Tuesday, 15 May 2012

V THE SERIES REVIEW - EP1: LIBERATION DAY

Beware the Visitors!
Today, Slow-Robot begins an occasional episode-by-episode review of V: THE SERIES (the 1984-85 incarnation).
It's a show that's hard not to love despite its numerous (and obvious) shortcomings.  It's no-where near as good as Kenneth Johnson's excellent 1983 mini-series, nor its 1984 sequel.
It's campy, It's cash-strapped.  It's bargain-basement, anything goes SF.  But Slow-Robot loves it.  The DVD box set (don't confuse it with the recent ABC revival, which somehow manages to be both more stupid AND less fun) can be acquired pretty cheaply (one edition bundles it with the two mini-series making it the best-buy for anyone wanting both invasions in one hit) so there's no excuse not to watch-along.
Resist... or die!


LIBERATION DAY

-     aka The Pursuit of Diana.
-       “The budget for the mini-series was about double what we had per hour, so that's what was really difficult.  It's impossible to retain the quality of the show with half the money, half the time to shoot things, half the special effects, half the sets, half the characters and half of everything.”  David Ambromowitz, Executive Story Consultant.  Interviewed in The V-Files Book Five: The Conclusion.

CORPSE OF THE WEEK
-     Diana kills Martin when she escapes.

STOCK FOOTAGE
-       The footage of the Mothership in space is a mixture of stock from the mini-series and a new wide-shot.
-       The Skyfighter combat sequence originally produced for the first mini-series' second night is blatantly recycled several times throughout the series, beginning with this episode.
-       Diana's crashing Starfighter effects were originally produced for the attack on the Resistance base in the hills for the first mini-series, recompisited here to add a new location for the crash.

TONIGHT'S MENU
-       Apart from a few comments, Diana doesn't get anything to eat.

GROUND FORCES
-       None.  The invasion fleet is hiding behind the moon.

BATES MOTEL
-       How did an organisation called Science Frontiers exist during the first invasion?  Surely anything with “science” in the title would make it a prime alien target.
-       Why does Nathan Bates assume the Visitors are telling the truth about having a cure for cancer?
-       Bates has a personalised number plate.

SECURITY ALERT
-       How do the media know about the Starchild and where she is living?  As very few people watched her powers manefest themselves on the Mothership bridge, someone in the group must have sold her out to the press during the following year.
-       Security outside Diana's trial is very slack.  Not only does the assassin strike easily but the ambulance which takes her away has no police escort and no-one else attempts to follow (which is unlikely, the press would go to any lengths to follow a story THIS big).  Did Bates and Tyler engineer it all?
-       Why doesn't Tyler notice the helicopter?  You would expect him to have an eye (and an ear) for such things.

CHARACTER NOTES
-       Elias has a line of footwear, the Club Creole and is technical advisor on a film (presumably about the first alien invasion).  Martin is now working with Donovan as his camera assistant.  Donnovan has been offered an anchorman's position but is going to turn it down (“that's showbiz”).  Julie is in charge of Science Frontier's Mothership project (despite not having a technical background).  Ham Tyler runs a security agency (the services of which Nathan Bates attempts to engage).
-       Mike's son Sean is at a special school in Ohio.  Donovan thinks he will resist attempts to de-convert him.
-       Donovan seems very willing to defend Diana's right to a fair trial.  Maybe he's just confident that the evidence against her is overwhelming and she won't get away with it.
-       Ham's role in the escape of Diana, and Donovan's knowledge of it is conviently forgotten after this episode.  It should have been a major source of conflict between the two as well as a motivator for Ham to get revenge on Diana.
-       Donovan is willing to hand over responsibility for Diana's recapture to local law enforcement.
-       What happened to Polly Maxwell after the end of the first invasion? 

HARDWARE
-       How does Martin know it is Diana's fighter making an escape?  Does it have a unique identity code (or her name printed on the wing)?
-       Donovan exits his Skyfighter through just the lower part of the hatch.
-       Diana has special secret codes that are preventing the unlocking of the secrets of the Mothership, including the Coversion Process.
-       How does everyone get on and off the Mother Ship?  It's hovering just off the surface with no visible means of access yet nobody has any problems gaining access.  Martin even tells Donovan that he will meet him “outside”.

