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Welcome to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' potential offerings for the 2009-2010 season. Over the next couple weeks we'll walk you through some of the scripts being shot as pilots with an eye towards a series commitment next season. With that in mind, it's important to remember that a lot can change from the drafts we've seen - rewriting, recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
(written by Scott Peters; 61 pages)
The network's description: No official description has been released.
What did they leave out: Purists will be happy to know the new "V" isn't a really a "Battlestar Galactica"-esque re-imagining, it's more like what if the original 1983 "V's" events took place in 2009. The names are different but most of the character archetypes and themes are essentially the same.
The plot in a nutshell: "Where were you when JFK was assassinated? Where were you on 9/11? Where were you this morning?" ask the opening title cards. The event in question - what appears to be a large earthquake felt across the country. It's what wakes FBI counter-terrorism agent Erica Evans, who finds her teenage son Tyler missing from his room, having snuck out; it's what interrupts Father Jack Lowery as he welcomes his meager flock; it's what jostles Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut), who's picking up an engagement ring to give to his girlfriend, single mom Valerie; and it's what concludes a hotel liaison between cable news host Chad Decker (Scott Wolf) and his latest tryst. The tremors eventually subside to reveal the unthinkable - a two-mile wide alien spaceship that's hovering over downtown Los Angeles... and 28 other cities around the globe. We follow the ensuing panic as our heroes try to find their loved ones and make sense of what just happened. The answer comes soon enough - a giant viewscreen appears beneath each ship revealing Anna (Morena Baccarin), the Visitor Leader... who to everyone's surprise looks like a human woman.
She apologizes - in a voice that features a certain harmonic tone - for the inadvertent destruction their arrival has caused. After all, they've come in peace and are thrilled to have found other intelligent life in the universe. More importantly, they've come with an offer - refill their supplies of water and "a mineral which is common and abundant on Earth" in exchange for some of their medical and technological advances.
The reactions to the "Visitors" (or Vs as the slang quickly becomes) run across the spectrum - from the skeptical Erica ("Visitors are old friends who drop by for a drink.") to the enchanted Tyler ("I'm gonna text the whole school and tell them I was there.") to the unnerved Father Jack ("'We're all God's creatures?' That's how the Vatican explains the existence of aliens?"). For Chad, it's the rush of landing a career making story after charming Anna during the Visitors' first press conference; and for Ryan, it's the shock of hearing from Georgie, a mysterious figure from his past. In the weeks that follow, as the Visitors begin doling out their cures and winning over the world's hearts and minds, each begins their own journey that will presumably drive the series - whether it be Erica and her partner
Dale Maddox looking into extremists calling for a Jihad against the Visitors; Father Jack's disgust with his superiors' quick acceptance of the Visitors as part of God's plan; Tyler's growing obsession with knowing about our alien friends, especially after landing tickets to tour the mothership; Chad being tapped as the Visitors go to person in the media... as long as he keeps a positive spin on things; or Ryan being pressured by his old friends for help. It ultimately sets them on a collision course with each other - one that sparks surprise revelations about the Vs (and some of the aforementioned cast), revelations that spark a revolution.
What works: To its credit, Scott Peters's "V" tries to cover in an hour what the original mini-series had a lot more time to do. Sure the cut corners leave less room for the characters to breathe (more on this in a second) but all the old archetypes are there - in short, Anna is basically the old Diana (manipulative queen), Erica is Michael Donovan (our way into the show), Ryan is Willie (the good guy alien who wants to stop what his kind is doing), Chad is Kristine Walsh (their ambition trumps their integrity), Tyler is Daniel Bernstein (teen with an unhealthy fixation on the Visitors) and so on. The show's concept - "How would the world react when giant spaceships suddenly appear out of the sky? And what if they were wolves in sheep's clothing?" - also remains as powerful as ever, especially when viewed through the lens of present day America, whether it be our current culture of celebrity and quick fixes or a post-9/11 look at terrorism. Obviously the Nazi allegory is still there (Tyler for instance joins the Visitors' Peace Ambassador Program while Mrs. Belker, a blind neighbor of Valerie's, recounts her time in the concentration camps) but it's nice to see Peters's script is updated with 2009 metaphors and allegories as well. And it wouldn't be a revival of a cult property without some fun in-jokes: from Tyler spray painting a red V across the local bully's car to a pair of college kids' reactions to the saucers (Kid #1: "Dude, this IS Independence Day." Kid #2: "Independence Day was just a rip-off of any number of alien invasion predecessors...").
What doesn't: As noted above, I didn't quite warm up to any of the characters as you only really get a few scenes to get to know them. Even Erica and Father Jack, the de facto leads of the show, don't seem to get a lot more screen time than the others. It helps obviously if you're familiar with the franchise however newbies may run a little cold on some of them. Nevertheless it's still an interesting mix of hard to screw up images (the giant spaceships, the reptilian reveals), clever twists (the Visitor detection test, the "terrorists" being the good guys) and chilling moments (Chad's big interview with Anna is intercut with Neil, the leader of the resistance, explaining to Erica and Father Jack who the visitors really are... and how long they've been there) all wrapped in a exciting morality play. Whether all of this plays out in the end product remains to be seen however for now...
The bottom line: ...it looks like "V" is a thoughtful, well intentioned remake.