V, on NBC
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Caution: spoilers! (Nearly total spoilers, in fact, since I'll need this as a reference when watching the subsequent miniseries and series.)
This miniseries originally aired in 1983, when I must have been about 7 years old. It was followed a year later by another miniseries, V: The Final Battle, which was followed later in the year by a regular series which lasted a season. All these things aired on NBC, and I'm pretty sure we didn't get NBC when I was a kid, so I'm not sure how, but I'm sure I watched some of this. Of course, I have no clear memories of any of it, so I need to refresh my memories with the DVDs. Which I've been meaning to do for quite awhile, and now I'm finally getting around to it, in the summer of 2009, because there's going to be a new "reimagined" V series coming on ABC in November. Anyway, watching it now, I see there are a great many characters who it's hard for me to keep straight. I'll try to mention as many as I can, but first, I have to set up the plot...
One day, 50 giant motherships show up around the world, carrying aliens from the star Sirius. They're referred to as "Visitors," hence the "V" of the title (though there's another explanation for that, which I'll get to later). They seem human enough, and friendly. They say they need our help manufacturing certain chemicals to save their world. In exchange, they offer to help us with various scientific and medical advances, and so forth. Their supreme commander calls himself John (all the Visitors assume Earth names, for our benefit), and the second in command is called Diana. Another major Visitor is named Steven.
Now, to try to get straight some of the major characters. There's a reporter named Kristine Walsh, who is sort of romantically involved with another reporter named Mike Donovan (who has an ex-wife named Marjorie, and a young son named Sean). Eventually, Kristine becomes the Vistors' spokeswoman, while Mike (and his partner, Tony) are less trusting of the aliens. Mike's investigation leads him to discover that the chemicals being produced and taken up to the motherships are simply being dumped out, having no real purpose. And some people are being "converted," their minds altered to believe whatever the Visitors say. Also, they're working on taking control of the world, surreptitiously. And then there's the bit about them eating live rodents and, under their false human skins, actually being reptilian. (This part might seem sinister, though personally I could understand them trying to make humanity more comfortable, to avoid scaring us with their true appearances; I certainly hope humanity wouldn't automatically assume aliens are evil just because they look different. But then, we haven't got a great track record for tolerance, in that department. Which is a bit ironic, for a reason I'll get to soon.)
Anyway, Mike shoots a videotape of his discoveries, which he takes to a TV station, but it never gets played. Instead, the Visitors take control of the airwaves, as well as newspapers. They claim Mike is a traitor to his people, part of a conspiracy against them. By this point, they had already established the existence of the conspiracy, by planting evidence as well as converting people to believe themselves a part of such a conspiracy, which didn't actually exist, at that point. The main scapegoats in this fabricated conspiracy were the world's scientists, who the Visitors feared could discover their secrets. (Though the thought that occurs to me, and which scares me more is, if they eliminated all human scientists, and made the world hate scientists, our species might become dumbed down in subsequent generations, and more easy to control.) Those scientists who can't be controlled or discredited simply... vanish (though it's pretty clear they're being killed- or taken- by the Visitors).
So, Mike is now a fugitive. Meanwhile, the Visitors are engaging in actions disctinctly reminiscent of the Nazis in World War II (which is why I say it's ironic that they're different). One thing they do is establish a group for young people, called the Visitors' Friends, which is much like the Hitler Youth. One member of this group is Daniel Bernstein, whose parents, Stanley and Lynn, as things begin to get worse, start getting scared, even of their own son. Meanwhile, Stanley's father, Abraham, was more concerned than anyone. He had lived through the Holocaust, and clearly saw the parallels to the current situation (something I'm sure I wouldn't have really understood when I first saw this as a kid, but I appreciate it now). I should also say that Daniel had a romantic interest in a girl named Robin Maxwell, who was herself crushing on a Visitor named Brian. Anyway, Robin's father, Robert, is an anthropologist, and so he and his family- including his wife Kathleen, and Robin's younger sister, Polly, and a much younger sister, Katie- are potential targets of the Visitors.
Reports of attacks by conspirators, on Earth's leaders as well as the Visitors, leads to a declaration of martial law, with the Visitors as our "protectors." So of course, a real resistance eventually springs up. Among them is a medical student named Juliet Parrish, a doctor named Ben Taylor, and later, his brother Elias (who was a criminal, and didn't get along with Ben; he joined after Ben was killed by the Visitors), and a cop named Brad, and several other people. They plan to find people to join them, and to look for other groups like themselves who want to fight back. (Juliet was injured when Ben was killed, and thereafter walks with a cane.)
And there are some important people named Arthur Dupres, and his wife Eleanor, who get close to the Visitors. I guess Arthur ran a plant where the chemicals were being produced. I think Eleanor got close to both John and Steven. Then I should also mention a Visitor named Willie (played by Robert Englund, who I probably remember best from watching all this when I was a kid, though he isn't that important in the original miniseries). He's a good guy, unlike most of the other Visitors. And he befriends a woman named Harmony.
