In about 99% of science fiction, aliens come to earth in two ways: charging in to invade, or they come in peace... so they can invade quietly. The second kind are the main problem in "V: The Complete First Season," a remake of the 1980s series/miniseries about mysterious alien Visitors who come to Earth with some nasty ulterior motives. While this remake suffers from some "Lost syndrome," it's a sleek, complex story with an intriguing cast of characters.
City-sized alien ships have appeared over twenty-nine cities worldwide, and the aliens' leader "Anna" (Morena Baccarin) declares that, "We are of peace." The Visitors offer their advanced technology to better the world, and cause massive changes -- social, religious, medical, and so on.
While hunting a terrorist cell FBI agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) stumbles across an anti-Visitor resistance -- and the shocking discovery that not only are the visitors reptilian creatures in humanoid skins, but some Visitors are hiding among us. She and the skeptical priest Father Jack (Joel Gretsch) begin forming their own little resistance cell, along with the V-in-hiding Ryan Nicholas (Morris Chestnut) who is trying to reactivate an alien rebellion known as the Fifth Column. At the same time, news anchor Chad Decker (Scott Wolf) finds himself the media ambassador of the V's, caught between ambition and his growing doubts.
But the resistance has more than Anna's cruel, duplicitous nature to deal with -- Erica's gullible son Tyler (Logan Huffman) has become a "peace ambassador" for the V's and is falling in love with Anna's daughter Lisa (Laura Vandervoort). Ryan's girlfriend is pregnant with a hybrid baby. One of their number is captured by the V's and brutally tortured, even as Anna hatches terrifying new plots to wipe the Fifth Column from existence...
"V: The Complete First Season" is very different from the 1980s version -- there are sweeping changes to the story, characters, the political commentary and the aliens' manipulation ("Gratitude can morph into worship. Or worse... devotion!"). The only problem with this season is that it suffers from "Lost syndrome" at times, where it feels like the plot is moving WAAAAAAYYYY too slowly and not enough is happening per episode.
But the writing is undeniably brilliant -- it's full of suspense and some amazing plot twists (just see what Anna's unleashing on the Fifth Column). The characters are painstakingly sketched out and carefully developed, along with strong dialogue ("Human decency's a privilege, father. He's lost his. And, when we prove to you that he's lying, you're gonna lose yours, too") and some very powerful emotional moments (a Fifth Column doctor is forced to murder his own friend).
And yeah, there's some creepy stuff too, such as when Erica gets her shocking first glimpse of a V face. Not so much rodent-eating, though.
And the story revolves around two strong actresses -- Mitchell has a powerful, wiry presence with plenty of hidden sorrow/strength, and Baccarin is wonderfully creepy as the ruthless, cunning Anna. Chestnut is simply brilliant as a good-hearted V who cherishes freedom and his human lover, and Gretsch is also excellent as a priest torn between his priestly duty and the need to stop the V's. The problem: Huffman doesn't have the chops to make Tyler anything but a whiny little pain, and Vandervoort feels like a token love interest for Tyler.
It has some freshman flaws, but "V: The Complete First Season" is a promising start for one of the few sci-fi shows on network TV -- powerful acting, solid scripts, and some nicely creepy aliens.