There’s a popular conspiracy theory that suggests that the world’s governments and the leaders of politics and enterprise all secretly bend to the will of an elite group of shape-shifting reptilian humanoids. Its most vocal theorists suggest that this reptilian Illuminati are behind all the corruption, hatred, and war on the planet, and that our political systems, by design, are used to keep us hostile toward each other and distracted from the Reptoids’ ultimate goal of…whatever they have to gain by making everyone miserable.
ABC’s second attempt to capture the sci-fi audience of Lost, V, a remake of the 1983 miniseries and its sequels, taps into similar conspiracy-theory paranoia. The reptilian Visitors in the original V were a crudely drawn Nazi allegory, right down to the almost-swastika emblems on their uniforms. Much of this symbolism bleeds over into the new version of V, with the Hitler Youth-like auxiliary movement and the Visitors’ manipulation of the press, but with a rise of anti-government sentiment in the U.S., the show’s rhetoric feels pointed closer to home. After their ominous arrival, noteworthy for its strong similarities to Independence Day (or “any number of alien-invasion predecessors,” as a bespectacled onlooker notes in the pilot), the Visitors immediately start spewing promises and platitudes that ring familiar to our ears, with liberal use of words like “hope,” “change,” and (in big, bold flashing letters) “universal health care.” Even if V turns out to be the same ominous parable about the onset of fascism that we’ve seen time on end, its blunt use of Obamaisms feels like a cheap trick to hook conservative viewers.
V works best when it forgoes its shaky aspirations for political satire and sticks to the action. By essentially cramming the first half of the original miniseries in the pilot, V thankfully dispenses of the tired drama regarding the Visitors’ true nature. Even if the bulk of the show’s audience isn’t familiar with the original series, the transparency of the aliens’ bland eagerness screams “evil reptiles,” and protracting the tension of that revelation would have dragged the show down. It remains to be seen if V will touch on some of the original’s more legendary moments of out-there sci-fi, like the horrific birth of a reptilian/human hybrid from the second miniseries. As silly and dated as much of the original remains, one can’t help but hope that this new version of V will feature a scene where Laura Vandervoort sucks down a gerbil like a vacuum cleaner.
While V mostly adheres to the original storyline, its best and most modern plotline involves a terrorist sleeper cell of Visitors hidden among the general population. Despite the concept of Visitors infiltrating the ranks of humans feeling uncomfortably similar to that other successful sci-fi reboot, Battlestar Galactica, the terrorism angle boasts some of the update’s most enticing intrigue. It’s telling that the show’s freshest aspect borrows so heavily from another series, but without the tension of finding out the extent of the Visitors’ cancerous infiltration into human society, this new version of V would fall flat.