THE CULTURE SHOW
-       Why do the Visitors continue to wear their human disguises throughout the series now that the truth is well-and-truely out.  What value oes maintaining the deception have?  Why do the humans allow Diana to stand trial in her human disguise?
-       Diana's crimes (according to Bates): Crimes against humanity, genocide and canibalism. Bates and Diana never met (she appears to have never even heard of him or Science Frontiers) during her year of captivity.
-       Why does the alien fleet remain in Earth's solar system after their retreat when they are full of esential supplies (food and water) for the home world?  Are the crews feeding off the humans in their holds?
-       Why do the Visitors take so long (a year) to address the issue of Diana? Surely her capture would represent a significant security threat.  Even if the Red Dust prevented ground operations, surely a surgical strike could either rescue her or kill her before the humans learnt too much. 
-       Why do the Visitors allow the humans to hold the LA Mothership and analyse its technology?  Why not just destroy it from space?

RED ALERT
-       Martin has to take an antidote for the Red Dust every twelve hours for the rest of his life. The antidote is manufactured by Science Frontiers.  With the exceptions of Willie and Diana, are there any other Visitors stranded on Earth?  It must be costly to manufacture the antidote for just three aliens.
-       The effects of the Red Dust are not immediate.  Diana is able to escape her bubble and grab Martin's pills apparently without suffering any ill-effects from limited exposure.
-       Why cant the aliens develop an antedote to the Red Dust?  Are they even trying?

FROCKS ON THE BOX
-       How did Diana aquire the her female clothes from a male trucker?  Was the redneck she attacked a secret cross-dresser?
-       Diana carries her neatly-folded uniform to hide the Visitor laser pistol she stole from Martin.

BLOOPERS
-       When Donovan takes the Skyfighter from the Mothership landing bay, Visitor troops rather than Resistance fighters can be seen through the viewport.
-       In close-up Donovan leaps just before the shot ends, then in the long-shot he chases Diana for another couple of metres before leaping.
-       When Diana boards the Skyfighter at the end of the episode, the bullet holes on her tunic don't match the shots fired by Donovan.
-       While fighting Donovan, Diana's eyes turn briefly 'lizard' but this is impossible as her human eyes are really just elaborate contact lenses.
-       Mike's body changes location (watch the trees) after being knocked-out by Martin.

JEDI MINDTRICKS
-       Young Elizabeth can force a helicopter off-course at close range.
-       During the early stages of Elizabeth's transformation (which Julie attends very quickly), her skin begins to peel and then pulsate.
-       Elizabeth has learnt to ride a horse during her year at the Ranch.  She knows exactly where to go to complete her transformation.

