Nowadays, the word "event" is thrown around all too often when describing television programmes, but back in 1983 the debut of V: The Mini Series
was a television event in the truest sense. The appearance of gigantic flying saucers over the world's largest cities heralds the arrival of aliens from a distant galaxy who look human and act benevolently. Of course, things aren't exactly what they seem, and when some suspicious humans start to question the visitors' intentions they uncover a vast alien conspiracy, along with some unusual culinary habits. Soon, the visitors have enslaved the Earth under their fascist rule, and small groups of human rebels are forced underground to fight for the freedom of their entire species. But with the future of the planet still in question the epic story comes to an abrupt end, forcing the viewer to wait for the resolution in V: The Final Battle
and the on-going series.
That's not to say that the original V isn't worth the price of admission: in over three hours, it manages to capture the spirit of the great classic science fiction of the 1950s and 60s. The feeling of paranoia and insecurity that runs throughout the whole thing makes it feel, at times, like an expanded episode of The Twilight Zone, only shinier (hey, it was the 1980s). The special effects were impressive for their day, inspiring similarly themed films in the 90s (the gigantic flying saucers were seen again in Independence Day, and the storage area of the mothership turns up in The X Files Movie and The Matrix). What does irritate, however, is the utter lack of subtlety in the allegorical storyline. In fact, it could only have been made more obvious by demanding that the entire cast wear "This is how it was in 1930s' Germany" t-shirts. But if V occasionally doesn't live up to its own high standards, it's still a remarkably high-quality slice of epic television drama.
On the DVD: The picture is an impressive widescreen 1.85:1 ratio and the soundtrack is adequate Dolby stereo. The DVD boasts a feature-length commentary by writer and director Kenneth Johnson, as well as a 25-minute "Behind the Scenes" documentary. --Robert Burrow
Early 1980s TV sci-fi. Hordes of human-like aliens invade Earth in 50 enormous, saucer-like spaceships, landing in nearly every major city. The 'visitors', as they like to be known, claim to be on a peace mission, but their more sinister nature is revealed once they begin to engineer a take-over. Earth's resources are essential for the aliens' future survival. Kenneth Johnson's sci-fi series was inspired by Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel, 'It Can't Happen Here', a fictional account of a fascist take-over. Among the characters trying to save Earth are TV cameraman Mike Donovan (Marc Singer), his girlfriend and news anchor Kristine Walsh (Jenny Sullivan), biochemist and resistance leader Juliet (Faye Grant), and head of a Jewish family Abraham Bernstein (Leonardo Cimino). Amongst the aliens they are fighting are supreme leader John (Richard Herd), Diane (Jane Badler) and Willie (Robert Englund). The series was followed by 'V - The Final Battle' during 1984-5 and Johnson went on to create the successful mini-series 'Alien Nation' several years later.