Wednesday, March 31, 2021

V: The Series: "The Champion"

In “The Champion,” the fourteenth episode of V: The Series (1984 – 1985), Mike Donovan (Marc Singer) and Kyle Bates (Jeff Yagher) go on a crucial supply run to Tucson, but are intercepted by corrupt police running a “toll road,” en route.  

The Resistance fighters escape and take safe haven at the ranch of a plucky single mother, Kathy Courtney (Deborah Wakeman).  Kathy and her teenage daughter, Jessie (Sherri Stoner), inform Mike and Kyle that a corrupt sheriff, Roland (Hugh Gillin) is collaborating with the Visitors.

Mike and Kyle resolve to help fight the corrupt regime, but Jessie wants Mike to stay with the family permanently, and he is tempted.

Meanwhile, on the Visitor mothership, Inspector General Philip (Frank Ashmore) arrives to determine guilt in the case of Charles’ murder. 

Lydia (June Chadwick) is entitled to “combat to the death with her accuser,” Diana (Jane Badler), and the two women go a round before Philip puts an end to it.  

As Philip gathers evidence, however, he determines that Diana and Lydia should each be responsible for the other’s safety, lest any unfortunate “accidents” occur…”

“The Champion” continues the format alterations that I registered on the series last week, regarding “The Rescue.”  

Specifically, the Resistance/Earth-based story is dreadful, and the alien/mothership story is a soap opera hoot, enlivened by tongue-in-cheek performances and outrageous dialogue.

To put it another way, the material with Diana, Lydia and Philip (Martin’s brother) is a helluva lot of fun in a campy, outrageous sort of way, even if lands far astray from the franchise’s origins. 

The highlight this week occurs when Diana and Lydia engage in a ceremonial one-on-one battle while wearing glittery make-up that makes them resemble members of KISS.

The scene is not merely amusing because of the silly costuming choices, but because Diana and Lydia share some great adversarial dialogue. For instance, Lydia boasts that she has never lost a contest involving “mortal combat.”   Diana responds that Lydia is an “idiot” and that if she had lost, “she’d be dead.”  It’ just totally wicked and totally bitchy material, and Chadwick and Badler go for broke with it.

The only baffling point: why does Lydia so sincerely protest her innocence?  She was the one, indeed, who acquired the poison, and put into a cup in Charles’ chamber.  Diana may have switched cups, realizing Lydia’s plan, but the trail leads back to Lydia, pretty clearly.

By contrast to the fun intrigue on the mothership, the Resistance material is just uniformly horrible here, and hackneyed to boot. In this case, “The Champion” is a reiteration of an old 1970s-1980s TV cliché: the Single Mother in Jeopardy Syndrome. 

In stories of this type, the series protagonists stumble upon a noble woman living with her teenage child, but without the support of a husband.  She’s a feisty, independent sort – usually a widow -- but she falls in love with the series hero, who is then tempted to stay to fill in as husband and father to this broken family unit.  

In terms of the genre, the Single Mother in Jeopardy Syndrome was seen on Battlestar Galactica (with Apollo, in “The Lost Warrior”) and in Buck Rogers (“The Satyr.”)  Outside the genre, the same story appeared on The A-Team, and MacGyver, to name just two popular programs of the era.  

Here Mike is tempted to stay with Kathy and Jessie but -- of course -- does not do so.  I suppose the story fulfills sort of wish-fulfillment for the male writers and for the character of Mike.  He could just walk away from the Resistance and right into a ready-made family and “normal life.”  But of course, he has too many responsibilities to live that particular, idyllic life, doesn’t he?

Meanwhile, Julie Parrish (Faye Grant) -- Mike’s should-be romantic partner -- is out of commission for most of the episode and seen wearing a neck brace.  WTF?  

I suspect the good doctor got whiplash from all the series cast (and premise…) changes she was forced to endure over the previous three week period.  Seriously: Julie is a wonderful character, and a great role model.  Yet here she is, sitting on the sidelines so Mike can have his fantasy romance episode.

In case you couldn’t tell, we are moving now into V’s final death spiral as a series.  The Visitors have become infinitely more entertaining and fun (and three dimensional…) than the shallow human characters, and the Los Angeles Resistance has been relegated, basically, to a van full of clichéd people (the alpha male, the resident alien, the comic relief, and the secondary alpha male [!]) wandering oft-seen Southern California locations.

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