|The Visitors are not our friends, as the V saga continues. All images: WARNER BROTHERS.|
Bringing those hungry and determined reptilian Visitors back to wage conflict against Earth, however, would be a worthy and difficult challenge that had to be remedied and solved in a very few scant months before production was to begin for a late 1984 air-date premiere, but Blatt and Singer, custodians of the V flame since the unwarranted removal by NBC/WARNERS of its original creator, respected TV veteran Kenneth Johnson, would quickly assemble a solid team of scripters/producers to work out a new and viewer accessible format. In Hollywood, for good or bad, anything is possible and you can never say, never again!
|The alien fleet remains hidden behind the Moon, waiting to return...|
V’s inevitable third outing, soon heralded in the media to an intrigued TV audience eager to see what was next on the cards for their favourite heroes and villains, would mean that the mini-series original story format of the arriving aliens subjugating Humanity, at first in secret and then as a totalitarian regime similar in allegory to the Nazis and the Jewish holocaust, couldn’t be a done a second time, whilst their return in a full on war/invasion footing would prove just too costly at that time to realize on a weekly TV series production budget (with the producers not wanting to disappoint viewers with something of such an epic scope that they just couldn’t deliver). Instead an intriguing compromise would be delivered that would showcase the best of both dramatic worlds and echo back to a familiar real-life situation that took place during World War II, and now given a sci-fi re-vamp. The Red Dust bacteria developed by the Human Resistance at the end of the second mini-series, seemingly believed harmless to our kind, and previously used to send the Visitors back into deep space, would no longer prove to be fully effective, instead becoming life-threateningly dangerous to the Human race if it were to ever be re-used again in such large doses within the Earth’s atmosphere. Adding further complications, the dust only continues to work and thrive in colder regions of the planet, resulting in the new series format conveniently making the majority of Earth safe to re-invade, with the Visitors soon back on the war path and taking over the majority of America, though the crucial city of Los Angeles soon holds its own with the introduction of a new character, scientist/industrialist Nathan Bates. Having stupidly released a once captured Diana (held on Earth for war crimes trials), who has escaped back to her returning fleet, he bluffs her plans of revenge by threatening to re-use the Red Dust and, in special agreement with the alien leader, turns Los Angeles into an Open City, much like Lisbon had been in the 1940’s: a place where Humans and Visitors will exist side by side and not be allowed to bear arms against each other. In the early days of the series format, this was a bid by Bates to buy time to create a new defense-a new Red Dust- against the Visitors, with help from his (so called) ex-Resistance fighter scientific chief, Dr. Juliet Parrish. In the meantime, the once dis-banded Los Angeles Resistance, though smaller in numbers, is soon re-activated by Mike Donovan and Ham Tyler, who, working with Juliet, begin their heroism anew from a secret hideout underneath a popular restaurant and nightclub-Club Creole-in a weekly series scenario which was not too unlike the kind of drama seen in the Humphrey Bogart flick CASABLANCA, though mixed with sci-fi and action.
|Faye Grant, Marc Singer and Jane Badler pose with an alien Visitor shock trooper in an early promotional image taken for the second mini-series.|
This new format, developed in an effective and budget conscious way over the first two episodes by Supervising Producer Steven E. de Souza, soon a respected action/film screenwriter whose later credits would include hits like DIE HARD and THE RUNNING MAN, and which was designed to make fine use of many of the two mini-series costly standing sets (like the sprawling corridors and bridge of the alien Mothership) and parts of the WARNER BROTHERS outdoor back lot and other nearby studios, would prove a terrific set-up for the series. The sci-fi/action ingredients that had been a firm staple of the series would remain, but, for most of the time, would be realized in a much more down-to-earth way; more like a hybrid of sci-fi and generic stunt work of the variety seen in the likes of then eighties TV favourites like THE A-TEAM and other Stephen J. Cannell/Glen A. Larson type series (car and bike chases, horse riding chases, etc. Nothing for the viewing time-slot that would show our heroes seriously injured, whilst the Visitors could be killed ad hoc!) which would help make the action affordable and cut down on the kind of heavy visual effects requirements that had been previously used in the mini-series (for example, in those days before CGI, it would cost $600 to create and add an optical laserblast hand drawn cell onto a single film-imagine a major five minute action sequence where people are firing well over thirty of forty lasers at each other. The costs would quickly mount up! Thus laser battle opticals, whilst continuing to play an important part of the series action, would be tightly controlled and used sparingly (another primary reason why the Resistance constantly used machine guns against their adversaries with only the core group of heroes using laser weapons from time to time)). Generic effects shots from the previous series would also be re-used where necessary, especially in the early episodes related to the Visitors attack on Los Angeles (which even incorporated city-on-fire material from the classic 1950’s movie WAR OF THE WORLDS-a move that upset V fans and TV fans in general at the time…) but there would be the odd occasional new sequence required, handled by the impressive low budget whizz-kids at the then DREAM QUEST IMAGES facility (their pull back end shot for the episode one finale, showing the alien fleet hiding behind the moon ready to strike back, would garner a rousing cheer from TV executives watching an original sneak peak of the opening episode and rushes prior to its premiere transmission).
|At Malibu, Marc Singer and Faye Grant get ready to film a big action scene for the episode VISITOR'S CHOICE.|
In the US the new series would be shown every Friday in a 8pm (some regions 7pm) evening family time slot for its premiere run beginning October 26th 1984, a scheduling mistake which would soon hurt the show further with regards to what action and violence could be seen in the series, where it would be toned down a lot from what had been seen in the overall later time-slots of the original two mini-series, and seeing the upcoming show now constantly under the mercy of then TV standards people, resulting in fantastic, well choreographed and tough adventure sequences, both physical and of the laser battle kind, either cut-down from their original length, re-filmed or aborted. One memorable episode, VISITOR’S CHOICE, would end with Mike, Julie and Ham smashing their way out of an about to explode Visitor stronghold and fighting a heavy amount of alien soldiers whilst doing so. On screen, the finished sequence was an exciting one, filmed at nighttime within a Malibu hill-top mansion estate, but this was nothing compared to the original version of what had been filmed over several days, which, recalled by the principal stars of the time, had proved even more action-packed and exciting, and now, due to censorship and violence concerns, had been cut down to the barest bones.
