V: A Review

Last summer, we saw an alien spaceship settle over a capital city.  Despite the potential for inter-galactic diplomacy, let’s just say the relationship between the aliens and earthlings, in Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 ended (or suspended) less than amicably.  Though of a different sort, aliens have once again arrived and are hovering over numerous capital cities in ABC’s remake of the ’80s science fiction series, V.

The series opens as numerous, massive spaceships suddenly appear over cities like Rio de Janeiro, London, Los Angeles, New York, and Tokyo.  Their leader, Anna (Firefly‘s Morena Baccarin) broadcasts a series of introductory messages highlighting their need for water and a plentiful earthly mineral, their willingness to share their superior technology, and, of course, the fact that they “are of peace always.”  Most earthlings embrace their presence and take advantage of their healing powers.  However, a small group of citizens band together to resist what they believe to be a harsh alien takeover. V provides us (at least in its first two episodes) with the promise of quite a bit of action and some interesting characters…if hampered by a trite script.  The main characters include Erica (Elizabeth Mitchell), an FBI agent, Jack (Joel Gretsch), a Catholic priest, and Ryan (Morris Chestnut) a businessman with a secret identity.

Where Blomkamp handled the political implications of District 9 with a more deft touch, V seems to fumble its opportunity early, equating the potentially malignant visitors with “universal health care providers.”  The Visitors’ desire to present peace as a cover for world domination mirrors Lahaye and Jenkins’ “bad guys” in the Left Behind series, where world peacekeeping forces are a sign of the anti-Christ.

Like another famous ABC series, Lost, and Battlestar Galactica, V trades in the “us vs. them” motif which rises and falls on its ability to keep us in the dark on just who is who.  An early highlight of the series, in this regard, is its complication of this dichotomy with characters like Ryan who are more than they seem.  The second episode does an admirable job of employing these themes, and hopefully, subsequent episodes can continue to weave this thread without stretching it too thin.

V airs on Tuesday nights at 8 pm on ABC.