The Maxwells try to get away from the city, but there are roadblocks. So they end up staying in the Bernsteins' pool house, much to Robin's chagrin. Stanley isn't happy about them being there, but Abraham insists... because we must learn from history. Part One of the miniseries ends with some kids defacing a Visitors propaganda poster with spray paint. But Abraham tells them to paint a "V" over the posters, and to tell their friends to do the same. "V" for "Victory," you understand.... This will become common in the second part of the miniseries.
Watching the second part, I became aware that I may have missed a number of things, earlier, or not fully understood certain things. For one thing, Ben and Elias' father, Caleb, worked at a plant with Willie. I had no idea at first that he was related to them. Anyway, he gets mad at Willie after Ben's funeral, since the Visitors had killed his son, and he joins the resistance. But I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself. Mike looks for his son Sean and his ex-wife, but they, and pretty much everyone in their town, have been taken away by the Visitors. Mike only finds Josh, a friend of Sean's, who tells Mike what had happened. Mike also retrieves a Visitor key he had given Sean, earlier, which will come in handy, later.
Meanwhile, Daniel Bernstein reports the Maxwells, since he was upset that he couldn't have Robin. He had expected amnesty for his family, but his parents and grandfather were taken away. However, the Visitors didn't find the Maxwells, who were smuggled past the roadblock by Sancho Gomez, who used to work for the Maxwells. The Maxwells apparently go to a mountain camp, which houses most of the resistance's equipment, though this isn't seen, early on. Elias leads Juliet, Brad, Caleb, and an old woman named Ruby (who I guess was a friend of Abraham's), and a number of refugees, to a hiding place in the city. Eventually Robert and Robin inexplicably show up there, while the rest of their family remains at the mountain camp. Meanwhile, Daniel was upset about his family being taken away, but Brian tells him they'll return soon (except for his grandfather). He also tells Dan he's being promoted, and gives him a ring, a reward from Diana.
Mike and Tony find human prisoners being loaded onto a shuttle, and get into a firefight with the visitors, but end up being captured, themselves, and taken to a mothership. Diana wants to eliminate Mike, believing he would be too difficult to convert, but is convinced otherwise by a Visitor named Martin, who turns out to be one of a few Visitors who are opposed to the plans of their leader. Another dissident is Barbara, who gives Mike her uniform, so that he might escape.
Later, Elias and the Angels (a local gang) find Mike after he returns to Earth, thinking he's a Visitor because of the uniform, and take him to Juliet. After awhile, they start to trust each other, and he tells them all he knows. They begin to formulate a plan of action. Meanwhile, Robert realized Robin is missing, having been captured earlier by the Visitors. While looking for her, he is found by a Visitor himself, who threatens Robin's safety if he doesn't reveal the location of the mountain camp. Meanwhile, Diana gives Brian an assignment involving Robin... a "medical experiment," of sorts.
Some resistance members set explosives at the chemical plant, while others attack the Visitors' armory, to steal weapons. At the same time, Mike sneaks back to the mothership, hoping to find his family, as well as to learn the Visitors' true plans. Once again, Mike finds Martin, who tells him the truth. Oh, and also once again, Mike discovers that the chemicals were just a smokescreen. It seems odd that he didn't already know this, given his earlier discovery, but whatever. Um... but anyway, Martin tells him that the Visitors' leader wants all of Earth's water. Meanwhile, they have humans in stasis, some of whom might become warriors to fight an enemy, and others... would become food. Later, Martin helps Mike take a shuttle, along with Robin and Sancho.
Robert heads to the mountain camp, having realized he must warn them of the impending attack (for which he is responsible). But the attack comes earlier than expected. The resistance also shows up to fight the Visitors, though their main objective was to bring their equipment to the hiding place in the city. Mike also shows up in his stolen shuttle, and the Visitors retreat. However, there have been casualties, including Robert's wife. It seemed like he might be thinking of killing himself after she died, but stopped when Polly, Katie, and Robin all showed up. (Later, we will see that there's something odd going on with Robin.)
After talking to Mike, Juliet realizes they must try to destroy the motherships. Neither of them is happy about this, because of all the people who are being held on board, though Juliet seems more willing to sacrifice thousands for the sake of billions than Mike may be. But both of them hope to save as many as possible. Later, Mike talks to Eleanor, who doesn't believe his story; they disagree about the Visitors. It seems she is his mother, which took me completely by surprise; I'm pretty sure Arthur isn't his father, anyway. Also, Robert shows up at the Bernsteins' house, hoping to make it an occasional safehouse for refugees. Lynn is too scared to allow this, until Stanley shows her a letter left behind by Abraham, which changes her mind.
In the end, the resistance begins to transmit a message which they hope will be heard by the Visitors' enemies, whoever they may be. Though this could take years, assuming it ever reaches anyone at all. Meanwhile, the resistance is on its own. A battle has been won, but the war has barely begun. So ends the miniseries... something of a cliffhanger. So it's good to know there's another miniseries yet to come, as well as a series. I look forward to watching and reviewing both of those. Of course there's other media, like books and comics, which I suppose it's not very likely that I'll ever read... so at this point, I can't say for certain if the story ultimately has any real resolution, at least one I'll be aware of....