|Despite a reduction in violence and alien make-up, the occasional effective horror imagery would still pop up, as seen with this murdered Visitor guard, in stories like REFLECTIONS IN TERROR.|
The series originally shot third episode, BREAKOUT, which saw Ham and Donovan captured and sent to an outdoor prison camp guarded by vicious alien shark/piranha-like creatures called Crivits, was quickly pulled from the original transmission run in the US due to concerns that the episode was too adult for the time-slot, resulting in Episode Four, THE DECEPTION, having to be quickly revised to become the new replacement episode three, with some new additional material filmed to introduce Kyle Bates, who had first appeared in BREAKOUT as a detainee in the prison camp who manages to escape concurrently to Donovan and Tyler’s group. It wouldn’t be until a year later (May 24th 1985) that US viewers would finally see BREAKOUT, when it was aired with a minimum amount of fuss in the shows first batch of re-runs…
|The old and new cast of V: THE SERIES assemble.|
Beyond the formats and action, one of the other priority successes of the original two mini-series was due to its intriguingly diverse ensemble cast of flawed and fascinating heroes and villains, and attempts were made to get as any of the much liked original cast as possible back on board for the weekly series. Some were more necessary than others to have and not all of the popular characters/cast returned-some not being available (committed to other film and TV projects) or unwilling to return because they believed that a weekly series of such a strong concept might be diluted or weakened on a smaller, less grand production budget-that it couldn’t be done the justice it deserved, from the original idea that had been so well conceived by Kenneth Johnson. Amongst those concerned in the latter category were Jason Bernard (who played the older Resistance fighter Caleb Taylor) and popular character actor Michael Durrell, who would return in the important role of Dr. Robert Maxwell- whose once precocious daughter Robin (once more played by Blair Tefkin) had fallen fowl to a young Visitor and would give birth to a very special and unique human/alien hybrid named Elizabeth- but only on the condition that his role could be written out after several episodes, with Robert ultimately sacrificing himself to save his friends.
|Mini series hero Mike Donovan (Marc Singer) would return....|
|...as would scientist turned Resistance leader Dr. Juliet Parrish (Faye Grant)|
|Together again for the series, though their characters romantic relationship seemed to have cooled a little.|
|Blair Tefkin would return for the complex role of Robin Maxwell.|
|Alien bartender! Robert Englund returns as the friendly alien, Willie.|
|Inside the Club Creole, Elias Taylor (Michael Wright) checks the sales figures with Ham and Willie in this fun promotional image for the series.|
Its not everyday in the Hollywood system that you get a chance to be in a phenomenally successful series like V-one which could also prove to be a possible springboard for a further great TV and film career, so the majority of main cast actors from the mini-series were more than happy to resume playing their parts in the quick time necessary, including Marc Singer as news cameraman/reporter turned key Resistance leader, Mike Donovan, the young and lovely Faye Grant as Dr. Juliet Parrish, Donovan’s now –ex-love, working as a scientist for Nathan Bates and also acting as a spy for the Resistance, Michael Wright as ex-street hood turned Resistance fighter come Nightclub/restaurant host, Elias Taylor, lovable Visitor good guy Willie, once more played with a charming and likable style by Freddie Krueger –to-be Robert Englund, and Blair Tefkin as the emotionally vulnerable Robin Maxwell. Tefkin, now a talented singer and musician, was the young actress who probably had one of the most difficult roles to play on the series, whose characters unexpected teenage pregnancy in the two mini-series came with an alien twist, as she became an experimental tool used by Diana to create the aforementioned alien hybrid. Having been a critical element of the second mini-series, in particular, and her tense relationship with the surviving members of her family over the babies to come (the first having died a short time after delivery but providing the genetic make-up to defeat the Visitors in the first battle), a lot more could have been done with her character over time and it’s a shame we didn’t see her undertake some kind of revenge against Diana for everything that happened to her previously. Robin had been a little bit spoilt brat-ish at first, but, having been separated from her daughter Elizabeth in the earliest episodes, she soon establishes a maturing relationship with her (especially as they are now of a similar age!) and becomes a valued member of the Human resistance cause towards the end of the first twelve episodes.
|Michael Ironside as Ham Tyler, as the character appeared in the second mini-series.|
|An unlikely pairing. Tyler and Donovan pose for a series promotional image.|
One of the characters who had proved immensely popular in the second mini-series and had to return was Canadian film actor Michael Ironside, then carving out a great career playing psychos and bad men of all kinds, here playing the classic heroic but often renegade ex-CIA agent Clarence Hamilton Tyler (“Ham” Tyler for short). Ironside, with his great voice, bad-ass body language and overall air of anti-hero menace, alongside the characters sheer presence would soon give the V weekly series a helluva lot of weight and popularity with viewers, giving the show the vital edginess it needed against what, enjoyable though there were, would prove to be a lot of comic book/MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE style adventures made for family audiences.
