Thursday, April 01, 2010

CULT TV BLOGGING: V: "Welcome to the War"

ABC's re-imagined V returned with a new episode on Tuesday, after an hiatus of several months. When last I wrote about V here, I felt it was showing some signs of improvement after a diffident start. Following last night's show, Scott Rosenbaum's "Welcome to the War," however, I'm not so sure anymore. In other words, the series -- for all its admittedly interesting moments -- is still packed with infuriating contrivances and logical fallacies that more careful writers would avoid like the plague.

"Welcome to the War" (directed by Yves Simoneau) opens with an assassination attempt on Erica's life by the Visitor who was guarding the warehouse she blew up in previous episode. Erica, a mere human, successfully beats the alien warrior in brutal one-on-one combat with knives. We see a flash of the guard's reptilian skin here too, but once more, Erica doesn't think about dragging the alien's ass to the FBI labs, where her superiors can see that the Visitors are reptilian liars. Does she really distrust her superiors -- fellow humans and fellow Americans -- this much? That she wouldn't at least try to bring them in to the resistance?

Erica also doesn't even stop to photograph the alien body (of reptilian nature) so she can keep a record of the alien physiology/nature for herself (as exculpatory evidence in the event she is framed). Nope. It seems Erica is all about planning for the future...except when it actually comes to planning for the future. How about taking the corpse to a physician she trusts in the FBI and having a full autopsy and biological analysis run? So she can have a better understanding of her enemy?

Erica is quickly becoming a character I deeply, vehemently dislike. In this episode Erica projects a lot of swagger, but not much by way of brains. Her son, Tyler, is aboard the alien ship, and has told her himself that he will be home by dinner. Yet Erica nonetheless spends the entire episode in a rage, shouting "She's [Anna] got my son!" and threatening to kill (in her words) "the bitch." Yes, Anna has her son...for the moment. But is this character really that impulsive, that stupid, that she thinks she can raid the mother ship -- by herself -- and free her son from the technologically-advanced aliens? If so, she's the wrong woman to be leading a secret resistance, that's for sure. I get that the series is forging a "Battle of the Mothers" between Anna and Erica, but do the writers need to make Erica so unrelentingly dumb?

The contrivances really stack up in "Welcome to the War." The Visitors frame a man named Kyle Hobbes for the bombing of their warehouse (where their R6 compound was destroyed). They do so by creating a computer-generated image of the warehouse before the explosion, right down to Hobbes' fingerprints on the explosive device. This is indeed amazing futuristic technology, but no one in the F.B.I. seems to remember that extra-terrestrial, unexplained technology is not exactly admissible in our American legal system. No matter, these agents just take the aliens' word -- using never-before-seen, unexplained alien technology as their evidence -- without a second thought. If these guys actually caught Hobbes, he'd walk out of jail in a day because the evidence against him is alien malarkey, or at the very least untested in the legal system.

Realizing that Hobbes could be a valuable ally, Erica then sets off to find the mercenary/terrorist before the F.B.I does. Now remember, this Hobbes guy is an absolute master, a culprit whose name is listed on multiple "ten most wanted lists" according to Erica herself, and the F.B.I. has never been able to catch him. Well, amazingly, Erica apprehends Hobbes herself the very afternoon the Visitors frame him for the warehouse crime.

Sure, she got Hobbes' address from her turncoat partner's secret files, but this is still a huge contrivance. First, that Hobbes would still be living at an old address (it's been at least a few days since her partner died; and likely weeks since he was "observing" Hobbes). And second, that Hobbes would actually be there at the exact moment Erica showed up. And third, that he would be so easily apprehended. I mean, he's there all by himself. Does he "build armies" all by his lonesome? Not a soul to watch his back?

