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Friday, November 30, 2007

Those danged Nazi lizards from outer space are coming back!

Look at what's being published on January 8th, 2008!

From the creator of V himself Kenneth Johnson, and weighing-in at 448 pages, it's V: The Second Generation.

So in case you are one of the "younger" generation (i.e. my friends younger than 20) and are wondering what V is: almost a quarter-century later it still ranks among the scariest and most disturbing things ever put on American television. And had it been better managed, it had the potential to be one of the greatest sci-fi franchises of all time.

In the spring of 1983, NBC broadcast the two-part original miniseries V. They came from a distant star: a fleet of fifty gigantic "motherships" - five miles in diameter - one for each of the largest cities on Earth. These "Visitors" - who looked human in every way - came begging for Earth's help, claiming that their home planet was dying and that only certain chemicals manufactured on Earth could stave off disaster. In return for our aid, the Visitors promised new technology and medicine and that when done, they would leave us in peace.

What happened after that made V into one of the most brilliant fables about tyranny and resistance of modern times. It was Nazism on a global scale. And there are moments from this miniseries that have haunted many people to this day: I've no doubt that the scene where Diana "has dinner" is going to be burned into my gray matter until the day I die.

The original miniseries was amazing, and ended on a terrific cliffhanger. And had creator Kenneth Johnson had his way, V would have become a series of television movies that would further chronicle mankind's worldwide fight against the Visitors. Unfortunately the NBC suits wanted another full-blown miniseries and then a weekly series. Johnson worked on the 1984 sequel V: The Final Battle for a bit and then left the project, and based on what I've heard over the years Johnson had a much different (and better) idea of where to take the story than what NBC did with the franchise. The ending of V: The Final Battle has too much mystical hokum (I hate the whole "star child" thing) and the ensuing regular weekly series quickly devolved into not much more than "Dallas in Space". It was canceled after one season.

I've thought for a long time now that V was a great concept, that is perhaps more fitting to the world we live in today than it did twenty-odd years ago. There was an attempt in the early-1990s to revive it (courtesy of Babylon 5-helmer J. Michael Straczynski) that would have been set in the years following Earth's final surrender to the Visitors, before the arrival of the Visitors' "enemy" that Juliet had sent the signal to at the end of the first miniseries. That didn't get past the script stage, but from what I've read of it Straczynski had bold ideas in mind for maturely progressing the story past the mistakes of the second miniseries and the regular show.

It looks like V: The Second Generation is going to build on at least the original miniseries. But perhaps a thorough rebooting is more appropriate. I mean, V - the original four-hour miniseries anyway - was a magnificent achievement of compelling story, wonderful characters, and early-Eighties special effects. But by today's standards, it's woefully out-dated. Seeing the Maxwell kids playing an Atari 2600 made sense in 1983, but it's too era-specific today. And no doubt that if the Visitors first came to a world circa-2007, they would take active measures to clamp down on the Internet. Heck, they would probably have their own website set up with all of that cool Visitor propaganda.

But the biggest impetus to entirely relaunch V is this: can you imagine how that same premise could be executed today, with the same technology that makes shows like the current Battlestar Galactica possible? V would finally stand to be a true depiction of global war, instead of just seeing it through the eyes of folks in Los Angeles (yah that did get tiring after awhile).

Anyhoo, problems that eventually plagued the franchise aside, I'll eagerly be watching for V: The Second Generation when it hits shelves in another month or so :-)


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