|Adding new drama to the series would be Kyle Bates (Jeff Yagher) and his businessman father, Nathan (Lane Smith)|
Amongst the returning favourites were several new characters designed to take the story into its next dramatic steps, often providing intriguing dramatic counter-points to the main plots. With a fine acting career playing crooked businessman, politicians and deep south bigots, Lane Smith would bring some fine character weight as Nathan Bates, at first a businessman and head of the Science Frontiers research facility (who, off-screen, had been in charge in replicating the Red Dust anti-toxin against the Visitors in the second mini-series), until the second arrival of the aliens saw him becoming de-facto protector of Los Angeles as an Open City, who would become more corrupt and power hungry over the series run, until his powerful ambitions and desire to crush the Resistance would prove to be his downfall, turning him into an almost cigar chomping Mafia-Don type figure. Like Darth Vader in RETURN OF THE JEDI, though, he eventually gets to show a little redemption towards the end of his story arc with regards to his estranged son, Kyle, and trying to stop the Visitors (though a scene in which Nathan gives Kyle his pulseometer trigger for a secret stash of Red Dust canisters was sadly cut out from Episode Twelve prior to transmission). Southern gentleman Smith, sadly no longer with us, was soon a much liked new cast member on V and would later appear in another of Producer Robert Singer’s series, as Boss of the DAILY PLANET newspaper, Perry White, in LOIS AND CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN.
|Jeff Yagher as Kyle Bates in a very early promotional image for the series.|
Playing the important role of the aforementioned estranged and embittered millionaires son, Kyle, was Jeff Yagher, whose young character also had the important responsibility of protecting, as well as being involved in a romantic relationship, with the new incarnation of Star Child Elizabeth Maxwell (as played by the relative TV newcomer Jennifer Cooke). Kyle and Elizabeth’s emotionally gentle relationship may have been a bit yucky to some at first, but I thought it was rather nicely handled and the handsome couple had chemistry together, soon making a fine impression on the series and, having been designed and created for the new family audience time-slot anyway, swiftly becoming a central part of the shows new success with faithful fans and viewers. With his hatred of his father, whose all-consuming ambitions were gaining further foothold, Kyle would also become a kind of protégé of Ham Tyler against him. (Tyler despising his “old man” in equal measure after Nathan betrayed him and ordered his assassination in the series opening episodes).
|The early part of the weekly series would focus on Diana's quest to capture the new incarnation of the Star Child, Elizabeth Maxwell (played by Jennifer Cooke)|
|A dangerous clone of Elizabeth comes face to face with a Visitor Tracker, Laird (Anthony James), in REFLECTIONS IN TERROR.|
It had been quickly decided by the production team that the child version of Elizabeth Maxwell, as originally played by Jenny Beck (later to be well known as one of the main series leads in Jane Seymour’s long running DOCTOR QUINN: MEDICINE WOMAN) would undergo a strange and frightening transmogrification into a young woman -a move that wouldn’t confuse viewers as she had already undergone rapid growth acceleration in the earlier mini-series- with the girls relative eight year old emotional skills soon making way to the abilities and thought processes of a lovely young woman who soon has powers beyond any normal human or Visitor (and handy for the scriptwriters to get out of any scrapes along the way, too!)-the Star Child-who develops a stronger relationship not only with her mother, but also with her other protectors, Julie Parrish and Visitor exile Willie, the latter becoming an unlikely kind of spirited mentor to her. A subplot linking her to a kind of quasi Jedi/The Force-like exiled Visitor alien named Xon, whose cult-like religion had been outlawed by the Visitors leader, came to prominence in early episodes but soon disappeared as the series reached its mid-point, never to be fully explored. Some of the alien Fifth columnists, who would aide the Human resistance, would also share the same Xon worship and beliefs for peace (including the generally pacifist Willie).
|A new alien threat comes from British actress June Chadwick as Lydia, in this early promotional image showing the actress in a different costume to what she would eventually wear in the series.|
|Another early series advance promo image of Lydia with Diana.|
Beyond Nathan Bates, an antagonist of a different kind was also needed in outer space, too. With the introduction of a rival command officer to Diana in the second mini-series (Pamela, as played by the English actress Sarah Douglas) having proved a big success, it was decided that Diana, now the ultimate TV villainess, having previously shot and killed her nemesis, needed a new foil to interact and throw her claws at each week. Enter: Security Commander Lydia, a clever and resourceful individual who had taken command of the alien fleet after its retreat from Earth, and who was, in many ways, as tough and dangerous as her superior officer. Played by lovely actress/model June Chadwick from Episode Two onwards, at first the shows producers wanted her to play the part without a British accent, having wanted an American actress, but soon realized that the new role worked much better with Chadwick’s natural voice, so they allowed her to keep it on the series. Lydia and Diana, now wearing modified, more slinky looking versions of their military costumes, soon proved an intriguing pair, each power mad and trying to get one upmanship on the other in impressing their distant alien leader within the first batch of episodes (later on would come an assassination attempt and a duel to the death between the pair). Off-screen Chadwick and Jane Badler were the complete opposite to their on-screen characters: the closest of friends often giggling and up to zany things together off-set. Changes to the aliens on screen realization, in general, would also continue with regards to the way they spoke, as budget cuts forced the abandoning of the mini-series prior post-processing voice pitch shifts of the Visitors whenever they communicated, which had made them sound more alien. The disappearance of our baddies unique “sound” would quickly be noticed and remarked upon by viewers.
|Veteran US newsreader Howard K. Smith gives us a weekly status of the alien invasion.|
Wanting to keep viewers informed of what was going on with the war outside of Los Angeles neutral city, the producers had the inspiring idea of opening each of the shows episodes, from three to thirteen (though its appearance in episode four, THE DECEPTION, was cut for reasons unknown from the final transmitted episode (probably due to timing)), with a specially shot news broadcast. Airing via the fictitious FREEDOM NETWORK channel, the legendary American newsreader Howard K. Smith, then retired from the TV news journalist industry, would inform viewers of the state of the war across the planet, from places all around ranging from Israel, China, Spain and Land’s End in Scotland, as well as other places in America (like Texas, where even the sacred Alamo would be blown up in fighting the aliens!). The new shorts would also give out regular bravery citations, some posthumously, to the brave human heroes each week who, from all walks of life, would make a difference against the Visitors (a lot of the people shown in representative pictures were normally behind the scenes people who worked on the show: a fun in-joke).
