Tuesday, March 30, 2021

V: The Series: "The Rescue"

In “The Rescue” -- the first post-cast-massacre episode of V: The Series (1984 – 1985) -- Lydia (June Chadwick) and Charles (Duncan Regher) realize that Diana (Jane Badler) is a loose cannon, but that it will be immensely difficult to remove her from Visitor Command since her attack on Earth has been successful. 

Before long, a scheming 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 until he has enjoyed his honeymoon.

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

But Lydia is jealous, and plots to murder Diana with cat poison.  Diana sees through the plan, however, and sees to it that Charles drinks the poison instead…

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 married Visitor royalty, Charles in “The Rescue.” 

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

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

Forget the traditional wedding cake, Diana and Charles instead share their "ceremonial mouse.”

By this point in the franchise continuity, V: The Series has become sort of wickedly-amusing high-camp, and yet one can’t help but feel compassion for Diana as Lydia and Charles conspire against her.  The material, though silly on one level, also achieves 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 has is ultimately undone by her society's expectations of her as a biological female. Accordingly, everything -- from that very command structure to the dictates of her religion -- subverts her individual 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. 

Again, it seems worthwhile to point out that, whatever its specific failings, V: The Series was a pioneer in terms of depicting strong female characters, and even in an episode like this -- and with a character who is ostensibly a villain -- these characters are written sympathetically.  Yes, the series more closely resembles Dynasty or Dallas at this point than It Can't Happen Here, but there is still a strong connection between Diana and the audience.  She is a character we love to hate, but we also don't like to see a person of such power treated shabbily.

At the very least, the intrigue and back-stabbing on the mother-ship in “The Rescue” proves entertaining and droll.  The same can’t be said for the dire, hackneyed subplot with the Resistance.  In this case, a family seeks Julie’s (Faye Grant) help delivering a baby in the thick of the Los Angeles war zone.  The story is incredibly clichéd and hackneyed, and once more, Elizabeth demonstrates a new power that happens to help in the very moment it is needed.  She can now perfectly recall and imitate any human or visitor voice.

But each time "The Rescue" returns to Charles and Diana and their nuptials, 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 with this material.  The episode is outrageous, and yet it is also fun.  “The Rescue” sucks you in, despite your better judgment.  It many not be a great episode, but -- right down to the Charles and Diana wedding joke (art imitating life) -- it is an unforgettable one.

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