V TV SERIES
PREMIERE LIBERATION DAY AND DREADNAUGHT
Paul Krasny (1984, Warner Bros. TV)
Starring Jane Badler, June Chadwick, Robert Englund, Faye Grant,
Michael Ironside, and Marc Singer
A year after her defeat, Diana
escapes and discovers that the red dust is not the ultimate weapon
the resistance thought it was.
View count: 4 times
October 1st to 2nd,
2003 on TV
I didn't really expect to ever watch
this show again, but when it started airing on TV in September, I
decided I had to get one last look at how it really looked. So now I am
dedicated to watching the entire nineteen episodes.
Liberation Day, the first episode of the
series, was actually quite good. The characters were already established
in the mini-series, and we know what kind of fighters they are. We don't
really know what they are like in everyday life, because the life we saw
then was not normal. Here, after a full year free of occupation, we get
at least a small glimpse of what they are capable of. That is what the
first episode does: updating us on their lives. It also frees Diana,
which is important to give us a villain, preferably one that we already
The second episode is where the series
(already) starts to get cheesy. Suddenly the acting and writing, and
some of the directing, is very reduced in quality, and I believe it
stays there throughout the whole run. I'll find out when I start
watching the rest of the episodes. Dreadnaught starts off so many
inconsistencies, boring car chases, poor gunfights, and strange
fistfights (a fist against a helmet? Ouch!).
I think it's strange that Robert and
Robin's ranch is located in northern California where it reaches the
freezing mark, but Julie is able to get there from near Los Angeles,
where she is working on the mother ship, so quickly. When the Visitors
come for Elisabeth, and are killed by the red dust, they make it to
Elias' restaurant very quickly.
The series is very much a product of
the 1980s, with the hairstyles and the types of action. The Visitors
don't bother with diplomacy or deception this time around, which is
where the series went wrong, I think. They are now openly hostile,
except in the North, which is paradoxically unavailable to them, and in
Los Angeles, which becomes an open city. I wonder what the rest of the
world around the equator was going to do, without the mass production of
the red dust. Which also brings up the question of how Science Frontiers
managed to distribute the stuff all over the world if they were the only
Regardless, after watching
the series through once, I doubt very much I'll visit it again.
September 3rd, 2001 on Video
I'm sure this was a great opening for a TV series in the mid-1980s, but the reuse of so many scenes from the earlier mini-series and some compromises to (probably) bring it within a TV budget bring it down in quality. However, it was still pretty intense, and introduced many interesting ideas to be potentially explored in later episodes.
Setting the scene a full year after what we saw in the last mini-series had the bonus effect of showing us what the characters have done with their lives, picking up the pieces. I like that. The characters seem to have drifted apart, which is natural, but they are also distant friends, because they went through such a tough time together.
The reworking of this saga into a TV series can be seen easily here. Many things just don't stand in continuity with the earlier
mini-series. First, Diana can live in the atmosphere after Donovan catches her
when she had escaped from the mother ship at the end of the Final
Battle. The red dust hadn't even begun to die yet. Next, there was a scientific company manufacturing the red dust that gave the resistance its victory? I guess that makes sense from a certain point of view, because they needed a huge amount of it. But it would have had to be a secret company, run from hiding,
constantly on the move, as the resistance was, because the Visitors captured all the scientists that they could in the
first mini-series. All the red dust was delivered from Julie and Donovan's headquarters, which is why Donovan and Tyler had that big fistfight at the end of
The Final Battle.
Next, we discover that the red dust cannot survive in the hot regions, regions that don't have a cold season for the dust to regenerate. Does that mean the Visitors can take control of the North and South every winter, when the dust is dormant? Actually, I like this idea a lot. The fact that the dust worked so well at first was luck, and now they are finding out that it really was luck, and the Visitors pulled out prematurely. I also like the idea that there were long term effects of the red dust. As I mentioned for
The Final Battle, Julie only proved that the
dust had no short term effect on humans, but did not do any long term studies -in fact, couldn't. Her conversation with Nathan Bates should have reflected that, instead of him saying "we were wrong." They were not necessarily wrong, just didn't have enough data. One sample is not good enough. Perhaps Julie had a gene that resisted the bacteria. Other humans might not, and it would be interesting to see some of that, as well.
But what I don't like is the idea that "we are at the threshold", and cannot release more red dust for fear of wiping out all life on Earth. If that is the case, is all life doomed where the red dust did not die? In the far North and South, the red dust is omnipresent. That is the same as releasing more red dust into the air in LA, which Nathan said would be disastrous. Not true,
However, I liked the directions the characters took. Donovan is a cameraman, with Martin as his assistant. It seems to me that the actor who played Martin left the series without thinking it through. They killed him off letting Diana escape, but he reappears as his identical twin brother halfway through the season again, if I recall correctly. So Martin does not survive the episode. Julie works for Bates at Science Frontiers, researching the red dust, but also trying to unlock the secrets of the mother ship they commandeered in
The Final Battle. The shot of that ship sitting on the ground was just awesome. Too bad they couldn't keep it for a while longer. Donovan is jealous of Julie's relationship with Bates, who obviously wants to become more than just her boss. I don't remember them getting too much
mileage out of this plot point.