Opening titles episodes one to thirteen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGcZz-KvtyE&feature=related
|A Visitor shuttle flies over Los Angeles, in a scene often re-used in the weekly series.|
As the pre-production work gave way to full production, talented writers joining the show included experienced veterans like creative consultant Paul Monash (who adapted the excellent Tobe Hooper directed SALEM’S LOT for WARNER BROTHERS), David Abramowitz (who, after V, would go onto work on the popular HIGHLANDER series), David Braff, Brian Taggert (who also worked on scripting duties for the second mini-series and was a good friend of actor Michael Ironside) and Producer Garner Simmons, who, as well as being a strong line producer, proved himself an interesting writer with his story arc-evolving work on episodes like THE DECEPTION and the crucial series mid-pointer: THE RESCUE. Directors would include Gilbert Shelton, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE’s famous ex-editor Paul Krasny (who helmed the first two episodes and set the shows style), Ray Austin (acclaimed ex-stuntman and top British director, now emigrated to the US, whose stylish visual flair had been seen in some of the hit UK shows of the sixties and seventies like SPACE: 1999 and THE AVENGERS), and Cliff Bole (who would go on to do episodes of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION and THE X-FILES).
|Donovan takes on the evil Klaaus the Exterminator (Thomas Callaway), in a specially posed publicity shot for the episode THE SANCTION.|
With his impressive work on part of the second mini-series, composer Dennis McCarthy (later to be most well known for his work on the modern STAR TREK series) would also return for the series and have full control musically and artistically with the series overall incidental music, which is full of his typical but memorable mid-eighties adventurous and romantic material for the episodes, of which the composer would also create several stirring character themes and its two memorable title sequence music: the first, for episodes one to thirteen, being the most fondly remembered.
|Flanked by other senior Visitor officers, the always visually impressive Sybil Danning guests on V as the evil Mary Kruger in VISITOR'S CHOICE.|
To bring in the cult sci-fi fans of the eighties, attempts were made to bring in famous faces to keep the show popular, including the sadly one-off appearance of the beautifully statuesque and well endowed Swedish sci-fi actress, nay goddess, Sybil Danning, in the enjoyable action packed episode VISITOR’S CHOICE, playing the alien scientist Mary Kruger, who has developed an horrific new way to freeze dry and package human beings as a food source for the inhabitants of their dying planet in the Sirius system. The ultimate cruel duo, Danning would work well with Jane Badler in what scenes they shared.
|Film-maker and actor Nick Katt makes a youthful TV appearance as Mike Donovan's son, Sean, in two early episodes of the series.|
Other fine guest stars would include Bruce Davison as treacherous spy John Langley (bought in by Diana to re-impregnate Robin Maxwell with another Star Child), Robert Ellenstein, Linden Chiles (whose role in the series second episode was sadly largely relegated to the cutting room floor), Chad McQueen (son of King of Cool film icon Steve McQueen), 24/NIKITA star Xander Berkeley, John McLiam, Thomas Callaway, actor/film-maker Nick Katt in two episodes as Donovan’s brainwashed son, Sean (the character having appeared in the previous two mini-series, but played by a younger actor), and LOST’s Brett Cullen.
|The American TV GUIDE inside promo for the new series launch.|
Despite a promising start, the fast turnaround rush of a weekly series-to get the show on air to meet regular air-dates- meant that the series, despite being enjoyable and daring in certain areas of story-telling, never quite got the chance to really develop its arcs with as much depth as they could have had, and the constant battle with the networks as to how far it could go in the drama and action stakes continued. Thankfully, V: THE SERIES did manage to get a bit more darker edged and tough as it went on, as the war slowly continued to go in the Visitors favour. Having been slightly toned down as an anti-hero, Ham Tyler, much to fans delight, was the character who was the most well-utilized in the series, as writers really latched on to and enjoyed writing for the morally shaded Resistance fighter, plus the antagonism he showed towards friends and foes, and clearly giving him the majority of the best lines and moments in those first twelve episodes. Originally well partnered in a chalk and cheese relationship with Mike Donovan (played by Marc Singer, whom Ironside would nickname off-set “The Antelope” because of his intense athletic and overall physical dexterity), Ham was eventually re-united for several episodes towards the end of the mid-season run with actor/stuntman Mickey Jones as his ex-CIA partner from the second mini-series, Chris Farber.
|Chris Farber (Mickey Jones) returns to help Ham Tyler.|
|The manipulative alien commander Charles (Duncan Regehr) joins the series at the mid-way point for four episodes.|
Adding another dramatic element to the series at its mid-way point would be the introduction of another new high up the chain Visitor war commander, the enigmatic, highly ambitious and dangerous tactician Charles, played by Duncan Regehr, whose character, through good looks and sexual charisma, has advanced to the top of the tree and has been sent by the Leader to Earth to win the War and take over from Diana. His un-nerving arrival soon leads to a triadic battle of nerves and one upmanship between Charles, Diana and Lydia, as well as a bit of bed hopping at the same time! Eventually both “ladies” realize they are being manipulated by Charles and individually plan their revenge…
|Is this the true face of Diana? A scene from THE SANCTION.|
With the first thirteen contracted episodes, changes were in the air as ratings had declined by the mid-point. The series, despite getting into its creative stride and now effectively using its ensemble cast (and which had already bravely, and story realistically, killed off several popular characters, including Michael Wright as Elias Taylor), was suffering. NBC would prove willing to order an additional six episodes (which had to come in even cheaper in production costs, despite the fact that, five episodes into the weekly series making, the company had already slashed $250,000 a week from each episodes previous $1.1 million budget), and, if ratings picked up in its new time-slot to come, more episode orders would follow. By show thirteen, the writers and producers decided that a major format shake-up was necessary, with the Open City agreement now on tatters following Nathan Bates death and the Visitors seizing their best opportunity to conquer, laying almost waste to Los Angeles in a surprise attack, and forcing the Resistance out of their now destroyed Club Creole underground hide-out and into the wilderness of the California hills.
|Michael Ironside makes a sad departure in the closing scenes of THE BETRAYAL.|
Making things even more depressing for fans would be the soon announced departure of Michael Ironside from the series. As the principal actor who gave the show its life, V never really recovered from his loss (despite his affection for the show and the character, the in-demand actor, having lost out on several noteworthy film offers due to his commitments to V, was becoming unsettled and wanted to return back to the big screen, eventually going on to appear in such blockbusters as TOP GUN, TOTAL RECALL and STARSHIP TROOPERS. He would later to return to TV as the lead in the re-vamped third season of SEAQUEST DSV). Perhaps hoping that Ironside might return to the show at a later date, the character was written out rather than killed off, as Ham, along with Chris Farber and Robin Maxwell, departed at the end of Episode Twelve for the colder climes of Chicago.
