Monday, November 16, 2009

Watch the skies

V – “Pilot” and “There is No Normal Anymore”


Writer/director Kenneth Johnson’s fondly remembered 1983 mini-series V is dusted off without him and given a new coat, or skin, as the case may be.

You should know the plot by now: giant spaceships appear all over the world one day. The aliens, who appear human, tell us that they’re here only for a short time and in exchange for a bit of water and fuel, they will share their advanced tech with us, curing many human ills. But a human resistance is started when it is discovered the aliens, called Visitors, are not what they ssseem.

The jack-booted, red-suited, sunglasses-wearing Visitors, as well as the original’s Nazi allegory, are jettisoned for crisp business suits and the old trope of “beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing,” a theme which the recently ended Battlestar Galactica already explored in great detail.

I had no real expectations for this show, so it’s not entirely a huge bummer that it’s not working for me.

The cast for the most part isn’t doing clicking. I liked series lead Elizabeth Mitchell on Lost, but here, as single mom FBI Agent Erica Evans, she really doesn’t register at all; she just appears tired all the time. (As a comparison, Fringe's Anna Torv comes across as a more credible FBI Agent.) Erica’s teenage son Tyler (Logan Huffman), who joins a Visitor’s group despite his mom's wishes, is extremely annoying. The rest of the cast doesn’t come alive onscreen, except for Morena Baccarin as Visitor leader Anna. Similar to how Brent Spiner nailed portraying an android as Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Baccarin has succeeded in making Anna something exotic - dare I say it, alien - with just her smile and her bearing.

The story is simply RACING by with no real plot development. The Visitors appear one day, then after just a few scenes it’s now three weeks later. Erica’s FBI partner, played by the great Alan Tudyk, is barely introduced before he’s revealed as a (gasp) Visitor. We are told about how they’ve been partners for seven years and are very close, but we never had a chance to SEE that before the big shocking revelation. I think that was a very poor storytelling choice, especially with an actor of Tudyk's range. Is he just going to be a snarling lizard for the rest of the series? In a way this feels similar to X-Men 3: The Last Stand where they rushed from plot point to plot point as fast as they could in between big visual effects scenes, except without the big visual effects scenes.

The theme about Visitors already being among us – as loved ones, friends and trusted collegues – was examined in depth in Battlestar Galactica. Not to say that science fiction shows can’t have similar themes, but that was just one of many ideas and issues explored on BSG (and that series just ended early this same year). On V, that appears to be it, and I don’t believe that is enough to sustain this series.

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