Friday, June 12, 2009

CULT TV FLASHBACK # 77: V: The Series: "The Rescue"

You are cordially invited to the wedding of the century...

Or something like that.

On July 29, 1981, Prince Charles and Diana wed at St. Paul's Cathedral in London before a global TV audience of one billion people.

On February 1, 1985, however, the real fireworks commenced when Diana (Jane Badler) married Visitor royalty, Charles (Duncan Regehr), on V: The Series, in an episode entitled "The Rescue."

It was a match made in science fiction heaven. The groom wore black. The bride wore...scales.

The ceremony was officiated by a hissing lizard-man in a Cardinal hat, and the wedding banquet consisted of spiders, gerbils, rats and other small animals. (And the banquet table was decorated with a statue of Godzilla spray-painted white!).

Forget the traditional wedding cake, Diana and Charles instead shared their "ceremonial mouse," though Diana rather indelicately bit the poor creature's head off before Charles could get a good taste of the delicacy. Such bad taste, really...

Written by Garner Simmons, "The Rescue" occurs in V continuity after the death of Los Angeles' avaricious human leader, Nathan Bates. The formerly "open" city has descended into all-out war, but there's some controversy because Diana ordered the attack without the blessing of Charles,the man now in command of the Visitor fleet.

Lydia and Charles realize that Diana is a loose cannon, but that it will be immensely difficult to remove her from Visitor Command since her attack has been successful. Before long, a plotting Charles devises a devious way to get rid of Diana: Section 48 of the Code of Raman.

As Visitor royalty, he can select any Visitor woman as his bride by law, without fear of the woman's refusal. Then, because Diana's primary job will be child-bearing, his bride can be shipped back home to the Visitor home planet...out-of-commission on the front line.

When Charles proposes to Diana, she realizes she has been (temporarily) out-maneuvered. Charles intends to send her far away once she is "married...with lizard."

However, this clever strategy goes awry when Charles catches a glimpse of the fetching Diana luxuriating in a glowing-green Visitor tub during a pre-nuptial ceremony. As Diana swims in the nude alongside ceremonial eels ("may the venom give you strength, and make your body fertile..."), Charles realizes he isn't so keen to send the sexy Diana away after all. At least not before he has enjoyed his honeymoon.

To that end, Charles has already "installed the most comfortable bed in the fleet."

Lydia (June Chadwick) -- who dresses up like a 1970s glam rocker for the wedding ceremony -- realizes that she has been outwitted by Diana yet again, and acquires some "cat poison" to rid herself of her competitor once and for all. But on her wedding night, Diana detects what Lydia has done, and makes certain that Charles drinks the poison. He expires quickly, never even getting to enjoy his bride...

Well, better to have loved (a reptile...) and lost (a reptile...), than never to have loved at all...

Kenneth Johnson's V started out life as a science fiction It Can't Happen Here (1935), a clever warning about the rise of fascism in America. By the time of "The Rescue" (mid-TV series...), however, the series had become a rather unique genre version of its stiffest Friday night competition: CBS's powerhouse prime-time soap, Dallas. In some senses this shift worked: whenever June Chadwick and Jane Badler share the staged on V: The Series, playing their catty, manipulative, deceptive alien characters, the show absolutely sparkled with delicious wit and a (malevolent) sense of joie de vivre. No matter how hard you tried, you couldn't turn away from it. You can tell this is where the writers hearts were too: on the power-grabs, reverses and victories of the duelling Visitor women.

On the down-side, the writers also had to handle the human resistance fighters on Earth, and by the time of "The Rescue," the writers appeared to be running out of good stories to showcase the show's "heroes." The machinations on the Visitor mother ship in "The Rescue" are interrupted frequently by a cliched story about a human woman giving birth in the Los Angeles war zone. The husband (Terence Knox) is an old friend of Julie's (Faye Grant) and seeks her help during the inconvenient delivery. The entire story just reeks of "off-the-shelf" plotting, and some of the acting here is absolutely atrocious. Shockingly atrocious, actually.

But whenever "The Rescue" returns to Charles and Diana, viewers may find themselves smiling in spite of themselves. Badler, Regehr, and Chadwick keep (forked) tongues in cheek throughout, and are clearly having the time of their lives. The material, though silly on one level, also achieves a relevance in 1980s America, particularly about the role of women in Visitor society. Even a female who has risen so high in a military power structure as Diana is ultimately undone by her society's expectations of her as a female. Accordingly, everything -- from that very command structure to the dictates of her religion - subverts her desire to "achieve" in what seems a "man's" world. Even though Diana is unequivocally evil, you cheer when she defeats Charles' thoroughly unfair plan for dispatching her. You've come a long way, lizard...

Yes, it's utterly ridiculous. And I doubt we'll see anything quite as outrageous as "The Rescue" on ABC's new version of V. Still, I certainly hope that the new series will find room for Badler and Chadwick in guest or recurring capacities. It certainly would be great to see both women back in action, especially given the fact that V has endured so long (twenty-five years), in part, on memories of their go-for-the-gusto performances.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Shatner Week: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

One of the most oft-requested reviews on this blog, -- before my original post back in the day -- was  Star Trek V: The Final Frontier  ...