Series opening titles episode fourteen to nineteen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0zqtWahEWM
|Judson Scott joins the series as new recurring baddie Lt. James.|
Half the characters had either gone or been phased out-the move having prior started by around episode nine and ten- of which the series now had a revised core group of heroes consisting of Julie, Donovan, Kyle, Elizabeth and Willie. Aiding Lydia, but primarily Diana, would be the re-introduction of popular film and TV sci-fi favourite Judson Scott as Lt. James (having prior appeared in Episode Eleven: THE HERO), planned as a new recurring enemy for Donovan and Julie to fight, who would also be linked in with the sadly intrusive over the top elements of soap opera with the further development of the bitchy relationship between Diana and Lydia on the Visitor’s command Mothership. With the series prior large ensemble cast, the character drama had delicately trod the thin line between serialized adventure and soap-opera for the first twelve episodes of its run, but by the final seven the majority of its episodes had now clearly entered the latter category, with the regular bitchy verbiage between Lydia and Diana now not looking out of place in something like DYNASTY, with Lieutenant James and the later arriving Inspector General, Philip, often caught in the middle (As a side note, this intensifying of the soap-opera-ness was presumably due to the series new and unwelcome time-slot, the last few episodes now competing against J.R Ewing and his gang in the Texan oil soap opera drama, DALLAS. Cue V’s response: Diana in bed hopping mode, as well as her and Lydia wearing various shoulder-padded outfits not too dissimilar to those worn by the female denizens of Southfork Ranch!).
|Series favourite Frank Ashmore returns in his new Visitor guise of Philip.|
By the end of the opening twelve episodes several of the shows producers and writers had left the show, with a smaller core team including Abramowitz, David Braff and Paul F. Edwards now at work, though it was soon becoming clear that V was never going to be the sophisticated show that it wanted to be or could have been. Two “science fiction consultants” were ultimately brought in as replacements to the previous writing staff losses but they didn’t last long, providing very little originality or complex ideas to the series in its final batch. V had now become became a road series for the Resistance in early episodes of the final batch, as they became involved with other groups in adventures outside of war-torn Los Angeles. One positive thing to come from the re-launched six episodes was the re-introduction to the series of mini-series actor Frank Ashmore, sadly not playing the alien Fifth Columnist, now deceased, Martin, but his twin bother, developed “from the same mutual zygote”, Philip, whose introduction from episode fourteen onwards- at first sent to Earth by the illustrious Visitor Leader (whom he considers a trusty advisor) to sort out the murderous relationship between Diana and Lydia (of whom he would outrank both in most command decisions)-certainly appeased those fans in mourning for Martin who had earlier complained most vociferously to the producers about his earlier death in the series opener, slain by Diana for his Red Dust anti- toxin pills. After the enjoyable action packed episode THE LITTLEST DRAGON (easily one of the standouts of the final batch), where Philip and Donovan meet for the time (at first in a duel to the death: Donovan having been framed by Diana for Martin’s death), the Inspector General would soon inherit the position that his brother occupied in the two mini-series, acting as the ultimate Fifth Columnist in helping the Human Resistance, providing key information to help them fight back.
|Lydia grapples with Diana in a fight to the death in THE CHAMPION.|
|Things start to get too soapy with the Visitors by the time of the episode THE SECRET UNDERGROUND.|
Re-united with friend Ashmore (whose contracted return to the series was a marvelous 1984 Christmas present), Jane Badler continued to shine as the bitter and unwilling power sharer Diana, but things were starting to get even more camp, what with the introduction of the most definitely stereotyped gay servant (perhaps the first character of that type in an American sci-fi series?), to both her and Lydia, Oswald played by Peter Elbling, whose addition to the show, presumably done so as to add to the aforementioned soap opera-ish qualities of the alien leaders, proved to this reader, and I’m sure a lot of the viewing audience, a big mistake…
More apparent than ever, the final episodes (which had a controversial new title sequence (revised to reflect the remaining cast and changes to the series format, alongside a more subtle theme music from Dennis McCarthy) were looking more and more cash-starved, with very little left to go round on the series production budget, of which the penultimate episode spent most of its time on the Mothership to shave costs, whilst several episodes before that made even further extensive use of very noticeable sets from the outdoor streets/back lots of the Hollywood WARNER BROTHERS lots, and its even older western area (as, you guessed it, an old abandoned movie studio for our heroes to hide in!), looking even more unrealistic than when they first appeared in film and TV series of the fifties and sixties! On the stock footage side, its continual money-saving incorporation-not just effects work but even a dialogue scene from an earlier episode- into the last batch of episodes would get worse over time (particularly in the episode WAR OF ILLUSIONS) and prove even more noticeable, like Donovan’s popular and exciting horseback race against an attacking alien skyfighter from the second mini-series coming into replay in the shows fourteenth episode.