OBSERVATIONS
-       The whole of V: The Series was given a Certificate '15' by the BBFC, the same as the two mini-series, when released on home video in the UK.
-       The opening scenes are a direct continuation of the events in The Final Battle before skipping ahead to one year of peace.
-       Diana understands more than most the deadly effects of the Red Dust yet she pilots her Skyfighter towards Earth rather than following the retreating fleet (which must still be reachable).
-       The Mothership is still in space when Diana's fighter launches but when Donovan launches and the subsequent ariel combat, all recycled, take place in Earth's atmosphere. 
-       Jenny Beck reprises her role as Elizabeth.
-       The Maxwell Ranch is first referenced in the first mini-series when the family talk about going to “their place in the mountains”.
-       June Chadwick, Jennifer Cooke and Jeff Yager all appear in the credits for Liberation Day but don't appear in the show itself until episode two.
-       Diana's assassination is a direct lift of the fate of Lee Harvey Oswald.
-       Why is Martin that bothered about Diana signaling the fleet?  If the aliens were monitoring Earth's transmissions they would already know she was a captive.  At this point no-one knows that the Red Dust is useless.
-       It is lucky that the South-western automated tracking facility is close to where Diana was held prisoner before her escape.  How far did she have to drive before her stolen car broke down?
-       The tracking station is unmanned but has a lovely lobby.  It's packed-full of old-fashioned cutting-edge computer technology.
-       At least they remember to put Diana in sunglasses while she is outside, even if she is very confused by a beeping digital watch.
-       Why does Diana stop and turn when Donovan calls her name?  How can she be certain that his bullets wont penertrate her uniform?  What happens if he aimed at her head or legs?  Are all alien uniforms bullet proof or was Diana, a senior member of the fleet, issued with a special super-strong version?
-       What happened to the humans stored on the LA Mothership?  Did they get defrosted?
-       The Visitor's eyes are sensitive to bright light in the mini-series (hence the sunglasses and visors for guards and shock troopers) but this becomes hit-and-mis in the series.
-       Considering she is responsible for the attempted genocide of the human race (and certainly the death and disappearence of thousands, maybe millions, of people), suprisingly few people turn up to protest outside Diana's trial. 
-       No reference is made to the fate of all the humans contained in the holds of the fleet after the retreat. 
-       Realistically, Earth would be devestated after the alien retreat: Governments, politicians, businessmen and leaders “converted” during the invasion would find themselves without instruction and accused of colaboration by the population.  The systermatic targeting of the scientific community would leave the planet without its greatest scientific minds, essential for rebuilding, analysing captured alien tech and devising a longer-term defence against re-invasion.  The economy, if functioning at all, would be badly disrupted.   
-       Earth's population (and water supplies) would be severly depleated by the actions of the Visitors and yet it appears to be business-as-usual after only a year.
-   All the Visitors suddenly loose, without explanation, the distinctive reverb in their voices.  Fans have speculated that this is a result of prolonged exposure to Earth's atmosphere.  The change was, of course, to shave a few dollars off the post-production costs.
-   The studio never created an official translation of the Visitors' language or written symbols although the fan-produced VISITOR TECHNICAL MANUAL does a good job of creating one largely consistent with its use on-screen.
-       Liberation Day's memorable effects shot of the alien fleet hiding behind the moon was achieved using models (the 30-inch Saucer in the foreground, newly built smaller ships behind and a 36-inch model of the moon's surface) because there wasn't the money in the budget for optical compositing.
-   This first episode is designed so that it can be edited together with the second episode, Dreadnaught, to form a TV movie.
-   The weekly series is known as V: THE SERIES to distinguish it from the previous mini-series.  NBC's contemporary publicity also used that title (as have subsequent VHS and DVD releases) but, on screen, it's simply: V.
-   V: THE SERIES is not to be confused with the ABC revival which, despite being based on Kenneth Johnson's original mini-series (and featuring Jane Badler as an alien called Diana in the second season), is not a continuation of the eighties version.
-   In common with the rest of the weekly series, Liberation Day has no on-screen title.  Various contemporary publications, including THE V-FILES and STARLOG, concocted their own.  one alternative title, The Pursuit of Diana, comes from the novel.  Both are set after the events of THE FINAL BATTLE but follow divergent paths.
-   The official story titles come from the VHS and DVD releases.
-   Creator Kenneth Johnson, who resigned while THE FINAL BATTLE was in pre-production, retains a credit on the weekly series but had nothing to do with its production.  He has stated in interviews that, at some point, he was offered the chance to return to the series and (hopefully) reverse its decline.  He declined.
-   The possibility of a weekly series was first mooted after the original mini-series became an unexpected hit.  Johnson rejected the idea, believing it would be impossible to replicate the ambitious mini-series on the budget and timetable of a weekly drama.  Another suggestion, favoured by Johnson, was a series of irregularly-scheduled TV movies.  These would have benefited from larger budgets, extended shooting schedules, increased promotion and the possibility of overseas theatrical or (more likely) VHS releases.  NBC would have been able to schedule them strategically for maximum ratings.  The second mini-series was the compromise solution and its success led to the weekly series being given the green light.
-   Warner Brothers and NBC intended the weekly series for a wider, and younger, audience than the mini-series.  Hence the move towards more simplistic storytelling (becoming an SF hybrid of DYNASTY and THE A-TEAM).  Warner Brothers heavily licensed the series to merchandisers although some of these deals (such as for action figures and vehicles, which were advertised in some toy catalogues) were swiftly nixed when the show failed to hit early ratings targets.
-   Despite the younger target audience, the UK's ITV network scheduled the weekly series in late-night slots.  This may have been a reflection of the mini-series' adult tone or, possibly, dissatisfaction with the quality of the delivered episodes.
-   DC Comics' (another Warner Brothers subsidiary) monthly comic book and the series of original novels (mostly) take place within the timeframe of the series.  Both begin with a thin grasp of the series format and characters as writing had to begin while planning for the series was still at an early stage.  The comic attempted to weave its stories within the TV continuity (eventually settling for an extended run of stories set between episodes 18 and 19) whilst the novels largely abandoned the TV characters in favour of other resistance groups operating during the second invasion.
-   Despite having budgets significantly smaller than its predecessors, the weekly series is still said to have been exceedingly costly to produce, leaving Warner Brothers with a significant deficit.  The painfully obvious budget cuts in the final weeks were obviously an attempt to reduce those losses to an absolute minimum whilst the show awaited cancellation.

1 comment:

  1. Are you God? Thanks for being there.
    From Bilbao (Spain)

    ReplyDelete

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