Hollywood’s relentless strive to stave off originality in favor of rehashing old ideas, whether they were already successful or not, has brought many oddities back to television audiences. This time around we have the singular character titled show, “V,” about aliens that do away with the mystery and suspense as first contact has so often been depicted and simply come right and say “We’re here and we’re que- quite happy to meet you!” V, explained within the show as being short for Visitor in reference to the aliens, not only comes from an show that ran for only a year, but that was even spawned by two preceding mini-series. Oddly, the mini-series are heralded as the better ventures, while the 1984-1985 TV show is generally regarded as unnecessary and vastly inferior – especially since the mini-series had already wrapped up the storyline. So, the question is, did they really need to visit again?
They arriVe. Earth’s first alien encounter begins when huge motherships appear over 29 major cities. The visitors – the Vs – are human-like beings who know our languages and bring awesome gifts of healing and technology. People everywhere welcome them as saviors. But a fledgling resistance is on the rise, determined to reveal the shocking truth. Among the underground cadre: an FBI Counter Terrorism Agent who uncovers a terror cell no one ever expected…and finds that her teenage son is drawn to the beauty and promise of the Vs. Get in the know with the amazing first season of the series that combines sci-fi thrills with the uncertainties of the post-9/11 world. Here. Now. AdVenture begins.
Taking absolutely no time to potentially lure people into a suspenseful buildup, the V’s are immediately introduced at the start of the show. This is both good, and bad, as it’s something of a refresher to not have to be hit over the head with the idea that something mysterious is going on even though we know exactly what it is. However, it’s also bad in the sense that we don’t really get to see much normality with our main characters to show how much the Visitors’ arrival will force changes in them. Instead we solely get to know their reactive, paranoid and skeptical natures which gets really aggravating pretty quickly. The most notorious of which is our main-est character, FBI Agent Erica Evans. Played by “Lost” alumni, or Mrs. Claus from the despicable Santa Clause sequels, Elizabeth Mitchell. They take no time in creating an air of paranoia with her towards the Visitors, seemingly as a counter-reaction towards the open arms acceptance of the populace – except that there really isn’t. Although there is shown acceptance towards the Visitors, there is plenty of skepticism shown at first as well from several other sources, leaving Erica Evans to come across as ridiculously paranoid towards them and looking for any excuse to out them which ultimately makes it difficult to take her as an FBI Agent.
The rest of the cast barely stand out as anyone of interest, throughout the season they’re pretty much simply presented as bumbling fools that are getting lucky from the V’s incompetence or convenient inside-friendlies. The only two that bring any sort of worthwhile performance to the season are Morena Baccarin, formerly of “FireFly” and “Stargate SG-1,” as Anna and her unofficial opponent, Reporter Chad Decker, played by Scott Wolf. Try to not be distracted by how much he looks like Michael J. Fox in his prime. I say without much hesitation that the best dialogue throughout the season takes place between their intellectual sparring, but eventually there gets to be far too little of it. My only complaint about either of these two is that Morena Baccarin seems poorly directed as she sometimes comes across as though she’s simply winging it. Normally I would simply suspect that she’s incapable of playing a villain, but her role as the villainess Adira in “Stargate SG-1” was pretty much the only decent thing to come out of Stargate’s Ori arc.
The dialogue isn’t the only bit of writing that’s a letdown, of course, the writing as a whole is generally disappointing throughout the season. I actually watched the season as it aired rather than being introduced via DVD, so I had to deal with it going on a long hiatus after merely four episodes had aired in 2009. None of those four episodes had managed to show or do anything that left me compelled to watch the rest of the season, it was purely out of curiosity once I realized it had returned months later. The majority of the season kept the pace of those first four episodes, keeping a very dull and predictable pace through its attempts at shocking twists – most of which felt as though they were created at the last minute. Consistency throughout the season felt lazy, especially the few times when the characters actually caught a break and it was either conveniently explained or just dealt with in possibly the stupidest way. The most atrocious example I can think of would be Erica Evans’ successful kill of a V which would have given their movement undeniable evidence – but she had it destroyed without anyone opposing the idea. Needless to say, I was shocked that this show was renewed.
Aided further in its disappointment was a lackluster attempt at special effects. It seems as though the majority of the season’s effect budget went into designing the ship and the shots of it above the city, since nothing else ever feels as though it belongs. Even the interior of the V’s ship frequently feels as though they would have been better off with matte paintings. The only redemption in the special effects can really be found with the few instances that we see what the V’s really are underneath their human skin. Although when this is handled with CGI, such as the case of Anna baring her fangs, it’s completely ridiculous looking.
Overall, the series comes across just like another sci-fi show that ABC had running at the time. FlashForward. Both of these shows have incredible concepts to work off of, immediately fulfilling both with potential to become something very exciting. They both failed horribly and, as I said, I have no idea how V was renewed. Its dull attempt at mystery and danger will simply leave you looking for something else to watch. I would say skip it, but if you’re a fan of Morena Baccarin then I say it’s a Rental, at best.
V’s first season arrives on Blu-ray in a standard elite triple disc Blu-ray case housed inside a slipcase which mimics the artwork that accompanies the jacket. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and are in the usual WHV style. Though the fate of the show is still kind of unknown, you definitely can’t put down Warner for presenting it with a little bit of style—the blood red V against an otherwise blue-hued backdrop is definitely very dramatic looking.
Video arrives in the form of a VC-1 encoded transfer that is quite nice to look at. It’s not a flawless transfer as there are a few moments of softness and off skin color segments but by and large the transfer is really terrific. The close-up shots of clothing or faces are fantastic to look at (especially since the show is filled with so many pretty faces—close-ups of Baccarin and Vandervoort are never unwelcome, although Baccarin’s alien face isn’t really all that appealing) and even the shows overly smooth looking CGI manages to look quite nice.
Sadly the niceness doesn’t follow over with the audio as we once again get a standard DD5.1 mix. It’s not really a knock against the sound mix as it sounds fine and does its job, but it just seems a bit of a waste of the Blu-ray format to be continually releasing TV shows on Blu-ray with non-HD audio. That’s kind of the other half of the Blu-ray coin and it’s rather disappointing that they just keep doing it. You’d think they’d realize that they’re really the only major studio still doing such shenanigans, but…whatever. I guess it must be cheaper for them or something.
• The Visual FX of V Featurette
• The Actor’s Journey Featurette
• An Alien in Human Skin: The Makeup FX of V Featurette
• Commentary on Episode 11, “Fruition”
All total there’s over an hours worth of extras (each of the featurettes run about 16 to 17 minutes) and factoring in the commentary gives you nearly two. This sounds like a lot but it still feels…less than impressive. I think it all boils down to commentary tracks anymore (that or big and fancy Blu-ray visual extras) and with there being only one the overall focus on individual episodes is gone. There’s still some nice stuff to be had in the featurettes, but they all focus more on the production of the show rather than what went into the storyline for the season.
Overall a release worth a Rental if you’re unsure about the series.
V – The Complete First Season is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Season review by Andrew
Blu-ray review by Zach Demeter