|Marc Singer poses for a fun image with some human skin-less Visitors. Unfortunately, this type of visual humour began to creep slowly into the series, too...|
Additionally, with the expense of the make-up showing the aliens true identities under their human skin, such memorable appearances, already used sparingly in the weekly series, were kept to a sadly even greater minimum in the final run of episodes. By the mid-point, with much more information being given about the aliens-their history, rituals and civilization- by the writers, it was decided that the audience might as well see the aliens in their true guises whilst on the alien Motherships, of which, to save further costs, specially designed and presumably cheaper all in one re-usable reptile face masks were soon being utilized, especially with the extras playing Visitor soldiers and technicians (a similar bulk face mask method having been previously used to mixed success as a cost cutting tool on the sequel PLANET OF THE APES movies of the sixties and early seventies). Sadly, at the same time this move was initiated, an element of unfunny comedy crept into the show around episode nine onwards involving the alien creatures which made it both silly and demeaning to what had prior been a very nasty race of alien aggressors. Similarly, the shock scene from the original mini-series where the Visitors reveal their eating habits would end up being completely over-used, often as a comedy or urgghh moment of the week gimmick during the tail-end of the weekly series.
|A sleek Visitor Starfighter zooms out of the alien Mothership hangar.|
The aforementioned continuing budget cuts imposed by the network/studios cut raw deep into V and what it could achieve as a series, not only with storytelling but also with US TV audiences, previously used to seeing the bigger budget adventure and characterization of the earlier mini-series, who were now clearly noticing the show’s suffering and unhappy with the changes. Viewing figures plummeted even more sharply.
|Malicious to the end, the evil Diana.|
Fortunately, as the main actors and behind the scenes crew soldiered on hoping that the series fortunes would improve, V’s ultimate cliff-hanging finale, airing on March 22nd 1985, would turn out to be an absolute cracker, working well within its tight budgets and restoring some much welcome character based drama within the action for what would be a fine, fast paced cohesion and probably the best overall and most satisfying episode of the shows latter half, as the previously unseen Visitor Leader calls for an unexpected truce with the people of Earth and plans to marry Elizabeth in both a special human/alien peace and unification ceremony. As the first stages of the accord begin, Diana and James, unwilling to give up their reign of terror and power, are determined to wreck the initiative at all cost and, if they cant re-declare war on humanity, ultimately plan to destroy Earth once and for all!
|An early cast shot soon used to promote the series worldwide.|
Despite its soon cancellation woes, the mini-series and its weekly off-spring had only recently started airing overseas, and was proving immensely popular in 1984/85, so much so that Michael Ironside would later recall how fans, whilst he was in Europe, mobbed him in during the shows runs in the eighties, and Badler would soon find herself out on a promotional tour for V in Japan, enjoying her lightning quick trip to the land of the rising sun. In the UK, the original two mini-series garnered incredible ratings when shown on the once singular ITV channel during the summer of 1984, when it was used as a highly successful must-see TV event/ratings weapon against the BBC’s Olympic games coverage. V’s combined two mini-series trounced the BBC every weekday night with ratings from nine to eleven million viewers in its fully networked time slot across the country. It would prove to be one of the most successful US TV sales acquisitions ever for ITV, of which its American films and TV series buyer, Leslie Halliwell, was later to prove shocked and frustrated when the quickly snapped up TV series, shown in June 1985 on the THAMES TV region of ITV, wasn’t transmitted like the earlier mini-series in a fixed day and time-slot across the country. For example, the THAMES region would show the series at 10.30pm on Monday nights in a terrific slot (hoping to capitalize on the prior success with the mini-series the year before), whilst another would show it at a similar or even later time on a Sunday night. The other regions across the country would follow similar patterns resulting in their being no cohesive way for everybody to see the show in its original first run, and not every region showed the entire series, either. For reasons unknown, London THAMES never got to see THE DECEPTION (even though it was credited in the regions TV TIMES magazine that week) but saw BREAKOUT instead, whilst another region would be vice versa. If the show had been fully networked its popularity would probably have been just as strong as the original mini-series viewing figures and may have helped the show get a second season chance/decision from WARNER BROTHERS-years later, it would be successful worldwide sales, particularly in the UK, that would get inferior series like BAYWATCH renewed season after season-and V, even without the bikini babes, was always a much better show!
|V's original creator, Kenneth Johnson, on set for the original 1983 mini-series.|
With the demise of his baby, Kenneth Johnson’s predicted failure of V as a series had been proved correct. He recalled how he had originally been asked to follow on his critic and audience successfully first two part mini-series into a weekly series (of which one script, simply titled EPISODE ONE, dated April 27th 1983, had been written by ALIEN NATION TV series writers Renee and Harry Longstreet, but was ultimately rejected), which he refused to do, instead convincing NBC and WARNER BROTHERS, creatively standing his ground, into making a follow-up second mini-series. Ultimately, with his backer’s greed for quick success and further lucrative advertising profits, Johnson would be removed from his own creation, and what would become V: THE FINAL BATTLE’s ultimate genesis and its following series. Despite late requests by NBC and WARNER BROTHERS to have him return to the weekly series production, in the hope that he might turn things around for the series, Johnson declined the invitations, not impressed with the butchery he thought was being done to his creation and its characters. Brandon Tartikoff would later admit to Johnson that, in hindsight, turning V into a weekly series had indeed proved a mistake and, as its creator had always wanted, it should have been a treated as a series of event TV movies right from the get-go!
