V (Original Series)

For those not familiar with the story, V is about the first contact between humanity and a civilization from another planet

Whenever a DVD comes out that I have on videotape, especially one that is from a TV mini series, I have to ask myself is it worth the new purchase. In the case of the classic science fiction ‘ V the Original Mini Series ’ it certainly was. For those not familiar with the story it is about the first contact between humanity and a civilization from another planet.

All over the world huge space ships begin to appear over the major cities of earth. As tension mounts around the globe mankind wonder the purpose of these visitors. The silence of the ships is soon broken by an announcement in every language of the earth. They wish to meet with the head of the United Nations. As the moment arrives a smaller craft descends from the mother ship over NYC. The Visitors, as they become known, appear benign. They wish to exchange their advanced technology for some simple compounds they can only produce on earth, needed to save their world. Of course, all is not what is seems. As an elderly Jewish man notes, he has seen this pattern before. First there are the snappy uniforms the Visitors wear, complete with a nice little symbol and shiny black boots. They constantly insistence that they are here to help us and make life better for both sides. The formation of Visitor’s Youth Groups to involve the young people of the world with our ‘friends’ from another world. The final thing that upsets the elderly man is the move to round up scientists that allegedly are involved in a conspiracy. Of course, this story is Kenneth Johnson’s look at the factors that lead to the rise of Nazi Germany. There is a potential is a story line like this for the plot to become overbearing. Fortunately, writer/director Kenneth Johnson is well versed in how to bring social issues to the screen. Character development is not sacrificed for the moral of the film. The audience rapidly comes to care about the plethora of main characters in this story. While each aspect of Europe in the thirties and forties are portrayed, V never becomes heavy handed or preachy. Johnson is delft in balancing the moral lesson he wishes to present with true entertainment.

There are so many fine actors in this production that it would be impossible to cover them all with the attention they deserve. Among these actors there are several performances that stand out. First there is Marc Singer who plays TV field reporter Mike Donovan. Singer was a last minute addition to the cast but he lends a certain quality to the film. He is part action hero, part investigative reporter. His character also provides a center point to V. He is the father of a captured boy, son to a collaborating mother and boy friend to the female reporter who becomes the media liaison (propaganda minister) for the aliens. Singer does well in the role. It is far better than the usual made for TV fare. He comes to represent the every man, one not fooled by the hope of friendship held out by the aliens. Another performance to watch is that of the young MD/PhD student, Julie (Faye Grant) As a scientist she dedicated her life to helping others. Soon, hunted by the Visitors she winds up the leader of the human resistance. She brings a very realistically done sense of humanity to the story. Her relationship destroyed by prejudice, her career in ruin she fights not only for mankind but for rather deep personal reasons. All in all, the performances in this mini series place it above most made for TV productions. Attention was paid to the smallest detail in casting. Even the smallest role is near perfect.

The writer and director of this epic is Kenneth Johnson. He was greatly influenced by men in the field like Rod Serling (Twilight Zone) and Joseph Stefano (The Outer Limits). Both or these men created anthology series that blended science fiction with a morality plays. Johnson picks up this method and gave us intelligent, thought provoking Sci-Fi like Alien Nation, and the Incredible Hulk. Johnson provides a cautionary tale of the rise of a Nazi like society in modern times. Every aspect of the Nazi infiltration into everyday life is covered. How the disaffected youth were swayed to the point of turning in their own parents. The way persecution of a group can become accepted and common place. He doesn’t beat you over the head with the moral, he seduces you in, much like the Nazis did. At first the progress to the loss of freedom is slow, the Visitors ‘helping’ the local police until they are the law, control the media and restrict every aspect of life. Providing a link to the past is the actor Leonardo Chimeko, the elderly Jewish man that lived through the Holocaust. He is Johnson’s voice of the past trying in vain to warn the current generation. Beautifully written and directed this mini series will entertain and provide a basis for many deep conversations.

The disc is worth the purchase. Typical of productions made from television the audio is Dolby Surround. Don’t let this discourage you. It is crisp and clear permitting the slightest details to be heard. The video is matted to 1.85:1. The increase in viewing material may be minimal but the clarity is worth it. The best feature of the disc is the running commentary by Johnson. He recounts the details of the production including the tragic murder of one of the cast members. He goes into detail about the decisions required to put together something that amounts to almost two feature length films. This is a must have disc for any collection.

Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com

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