Wednesday, November 04, 2009



As I said yesterday, when I was a child I would watch anything to do with science fiction. I don’t now, but, well, I still lean in that direction. I watch very little major-network television, and don’t really want to get hooked on a new series, but if it’s science fiction, I’m more likely to give it a try.

In that vein, I tuned in last night to the pilot of a new series on ABC, called “V”. The V stands for “visitors”, and the show opens, after a few minutes of introducing major characters, with the arrival of spaceships hovering over major world cities. After some initial panic, the apparent leader of the Vs, who is in the spaceship that’s over New York City[1], projects her image worldwide and reassures everyone that it’s a peaceful visit. They’re thrilled to find intelligent life, they want to share with us while they refuel and do some maintenance, and then they’ll be on their way.

As a pilot episode needs to do, this one set up main characters, the story’s premise, some conflicts, and a couple of plot threads that will continue as the series progresses. I actually quite liked it, both for the story and for the way it was presented. The spaceships arrive with terrible rumbling and shaking, which gets people in something of a panic. But for our first visual glimpse, director Yves Simoneau, the Canadian who also directed the pilot of The 4400, gives us images reflected in the glass of the buildings, before showing us the ships directly. The effect works well.

I also liked that once the Vs have started having meetings with Earth’s world leaders, they set up tours of their spaceships for the people of Earth. “Yes,” I said when I saw that, “Isn’t that just what friendly visitors would do, if they could?” I thought back to when I would give tours of the computer center to grade-school students, when no one their age had ever seen a computer face to face before.

So I’m going to continue watching the series, at least for now, and we’ll see whether it lasts, and whether it continues to be interesting. It’s often disappointing when a new series like this either loses its edge after a few episodes or, perhaps worse, stays sharp but gets cancelled anyway.[2]

Here’s one thing the pilot episode made me think about:

When the spaceship is hovering over New York City, just before Anna’s soothing image is projected, something on the ship opens up. Most people who are watching it at that point start running away in panic. And I wondered what I would do. If there were an alien spaceship sitting there in front of me — not some fuzzy-blob “UFO” that’s most likely a reflection or some such, but a real, incontrovertible space ship, as in V or The Day the Earth Stood Still — would I be interested enough to check it out, or would I keep away, afraid of what might come out and what its intentions might be?

I have to think I’d stay and check it out, and I’d be eager, when it started to open, to see what was inside. I’d imagine that beings who figured out how to get here from some impossibly distant world would not have come here to kill us. I would want to be among the first to say hello.

[1] It always seems to work that way: if alien ships appear all over the world, the flagship is always at New York or Washington. A little U.S.-centric, are we?

[2] The short-lived Journeyman was a recent one in the second category. I liked it, and was enjoying discovering things as the protagonist did, when it was cancelled right in the middle of it all. The series only lasted 13 episodes (and you can see all of them on Hulu).


Call me Paul said...

Will "V" be more successful this time than the previous two times it was a television series?

Barry Leiba said...

Two? I only know about the 1984 series, which had its pilot in the UK, and came across the ocean to inflict itself on us for one season. It was icky.

This one already looks better (and, hey, it's Canadian, eh?). But we'll have to see.