Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index

V: THE ORIGINAL MINI-SERIES

Directed by Kenneth Johnson (1983, Warner Bros. TV)
Starring Jane Badler, Michael Durrell, Faye Grant, and Marc Singer

A resistance movement gets organized to counter the silent take-over of Earth by an alien species.

 

 

5 stars

September 21st to 22nd, 2016 on DVD for the 8th time  
    IAs I introduce these old movies and series to my son, memories come flooding back at watching these series when I was young. I was mesmerized by the imagination displayed by this series. I read all of the books, and watched the bad TV show. It handled the suspense well enough, as my son wants to see the second mini-series immediately!  

 

5 stars

October 21st to 22nd, 2011 on DVD for the 7th time  
    I am never less than amazed when I see this mini-series. I have not followed the current incarnation (which was cancelled this year), and couldn't get through one episode of it, so I can't compare. However, the introduction to the old series set up everything. I wonder how hard it would be to set up the same kind of story now, with all the communications we have. Would it be so easy, or would it make the Visitors' jobs easier? Maybe that's something the new series attempted to answer -but I have no interest in watching it.  

 

5 stars

October 3rd and 4th, 2008 on DVD for the 6th time  
    This is certainly one of those great shows, even if the effects are very dated -some of them actually stand up really well. The first thing I noticed this time around was how the skull Robert was studying when the Visitors' ships first arrived was shown in the same frame as the mother ship -foreshadowing in the best sense. Another scene I don't remember seeing was Abraham's "shalom" as the shock troopers enter the pool house. Another great viewing.  

 

5 stars

August 12th and 13th, 2003 on DVD for the 5th time  
    Wow again! I don't know what I can add to what I wrote below, because I agree with everything I said there. Even seeing it on DVD for the first time in two years, I thought it was great to watch.

The boldness of the producers, in creating an alien Fascist society was pretty amazing. Even from the outside, unless we are very familiar with the story, it is easy to overlook many things that are happening, and to see the things that the Visitors do as simple precautions and security. That's how we explain it these days, in the alertness for terrorism. Security, we are explained, is necessary. It is, definitely. However, people in authority usually go about it in the wrong way. Identity cards are fine, but what about when the police start asking for "your papers"? It is said that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear from random searches. That is completely wrong. First, everybody has secrets -that's the way humanity is. Even if the secrets are tiny little inconsequential things, they can always be interpreted in a bad light. The question to Ruth here would be "why did you take samples of Williams's skin?" Humans are curious, but should we be satisfied with only what people give us? Humanity is known for creating opportunities, not waiting for opportunity to come knocking.

Regardless, the writers did a very realistic job at creating the characters and the situations that evolved. Everything happened in a logical manner, and the vice gripped humanity tighter at every "crisis".

As mentioned below, my favorite character still has to be Daniel's grandfather, Abraham. His life is an echo of what is happening during the months that the Visitors are in control. Every scene that he was featured in was mesmerizing.

I enjoyed watching how the Visitors' lies were accepted so easily. The two that stood out the most were Brian to Daniel, regarding his parents, and the commander to Robert, ensuring that the camp wouldn't be taken until 4pm. They were "so damn sincere", and seemed so trustworthy, even though people like Robert knew that they weren't.

The DVD actually includes scenes that I was unfamiliar with. I don't know if they are "deleted scenes" which were restored, or if they were just cut (or missed) when I was taping the show off of TV almost two decades ago. I was very interested with Robin's discovery that she was pregnant, which I had never seen before.

This mini-series didn't take advantage of the widescreen effect as much as it's successor did, but I'm glad to have it that way, anyway. The color is magnificent compared to what I saw last time, and I will not miss the clicks and pops (or missing) sound from my very old videocassette!

The behind-the-scenes feature is exactly what it claims to be. There is no commentary, just isolated bits of behind-the-scenes footage. It was mildly interesting, and probably worth having. The next time I watch this show, I would be very interested in seeing the director's commentary.

 

 

5 stars

August 17th and 18th, 2001 on Video for the 4th time  
    Wow! So finely crafted, so tightly plotted, so well thought out, and it barely ages one bit! This was truly spectacular. I remember this mini-series being something special when it first aired, and it is still something great! Definitely a keeper!

It was with a lot of trepidation that I started re-watching this mini-series from my youth. I remembered it being spectacular, and I wondered if it was my early teen years speaking, and if it would look like an '80s movie, with bad hair, cheesy dialog, and really poor acting. Not to mention special effects that might look like the effects from every other movie of the '80s except the Star Wars Trilogy. 

But I guess that made the mini-series even more sweet when I finally got around to watching it! Because I was awed! I kept thinking that this was better made than most movies around today. It is certainly better than today's fantasy/ SF mini-series, like The Odyssey, Jason and the Argonauts, and especially Noah's Ark. Better than Anne of Green Gables? Probably not, but mainly because this was setup for a TV series. I can see it quite clearly now, where I had no idea back when it first aired. No kidding they were getting ready to pitch a TV series from this thing. It had so many plot points to explore!

