V is for V

Remembered by Kerry E.B. Black


In 1983, Kenneth Johnson surprised and frightened his viewing audience with his May, 1983 mini-series, “V.” In the 200 minutes of storytelling, Johnson presented an allegory for the evils of Nazi-style governance. (“The Visitors” hover fifty enormous motherships over major cities around the world. The Visitors appear human, but they wear dark glasses and have odd voices. They offer friendship and technology in exchange for chemicals available on the earth. These chemicals would save their dying planet, a little place circling Sirius, the dog star. The governments accept.

In the United States, John (Richard Herd) acts as leader of The Visitors, with Diana (Jane Badler) his deputy and right-hand-man. They dress in tailored military-type uniforms and exert influence over the leadership and media.

Scientists begin to disappear or act weird. T.V. Cameraman Michael Donovan (Marc Singer) secretly films onboard a Visitor ship and discovers their startling secret. The Visitors wear masks covering their true, reptilian forms. They eat live meat. Before he can air his footage, The Visitors seize control of media outlets and declare Michael Donovan a wanted man.

He finds and joins The Resistance headed by Juliet Parish (Faye Grant) and assists the Fifth Column. The success of the stylish sci-fi mini-series inspired an hour-long (with commercial breaks) weekly television show that aired from March, 1984 until spring, 1985. Each episode cost one million dollars, making it the most expensive series on the air at the time.

In 2009, ABC launched a reboot of the series. “V” further inspired a DC Comic series, novels, and a game.

The idea of a powerful group pretending friendship while plotting takeover resonated with many, including me. There were nods to Hitler’s Youth with a young man joining the “Visitor’s Youth” and turning in neighbors and scientists. It illustrated officials so drunk on power they turned a blind eye to atrocities and how simple marginalizing a group such as scientists could be, especially after the assailants took over the media.

The message was clear. Be vigilant. It happened before and could happen again.