Reboots of cherished films and television shows from the past have a mixed record. Sometimes the new iteration breathes fresh life into a stale or flagging icon, cf J.J. Abrams' recent Star Trek effort. At other times, the magic is gone. The reimagining of V looks like it will fall strongly in the first column. It is quite different from the original, but still manages to be tense, well crafted and fun.
The basic story will be familiar to any fan of the original V series. The Visitors are seemingly beneficent aliens, who have arrived on earth and pledge to be our friends. They look like humans, but underneath the skin are bipedal lizards, and their plans may be more sinister than they would like humanity to believe. The Vs are led by the beautiful Anna (Morena Baccarin), with the assistance of her right hand man (or lizard) Marcus (Christopher Shyer) and her daughter Lisa (Laura Vandervoort).
The resistance movement, still in its infancy, is led by Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell), an FBI anti-terrorist expert, whose son Tyler (Logan Huffman) has fallen in love with the Vs generally, and Anna's daughter Lisa in particular. Along for the ride are mentally unstable fanatic Georgie (David Richmond-Peck), turncoat Visitor Ryan (Morris Chestnut), international mercenary Hobbes (Charles Mesure) and Father Jack (Joel Gretsch) a Catholic priest. A motley assemblage, and small potatoes compared to their alien enemies.
The show is greatly aided by the built in storyline of resistance. This provides a natural story arc for the twelve episode season. Each episode has its own contained plot, but everything is tied together by the greater story of the planned Visitor conquest of earth and the human resistors. This leaves a lot of leeway for character development and intricately woven plots. V ends up as part police procedural, part spy thriller and part science fiction. The performances are all strong, though three stand out particularly. Morris Chestnut is phenomenal as the Visitor who has turned against his people, and fallen in love with a human woman. He doesn't hit a single false note, and a late season shift in his character is as devastating as it is believable. Morena Baccarin also shines. She oozes malevolence and guile, glorying in her intricate plans to dominate humanity. She is more than matched by the third standout, Elizabeth Mitchell as the determined FBI agent and anti-V terrorist. On rare occasion, the dialogue tends to be a little too melodramatic, but even then it's delivered admirably.
The episodes are punchy, tightly plotted, and hang together quite well over the season, though around episode nine things really start to click, and the last third of the season is very effective. Characters are allowed to change and develop or, as in the case of opportunistic journalist Chad Decker (Scott Wolf) just get slimier and more weasely. But even in his case, there is a glimmer of hope that he might not be a total moral loss by the end of things. Characters are constantly changing sides or hiding their true motivations. Half the fun of the show is guessing which human characters are Vs, and which Vs might be in the Fifth Column, which is what everyone calls the resistance movement. There are surprises on all fronts, and the intrigue and plotting and counter plotting are clever and complex enough to be very entertaining.
The effects are generally good, particularly the interior of the V spaceship, which is almost entirely CG, and the reptile features of the Visitors, which are revealed only in flashes so far. There are a few shots in which the CG effects are apparent, and even a bit cheesy, but this is probably unavoidable due to the quick turnaround time and lower budgets of episodic television. But this is still an impressive science fiction effort, grounded in reality, but still getting high marks on the cool factor.
Below is a listing of episodes, with their descriptions as provided in the DVD materials:
2: There Is No Normal Anymore
3: A Bright New Day
4: It's Only the Beginning
5: Welcome to the War
6: Pound of Flesh
7: John May
8: We Can't Win
10: Hearts and Minds
12: Red Sky
The current incarnation of V is a different animal than the original, but it is respectful to its predecessor, and provides plenty of joy as an only semi-guilty pleasure. Very much recommended.
The Actor's Journey from Human to V
Breaking Story: The World of V
An Alien in Human Skin: The Makeup FX of V
VFX: The Visual FX of V
Fruition Commentary with Steve Pearlman and Scott Rosenbaum