Top Ten Moments From

The original Mini-Series that stunned the world
July 27, 2009

Science fiction and fantasy were very scarce in the 1970s and 1980s. If you loved it, like I did, about all you had to choose from was reruns of the original Star Trek, Space: 1999 and Battlestar Galactica. And so many kids craved it, what with the Star Wars films being so big at the box office in those days.

It's different today. You can find sci-fi and fantasy nearly any time of the day across a huge number of channels. There's so much new sci-fi and fantasy, that some of the old shows of yesteryear have started to become unappreciated and forgotten.

Starting in January of 2010, ABC will begin airing a new mini-series based on the original "V." And, while I'm excited about the whole thing, I will probably never forget the original "V," which was my favorite show as a teenager.

The original from 1983

It started in 1983, spawned two mini-series ("V" and "V: The Final Battle") and a television series ("V: The Series") that lasted for a single season before dying under the weight of shrinking budgets and bad writing. The "V" mini-series was, for many years, the most watched mini-series of all time. And, it is said that "V" helped save a floundering NBC from bankruptcy.

For those of you that haven't seen it, you should be aware that this list includes some spoilers. It's unfortunate that they have to be included, but some of the surprising elements of the original mini-series is what made the whole event so great in the first place.

I will also add that Top-Ten lists are normally frowned upon on RetroJunk, but I would like to believe that's because most of them focus on too many things and not enough information. I'm hoping this article will show the proper way to do a Top-Ten. Either way, I hope you will enjoy the read, and if you haven't seen the original "V," that you will find a reason to seek it out once you read this.

So, without further ado, here is my Top-Ten Moments From "V":
(Please note, most of these photos come from various websites on the internet, including X-Entertainment. I did not capture these myself)

Within a few minutes of the beginning of the mini-series, the viewer is treated to some great special effects of giant spaceships moving across the sky and parking over the fifty biggest cities in the world.

An alien mothership approaches Earth.

Back in 1983, before movies like Independence Day used the same trick, this was an astounding and breathtaking sight. Seeing a mile-wide alien spaceship glide into place over the top of Los Angeles was especially scary for me, as I lived in Los Angeles at the time. Everyone got quiet and held their breath in my house. You could have heard a pin drop on the carpeting.

Residents of Los Angeles watch as an
alien spaceship moves over the city.

What really made it scary was that, at this point, nobody knew if the aliens in these spaceships were friendly or not. The promotional spots on NBC purposefully left everything vague, and not knowing had a great impact on how we viewed the mini-series the first time. Were these aliens going to extend a hand of friendship...or start blowing everything up?

Another shot of scientists watching
a ship over the desert

Once the aliens, called the Visitors, let us know that they've come in peace, they arrange a meeting with some of the important leaders of the world. It is here that we first hear what they sound like. While they look exactly like us, they sound very strange. An odd reverberation comes from their throat every time they talk, giving every word a dark and eerie overtone.

Despite appearing human,
the Visitors sound strange.

This effect was later curtailed in "V: The Series" due to budgetary constraints, and that show likes to pretend that the Visitors never had weird voices at all. As much as I loved the series, I can't help but think that the lack of eerie voices is what started to turn people off of the series within a few weeks of it airing.

I've been irritated many times over the years when people refer to the Visitors as V's, or tell people that the "V" in the title stands for Visitors. That's so far off the mark that I sometimes wonder if these people ever even saw the mini-series.

What does this mean?

In reality, the red spray painted "V" makes its first appearance at the end of the first mini-series movie. Abraham, a survivor of the atrocities of the Holocaust, shows it to a group of vandals marking up some rather Nazi-like propaganda claiming that "The Visitors Are Our Friends" and "Friendship is Universal."

Don't believe the propaganda.

Abraham says, quite clearly, as he paints the giant "V" across the poster: "You understand? For 'Victory!' Tell all your friends." It is with this small action that a symbol for the resistance is born, and it is a motif that is repeated endlessly through both mini-series and the series. And it's very hard to forget.

The V stands for Victory.

After the Visitors start to integrate themselves into everyday life, that's when the problems start. There's some sort of scientific conspiracy and the Visitors help to reveal that the scientists have supposedly been keeping secrets from everyone. People start disappearing. But, are the Visitors behind it?