And again, V does something stupid. In Hobbes' hideout, we see that he has all the exits and entrances to his sanctuary scoped out on security cameras. This means, lest we forget, all that footage is being recorded. Well, when Erica spirits Hobbes away, the F.B.I. agents are already entering the building, meaning that they would see Erica and Hobbes on the security cameras exiting the premises (they don't), and furthermore, if they bothered to watch the recorded footage, they'd see Erica and Hobbes fleeing the building together; not to mention conspiring. None of that happens. I don't understand why you would even introduce security cameras into this scene if you didn't intend to follow through with the notion that, uh, the devices actually have a function and use, and the F.B.I. agents are smart enough to figure that out.

Pinpointing the logical fallacies in V episodes is still like shooting fish in a barrel. When the show isn't just being brazenly stupid, it settles for recycling lines from Jurassic Park ("Nature finds a way") and old X-Files plot-lines (the aliens are actually tagging humans, just like the Syndicate/aliens in Carter's series).

The best aspects of "Welcome to the War" all involve the Visitors. We learn from Anna that the Visitors do not attach emotions to memories the way that humans do. This is because, in her words, the aliens have been "designed" to be "efficient." This brings up some fascinating ideas: Designed by whom? Do the Visitors practice eugenics? I like that, finally, we are getting some development of the aliens. I still want to know more about their society and history, though.

Even more fun is Anna's sex scene with a strapping Visitor "volunteer" in the episode's last scene. This moment recalls the high camp of the original series. There, Diana was always bedding her underlings, and often depicted in the afterglow of a sexual romp. One of my favorite lines occurred while Diana was in bed with one of her men. "Peel you another goldfish?" She asked, in all seriousness.

Well, in the new V, there's no time for such silly species-specific small talk. Anna has sex with the poor guy, lays her eggs, and then leaves her partner behind as "nourishment" for her young. It's a pretty awesome scene (even if it ends with terrible CGI). And it shows just how merciless Anna is. Or maybe it's her nature as a lizard...we'll see.

My reservations about the new V continue to linger. The series needs to be smarter. Don't give Erica a George W. Bush-type, cowboy swagger, when she should be a clever chess player. Don't make the F.B.I unrealistically gullible (gee, let's take this alien video at face value and arrest someone...even if it won't stand up in our court system), and don't introduce unnecessary complications into scenes (like a building' security camera perimeter) if you don't know what to do with them.

Welcome to the War, V. Is this all you got?


  1. It's beginning to sound like V stands for Very Dumb. I've had my reservations. Smart science fiction is a rare thing indeed.

    Great points as always.

  2. You wrote:

    "Erica doesn't think about dragging the alien's ass to the FBI labs, where her superiors can see that the Visitors are reptilian liars."

    That about sums it up.

    Personally, I was wondering what happened to the body. What did happen to the body?? Did she surreptitiously dispose of it? Did the police take a reptilian body away? What does one do with a reptilian body in a human husk? What about call the media--immediately--telling them that you're an FBI agent and "Look what's in my house!!"

    Seriously, too ridiculous to stomach.

  3. Sci-Fi Fanatic and Peter:

    Yep, V is for very dumb and the show really is too ridiculous to stomach.

    In the process of writing about what's in this show, I've neglected to write all about the good stuff that got left out: the commentary on fascism and collaboration (and corporate collaboration with fascism!) in the Kenneth Johnson original, namely.

    V is for vapid.


  4. I was hoping, given its poor start and the rebound your reviews spoke about, that I'd catch this when it came out of disc. Now, it doesn't sound even worth that. Too bad. Are they writing now for 10 year olds (while they're texting)?!? Thanks for the review, John.

  5. Hi JKM,

    i saw the pilot at comic-con years ago at comic-con and was really pissed... so pissed i e-mailed kenneth johnson about what became of his baby... it does look like it was designed for 10 year olds. crossing my fingers for V: the second generation. johnson just needs forty million dollars!

    i did run into scott peters and sarcastically said "thanks for taking a crap on everything sacred from my youth!"

  6. Hey Le0pard13:

    At this point, I would probably say, don't bother with V. It doesn't look like it is improving, after a slight surge in quality.

    And N:

    I think even 10 year olds would recognize the plot holes, poor motivation and logical fallacies of the new V! :)