The main backdrop is the resistance against the Nazi-like Visitors. They certainly know fascism and totalitarianism well, as they essentially take over the planet in months, with most of the population asking them to do it (reminiscent of the much later Babylon 5). Several methods are expressed on how to fight the Visitors. Among those are heat, light, their ancient enemy, the Fifth Column (not yet by name, and led by Martin), and a whole slew of others. Julie actually proposes "destroying as many motherships as we can." I would have loved to see how they went about doing that! The Visitors also have tricks up their sleeves. Diana, who seems to be leading the aliens, even though John is called the Supreme Commander, can torture people ("she enjoys doing it," says Martin), convert their brains to make them malleable to the Visitor's manipulations, and have formed strong bonds with many humans. 

In fact, the way they took over the world is worth watching for itself. They arrived in huge mother ships, fifty scattered across the globe. They declared peace. They invited people up to take a tour of their ships, acted so kindly to the humans, and answered every question asked. But when people started getting too curious, especially biologists and anthropologists, those people started disappearing. To explain this, the Visitors created a conspiracy, blew up some of their own chemical processing plants, and converted scientists to confess that they were part of a great master plan to take over some of the Visitor's ships. It is amazing how quickly the world turned against scientists. First, they were required to report their whereabouts to local authorities. Then, they were not allowed to travel. Communications were limited by special passes. The media was controlled. I wonder how they would have dealt with the Internet? 

It is also amazing how realistic this situation could be. In cases like that, with the right atmosphere, public opinion easily shifts, looking for someone or something, some organization, to blame. The world leaders "request" sanctuary in the mother ships, making them ripe for conversion. We never hear from the American President, but he was surely one of the first converted. Scientists who are even suspected of being involved in the conspiracy are "removed", making it more likely that scientists will become unhappy, complain more, and be suspected of being part of it. A grand circle. When things seem to get violent, martial law is declared around the world. People are happy. Things are peaceful. Troublemakers disappear quickly. 

And Visitor patrols are on every street corner, enforcing an early curfew. I wonder what they were doing through the night, that they didn't want us to see... Or was it to make it easier to find us... Regardless, when people start asking for their freedom again, they, too, begin to disappear, whole cities at a time! I was wondering how long it would take prideful American citizens, people who value their freedom over everything else, to rise up against the Visitors. 

The organized resistance revolves around a few characters who would obviously make up the TV show. I remember this mini-series being very popular, and I wonder why it didn't go straight into a TV series like it was obviously intended, that September. Instead, the network created a second mini-series, even better than the first one (as far as I can recall), to further generate interest. But that plan seemed to backfire, as the TV series that followed in September 1984 was not very popular. I remember watching most of the episodes, though I missed the last two or three. And then it was cancelled. But V: The Final Battle cleared up many of the plot points that would have been great for exploring in the TV series, so the series was left following Diana around, turning a stunning victory into a mediocre defeat. And I think that was what people didn't like.

Anyway, among the main characters is Juliet Parish, biochemistry med student, whose companions at the hospital begin disappearing almost immediately, and whose live-in boyfriend begins losing business contracts because his clients know that she is a scientist. Julie's fellow med student Ben also joins the cause, but is killed while stealing supplies. His younger brother, a streetwise thief and black-marketer, joins the resistance after his brother's death. Their father Caleb works at one of the Los Angeles plants that is making the chemicals the Visitors need for their homeworld. The plant is owned by a man who is not comfortable with the Visitors, but whose wife is queen of the roost, a woman who loves power, controls her husband, and scurries up the political ladder with the Visitors whenever she gets the chance. She has made good friends with Steven, Visitor manager at her husband's plant. Her son is Michael Donovan, cameraman who gets chosen to be special to the Visitors. 

Together with Christine Walsh, anchorwoman, Donovan is one of the first people to visit the mother ship. Christine is ambitious, ready to ignore all the things that are going on around her, much like Mike's mother. Just as long as she gets the prestige and power. Donovan, however, is curious as any other human. He sneaks up to the mother ship, to get a look at whatever the Visitors don't want them to see. He first discovers that the chemical they have manufactured is vented immediately into the atmosphere. Worse, he hears about the conversion program of Diana's. Then he sees her eat a live hamster! He ends up fighting with one of the Visitors in his quarters, after ripping the fake skin off the alien's face. The Visitors had adopted human faces to make them seem less threatening. But when Donovan attempts to air the tape on the networks, the Visitors take control of the airwaves and brand him a dangerous traitor. On other sneak excursions to the mother ship, Donovan discovers that the Visitors are planning to take all of Earth's water. People won't die because of lack of water, however, because they are being harvested for slaves and food! After he is captured, and his partner killed, Donovan is rescued by Martin, a sympathizer who doesn't agree with their Leader's plans. When he gets back to the ground, Donovan joins forces with Julie's small group of rebels. 