Sure, he looks normal.
But, the birds don't like him

Our first clue that the Visitors are not what they appear to be comes in a scene where one of the Visitors, named Steven, passes a bird cage. The birds flutter into a state of panic when he comes near. Earlier in the mini-series, we see mice react the same way when the Visitor mothership passes overhead. What is up with these animals? Do they know something that we don't know?

One of the things that NBC did so well in 1983 was maintain some secrecy. Most of the details of the mini-series were left vague. So, when a surprise twist happened, it almost always caught you off guard. But none of them were more startling than this one.

Mike Donovan, the hero of the story and later leader of the Resistance, sneaks aboard the mothership to find out what's going on. He first sees the Visitor leaders eating mice and other animals, and is shocked when Diana elongates her mouth, much like a snake, to eat a guinea pig. He captures all of this on video tape in the hopes of showing the world.

Ewww...that's gross.

But, as he makes his way further into the ship, he discovers something worse. The aliens aren't even close to human. He gets caught in a fight with an alien and in a desperate attempt to defend himself accidently pulls the skin from his assailant. And behind the seemingly normal human skin is the face of a horrible lizard creature. The Visitors have been lying all along. What other secrets are they keeping?

What the...?!

Donovan tried to inform the world about the Visitors, but they were quick to shut him down. Eventually, he is caught by them. But, he escapes with the help of Martin, a Visitor who doesn't believe in what the rest of them are doing.

Donovan confronts Martin about
why the Visitors are really here.

Martin reveals that the reasons the Visitors gave for coming to Earth is a complete lie. They had said that they needed to manufacture a chemical from compounds found on the planet, but in reality, they were doing something far more sinister.

What are you aliens up to?

The Visitor's were here to steal the water from Earth. Not some of it...all of it. And when Donovan points out that all the people on Earth would die without the water, Martin tells him that it doesn't that point there wouldn't be any people left anyway. The majority of them would be harvested for another scarce resource: Food. In the words of another character much later in the mini-series: "The Visitors are not who they appear to be. They have come to rape our planet and kill us."

What are they doing with
all of these people?

Martin shows Donovan rows and rows of capture people stowed away aboard the mothership. The effect is similar to the one used on Star Trek: The Next Generation the first time the Federation enters the Borg Cubes. But, it was much more diabolical in "V" knowing that people you knew might be hidden in those things.

Throughout the mini-series, the Visitors make hints of something they call "The Conversion Process." We first see the results of this when a man of prominence (whose name I don't remember) confronts someone and gives her a tongue-lashing about working with the Visitors. He calls them "fascists" and tells her she is a "collaborator."

He is taken by the Visitors and disappears. When he reappears later, he acts as though the Visitors have always been his friends and he doesn't seem to remember having met the woman whom he previously attacked. In fact, he says he is "delighted" to meet her and seems a little too happy, if you get my meaning.

Diana overlooks Julie's conversion

During "V: The Final Battle," when Resistance leader Juliet Parrish is captured, we finally get to see the conversion process first hand. They torture her with images akin to being in a nightmare you can't awaken from. It's so bad, that at one point, she starts to go into cardiac arrest. While some of these images are silly (giant lizards busting through walls to chase her), some of them play on her fears (evil voices calling out from the darkness and the feeling of being abandoned as a little girl). It was a pretty powerful moment when she seemed to finally give in, and we're left wondering throughout the rest of the mini-series if she's been converted. Even Juliet fights with the notion that she can't remember simple things, like which hand to use while brushing her hair...they messed her up that bad.

The Resistance knows that they can't fight the Visitors alone. They need to inform the world about the true nature of the aliens. Mike Donovan's attempt to show the world their true faces ended in failure.

As it turns out, the Visitors plan to unveil that they have developed a cure for all forms of cancer at the Los Angeles Medical Center. And the Resistance decides to use this opportunity, during what would probably be a highly-watched television event, going out across the world.

As the Visitors begin to make their announcement, the Resistance storms the stage, taking command of the broadcast. They rip the phony face off the Visitor's Supreme Commander, John, and show his lizard features to everyone in the world. It is at this point that the line I quoted earlier is said: "The Visitors are not who they appear to be. They have come to rape our planet and kill us."

This is who they are, people.
Wake up!

It's easy to cheer this obvious victory of the Resistance. But, sadly, the Visitors manage to recover by claiming that the broadcast was a "fake," and that terrorists did it all with look-alikes and special effects. The sad part is that most of the world seems to believe this explanation...they are that hooked into the Visitors web of lies. What kind of awesome propaganda machine do they have going? I know I would be asking questions at this point.