Better decision making from the network, couple with a little bit more money and thought spent on it could've helped V: THE SERIES survive to a second year, but alas it was not to be…
Despite its unwarranted cancellation by NBC, rumours would circulate in Hollywood for a year or so that another network, if the series could be done cheaper, might pick V up for a further run, but the expense of rebuilding the shows sets, many of which had been destroyed or damaged in storage at WARNER BROTHERS studios once the series had finished filming, would soon prove too much to bear. An abortive February 28th 1985 re-launch script, titled THE ATTACK, for a new series by series producer/writers David Braff and Paul F. Edwards (from a story by late run Producer Donald R. Boyle), set straight after the events of the finale first season episode, saw our heroes (minus a soon killed off Julie), pursued once more by Diana, now in search of a lost piece of Visitor history (from the aliens prior visitations of Earth’s past)- the Anyx-which may aid them in their efforts to finally remove the enemy threat from their world. Though the script showed some early promise, with effects costs cut down even further, it ultimately never got any backing for production. Two further story idea/continuations by ex-producers Garner Simmons and David Abramowitz would also be conceived in 1986, called V: THE CLOSING CHAPTER, one of which saw the action taken to the alien homeworld, whilst the other was an allegory to South African apartheid, but both concepts garnered little interest from NBC TV. Ultimately, V had proved just too expensive and time-consuming to make- so much so that it apparently almost bankrupted WARNER BROTHERS in its production costs and would result in them not wanting to get their fingers burnt in another ambitious sci-fi project until the talented J. Michael Straczynski turned up with his cheap to realize early CGI world of BABYLON 5. Intriguingly, Straczynksi had had an earlier link to V, having been commissioned by WARNERS a few years prior to B5 to work up a new script that might re-mount the project as a new mini-series or possibly weekly series. Titled V: RE-BIRTH, his 1989 pilot script/ideas, very dark and disturbing to fans of the original series, saw Straczynski’s attempt to get the series back onto a more believable sci-fi track, and would be set several years after the TV series cliff-hanger, with an on the brink of extinction Earth back at war with the aliens. Our resistance heroes have all changed: Julie Parrish has left the Resistance (actress Faye Grant had no desire to return to the series), Mike Donovan has been captured as a war trophy imprisoned/tortured by the Visitors, Willie and Lydia are dead, whilst Elizabeth the Star Child had destroyed herself with the capabilities of a nuclear explosion when Visitor scientists tried to dissect her and learn the secret of her powers. The very popular Ham Tyler, now America’s only real hope, would return to lead a new batch of flawed but heroic resistance fighters against a back in power Diana, though he would bravely die at the end of the pilot as his next generation continued the struggle against the alien foe. With so many of the shows original popular elements and characters now gone, V fans had a bad reaction to the news of the new and ambitious pilot ideas, as did the network who, presumably unsure of how it would come together on screen, passed on it in 1991 for probably similar reasons (as well as cost issues).
|Jane Badler returns as Diana to help promote some fun V merchandise in a mid-eighties promotional advert for STARLOG magazine.|
Repeat runs of the series in the UK and US continued to be popular well into the mid-nineties and early 2000’s (where UK viewers finally got to see the series in a complete run, first on the SKY ONE channel and then on SYFY). A series of popular original V books from reputable authors like Ann Crispin and Howard Weinstein would continue the story of the alien invasions of Earth, some of which were actually written whilst the series was still in its pre-production and filming phase and the majority of these are excellent and well worth reading (Kenneth Johnson would also later continue his original concept of the V saga with the fan controversial THE SECOND GENERATION novel from 2008, based on his aborted television resurrection plans from 2007). There were also a few dolls, some cool posters, a short lived comic run from DC (which was very good), a few storybook/annuals, a bubble gum card set and some other European oddities here and there…if the series had continued I’m sure an even stronger run of merchandise would have emerged and proved just as popular.
With a format- despite the odd glitches and continuity errors here and there- that has always proved compelling (watching it in its original transmission run was always exciting-you never knew who would live or die, or what would happen next in the story), especially with the Nazi allegory, plus some great for their time special effects and memorable heroes and villains, especially Jane Badler’s tour-de-force as the joyously twisted and evil Diana, V: THE SERIES-despite some sloppy critical ridicule over the years for its one and only episodic season-remains a much beloved slice of Eighties American TV history and a sci-fi phenomenon. From the coat tails of its originality and success would come numerous other big and small budget films and TV series of a similar ilk, including such notables as the most obvious INDEPENDENCE DAY, EARTH: FINAL CONFLICT, COWBOYS AND ALIENS and, of course, V’s later re-imagining as a two season running series in 2010/11.
Twenty-seven years later, both the two original mini-series and its one season spin-off remain memorable and nostalgically popular to its die-hard fans and worldwide TV audiences. For the most part, it endures as quality television of the best kind…
And V stills stands for Victory!
KOOL TV’s favourite episodes from V: THE SERIES include:
|Picking up right where the second mini-series left off, Mike Donovan pursues an escaping Diana.|
LIBERATION DAY (Episode One. Also known as THE PURSUIT OF DIANA). On the first anniversary of Humanity’s Liberation Day, the evil Visitor leader/scientist Diana, inadvertently aided by the ambitious businessman/scientist Nathan Bates and his security force led by Ham Tyler, manages to escape her confinement and, despite swift pursuit by Mike Donovan with Tyler, is soon re-united with Visitor forces who have lain hidden in armada strength behind the moon. With the planets Red Dust defense weakened, the new assault by the Visitors on Earth will soon begin!
|With new colleague Lydia, Diana plans the next phase of the invasion of Earth.|
DREADNOUGHT (Episode Two. Also known as THE SCORCHER). As the Visitors wreak havoc across the Earth, Nathan Bates pulls a kind of victory from the jaws of defeat against a revenge-fuelled Diana, but he is unaware that she has a new space weapon, the Particle Beam Tri-Ax, ready to strike. Meanwhile, the re-formed Los Angeles Resistance is determined to capture Diana’s prior grounded Mothership and use it for its superior firepower and technology.
|A suicidal Isaac (Xander Berkeley) falls foul of a deadly Crivit in BREAKOUT.|
BREAKOUT (the original Episode Three) Deep within enemy lines in the town of Ojai, California, so as to rescue his Visitor indoctrinated son, Sean, Donovan, accompanied by Tyler, are captured by the alien menace and sent to an outdoor internment camp surrounded in a sand moat inhabited by lethal alien shark/piranhas called Crivits. Escape from their incarceration becomes even more imperative for the group, which includes a cut off from her daughter Robin Maxwell, with the soon arrival of Diana at the facility, looking to use the also captured son of Nathan Bates, Kyle, as leverage against his father.
