Ruth's Diary



That's the name of the TV show I've just finished watching. It's a remake too. Having now seen both versions I feel like comparing them.

'V: The Miniseries' is what the original is known as, although the 5-part series with each episode lasting about 100 minutes can actually be split into 2: 'V: The Original Miniseries' and 'V: The Final Battle'. The former was written and directed by Kenneth Johnson, which is also regarded by many fans as the better written of the miniseries pair. The latter Johnson wrote the script for, but then NBC fired him because the channel wasn't willing to fork out the budget. The script ended up getting dumbed down and the replacement director clearly didn't know what he was doing, although the theme tune for 'The Final Battle' is way more intense. As a sequel/spin-off 'V: The Series' was produced for one season, I didn't bother wasting my time on that show since it looked silly. 'V'-the remake-already has a couple of advantages over the miniseries in that the writing is consistent. With only 12 episodes (a surprisingly small amount for an American show) the story is very tight.

Now each incarnation of 'V' has a different focus, even though the basic plot is the same. The Visitors arrive on Earth, promising to provide new technology and so on, swearing they come in peace and offer friendship. In the miniseries the Visitors asked for water in return, while in the remake they asked for nothing (or very little, apparently they asked for chemicals or some such but I honestly don't remember). I'm surprised this didn't strike any world leader as odd, considering the nature of current international politics, in which 
for any service something is always expected in return. I dunno, the politicians struck me as being too trusting. Now despite this friendly arrival, the Visitors have a hidden agenda. Cleverly, the end of the remake 'V' did not reveal what that agenda was, we simply learn that they are not what they portray themselves to be. In the miniseries we learn that the Visitors have a shortage of resources, in some ways making their situation a warning of what humanity could turn into. All I'm saying is, both are affective. But as I stated both incarnations of 'V' had different focuses, which meant different stories to tell. The miniseries made the Visitors a mirror of Nazism, showing how easily a democracy can turn into a dictatorship when the populace is manipulated, which also meant what they offered was of little concern to the plot. The Visitors in the remake came along as a race of guardian angels ready to answer people's prayers, providing an unlimited source of energy and free healthcare. It's what the Americans strongly desire right now, so the new Visitors' method of manipulation is by buying people's trust, except they also planted sleeper agents in order to get rid of unwanted information and any possible suspicion it could cause. That's another focus of the new series: the methods deployed in "modern warfare" (terrorism and infiltration).

There's also a massive difference in cast. The number of human characters in the miniseries was much larger, which is really a privilege of longer broadcasting time, since developing the stories of all these characters takes time and slows the pace down; not doable in 40-minute episodes. Unfortunately one element that made the characters of the miniseries effective has been ditched in the remake. The key 4 members of the resistance that we follow over the 12 episodes include a priest who served with the army in Iraq, an FBI Agent, an SAS-trained mercenary and a Visitor turncoat with tactical expertise. Not exactly ordinary people forced into an unbelievable situation. One point raised by the miniseries was that, given the incentive, anybody can become a resistance fighter/terrorist, so there were extraordinary yet believable scenes of scientists infiltrating military bases and old women throwing grenades. I also have to groan at the differences in family representation, which are unfortunately earmarks of the time. The miniseries portrayed 3 different families very realistically: one family was of a happily married couple with 3 daughters who stuck together, in the same street there were 3 generations under 1 roof, with the grandfather being a Jew who had survived the holocaust but his grandson was so desperate for power and attention he collaborated with the visitors instead (a troubled youth in a perfect environment, perfectly realistic) and the final family showed one little boy whose care is shared between divorced parents. In the remake, there's only 1 (human) family and it's the single working Mum who has trouble talking to her impulsive rebellious teenage son who feels she's never there (groan).

The original Visitors were led by a Supreme Commander (awkwardly named John), except we later learn that is a rank meaning leader of the space fleet or some such, since a sort of High Council is hinted at existing on their homeworld. They also all wore the same damn red uniform, it looked cheap and unbelievable. The new Visitors are led by Anna, who's introduced as the High Commander, being the political leader of her race, but we later learn that it's a made up title to suit the mostly democratic human sensibilities. Anna is actually their queen and wields her power like a dictator. The original Visitors wore sunglasses since they had a high sensitivity to light, they sounded triple-tuned, only ate live animals (sometimes killed ones) and were emotionally and skillfully diverse, which meant interspecies relationships of varying kinds developed easily, which made the internal Visitor rebellion even more understandable. The remade Visitors look and sound just like us, not having any particular light sensitivity although while they are successful at convincing the majority of Earth's population that that's what they look like, I can't believe no one questioned why the Eurasian-looking Anna had a blonde Caucasian daughter who looks 5 years younger than her at the most. More realistically, these Visitors can and will eat anything they want and will try out all our cuisines if they feel it necessary, although they won't like all of it. Their uniforms are much stricter and logical, although the V-neck red sweater was retained for on-board crewmen and a certain jacket comes in red, yellow and blue. (Star Trek homage much?) Each Visitor only works along 1 career path and their emotions are played out differently to humans. Their emotions are suppressed, the only genuine ones expressed through uncontrolled reaction and they are only mild, their thought processes and memories are not emotionally guided, which is why they coin the term "human emotion", which many consider a weakness. I think I prefer the remade Visitors.

The last thing to talk about would be aesthetics. The miniseries was set in Los Angeles while the remake was set've guessed it, New York City. While I facepalm at this I can also see why. The plot focus on manipulation from the top and infiltration of such heirarchies mean that New York is the chosen location, for the reason that it's home to the UN building and a world financial centre. Also special effects are unsurprisingly better in the remake, considering the current easy attainment of special effects and the tendency of more recent TV shows getting bigger budgets. At some points though, usually on board a Visitor ship, the green-screening is a little obvious. This show also jumps on the bandwagon of having a title card instead of a full on intro. I could see that coming, considering there's little you can do with the title 'V' and its logo, but 'The Original Miniseries' had a photographic slideshow of the entire cast and 'The Final Battle' had the letter V getting zoomed in. Point is, they're decent intros and the titlecard was just lazy. Another thing that annoyed me throughout the remake series was the way they used 'V'. The end of 'The Original Miniseries' had a big red V sprayed on a propaganda poster with the proclamation that it stood for Victory. In the remake the Visitors became referred to as the "Vs". At first I was irked that it became a mere slang term, but the 'V for Victory' meaning does become clear in the final episode so I'm happy about that. What I'm not happy with, is how everyone used the term. At home and between friends (or co-conspirators) it's fine but journalists were talking about "the Vs", with Anna being referred to as the "V High Commander", which no one in the media would ever say considering they must always use the polite register. And even more gratingly, the senior officials started using the term! Why would Anna ever say "V" or introduce the "V Live Aboard Programme"? No one ever refers to their own race in slang.

What I also liked was that the writers were aware that a certain chunk of the audience had already seen the miniseries, so they didn't waste time and revealed the V's true appearance by the end of the first episode. (Oh God, even I'm doing it.)

'V' (the remake) is well-made overall and I can't wait for season 2.

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