Initially pitched as a chronicle of the Nazi invasion of Germany, V was changed to a sci-fi miniseries by NBC execs looking to exploit the popularity of George Lucas’s Star Wars franchise. When the miniseries aired in May 1983, it scored monster ratings for the peacock network. V: The Final Battle performed similarly well but the franchise would fizzle out with the premiere of the series spin-off, an intergalactic soap which ran for 19 episodes between October 1984 and March 1995. (V: The Second Generation reunites much of the show’s original cast and is slated for network release next year.) Included on this three-disc V: The Complete Series are all 19 episodes of the series, including the infamous “Breakout” episode which was deemed too violent by the censors and wouldn’t air until the series went into syndication.
Gen Xers with fond memories (or nightmares) of the original miniseries and its sequel should be advised that the series spin-off is best approached as a nostalgia kick. Beyond the eerie Howard K. Smith Freedom Network intros, which subversively evoke a collective humanity banding together to resist a lizard invasion (from the Alamo in Texas to an Apartheid-era Johannesburg, the writers updated resistance movements of the past—most fascinating is the transformation of the Black Panthers into Grey ones—to reflect the less black-and-white struggle plaguing the film’s Reagan-era milieu), the series itself is but a lame hybrid of Aaron Spelling’s then-popular Dynasty and Marvel’s G.I. Joe cartoon, which pit elite resistance fighters against the terrorist group Cobra.
As alien commander Diana, Jane Badler was a fierce adversary to Marc “Beastmaster” Singer’s resistance fighter Mike Donovan, whose inexplicable ability to infiltrate and escape from alien headquarters anticipates the less agitated but no less implausible antics of Richard Dean Anderson’s MacGyver. One of the better episodes in the series, “The Overload” evokes all sorts of power struggles within a mining community when its leader looks to sell cobalt to Diana’s mothership, but the squashing of good in the face of unflinching evil barely registers anywhere else in the show. Save for the awesome holographic set piece featured in episode four (“The Deception”), the series was less inventive than reductive. Any and all humor is purely unintentional (carb-counters may get a kick out of a Doctor Atkins’s kidnapping in “War of Illusions”) and the camp-factor is surprisingly low, a notable exception being the hysterical sit-down dinner between Diana and her would-be lover.
Every episode in the series is more or less the same: Diana concocts an elaborate scheme and Donovan’s posse dutifully deflates it. The lapses in logic were common (are we supposed to believe that no one can out-run the Krivits monster that lurks inside the sand moat in “Breakout”?) and the special effects were god-awful, but the show was truly undermined by the epic, Guiness-worthy bickering between Badler’s Diana and June Chadwick’s if-looks-could-kill Lydia. Theirs was the lamest, most unfulfilled catfight in the history of soaps (certainly it was slim pickings to the down-and-dirty show Joan Collins and Linda Carter were putting on over at Dynasty), though I suppose it’s possible to enjoy V: The Complete Series as an extended music video to the entire discography of the rock group Heart.
Warner Home Video has made no attempt to clean whatever source tapes were used during the transfer process (dirt and specks are noticeable throughout), ensuring that V looks its age, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for a blast that should look as if its coming from a very distant past. The infinitely less satisfying sound is all over the place-as such, prepare yourself to play non-stop with the volume on your remote control.
Until MacGyver and Alf season box sets hit stores, Gen Xers will get a nostalgia kick out of this V: The Complete Series DVD.