In 1983, television saw the arrival of fifty large mother ships, which took up strategic positions all over the world. On the rooftop of the United Nations building in New York City.Supreme Leader, John, and his second in command, Diana, addressed the world, asking for help. Calling themselves, Visitors, they explained to the world about needing special minerals from Earth, which their scientists would refine. Far from their home, a planet orbiting Sirius, they appeared human, requiring special eyewear and speaking in a reverberation. Of course, curious humans embraced the Visitors, welcoming them with receptions and celebrations.
However, as key Earth scientists begin to disappear, or show signs of radical change, a few people begin to ask questions. Cameraman, Michael Donovan, asks the wrong questions but stows away on a Visitor ship to get some answers. While aboard a mother ship, he films the Visitors eating mice and birds – whole. He also discovers their secret. They are not humans, at all, but reptilian humanoids with a specific dietary need.
V: The Mini-Series was the creation of Kenneth Johnson, an American screenwriter, director, and producer. In 1976, Johnson created the popular show, The Bionic Woman. In 1977, he created The Incredible Hulk television show. After V, he would go on to create the television adaptation of Alien Nation.
The inspiration for the mini-series came from Sinclair Lewis’ novel, It Can’t Happen Here, from 1935. The novel is a dystopian story set in a fictionalized United States, one ruled over by a dictator named “Buzz.” It also chronicles a newspaper reporter who is critical of “Buzz’s” fascist policies.
As with most programs with a social message, the fascists in V were camouflaged as aliens. This made their uniforms, their emblem, and their stylized weaponry more palpable to audience captivated by Star Wars and Star Trek. One very pointed parallel in the initial mini-series comes when a Visitor group begins rounding up scientists. A Jewish family is interrogated about whether or not they know if their neighbors are scientists. Their grandfather harkens back to a time when he witnessed a similar situation in Nazi-occupied Germany.
The Visitors even begin a recruitment drive, meant to impress their message upon the youth. The Visitor obsessed Daniel Bernstein (David Packer) is quick to sign up which later causes conflict with his own family.
After Visitor suspicion begins to increase, Juliet Parrish becomes a covert resistance leader. After sneaking aboard a Visitor ship, she meets Martin, a member of the Visitor’s dissident Fifth Column. Martin explains the true mission of the aliens, to steal Earth’s water and enslave the humans. Julie joins Michael Donovan and they form a resistance movement in Los Angeles.
A subplot of the show sees a young girl named Robin impregnated by one of the visitors. This is an example of the manipulative scheming of Diana, who targeted the young girl because of her scientist father. Robin is rescued from the aliens and taken to a resistance headquarters.
Actress, Blair Tefkin, who played Robin, replaced Dominique Dunne, who was murdered by her boyfriend as she rehearsed with David Packer outside her apartment outside her apartment. Kenneth Johnson dedicated V to her in the movie’s credits.
The first mini-series ends with Visitor occupation of Earth and the rise of the resistance. A bold letter “V” is spray-painted over promotional poster featuring the Visitors. Abraham, the aforementioned Jewish grandfather explains the “V” is not for “Visitor,” but for “Victory.”
In real life, posters of a smiling male in sunglasses began appearing in select train stations. The only writing on the posters said, “The Visitors are our friends.” Nothing about the posters indicated to the public they were advertisements. Days after they appeared, a spray-painted “V” appeared on them. This sort of marketing helped to make V: The Mini Series one of the most popular of its time.
V: The Mini Series had “one of the best TV reveals ever,” according to Entertainment Weekly, when Diana ate a guinea pig.
In 1984, V: The Final Battle opens with the resistance attempting to obtain medical supplies. Robin’s pregnancy has reached an advanced state. Reporter, Kristine Walsh is questioning her alliance with the Visitors, and the aliens have announced a gift for humanity, a cure for cancer. Things escalate as Kristine refuses to paint the resistance as terrorists, and is killed by Diana. In the ensuing chaos, Juliet is captured and brought aboard the mother ship to undergo a mind-altering conversion process. Robin gives birth to Elizabeth, the first alien-human hybrid.
