Monday, 8 May 2017

676 V

First  viewed : 31  July  1984

This  was  good  fun  if  you  didn't  take  it  too  seriously  and  didn't  mind  that  every  idea  it  had  was  at  least  second  hand.

The  expensive  US  mini-series  started  with  the  descent  on  Earth  of  large  alien  spaceships   bearing  friendly  humanoid  aliens  willing  to  share  their  advanced  technological  benefits  with  us  if  we  let  them  hang  around. Most  humans  welcomed  the  offer but  a  few  led  by  Mike  Donovan  ( Marc  Singer, a  poor  man's  Kevin  Bacon )  and  Dr  Julie  Parrish  ( gorgeous  blonde  Faye  Grant )  are  suspicious  and  uncover  the  visitors'  deadly  secret, they  are  really reptiles  with  a  penchant  for  devouring  live  rodents  ( possibly  the  inspiration  for  The  Sun's  infamous  Freddie  Starr  headline )  and  are  harvesting  the  earth's  population  for  food. As  the  aliens'  regime  on  earth  becomes  more  obviously  repressive  - a  fusion  of  elements  from  the  Nazis, 1984  and  the  Khmer  Rouge  , a  resistance  movement  emerges , aided  by  alien  fifth  columnists represented  by  Martin ( Frank  Ashmore ) . It's  also  helped  by  Donovan's  remarkable  ability  to  use  alien  weapons  and  spacecraft  more  skilfully  than  the  aliens  themselves.

The  chief  villain  was  Diana  ( Faye  Badler ) who  added  an  extra  ingredient  of  Mengele-like  evil   to  the  visitors'  plans  with  her  medical  experiments  including  getting  a  young  girl  Robin ( Blair  Tefkin ) pregnant  with  alien  spunk  provided  by  Brian  ( Peter  Nelson ). The  caesarian  birth  scene  where  the  girl  has  twins, a  girl  with  a  forked  tongue  and  a  reptilian  boy  is  a  blatant  steal  from  Alien. Other  notable  characters  were  innocent  drone  alien  Willie  ( Robert  Englund )  , Dan  Bernstein  ( David  Packer )  a  Jewish  boy  who, with  tasteless  irony,  joins  the  equivalent  of  the  Hitler  Youth  and  Ham  Tyler a  resistance  chief  played  by  Michael  Ironside  and  his  black  leather  jacket. This  was  my  first  sighting  of  this  versatile  actor  who  not  only  plays  the  same  character  in  every  film  but  also  wears  the  same  clothes.

Eventually,  the  humans  get  the  upper  hand  by  developing  a  bacterial weapon  a  la  War  of  the  Worlds  and  Diana's  response  of  total  annihilation  is  thwarted  by  her  own  prodigy, Robin's  daughter , the  "star-child"  Elisabeth  ( Jenny  Beck ). A  sequel  ( although  in  fact  what  we  saw  was  two  separate  mini-series  in  the  US  run  together )  was  telegraphed  by  Diana's  Darth  Vader-esque  escape  at  the  end.

This  materialised  in  1986  although  as  a  19-part  regular  series  of  hour  long  episodes. It  was  shown  late  at  night  on  a  Friday . Apart  from  those killed  in  the climactic  battles  of  the  original  series,  the  same  cast  returned  with  some  new  additions  such  as  Lydia  ( June  Chadwick ),  a  professional  rival  to  Diana  facilitating  some  Dynasty-syle  bitchery.  Martin  was  killed  in  the  first  episode  but  later  his  clone  Philip  arrives  on  the  scene. I  thought  it  was  OK  and  stayed  with  it  but  it  was  expensive  to  make, critically  savaged  and  weakened  by  Ironside's  departure  midway  through  the  series. Although  it  ended  on  a  cliffhanger  there  was  no  further  season.

There  was  a  reboot  in  2009  but  in  the  UK  it  was  only  shown  on  Syfy  and  Virgin1  channels. Singer  went  on  to  appear  in  Dallas  for  a  season. I  thought  Grant  would  be  a  big  star  but  apart  from  the  Richard  Gere  film  Internal  Affairs  in  which  she  played  a  very  unsympathetic  character  I  never  saw  her  again.

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