|An unwelcome surprise for Ham, Elizabeth and a helmeted Julie in THE DECEPTION.|
THE DECEPTION (alternate Episode Three/Episode Four) Planning to move Elizabeth to the colder, safer climes of New York, Julie, Ham and Kyle (now a member of the Resistance) make their preparations, unaware that Donovan has been captured by Diana, who, using drugs and special hologram technology, is determined to find out the time and place of the helicopter transfer.
|Watched by an unhappy Lydia, Diana tortures scientist Jacob (John McLiam) in THE DISSIDENT.|
THE DISSIDENT (Originally filmed as Episode Six, shown as Episode Eight. Also known as FORCE FIELD OF DOOM) In conjunction with Nathan Bates, Diana erects an impenetrable force field over Los Angeles to stop further Resistance incursions. In response, Tyler and Donovan mount a daring aid on the Mothership so as to capture the alien scientist Jacob (John Ireland), a pacifist who has been forcibly co-erced by Diana into developing the alien technology. As all this is happening, the tense relationship between Diana and Lydia reaches critical mass, and death is soon in the air…
Episode note: the US transmission order of V was thrown out of sync from this episode due to a continuity error during the overall series shooting (what with sequences for many episodes often being shot together in one filming block or out of sequence), with the screening of THE DISSIDENT placed at the time after the episode THE OVERLORD, even though one of the key Visitor characters killed in THE OVERLORD by Diana makes a re-appearance at the end of this episode! For that reason, THE DISSIDENT, despite the error, and its featuring Lydia (when it shouldn’t), must be considered having been set before THE OVERLORD.
|Resistance fighter Barry (Chad McQueen) aides Donovan in VISITOR'S CHOICE.|
|Mary Kruger-known as the Dark Angel of Dallas-demonstrates her new Encapsulator device on a human test subject in a scene cut from VISITOR'S CHOICE.|
VISITOR’S CHOICE (Episode Seven, shown as Episode Six). In an alliance with another smaller Resistance force, Donovan and Julie head to the Playa Del Mar beach resort so as to destroy a critical gathering of Visitor leaders (including Diana) and their vicious new technological plans in processing humans as a food source. Meanwhile, in a munitions raid, Kyle is captured by his father resulting in Elizabeth going AWOL to find him!
|Ham Tyler suffers the alien conversion process initiated by the new arrival, Charles (Duncan Regehr)|
THE CONVERSION (Episode Ten). The newly arrived Visitor commander Charles (Duncan Regehr, clearly enjoying his role in a four episode storyline) is determined to make his mark in the war against Humanity, brainwashing the newly captured Ham Tyler and turning him into a living weapon to be used against Mike Donovan during a prisoner exchange, mediated by Nathan Bates, involving the also captured Kyle Bates for the Resistance snared Lydia. But things don’t necessarily turn out as planned, as the beginning of the end for the Open City agreement enters its first unexpected stages…
|Lydia, Charles, Mister Chiang (Aki Aleong) and Diana await the Resistance surrender in THE HERO.|
THE HERO (Episode Eleven). The Resistance has to protect their name and integrity within Los Angeles when a group of Visitor commandos pretending to be our heroes infiltrate and attack the Science Frontiers facility looking for the critically injured Nathan Bates. In retaliation, and coaxed on by a scheming Charles and Diana, Bates ruthless henchman, Mister Chiang (the always menacing on screen presence of Aki Aleong), rounds up Resistance sympathizer hostages, including Robin Maxwell and investigative reporter John Langley (Bruce Davison), and then quickly orders the unconditional surrender of Mike Donovan!
|John Langley (Bruce Davison) reveals his true self in THE BETRAYAL.|
THE BETRAYAL (Episode Twelve): When Willie is critically wounded after a secret Fifth Column meeting is intercepted, Donovan and Julie recruit a friendly alien doctor to help, who soon informs them that Diana and Charles have been secretly stock-piling heavy laser weaponry and fuel sources into the city for their upcoming invasion. Meanwhile, the truth about “John Langley” is revealed, Nathan Bates makes the ultimate sacrifice for his son, and Kyle gets his just revenge on the traitorous Mister Chiang!
|Aided by the vindictive Angela (Leslie Bevis), Philip begins his search for Donovan in THE LITTLEST DRAGON.|
THE LITTLEST DRAGON (Episode Sixteen): Beginning his mission to find the man who killed his brother, Martin, the recently arrived Visitor Inspector General, Philip, finally corners his prey-Mike Donovan (framed by Diana)- at an abandoned warehouse, as the Resistance fighter, alongside Kyle and Willie, try to help a Fifth Columnist and his pregnant wife escape alien tyranny.
|A new era of peace for our heroes? A scene from the closing moments of series finale, THE RETURN|
THE RETURN (Episode Nineteen. Finale). A terrific start to the final cliffhanger episode sees our heroes cornered and about to be killed when a general ceasefire of hostilities around the planet is suddenly and inexplicably declared by the alien leader of the Visitors. Now, as friend and foe must learn to live with each other in this upcoming new era of unification (in which Elizabeth, against the advice of an upset Kyle, will also marry the Alien Leader), Diana and James are unwilling to let this sickening state of affairs continue, quickly planning the assassination of The Leader and framing the Los Angeles Resistance for the heinous crime…
The original two V mini-series and spin-off weekly series are available on DVD from WARNER BROTHERS. No news yet on a Blu-ray release…
|Jane Badler poses for a famous V pin-up poster in 1985/6. The actress would make a welcome return for the "re-imagined" V series in 2011.|
For more on V check out the excellent YAHOO GROUPS dedicated to the series: LONG LIVE V (http://tv.groups.yahoo.com/group/longlivev/ ) and WE LOVE V (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WeLoveV/?yguid=166785876).
Fan efforts are underway to save the modern day V series from cancellation. Join PROJECT ALICE and give your support to a third series of the re-imagined V here: Project Alice | Facebook