Over the course of this second series, a weapon is created to stop the Visitors. This “Red Dust” is sent all over the world by way of balloons. Almost all of the Visitors evacuate Earth. Aboard her mother ship, Diana prepares a kind of doomsday machine but before it can go off, Elizabeth stops it with an unexplained super-power.
Stars, Marc Singer, Faye Grant, and Jane Badler return as Michael Donovan, Juliet Parrish, and Diana. Also among the cast is future Oz inmate, George Morfogen, former Kryptonian villain, Sarah Douglas, as Visitor commander, Pamela, and soon-to-be gloved killer, Robert Englund as Visitor, Willie.
Done in three parts, V: The Final Battle was a success. It was nominated for three different Emmys and won a Saturn Award in 1986 for Best Genre Video Release.
Following this success, V: The Series launched on NBC in October of 1984. Returning to their roles, Marc Singer, Faye Grant, and Jane Badler led the series. Johnson, however, did not return to the series. Robert Englund also returned as Willie, now a Visitor resistance member. June Chadwick joined the cast as Lydia, a security officer sent by the Supreme Leader of the aliens.
The series only lasted for 20 episodes, being cancelled in March of 1985. B-Movie queen, Sybil Danning even appeared in one episode entitled, Visitor’s Choice. The episode centered around a convention center and the idea of presenting humans as the ultimate in culinary delight. Robert Englund featured in this episode, as well.
J. Michael Straczynski proposed a sequel in 1989, but nothing came of it. Straczynski is the creator of Babylon 5 and suggested a five-year gap between the last show and the new V: The Next Chapter. During this gap, Michael, Willie, and Elizabeth would have been dead, Lydia assassinated, and Diana reassigned. Only Juliet would remain, exiled to Australia. V: The Next Chapter was rejected.
Series creator, Kenneth Johnson also pitched an idea to revive V. V: The Second Generation would begin twenty years after the mini-series without the events of V: The Final Battle and the television series. Warner Brothers Television, who owned the television rights, decided to do a remake, instead. Johnson wrote his novel, V: The Second Generation with a February 2008 publication date.
In November of 2009, V premiered with new effects, new plots, and new characters. In this re-imagined series, twenty-nine motherships arrive on Earth with their leader, Anna declaring, “We are of peace, always.” In this series, it is revealed, aliens have been on Earth for decades, preparing for takeover. They offered healing and peace. As with the first series, a resistance arises, and the battle begins. This second series included Firefly star, Morena Baccarin, Smallville co-star, Laura Vandervoort, and Scott Wolf. In spite of what network executives termed a powerhouse concept, the show only lasted two seasons.
Marc Singer and Jane Badler appeared in the second season of the show.
Marc Singer appeared in the sequel to Roots, and a small role in the Planet of the Apes television series. In 1982, sporting an incredible physique, Singer appeared as the lead character in the film, The Beastmaster.
Jane Badler, one of the stars, began her career, in 1972, as a contestant in the Miss America pageant. She went on to do television, including Fantasy Island, One Life to Live, and The Doctors. Following V, she appeared on Falcon Crest in 1986, and had a regular role on the rebooted Mission Impossible.
From a fan perspective, almost all of the incarnations of V have been successful. A letter-writing campaign in May of 2011, called Project Alice, even attempted to get the 2009 series back on the TNT network. Baccarin was nominated for a Saturn Award for her portrayal of Anna. The show even garnered nominations for Outstanding Visual Effects and Outstanding Created Environment. V: The Final Battle was cited by Ed Siegal as “spirited, escapist entertainment” and has a 69% score on Rotten Tomatoes. The original mini-series was released on Blu-Ray in August of 2019. It remains, among science-fiction fans, as enjoyable entertainment and a proverbial cult classic.
40 Years of the Visitors
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