence the V – tadah!) belies a more heinous intention and manner. We see, as ensemble shows love to do, all the characters we will follow through the course of the show, in their daily lives – the single mother badass cop, her bratty teenage son, the enfranchised black-american businessman, the priest with a strong jaw and the Journalistic lovechild of Tom Cruise and Michael J Fox playing an amalgam of Tom Cruise and Michael J Fox characters – before the events which send everybody into turmoil.
Everybody is, as US drama would have us believe, a normal working human in V, with the compulsory cautionary past, familial issues and wanderings of faith that typify us as a species, in comparison to, say, Goats, which are just stupid animals. There’s nothing really wrong with this – you can’t expect ABC to pull out anything resembling realistic characterisation like a BBC, HBO or AMC program would – but again, it feels same old, same old. Most are likeable, conventional types, even if the writers lack the spirit to push the Priest (name unimportant) to the level of Jesse Custer or the balls to make him anything other than a Mddle-of-the-Road beefcake with a lot of scepticism. The bratty son of the cop is annoying however; too sappy, too wet, and too full of himself to like. Of course, he’s want for frolicking with an attractive female Visitor and generally expatriating to the Other side, so there’s no loss for humanity there then.
As said however, ABC shouldn’t be expected to overcome the hurdle of dramatising realistic familial relationships in a way that doesn’t wreak of cringeworthy sentimentality. Things do get more interesting though, with Morena Baccarin as Anna, the seeming head honcho behind the media-frenzied visitation of the aliens, whose beauty often so distracts from her solid performances. Here, she is framed in such a way that her angelic features become stretched beyond normal human possibilities to reveal something entirely alien and frightening. The compulsary monstrous feminine she may be, but it’s a wonderful performance, and slightly unexpected for those used to seeing her doll about as a foil to Captain Hammer.
Alan Tudyk is always great to watch, and although he isn’t given much to do here, his presence is always reassuring in a sense – although this is in the sense that he looks like he feels just as marooned as us, and not in the sense of ‘everything is going to be alright for I, Alan Tudyk, am here’. Suffice to say, playing around with our affections for Tudyk worked brilliantly in that one decent episode of Dollhouse – swooping from jabbering pot-head architect to sinister mastermind in one of the biggest Ohhhhh! moments of recent memory – and the same device works great here too, if less masterful.
There are interesting places to go with V. The first episode sets up threads we not only anticipate, but actually want to follow; we aren’t teased in sick ways and told to endure horrific bouts of boredom before we are given answers (that’s for you David Goyer: Flashforward could take lessons from V on the subject of developing characters alright), but instead are fondled with in ways quite appetizing for a viewer. I’ll end the metaphor there, as it could go a tad blue. There’s also what appears to be a swipe at Obama’s healthcare plans in the show – although I hesitate to condemn it because the first episode seems to suggest that there’s more to the Visitors than a palatable lust for genocide – as the Visitors suggest a worldwide health service. This was nearly lost on me to be honest. Good idea, I said. Extend the NHS and that. And then I realised that the US is way behind on healthcare to those who need it. Silly me. I’m rooting for the Visitors now.
There’s a lot of asides and parallels to a staple of sci-fi themes in V, from the manipulation of the masses to the purpose of the media, and it could be rich territory for the show to mine in the future. I’ll be watching probably. Tuesday nights are pretty drab on the whole.