Elias has opened a restaurant, and Willie is a waiter there. Willie still gets most of the comedic lines, such as telling Robert that he is a "great zero" as Robert is about to sacrifice himself for the others. What a great line to hear right before
your death! When somebody says that Diana is in bed with Nathan Bates, Willie says "I did not know that"! And when it is explained to him that it's just a figure of speech, he says "with Diana you never know"! He has such good comic timing, but I wonder if the lines were out of place. The restaurant ends up being another meeting place for the resistance, as Elias reveals that it has a sub-basement where they can hide when the Visitors return. Elias, too, will die before the season was ended!
Finally, we have Robert, Robin and Elizabeth. Robin takes a much needed out-of-town break, only to be trapped away from the city when the Visitors return. Elizabeth spends the first half of the show transforming into an adult, obviously so that the producers wouldn't have to work with a child cast member. But it also gives us a terrific secondary plot, because the Visitors don't know until several episodes later that Elizabeth doesn't look like a young girl. The raid on Robert's ranch is terrific, as the Visitors attack, and then start dying, as the red dust takes effect after several minutes.
Ham Tyler has started up his own high tech security company, but ends up working for Bates, as the man wants to make a deal with Diana. While Diana is being taken to court, one of Tyler's men shoots her with a tranquilizer. They switch
ambulances and end up at an abandoned house (there must be a lot of those after the Visitors left), where Bates offers Diana life for the secrets to her mother ship. That Diana encrypted all access isn't as far-fetched as it seems, as she knew Donovan's group was heading to the control room, and she was
leaving (or thought she was). However, Martin was able to fly the thing, so there is a bit of inconsistency there. When Donovan and Martin find Diana, Martin knocks his partner out, and then goes in for the kill. But Diana gains an edge over him and kills him, taking his last antidote pill.
Which brings me to another can of worms! Once Diana has control of Science Frontiers, couldn't she take possession of all the antidote pills? Even if she only had a few thousands (there must have been that many fifth columnists left alive), she could create an elite shock force. Wouldn't that be
trouble! Even in the North! Even without taking Science Frontiers, she could waltz up to the prescription counter and buy a bunch of
those little pills! And there is no way the pills could last exactly twelve hours and then the Visitors die! There would be a safety margin of minutes at least, and probably hours, between the alert and when they would feel the symptoms. This is too much like Star Trek science, in that everything has a complete and measurable consequence ("90 seconds to radiation poisoning" is typical on Trek, where radiation is cumulative, as any science person will know, and does not go away when you leave the
irradiated area -kind of like a sunburn, it stays with you for life).
Now her pilot, who never had the antidote, would be a good indication that the red dust isn't working. But if he was smart, he would have flown the shuttle down while wearing an oxygen mask. Humans did this during the First World
War, and Diana wore one on the way to her trial. Couldn't the Visitors have retaken control of the planet this way? Even their food would not be poisoned if they left the bodies in a hot place for a year or so... (or so it seems, anyway, since the Visitors eat Earth creatures in subsequent episodes.)
Diana is able to escape Earth, even after a shootout with Donovan and Tyler at a tracking station, by calling to her fleet, which is parked behind Earth's moon. Back on board her ship, Diana meets Lydia, newly delivered from their planet, which has suddenly become desolate. In the
first mini-series, Martin explained that the plan to suck Earth dry would take a generation. Now the situation has escalated
in a single year! We have to forgive the convenient faster than light travel speeds in this show, like just about every other SF show, I guess. But in this case, it wasn't needed. Lydia could have been from Russia, or somewhere Diana wasn't likely to know her from, and Martin's brother, who appears much later in the series, also could have been from the other side of the planet. But there is no excuse, I suppose, for the Leader arriving in the last episode of the season (which I never saw)!
The rest of the plot follows the setup premise, with a climactic battle to top it all off. Bates and Diana agree to set LA aside as an open city, where humans and Visitors can walk side by side, neither of them bearing arms. Diana has destroyed many cities before she discovered the red dust was still working in the North and South, and she tried to
seize Science Frontiers, but Bates had the red dust set to be released with explosives, so they had a stalemate. She has called in their species' (which even Willie calls "Visitors", for some reason -they cannot be called that on their own planet!) particle beam
disintegrator, which is supposed to be used to keep space lanes clear. She planned to wipe out LA and disintegrate the red dust all at once.
But she is foiled by the former resistance, which steals the grounded mother ship (with help from Elizabeth and her powers). While they plan to save it for their own research purposes, the plan changes when they see the particle beam, and Willie tells them what it is. Robert, who was shot during the theft, pilots the mother ship into a collision course, destroying both the ship and the disintegrator. I lost the last couple of minutes of the
show to static on my tape, but I think it was all just grim faces and a sad Elizabeth. The fight goes on!
Sure, it seemed campy, but if you watch Knight Rider, Magnum PI or any other show from the 1980s, they all had the same look and feel to them. The mandatory car chase, and the casual air is from a different time. There was still a lot of good stuff here, and the acting was still pretty good, at least by the regulars. And the story was still interesting, despite so many loopholes and parts that didn't seem to be thought through. What really made the show suffer was the constant use of footage from the mini-series. How did they get away with that? Every shuttle scene, every mother ship scene, and even a shot of a pickup truck bombing a Visitor shuttle were lifted directly from the mini-series!
It was still enjoyable, but I'm not sure I would watch the show today. It may have been a little ahead of its time, with such continuity between episodes. That is commonplace now, but was not the case in the 1980s. I think I'll stick with the mini-series, thanks.
For an excellent compendium of the TV show episodes, with a lot of background information, follow the two links below: