Few occasions in pop culture, or specifically in genre TV, have had as significant a repercussion as the premiere of V: The Miniseries. The science fiction series that grabbed the 80’s by its layered hair and never let go.
V (or V: The Original Miniseries) is a two-part science fiction television miniseries written and directed by Kenneth Johnson. First shown in 1983, it initiated the science fiction franchise concerning aliens known as “The Visitors,” passive-aggressive aliens trying to gain control of Earth and the various ways the human populace reacts to the situation. The show turned out to be a pop culture phenomenon that outlasted the eighties’ hair-dos popular at the time.
Few fans need an introduction to the alien visitation series that begins with the arrival of a race of aliens on Earth in a fleet of 50 massive, saucer-shaped motherships, which hover over major cities across the world that may have served as inspiration for Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day (1996). They reveal themselves on the roof of the United Nations building in New York City, appearing human but requiring special glasses to protect their eyes and having a distinctive resonance to their voices. Referred to as the Visitors, they reach out in friendship, ostensibly seeking the help of humans to obtain chemicals and minerals needed to aid their ailing world, which gets revealed to be a planet orbiting the star Sirius. In return, the Visitors promise to share their advanced technology with humanity. The governments of Earth accept the arrangement, and the Visitors, commanded by their leader John and his deputy Diana, begin to gain considerable influence with human authorities.
The thinly disguised metaphor for the takeover of a totalitarian government with a secret agenda and its effects on the general population was a wildly popular event that sparked the imagination of the decade it took place and made its cast into pop culture icons. The series quickly established itself as something unique and still holds a strong cult following today. In November 2005, Entertainment Weekly named V one of the ten best miniseries on DVD. The article noted, “As a parable about it-can-happen-here fascism, V was far from subtle, but it carved a place for lavish and intelligent sci-fi on TV.” The show also influenced other areas of pop culture.
Featuring Faye Grant and Marc Singer as the well-coiffed faces of the human resistance and Jane Badler, Richard Herd, and Robert Englund as their counterparts, the reptilian alien visitors an appetite for living earth creatures and human flesh. The show gave birth to a franchise that just refused to die.
The two-part miniseries ran for 200 minutes to wildly popular reception. Its success spawned a sequel, V: The Final Battle, meant to conclude the story. Despite the apparent conclusion, following the second miniseries was a weekly television series, V: The Series, from 1984 to 1985 that continued the story a year after The Final Battle. Johnson left V during the production of The Final Battle due to disagreements with NBC over how the story should progress.
The series returned as a remake in 2009 that featured Morena Baccarin, Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut, Laura Vandervoort, Logan Huffman, and others who enjoyed less success and popularity to revive the series., even though it featured far more sophisticated special and visual effects. As we all know, it takes more than slick visuals to make a series a success these days.
Once in a while, a genre TV show comes along that clicks with viewers in a particular way, and this series was one of them. I would not be surprised to see this series or some form of a spinoff arrive in the not-too-distant future of genre tv.