As the mini-series progresses, it becomes obvious that Visitor Commander Diana is evil. She isn't the highest ranking commander in the fleet and her duties are supposed to be scientific, but she still throws her weight around whenever possible. Her ambition makes you both hate and love her at the same time. She's so evil, and yet deliciously so, that you are both rooting for her and hoping that she loses.

Hi, I'm Pamela. I'll be doing
my best to annoy Diana.

When another commander arrives from the Visitor home world, named Pamela, things start to go awry for Diana. Pamela does everything she can to paint Diana as an idiot and an incompetent. She has Diana relegated to matters of science only. All other orders that Diana issues has to pass through Pamela first...which is something that Diana quickly grows to resent.

In a strange twist, Diana finds strength in the Bible, brought to her by a human priest. The Bible shows that she has weaknesses, and it's something Diana won't allow. She destroys the Bible and kills the priest who brought it to her, thanking him as he dies for showing her the error of her ways.

Hi, I'm Diana. I'll be killing
Pamela shortly because I don't like her.

She then goes into Pamela's office, kills two of her guards and shoots Pamela in the stomach. As Pamela is wounded, Diana gloats over her, taking great pleasure in the pain she has caused. She then ends Pamela's life in cold-blood.

Diana is diabolical for so many reasons in the mini-series. She performs experiments on humans, has a hand in impregnating a human with a Visitor child, kills her own kind to further her own needs, and personally oversees Julie's conversion process. Though her role is understated at first, it becomes clear at the point where she kills quite a few people without so much as an ounce of regret that she is the true villain of this piece.

Some of the reveals in "V" were shocking and unexpected. But the birth of the Starchild was a highly anticipated event.

When Robin Maxwell becomes pregnant in the first mini-series, we know that the father is not human. It's a secret that Robin keeps to herself at first, despite some strange symptoms (like an odd ring around her neck, and the craving for uncooked meat). When the first mini-series ends, we are left hanging as to what will become of Robin and the baby she carries.

This is Robin, the mother of
the Starchild.

When "V: The Final Battle" premiered a year later, we knew we'd finally get the answer. Unlike the first mini-series, NBC hyped the birth of the baby as one of the biggest events in television history...and they weren't wrong. Not since the famous "Who Shot J.R.?" cliff hanger of 1980 had people eagerly awaited a conclusion to a storyline. A record number of people tuned in to see how the thing was going to play out.

This is Brian, the alien father
of the Starchild.

Robin and her father attempted to abort the baby, once it was revealed that it was not human. But, the baby would not allow itself to be aborted, as Robin's vital signs dropped every time they tried to terminate its life. If this thing was going to go out, it was going to take Robin with it.

When the time came for the birth, everyone waited and held their breath. Like the scene with the motherships arriving, it was a pretty quiet time in the house.

Robin delivers the baby. She has a little girl, and she seems normal. Everyone sighs and relaxes a little, glad that the ordeal is over with. But, then, the little girl spits out with a forked lizard tongue, and they know she is not quite normal.

But, then, the real twist comes when we realize that Robin is, in fact, having twins. And the twin doesn't wait to be born. It *crawls* out of Robin's womb, as everyone in the room backs away in shock and horror. It is a lizard-baby. And I know a lot of children throughout the country who were watching "V" fled the room crying when it appeared. I wasn't one of them...but I heard stories about how frightening it was for them.

Whoa?! What the hell is that?!

In the end, we feel sorry for the lizard-baby, who dies just a few days outside of childbirth. He isn't really a monster and it isn't even his fault. He's not really a monster. And his death ultimately does some the Resistance the tool they need to finally defeat the Visitors. But, I won't say what that is...because I don't want to ruin the whole mini-series.

"V" is an awesome roller-coaster ride. Even almost 30 years later, the mini-series holds up surprisingly well in terms of pacing and action. The series that followed is less good, but is worthy of a watch as well (at least the first half of the series is pretty good).

If you haven't seen the mini-series, you should consider checking it out before the new ABC version hits the air in January. From the promos I've seen of that, it seems that it will be different...and perhaps less action oriented. But, I will approach it with an open mind. And whether I hate it or love it, I will still always hold a special place in my heart for the original "V" that shocked and delighted us in our youth.
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