Friday, March 05, 2021

V: The Series: "The Hero"

In “The Hero,” Diana (Jane Badler), Charles (Duncan Regher) and the other Visitors adjust to a new reality in Los Angeles. 

Strong man Nathan Bates (Lane Smith) has been fatally wounded and is on life support at Science Frontiers.  This means the Visitors most work with his assistant, Chiang (Aki Aleong), who proves all too willing to collaborate with them. In return, the Visitors provide Chiang with software to create a kind of virtual Nathan Bates, one who immediately declares martial law.

With Los Angeles under draconian rule, Charles sets out to “break the back of the Resistance” once and for all.  He immediately takes hostages in Los Angeles, and promises to execute them one at a time with a deadly disintegrator gun.  

Among the captives is Robin Maxwell (Blair Tefkin) and John (Bruce Davison), a Visitor masquerading as a war photographer.

The Resistance plans to rescue Robin, but Elias (Michael Wright) is murdered by the Visitors and their new weapon…

Although V: The Series (1984 – 1985) rarely lives up to the standard for excellence set by the 1983 miniseries, there are a number of memorable episodes.  “The Hero” certainly falls into that category.

There are two factors that make this episode work effectively.  One is the totally unexpected and sudden death of Elias (Michael Wright), a regular character.  And the second is the plot-line involving Robin Maxwell.

I was fifteen years old when I first saw “The Hero” and most television up to that time, at least in America, was “safe” in the sense that you knew regular characters were going to be survive harm week in and week out.  

I had not yet seen Blake’s 7 (1978 – 1981) at that juncture, so it wasn’t a valid comparison point.  Suffice it to say I was quite shocked when in “The Hero,” Elias stepped out from the shadows, took a courageous stance…and was promptly disintegrated by the Visitors.

Elias’s death was shocking, not just because it occurred, but because of when it occurred in the drama.  His death wasn’t even the climax or high-point of the story.  It was just one more “event” in an action-packed episode, and it transmitted quite fully, the danger of life in the Resistance, and during the War.

The only antecedents I knew at that time for this kind of “cut-throat” approach to TV characters were Edith Bunker, who died between seasons of All in the Family/Archie Bunker’s Place, and Colonel Henry Blake on M*A*S*H who also died off-screen.  Victor Bergman had disappeared from Moonbase Alpha on Space: 1999, but viewers were never told definitively on-screen if he had died, though it was the logical assumption.

There’s just something incredibly savage -- and random -- about Elias’s death and it really stuck with me. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  

In years to come, beloved characters died (on-screen) in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Power, The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I believe that it’s fair to state -- at least in terms of American genre television -- that Elias’s death represented a beginning point for that kind of storytelling…where nobody was safe.

Elias’s demise is a gut-punch that suddenly raises the stakes on V: The Series.  The program often comes across as silly, and Diana’s antics waver between menace and camp.  But then there’s this episode and the no-nonsense murder of a beloved character.  It just kind of rocks you back, almost as if the series has lulled you into a sense that nothing is for keeps.

Suddenly, it's all for keeps.

The other reason “The Hero” remains a strong episode is that Robin falls for another Visitor, though this time one in disguise. She believes he is human, and sleeps with him, but the truth is that he is a double agent tasked by Diana with impregnating Robin and thus creating a second Star Child.

This plot-line works so well, I believe, because it’s just so damned evil.  Robin has gone through Hell and who -- in a million years -- would believe she might have to go through it all again?  It’s just so cruel and horrible, yet perfectly in keeping with Diana’s despicable and diabolical nature.

I remember vividly watching “The Hero” in the mid-1980s and being blown away by it. 

Elias murdered? Robin impregnated again?  

After weeks of diffident storytelling and silly old tropes like the evil twin suddenly V: The Series seemed surprising, dangerous, and willing to take crazy chances in terms of its narrative.  Accordingly, I feel that the run from “The Hero” to “The Rescue” may just be the series’ strongest.  The original concept -- It Can’t Happen Here -- is long gone, of course, but the back-stabbing, murders, and reversals of this portion of the series are nonetheless enough to keep the audience off balance and in the dark.

After weeks of the Visitors getting their asses kicked and the action getting re-set to the status quo, suddenly everything is up for grabs in “The Hero,” and that’s a very good thing.

1 comment:

  1. I'm enjoying these write-ups - thank you. I was 10 in 1984 and clearly remember seeing the second miniseries (I don't think I saw the first until many years later) and being thrilled about the weekly TV series. But while I stuck with it for a while, I stopped watching somewhere in that first (only) season, so some of these recaps are "new" for me.

    I can't remember why I stopped watching, but I *do* remember being very disappointed when they aged-up Elizabeth at the beginning of the series - she was the only character who was my age! ��


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