Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Revenge Of The 80’s presents V

I was in the 3rd grade the day I saw a crazy ass teaser ad on NBC for some new mini series called “V”. After that ad ran for a good week it generated a huge buzz and this show was the talk of the playground. No one could wait for the show to start to see what it was actually all about. The day came for the show to premiere and I was watching along with all of my brothers when it aired back in May 1983. The show was about how one day these huge motherships began appearing and hovering over major cities all over the world. It was estimated that there were about 50 of them and they had yet to communicate with anyone.
Finally, a ship came down with an ambassador in it to address the people of Earth. The people suspected that the aliens would look like...well, aliens. When a humanoid male stepped off the ship wearing what looked like a uniform inspired by Michael Jackson, people were surprised.

When the representative spoke to the throngs of assembled people and media he let them know that they were just visiting Earth because there were in need of some minerals and chemicals to sustain their dying homeworld. In exchange for helping them out, they’d share the secrets of their advanced technology with Earth and help solve some over their planetary crises. Sounded good to the people assembled...but one man was skeptical.

His name was Mike Donovan and he was a cameraman working for a major network. The female news correspondent he was assigned to became the media liason to the Visitors so he got to see them up close and many things were off with them. They worked closely with some of the Earth’s most brilliant minds in all fields of knowledge and as time passed they were confined and isolated from the rest of the world as the Visitors kept them close to work on their issues. Several scientists began to ask questions and requested to study the Visitors themselves before helping them first...many of these scientists and doctors turned up missing.

Mike Donovan steals aboard one of the huge Visitors motherships to see if he could uncover some things...what he discovers is that the Visitors are lying. They aren’t human at all, they are actually reptillian creatures that wore masks made of synthetic skin to give them human appearance. They also eat live meat like rodents like rats by dropping them into their mouths and their jaws unhinge to swallow them whole. The first time the audience at home saw that scene, it was guaranteed money in the bank.

Mike Donovan (played by the Beastmaster himself, Marc Singer) records some of this footage and immediately goes to his closest friends to tell them what he witnessed. Few of them believe him and the ones that did didn’t work closely with the Visitors and saw the footage for themselves. With the aid of some of his work colleagues he cut together an expose to air on the network at peak viewing hours. He reached out to his mother who worked closely with the Visitors and even sponsored their efforts and told her not to trust them but she didn’t listen.

Before Donovan could air the segment, the Visitors aired an alert announcing that Donovan was an anti-Visitor terrorist and a fugitive from the law. Donovan went on the run immediately and there it was...America was hooked. The miniseries was a ratings bonanza and at the time it was the highest rated original miniseries of all times. NBC had a runaway hit on it’s hands.

Later on in the story, the Visitors began taking humans and converting them by using a mind control technique. Soon, there were many subversives and converts among the humans all over the place. A few doctors and private citizens start a small ragtag rebel movement (later called The Resistance) and it was led by Dr. Juliet Parrish (played by Faye Grant).

Among the resistance members were also characters played by Robert Englund before he became Freddy Kreuger (I’m your boyfriend now!), Richard Lawson back when he looked like a member of The Time (777-9311!) and a young Michael Wright about a decade before he became Eddie King Jr. (Nights like this...I wish...raindrops would faaaaaal).

The Resistance took on Mike Donovan and they eventually began to make some headway by capturing some Visitors and discovering that the Visitors also had a resistance group called the Fifth Column that didn’t agree with the Supreme Leaders commands. They discover that the Visitors want to steal the Earth’s water supply and use the people as cheap labor and ultimately as food for the Visitors.

This show became a huge overnight phenomenon and soon people were requesting merchandise and wanted more. Once they caught wind that there was going to be a scene featuring an alien birth, the buzz went through the roof and even more people watched the following segment. As I watch it now it looks mad cheesy but I was on the edge of my seat when I saw it for the first time almost 25 years ago.

After the initial two parter aired viewers requested that it be aired again. They call came down that another miniseries should be produced immediately. V was officially a phenomenon and the next year the second part (called V: The Final Battle) aired on NBC.

As far as the story went, the Resistance was able to raid some sights and receive some alien technology, weapons, ammunition and supplies with the aid of the members of the Fifth Column. From there the birth of some alien twins yielded a mostly humanoid girl that had some reptillian DNA and a mostly lizard boy that died after he was born. After Julie and some other Resistance scientists studied the dead twin, they discovered what killed it and synthesized it into a substance called Red Dust. They also created an antidote for members of the Fifth Column so they would live after the Resistance struck.

After exposing the Visitors as aliens out to invade Earth on national television, the Resistance received a big boost of support. They eventually were able to do some sabotage to the Visitors ships and spread the Red Dust all over the globe, thereby making the Earth unsafe for Visitors as the Red Dust was toxic to them and killed them on contact.

As Julie and Mike led the Los Angeles Resistance, they developed a relationship. Eventually, the Visitors kidnapped Donovan’s son and used him as bait (then they converted him using their mind control techniques so he’d be a spy). By the end of the second miniseries they captured Dr. Juliet Parrish and the series ended with her in the conversion booth being brainwashed by the Visitors.

This cliffhanger made the public clamor for more of the V saga. They didn’t want to wait another year to find out what happened, either. NBC greenlighted a V series and made sure they got to filming and writing as soon as humanly possible to capitalize on the V craze. The writers were forced into producing without having proper time to prepare. The network also wanted to save some money by reusing shots from the miniseries and effects and effects sounds from the miniseries as was obvious when the series actually aired, though.

The television series, while being entertaining overall fell short of the standards set up by the mini series’. The network was seeing dollar signs after pulling in huge ratings and didn’t focus on quality control enough. The creator of the series, Kenneth Johnson was feeling that the show was being watered down and forced as the strain of producing a weekly hour long sci fi drama with a dwindling budget became a chore more than a passion project.

The shortcuts visibly affected the final product and the public got sick of V being shoved down their throats by NBC. Another thing that hurt the show was that they couldn’t get a good licensing deal done to create toys like the ones the kids played with on the series. When the V toys were finally produced they were 12” rather than G.I. Joe or Star Wars figure scale (3.75 inches or 1/18th scale) and they only made figures of the typical Visitor. They didn't produce any likenesses of Diana, the Visitor commander, Mike Donovan, Julie Parrish, or any of the other popular character. Toy sales were abysmal.

After just 19 episodes aired, the series was canceled in 1985. The V phenomenon hadn’t yet died as Kenneth Johnson continued writing novelizations that explained the back story he was never allowed to develop by NBC executives and the DC comic book still sold fairly well until it was discontinued in 1986.
Kenneth Johnson was set to bring back a new V series in 1988 but talks fell through with NBC. He instead developed Alien Nation for the fledgling Fox network and got it made into a weekly series the next year.

Next month, he drops a novel called V: The Next Generation after writing V novels for more than 20 yeras and he’s currently in production for a new V series set 20 years after the events that transpired in V: The Series to drop in the first half of 2008. I guess nothing from the 80’s can ever just stay there, huh?



Aaron said...

V was so tight. I fronted on it for the longest but when I stopped trippin I was hooked. I'm afraid to watch it now though cuz you know how some things seem excellent when you're a kid but when you watch them as an adult you wonder what you were smokin.

Anonymous said...

my god, dart i remember this!!!thanks for writing this, it takes me back! i was 8 at the time. really scary bk then!