Another group of people become rebels in their own way. Robert Maxwell is an anthropologist, a prime target for the Visitors and for recruitment by the resistance. After colleagues disappear, and they are stopped from traveling by roadblocks, they are smuggled out of the city and join Julie's small band. His daughter Robin has never been one to be cooped up. She is discovered and brought up to the mother ship, subjected to Diana's twisted sense of science by being seduced by Brian, a Visitor with whom she had fallen in love. By the end of this part, she is pregnant, with what....? Gotta watch The Final Battle to figure that one out! 

Brian is head of a group of Friends of the Visitors, with whom Robin's friend Daniel, a lazy teen who could never get a job, has joined. He now finds himself in a position of power, and it goes straight to his head. He turns in his own parents for hiding Robin and her family from the Visitors. He even threatened to shoot his parents at one point! But the scene stealer of the entire show goes to Daniel's grandfather Abraham, who survived the Nazi horror prison camps in Germany, and who sees the same thing happening on a larger scale all over the world. This is what could have been if the world had not risen up to confront Hitler. Every time he spoke, he cornered my undivided attention. His line "we have to... or else we haven't learned a thing", which is echoed by his son at the end, is so emotionally gripping that it made me ache for him, especially since he didn't survive the interrogation. The Visitors have no use for the elderly... who might die before they can get into suspended animation. The Visitors only like live or freshly killed food...

Also emotionally wrenching is Robert Maxwell's dilemma, after his daughter is captured, and so is he. He reveals the location of the rebels' mountain hideout, just to keep her safe. He later regrets his decision, and tells Julie, so they race up to the camp, just as it is being destroyed. His wife dies, but his daughters survive, preventing him from shooting himself. The rebels won the fight because Martin gave Donovan a shuttle to escape the mother ship. He is pursued, but manages to destroy the pursuing vessels. He reaches the mountain camp as it is being attacked, and nearly destroys Diana's vessel. She calls off the attack and goes back to her ship in fury. 

Finally, as characters go, we have Willie. He puts an innocent face on the Visitors. He wears the fake skin, but doesn't know why. He learned Arabic, but was sent to Los Angeles. He forms a relationship with a waitress at the factory he works at, and has saved the life of Caleb, father to Ben and Elias. 

There are so many characters, whose lives interact, but there is no problem keeping track of them all. Many have little parts, just to show us how their lives have changed, to give faces to the resistance. All are engaging. Even the Visitors are likable, in an evil sort of way. Most of them are just doing their job, accepting blindly orders from above. The common thread running through every single character is that they are well written, well acted, and extremely well directed. I was nothing short of impressed with all of them. There was also a terrific set of scenes featuring a police officer who was inclined to overlook little bits of "illegal" stuff, even to the point of letting Ruby go after he deduced that she must have thrown the bomb. Heck, who doesn't like to see their tyrannical boss get brought back to reality every once in a while? I'll bet he wouldn't mind getting rid of them, but he doesn't know what he would do to oppose them. He's probably just too weak, so he does what he can in his own small way...

The special effects stood up surprisingly well over all these years. Sure, matte lines are visible in many of the shuttle scenes. But in others, they look so realistic, that you might wonder if the producers actually built a shuttle with inertial compensators to lift off without any visible engines! Every time a Visitor rifle went off, it seemed so real. But the shuttle chase scene at the end was a little long. I would also have removed the scene where Donovan flies upside down. Sure, they probably have gravity generators on the floor, but the scene looks wrong because nobody's hair is even hanging down. Other than that, all the effects looked great. 

There are some questions about logic and reasoning in this show, but not many. Many of these have been asked before, and I mention them here only to remain complete. First, there is the question of water. It has been shown in recent years that water is extremely common in the universe. But when the series was made, this wasn't known. So give them a break. The premise still holds well. How did Donovan sneak so easily onto the mother ship twice so easily (and once as a captive, not so easily)? I don't know, but I'm sure he's very resourceful... And why do the Visitors wear their human makeup among themselves? First, to make it seem natural, they should wear it as often as possible. Second, they often seem to be called to Earth on short notice. It must take a long time to get into that body makeup. 

There were some really good hints to the true nature of the Visitors before we found out the truth. Animals shook in terror every time they passed by, especially small ones. Willie had scars after he rescued Caleb, but none the next day -"our doctors are very good" he tells Harmony, and we can see the guilt of the heavy secret he harbors in his face, though it is easy to mistake for simply shyness. 

In case you didn't notice, I loved this mini-series. And I can't wait to watch the next one. I taped these off the TV back in 1984, and later retaped it to remove commercials. We didn't have cable back then... So it is a second generation tape, complete with static in video and audio, poor coloring, and in places it looks old simply because the tape is so old. Waiting to watch it, I wondered if it would be worth buying the boxed set of tapes- or DVD once I get a player. Now I know that it is. I need to preserve this one. This was one of the best mini-series I have ever seen. Next time, I won't wait so long to watch it again.
 
   

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