1 9 8 3 – 1 9 8 5 (USA)
5 x 90 minute episodes
21 x 60 minute episodes
V originally aired as a mini-series shown in two 90 minute episodes in 1983. Another mini-series of three episodes screened in 1984 (The Final Battle), followed by a 21 part series.
The V story chronicled the “Visitors” arrival to Earth in a fleet of five-mile-wide alien flying saucers that appeared over some of the Earth’s key cities.
First seen as benevolent humanoids, the Visitor’s evil plan became apparent and their plan, along with their lizard-like appearance, were eventually revealed.
This $50 million space soap opera about an alien invasion of Earth contained some of the most disgusting moments of television.
In one scene the alluring leader of the humanoid aliens, Diana ate a live rat (actually a clever effect with a mechanical head designed by make-up artist Leo Lotito), In another, an alien female called Robin gave birth to children – but since the aliens were actually lizards underneath their assumed human exteriors, one baby was born a reptile, the other a human with a forked tongue.
No sooner had they landed than they launched a totalitarian takeover, disseminating propaganda (“The visitors are our friends”) and herding scientists into concentration camps.
Even worse, as intrepid TV newsman Mike Donovan (Marc Singer) discovered when he sneaked aboard the mother ship, their real mission was to transport humans back to Sirius for food.
With scientist Julie Parrish (Faye Grant), mercenary Ham Tyler (Michael Ironside) and alien fifth columnists Willie (Robert Englund, Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street series of films) and Martin (Frank Ashmore), Donovan formed a resistance movement with an HQ at the Creole Club in Los Angeles.
In a climactic showdown, the aliens were defeated by using “red dust” poison, manufactured from the cells of Elizabeth, the human/reptile baby.
V was, of course, a thinly veiled liberal parable about the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s. The producers, however, took no chances on audience intelligence and scripted a Jewish member of the Resistance to make explicit how similar the experiences were.
The series might not have been sophisticated, but it was fast-moving, resplendent with glossy special effects and had, on stages 25 and 26 of the Burbank Studios in California, one of the most elaborate sets ever constructed for TV.
Inevitably, the success of V (in Britain alone it was watched by 10 million viewers per night) spawned a full series with most of the cast reprising their roles. The Nazi parallel was dropped and V – The Series turned out a routine space action drama.
A “re-imagining” of the original series was aired in 2009 by ABC. The confusing new series lasted for 22 episodes before being cancelled in May 2011.
Dr Julie Parrish