So last night, on the newly re-named SyFy, began the much anticipated (by me anyway) remake of V, the classic 1980s mini-series and TV series that feature alien visitors to earth with a dark secret. For a generation, the sight of walking, talking reptiles eating birds and rats whole was the stuff of nightmares. It was great, and Diana, the evil scientist and beautiful visitor leader, was a character never forgotten. There was a certain amount of over-excitement when I heard that V was being remade. The first two episodes of the new series were on. How were they?
I liked them. They succeeded in quickly establishing the shock, uncertainty and excitement caused by the alien landing, the alien claims to being a benign force offering and advanced technology and medicine in return for water, and the harsh reality of their planning to do something – as yet unclear – very evil indeed that would wipe out humanity. Judging from the first two episodes, the new series is trading depth for breadth. There are fewer characters than the original, but we can expect them to be traced in more depth. The new show also, like the Battlestar Galactica remake before it, reflects on the war on terror. Visitors have already been on earth for some time, and the crazy people claiming to have had contact with aliens are in fact telling the truth, and some of them form the bones of a resistance. Equally, the fifth column is also in place. The new female lead is an FBI agent (rather than a scientist) involved in monitoring suspected terrorist cells, and I suspect that the current American paranoia about conspiracy and the enemy within will feature largely in the new show. It’s a good move, both dramatically and in terms of bringing it into today’s world. Other lead characters include a priest struggling with what the visitors’ existence says about his religion, the FBI agents teenage son who joins the visitor youth corps, an engaged professional couple, and an ambitious TV news anchor who seeks to ingratiate himself with the visitors. These characters reflect some of those from the original series, either directly or as composites.
And then there is Anna. Diana started out not as chief commander, but as head of the scientific mission. Anna is in charge. She is more understated than Diana, but also forceful and scheming like her predecessor. If Diana was a power female who could have fit into Dallas or Dynasty, Anna so far seems to be a different personality type, but equally ruthless. She is similar enough in appearance and personality to be something of an homage, but different enough to be her own person. This stripped down alien command structure will also make her a more effective figure I suspect. The new show is also liable to be a lot less silly than the original.
To over-analyse the show, the reduction in numbers of central characters has had the consequence of embourgeoisement. Whereas the original featured characters who were working class, like plant workers or Mexican labourers and their families, the new humans, so far anyway, are all noticeably more affluent and more middle class. That might reflect changing tastes within the US television audience, or a different target audience. Or it could mean nothing at all, though I suspect that it does mean that this show is chasing the young professional market, as well as teenagers seeking to stare at Laura Vandervoort. While the original was something of a kid’s show, this one doesn’t look like being so.
So overall, a good start. Gone however are the red uniforms and the funny voices that originally marked out the visitors, and the V grafitti has already taken on a different meaning than in the original. And also gone – and this was a big mistake in my view – is the music of the original. Enjoy.