V is a strange little character when it comes to television entertainment. The much-enjoyed 1983 miniseries was turned into weekly episodic material the following year, however it underwhelmed quickly (in my opinion) and was gone after 19 episodes. And because there is always a person (or persons) who think that if the original was good a remake will always be better, decided to make a 21st century interpretation of V that came out in 2010 to shaky critical and audience reception at best.
For those unfamiliar with the V story, a primer: alien visitors have come to Earth and are friendly and willing to share their technology with humans. The main face of the Visitors is Anna (Morena Baccarin, Firefly), the Visitors' striking and mysterious Queen. This mystery is assuaged when Chad Decker (Scott Wolf, Everwood), the very visible and powerful face of a news network decides to help communicate Anna's message to the masses. Anna's daughter is Lisa (Laura Vandervoort, The Lookout), who becomes involved with a human named Tyler (Logan Huffman). Tyler is the son of Erica (Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost), an FBI agent who eventually becomes leader of a movement called the Fifth Column. The Fifth Column is initially skeptical of the alien intentions but transforms into a resistance movement against their actions. The movement is helped by Ryan (Morris Chestnut, Boyz 'N The Hood), a Visitor sympathetic to the movement. And the movement's goal is to stop the visitors before they take over the world.
As one who saw the miniseries and a portion of the episodes from the first version of Kenneth Johnson's show and enjoyed both, naturally I was a little skeptical of what was to come from a remake. And to be honest, I spent more time complaining about seeing the rampant advertising for the show impeding other programming than watching the first season, so I'm coming into the second season fresh. Thankfully, because I knew the basic character framework there was only the simple matching of faces to characters to get acquainted and move on from there. The unfortunate part is that there are a mix of misadventures that follow the major players within the cast, combined with whatever production sensibilities the show used to separate itself from the source material, that make the show more arduous than it needed to be.
Surprisingly, I'm not as annoyed by Mitchell inhabiting an equivalent role that Marc Singer filled in the original version of V. Singer possessed some machismo that made him a believable figure in the resistance. Mitchell's character is slightly different in that the emotional side shows more both in her increased role in the Fifth Column and her conflict in allowing her son close to the visitors. It may actually be an improvement to be honest. On the flip side of this is Chestnut, who is a mistake for the role that helped launch Robert Englund a quarter century ago. In Englund's Willie there was a Visitor who was detached from what the leadership was doing, and was almost overwhelmed by the resistance. In Ryan, Chestnut's motives are clearer and more selfish, as a result he's hardly the sympathetic character he could have been for the show despite sharing the same character conflict that Englund did. In the other key role, Baccarin does well, and in fact the visitor antagonist she has is her mother Diana, played by Jane Badler, reprising her original role. Singer even appears late in the season as a member of an ultra-secret component of the resistance designed to fight the visitors on another level. However, the recurring theme within the show's second season from a Visitor's point of view would seem to be one of examinations. Not of the rectal variety, but one where they attempt to learn as much about the humans as possible, focusing on the spiritual element. Which would seem to fly against the face of the Visitors' initial motivations to come to Earth and serve as a wheel-spinning moment in the story.
It's the overall tone of the story in V would seem to be the one sure thing the show shares with its predecessor. They seem to both grasp at things to help keep the show involved and exist longer than they do, but when the first act is a bunch of ships coming to Earth with vague (and ultimately misleading) intentions, the second act can't meander too far, and that's the main conflict V has. While V 2.0 went three episodes longer (22 to 19), ABC has cancelled it despite tepid fan outrage. Whether it appears on another channel remains to be seen, but V was born as a miniseries and has now died two deaths as a show. Unless Ronald Moore is willing to try and revive it, V should just be left to be as is.
The Blu-ray Discs:
The show is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and in high-definition using the AVC codec, all of which is consistent with the show's original airings. The material looks sharp, or at least as sharp as possible considering the amount of visual effects and rear protection elements that are employed for it. Image detail is strong nonetheless and background detail and clarity isn't bad either. Black levels are consistent through the show and the color palette and flesh tones are reproduced accurately. For what the show is, it looked decent on Blu-ray.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound options for each episode certainly bring a wide variety of sonic action to the home theater. Directional effects and channel panning on gunfire and explosions are abundant, and the rear channels even include environmental sounds in quieter moments to convey a convincing level of immersion during the show. Dialogue is strong in the center channel and requires little in the way of user compensation, and the soundstage is broad for the show. They may be shooting V for television, but this could pass for a decent action movie soundtrack.
The second season had a ten-episode run which on Blu-ray is spread over two discs. There are deleted scenes on both discs and for each episode, those most of the scenes are forgettable. Over both discs, there are 25 scenes totaling 23:55. On Disc One, "A Visual Masterpiece for the Small Screen" (21:15) shows us the undertakings to try and get a big-screen feel to this television show, with a look at the show's visual effects and introductions of various members of the VFX studio sharing what their roles are on the gig. The challenges of mixing the practical and computer-enhanced are recounted, and the various pass throughs on the film are shown. It's a decent piece. Over on Disc Two, "The Arc of Story" (25:14) features the creative approach to the second season, the admitted faults on handling arcs in the first season and the intent for the sophomore year. There is a sense of surprise from Steve Pearlman (one of the executive producers) that the show was picked up for the second year, but they still talk about story ideas, while the cast discuss their opinions on their characters' arcs and possible motivations for them. A funnier than expected blooper reel (7:11) closes the book on things.
The second season of V doesn't need much introduction even if you are new to it, but even in ten episodes things tend to get old real fast. Technically the show looks and sounds very good and has some surprises in the bonus content, but it's better left to be skipped for more entertaining sci-fi television.