Retro Review: V The Mini Series (1983)

When aliens come to Earth to ask for our help, a few suspicious humans discover their horrific true intentions and prepare to resist.

Synopsis: When an alien fleet comes to Earth to ask for our help, a few suspicious humans discover their horrific true intentions and prepare to resist.

Review: Back in 1983 we lived in a different world where pretty much everyone lived in fear of nuclear war or the warring superpowers hitting the big red button. We didn’t have cable or Sky TV in the UK at this time. In fact at that point in the UK we only had four TV channels. One of which Channel 4 only launched in 1982.

With all that in mind. A mini series was a pretty big deal when it hit. And the 70’s and 80’s was a time when they were pretty much all sure fire hits because of their rarity in the schedules. But to have a mini series about an alien invasion back then was rarer still because science fiction on television was considered a big risk.

In ‘V The Mini Series’ you get a science fiction allegory, which tells a story of human resistance to an alien force, which starts off as friendly, but soon is revealed to have a cruel and fiendish agenda.

Calling themselves The Visitors the alien’s ingratiate themselves on the public offering cures for cancer and cultural exchange and educational programs for the youth.

But as we all know. When something is to good to be true. It usually is.

About halfway through the first episode Nobel Prize winning scientists start to go missing and some scientists begin to suspect that the Alien Visitor’s are not as humanoid as they appear to be, but actually reptilian.

Kenneth Johnson, who is best known to genre fans for having created ‘The Bionic Woman’ and ‘The Incredible v-miniseries AbrahamHulk’ television series. Spins an epic story with ‘V’ that is very much inspired by the Holocaust and the jack heeled boots of Nazi Germany. In fact in the series he did the brilliant thing of having a character called Abraham (Leonardo Cimino) who over the course of the story views the Visitors with a degree of scepticism and tells his son that he must help the resistance otherwise we will not have learned from past mistakes. 

Effects wise the show looks pre-historic by today’s standards, but the story and characters are as compelling now as they were back in the 1980’s when this series hit UK shores in 1984 as ITV’s secret weapon against the BBC’s coverage of The Los Angeles Olympics.

What made this show work so well was the fact that you had a set of characters that you found yourself cheering for in the rather cheesy Mike Donovan (Marc Singer) who uncovers the real identity of the Visitors and has some of the best one liners of the series. It is Donovan that has a bulk of the action throughout the series and the subsequent inferior sequel ‘V The Final Battle’, which unfortunately wasn’t written by Kenneth Johnson due to him parting ways with it.

In the alien camp. It is Diana as played by the very attractive Jane Badler that shines through as the ultimate villain. The scene where she swallows a guinea pig whole and you see her jaws stretch had genuine shock value at the time and was the television equivalent of an alien chest hugger leaping from John Hurt’s chest in ‘Alien’.

Although primitive by today’s standards. The special effects used in the original ‘V Mini Series’ were cutting edge for television at the time and likely cost a pretty penny as well. The model work for the alien shuttles and mother ships was nothing short of amazing and really did sell you on the idea that an alien force had landed.

Added to that. The costume design for the Visitors was also something that helped sell it. The red jump suits with the alien insignia and of course the more military attire worn by the soldiers. Though the helmets that they wore looked very similar to what the Federation soldiers wore in the classic UK series ‘Blake’s 7’

 

So does it hold up?

Effects wise not really. But in terms of story, narrative and characters you can get behind. ‘V – The Mini Series’ for my money remains a classic piece of science fiction television that is yet to be surpassed. Sure the acting could be considered a little hammy by today’s standards. And things have moved on a lot. But one thing that V still has going for it is solid story telling that both entertains and educates.

A remake was done in 2009, which tried as it might have could not touch it and one of the problems with it for me was the characters. It fell into the trap of having its central character be a member of the FBI and the character archetypes used for the resistance were not diverse enough.

In the 1983 series you had a resistance made up of people from all walks of life. You had scientists, police officers, gardeners, a reporter and a reformed hood.

Back in 2012 The Guardian Newspaper did an article listing the top ten best Mini Series of the past few decades and ‘V’ was near the top of that list.

Both ‘V – The Mini Series’ and its follow up ‘V The Final Battle’ have recently been released through Amazon Video and for just 16.99 to get both together. Its a bargain.

8.8
V The Mini Series
  • Great characters and Story
  • Effects Now Looking Dated
  • Story
    10
  • Acting
    8.8
  • Effects
    6.5
  • Incidental Music
    10

Ian Cullen is the founder of scifipulse.net and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: www.scifipulseradio.com When he is not writing for scifipulse.net Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of scifipulse.net You can contact ian at: ian@scifipulse.net
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