Wednesday, November 25, 2009

V Thoughts

So, we’ve now seen the first four episodes of ABC’s remake of V. I think it’s probably safe to assume that they’re going to make more, but for the near future, this is what we have to judge. Now, to be honest, I hadn’t actually seen the original mini-series until SyFy (God, I hate typing that) was kind enough to air it shortly before the first episode premiere. I had always just assumed that it wasn’t very good, not in small part because you rarely hear people talking about how great it was, plus it was a made-for-TV sci-fi mini series from the early 80s. It’s hard to have particularly high expectations for that.

But, as it turned out, the original was actually totally awesome. I mean, of course there’s a huge amount of suspension of disbelief required and the alien’s over-arching goal type stuff is downright stupid, but the basic premise and execution was very good. Okay, fine, what it all comes down to is that I thought an alien invasion as a heavy handed metaphor for the rise of fascism was totally cool.

Even though the idea that an occupation as nebulous as “scientist” could be used as a way to discriminate is totally ridiculous (fun fact: my business card actually states my position as Scientist, clearly, I would be screwed), the portrayal of this world takeover was still really well done. And I know that the strategy in that mini-series was very much based upon the control of information and the isolation of individual human cities so that the aliens could control them, so clearly the update has to take a very different tact.

And I’m okay with that. I’m excited to watch a different alien strategy that still retains the original menace of the peaceful display of clearly overwhelming power.

So, I wouldn’t say that I had high hopes for this show, but after seeing the original it now had something to live up to. And, so, well, does it? To be honest, I’m still on the fence, but that’s actually a step up from my initial impressions. After the first two episodes, I was almost ready to stop watching, but now I can say that I will still be watching it when it starts back up.

Clearly the show has a lot of problems. For one, I don’t like that the Vs have infiltrated humanity for the past twenty years. It’s been done. Plenty of times. Of course, then it gets even worse because there’s V traitors as well, so we don’t know who to trust, on both sides. I’m sorry, but we just finished Battlestar Galactica, can’t we move on with a different starting point? Can't the general American consciousness have a new fear besides the people around us?

Next, I understand that this one is trying to be updating the alien invasion genre with the idea of PR as the primary weapon. And, on the surface, I think I can appreciate that. But, well, that’s not really all that interesting. Plans to poison some of the population with the flu vaccine, are just, weird. I mean, we’ve done that to ourselves (or have we?). Or faking an assassination attempt. By the way, under what kind of ridiculous rules would the FBI hand over a human terrorist to an alien government? That requires some suspension of disbelief I’m not ready to make. But the alien’s plan relied on it.

In watching V, there’s just so many decisions I don’t appreciate or just don’t understand. For one, there’s just no way that the aliens can be expected to keep the whole reptilian thing a secret in today’s world. Especially now that the aliens have passports to walk around the city. Admittedly, the pointless cameras in their jackets could help protect the aliens from getting abducted a little bit, but not much.

All you need is for someone to abduct a V, then film the removal of its face. In the best case, they’ll film it just like a terror execution, except the subject won’t end up dead. The bag will get pulled off its head and that’ll be that. The true face of a V will be apparent for the whole world to see. I want to see that. I admit it’s not very clever, but it’s no more heavy-handed than most of the other things they’re doing on this show.

Let’s see, obviously, we’re still waiting to find out what the aliens larger scale goals are, so, while they can’t be more ridiculous than the original ones, they can certainly be worse. And I definitely don’t know how I should feel about that armada they showed at the end. Of course, assuming they can’t go faster than light, there’s probably a couple years till they get here. Personally, I’d like to think that the 29 ships here are not the first wave, but rather some crazy off shoot that are addicted to that weird power that Morena Baccarin has (I admit, I would probably follow Morena Baccarin across the galaxy to destroy another civilization, so it’s hardly unbelievable).

But otherwise, it’s just little things. Like they’ve got that cool homing device that kills people and it’s got video, but the quality is too poor to identify the target. I mean, really? Really? Is that what you’re going with? It transmit video, but not to the point where it might actually be useful? How about, it’s just heat sensing. There, almost no picture and it doesn’t have to be stupid.

Or, torturing a human by making him think that he’s covered with snakes. Are you kidding me? That’s the lamest torture I’ve ever heard of. I mean, it would suck for, at max, a minute or so. Then you’d just get used to being covered with snakes and wait for the real torture. In the original, that torture chair was covered with instruments of pain. Just looking at that chair seemed like a good enough reason to talk.

But, it all really comes down to the fact that, much like Battlestar Galactica, there’s almost no one to like. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t like the FBI agent, and I don’t like the black V who is obsessed with John May, and I definitely don’t like the news reporter or Georgie or the FBI agent’s kid either. There’s just not any humans to root for besides Joel Gretsch and I think he’s only going to start getting interesting once he decides to become a soldier. Okay, I am kind of rooting for the FBI agent’s kid to get it on with the cute blonde V, but I don’t think that entirely counts.

So, with all these complaints, what managed to push me from dropping the show all the way up to on the fence? The idea of skinning a V as the ultimate punishment. There seems to be a, possibly strong, suggestion that the Vs are actually kind of obsessed with humanity or at least the idea of “humans”.

In the original, the aliens looked down on humanity absolutely. They viewed themselves as putting on a costume in order to lull the prey into a false sense of security. They hated the skin they were wearing and removed it on the ship at the earliest convenience. In this version, it seems like they almost view their human faces as their true faces. And they all have human names by which they address even each other. And this goes back to the beginning, considering that the original insurgent was simply named John May.

Of course, we have no idea what this means or why, but it’s promising. Quite simply, it’s a reason to keep watching. Because, I can imagine some interesting stuff coming from that basic fact. That the aliens want to be human.

And, I would like to finish on the one brilliant decision made for this show. That would be the casting of the V Threat Assessment agent. I immediately recognized her as a Cylon from Battlestar. I love how that immediately made me completely not trust her and fear that new organization. Just because she had already been a fake human in an entirely different universe. That casting decision gives that character so much extra background that I couldn’t help but applaud it. I hope she’s not actually an alien, but I love that she has to prove it, just because of who the actress is. Good job, guys.

That is all.