Monday, 31 January 2011

V Season One

V Season One

We are of peace, always

I have a terrible confession to make. I never actually saw the original series of V. I did read the novel that came out some years ago, but I have always had my doubts as to how well the book translates onto the screen and vice versa. So, when my brother gave me the set of DVDs of Season One, I came to the show largely unspoiled. Some loved it; some disliked it…and I resolved to make up my own mind.

To summarise the plot, one day in the very near future, giant spaceships appear over the Earth’s major cities. (One character references Independence Day as a joke.) The spacecraft carry attractive humanoids – one of the characters asks if there is any such thing as an unattractive V – who claim to come in peace and want to help humanity. Over the next few episodes, they set up healing centres to heal all who want treatment and give Earth the gift of Blue Energy, a pollution-free power source, while recruiting Peace Ambassadors who spread the word of peace and harmony. Unluckily for humanity, the aliens do not come in peace; they have been on Earth for years, preparing the ground for an invasion. The arrival of their spacecraft is merely the next stage in their plan.

As the story wears on, a strange cast of humans and aliens is woven together to fight the encroaching alien threat. A FBI agent, forced to work with the Visitors, ends up leading the Fifth Column. An alien sleeper agent finds himself fighting his own people, while worrying about his pregnant human girlfriend. A priest questions the arrival of the aliens; a soldier of fortune is framed by the V, only to be brought into the Fifth Column. A reporter finds himself working directly for the aliens. And the FBI agent’s son finds himself falling in love with one of the aliens, their creepy leader’s beautiful daughter.

So…what did I think?

I confess that I rather like Anna, the leader of the aliens (and apparently their Queen, although the mysteries of alien biology have yet to be revealed.) She has a definite presence that rather reminds me of Six from BSG, a strange mixture of humanity and something disturbingly…other. Erica, on the human side, is a strange mixture of kick-ass FBI agent and weak mother, something that shows up as her son – Tyler – becomes more and more involved with the aliens. Chad Decker is quite convincing as the reporter who finds himself wondering if the Visitors are as peaceful as they seem, while Father Jack Landry struck me as more unconvincing. Ryan Nichols, a Visitor posing as human and a Fifth Columnist trying to undermine the insidious plans of the Visitors, does a remarkably good job of playing a man with a duel role. Kyle Hobbes is a reasonably good character, although one who should have been – IMHO – introduced much earlier.

One character that should have been disposed of – rather than the actual shock death at the end of Episode 12 – was Tyler, Erica’s son. I disliked him intensely and, just by being there, he dragged Erica’s character down as well. He comes across as a whiny brat who refuses to grow up and Erica’s failure to explain the truth to him is just silly, all the more so because Tyler isn’t a knowing agent for the Visitors. The best thing that could have happened to him would have been a sound thrashing, probably from Kyle.

In some ways, that illustrates one of the problems with the show. The writers didn’t seem to realise that Tyler could have just asked Lisa for a DNA check that would have confirmed that his father was his real father. Lazy writing, folks; you saw it here.

I liked many of the details of the underground war, but there were some quite considerable problems. The Fifth Column is amateurish and far too small to be a concern. Yes, they recruit Kyle Hobbes, but what about others? Surely Father Jack – an ex-soldier from Iraq – knows a few war buddies who could be brought into the circle? They don’t need a person with dubious motives like Hobbes. The Fifth Column is also remarkably incompetent at times – it never seems to occur to them that the V could monitor their cell phones – although their incompetence is matched by the incompetence of their enemies. The Visitors do monitor phone calls in Ep.2, but they don’t seem to do it later in the show. It’s a little weird. The Fifth Column needed to work more on recruiting and propaganda.

A point that does stick out is one piece of shameful incompetence. The Fifth Column plans to shoot down a V shuttle loaded with alien soldiers. In a manner well above careless, Father Jack reveals the plans to Chad Decker, who takes them to Anna and allows her a chance to brand the Fifth Column as terrorists and mass murderers. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Fifth Column blunders badly several times in the operation, narrowly escaping discovery by the FBI.

The issue of outsiders is one other problem. Apart from the Fifth Column, hardly anyone seems to question the Visitors. The only large-scale exception is the UN Secretary-General, who questions Anna when she delivers Blue Energy to the world, but what about the others? If Blue Energy can do what she promises – free the world from its dependence on oil and suchlike – it is a deadly threat to the oil-rich states of the Middle East, all of which depend on oil revenues to keep their people quiet. As they back terrorists, why aren’t the terrorists attempting to attack the Visitor ships? Political correctness or lazy writing?

Another point that grates is the reference to universal healthcare. It’s just annoying.

The show definitely picks up speed towards the end of the season, with the finale pulling out all the stops for a hard-hitting end to the season. Even so, the lacklustre progress in the middle of the season hampers the overall score. Season Two needs to move on to the open invasion…

Seven out of Ten.

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