Friday, March 05, 2021

V: The Series: "The Conversion"

In “The Conversion,” Lydia (June Chadwick) returns to Earth, having survived Diana’s (Jane Badler) attack on her shuttle. 

And worse for Diana, Lydia returns with the imposing Charles (Duncan Regher): a decorated Visitor leader renowned for his successful campaigns and his larger-than-life…persona.

Charles takes command of the fleet on Earth, demoting Diana in rank to chief science officer. His first order of business is to discredit the L.A. Resistance.  

When Ham Tyler (Michael Ironside) and Kyle Bates (Jeff Yahger) are captured, Charles has just the means he seeks to accomplish that goal. He forces Ham to undergo Diana’s conversion process, and transforms the resistance fighter into a secret assassin working for the Visitors. His plan is to have Ham assassinate Donovan on live television.

When Lydia is captured by the Resistance, a prisoner exchange is arranged: Lydia for Ham and Kyle. 

But the Visitors and Nathan Bates (Lane Smith) are in league, and plan to assassinate the Resistance leaders by using the converted Ham as their shooter.

At the tense prisoner exchange, however, Ham shoots Bates instead of Donovan…and all Hell breaks loose.

A fearsome (and fun) new enemy, Charles (Duncan Regher) arrives in “The Conversion” and he is just the injection of fresh blood that V: The Series (1984 – 1985) so desperately required at this particular juncture. 

In short, Charles scrambles the power structure aboard the Mothership and confounds the Resistance in Los Angeles. The arrival of Charles, Willie (Robert Englund) reports, also means that “The Leader intends to win.”

Charles is always seen garbed in black -- and never in Visitor uniform -- and this is just one character quality that distinguishes him a bit.  

We also learn that he has a reputation among his own people as being especially well-hung, though Diana believes that this description is just a rumor and mere self-promotion.  One on hand, this sort of material is far astray from the It Can't Happen Here origin of the franchise, and a further symptom of V's Dynastyification. On the other hand, as mentioned previously, it's sort of fun.

But Charles represents real trouble for Diana because he is flippant and condescending to her.  She means nothing to him. So when Diana warns him about Lydia’s frailties, Charles responds that it is his perception of Lydia -- not Diana’s -- that matters.  By failing to take Diana and her concerns seriously, Charles clearly sets himself up for trouble with the scheming lead lizard.  She doesn’t take challenges to her authority well…

Diana, meanwhile, proves as kinky as ever in “The Conversion.”  She attempts to seduce the captured Kyle Bates, and informs him that she “learned much” from human “mating rituals.”  


Honestly, I love it when V: The Series isn’t afraid to be bold in terms of Diana’s avarice for power…or sexual satisfaction. The stories on the series simply aren't that good or that distinctive, but Diana's character is one of a kind, and she adds dynamic colors to otherwise lackluster narratives.

“The Conversion” is also a strong episode for Ham Tyler, as he is forced to endure the torturous conversion process. In V: The Final Battle, Ham counseled the others that they could never trust Julie again because she had been through the process. Now Ham must reckon with the fact that he may not be as strong as Julie was, and may not be able to shake off his murderous programming.  I find Ham's self-doubt here far more interesting and appealing than the character's over-emotional turn in "Reflections of Terror.'

Interestingly, Ham is converted by the Vistiors based on two psychological qualities: his guilt over losing his wife and child in Cambodia, and his fear that Donovan is a better man than he is.  In his conversion dream, Ham imagines Donovan with his wife and little girl. This is a psychological foible that could have been developed further, because helps to more fully explain Ham's reluctance to really be friends with Gooder.

All the pieces of V: The Series’ continuing overall story arc are beginning to fit together nicely here too.  Charles has usurped Diana, which leads into a several-week long story arc.  

And at the end of “The Conversion,” Nathan Bates – “strong man of Los Angeles” -- is badly wounded and near death. 

If he dies, everything changes. The Red Dust will be released, and the atmosphere will be poisoned. In reckoning with this story line, we can finally see how V: The Series starts taking chances with its characters and stories, and stops playing everything so safe.

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