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Entry updated 19 November 2023. Tagged: TV.

1. Two US tv miniseries (1983, 1984) followed by a series (1984-1985). NBC. The first miniseries (1983), two 100-minute episodes, was titled "V" and created, written and directed by Kenneth Johnson. The second miniseries (1984), three 100-minute episodes, was titled V: The Final Battle and directed by Richard T Heffron, written Brian Taggert, Peggy Goldman, from a story by Lillian Weezer, Goldman, Faustus Buck, Diane Frolow, Harry and Renee Longstreet. The series proper, titled "V" (1984-1985), had nineteen 50-minute episodes, produced by Dean O'Brien, Garner Simmons; directors included Gilbert Shilton, Kevin Hooks, John Florea; writers included David Braff, Brian Taggert, Simmons, David Abramowitz. The main cast members throughout were Marc Singer as Mike Donovan, Faye Grant as Julie, Jane Badler as Diana, Blair Tefkin as Robin, Michael Ironside as Ham Tyler, Robert Englund as Willy, Jennifer Cooke as Elizabeth.

Kenneth Johnson's track record included The Incredible Hulk (1977-1982) and The Bionic Woman (1976-1978), so it was surprising that "V" started as well as it did. He based the story on Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here (1935), about a fascist takeover in the USA, but substituted alien invaders – at first seemingly friendly, but actually after our water, and ourselves for food – for the fascists. The carnivorous, saurian invaders, as in the television series The Invaders (1967-1968) and many films, are disguised to look just like us, but with jackboots. A resistance movement grows, whose "V" (for "Victory") is daubed on walls everywhere, but many humans become collaborators; Scientists become objects of persecution (the comparison being with Jews under the Nazis); some aliens are worse than others. This first series was novelized by A C Crispin as V (1984; V: The Original Miniseries 2008 with Kenneth Johnson billed as co-author).

The first half of the initial mini-series was quite good, but afterwards the series became an object lesson in US television's remorseless appetite for Clichés – especially in its programmes for younger viewers – and its reduction of all controversial issues to moral stereotypes: the latter half of this miniseries lost direction; the second miniseries was absurd; and the series was infantile hackwork and cancelled before the story was completed. The two mini-series were expensive and – especially the first – had quite spectacular sets and special effects. [PN]

2. US tv series (2009-2011). Created by Scott Peters, based on the above series created by Kenneth Johnson. Producers include Peters, Kathy Gilroy, Jace Hall, Steve Pearlman, and Brian Wankum. Directors include Yves Simoneau, David Barrett, and Bryan Spicer. Writers include Peters, Gregg Hurwitz, Scott Rosenbaum, and Cameron Litvack. Cast includes Elizabeth Mitchell as Erica Evans, Morena Baccarin as Anna, Joel Gretsch as Father Jack Landry, Morris Chestnut as Ryan Nicholls, Logan Huffman as Tyler Evans, Laura Vandervoot as Lisa, and Scott Wolf as Chad Decker. 22 one-hour episodes.

Ill-conceived attempt to recreate the success of Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009) by remaking another cheesy yet beloved 1980s science fiction series. The new series jettisons its original's anti-fascism message in favor of a particularly nasty strain of libertarianism (see Libertarian SF), and trades in some of the common tropes of anti-government narratives and conspiracy theories. The series pilot, which aired at the height of the contentious public debate over President Obama's proposed healthcare reform, makes much of the Aliens' promise to provide the people of Earth with "universal healthcare", and later plots revolve around a nefarious scheme to use flu vaccinations as a cover for genetic testing. Despite the increasing popularity of such opinions in real-world political discourse, the show failed to find an audience, and was loudly decried for its slack and nonsensical plotting and indifferently constructed characters (the reintroduction of the original series's Villain Diana as current villain Anna's mother did nothing to win back fans new or old). The second season was truncated to a mere ten episodes, after which the show was cancelled. [AN]


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