After a long hiatus, ABC’s sci-fi drama series V returns to the network’s regular lineup tonight at 8 EST. It’s a show well worth watching. Based rather loosely on a 1980s limited-run series from NBC, the new show tells the story of the coming of a large group of extraterrestrials to the earth and the world’s reaction to them. In the twelve episodes of season 1, the aliens presented themselves to the world as interested only in making things better for mankind, offering us new technologies and healing abilities. The aliens are all physically attractive, and the great majority look like humans in their twenties and thirties.
That, of course, was just their public face; in reality, it soon became clear, they are ugly and reptilian under their human skins and have an agenda to exploit humanity in some way, either as slaves or as food or both, or perhaps some even worse and more horrible fashion. And a small group of people have divined this agenda and set up a small, loose, but dedicated resistance organization.
Central to the narrative is the resistance against an intrusive government that claims to be for nothing but the good of humanity but is in fact pursuing sinister, elitist, and exploitative hidden agendas. As such, the show makes a strong commentary on contemporary political issues and constitutes one of the most frankly libertarian TV series seen in many years. In addition, it suggests strong approval of religion, specifically Christianity, in a way that makes the resistance group a spot-on analogue to the current-day Tea Party movement.
In episode 5, “Welcome to the War,” for example, the “visitors” clearly display the trappings of an oppressive government: claims of exclusively benevolent intentions; a large, complex organization devoted to the will of a single leader and small cadre of elite satraps; exercise of raw power against opposition whenever it can be accomplished in secret; use of sympathetic media mouthpieces and propaganda techniques; highly advanced military power and surveillance capabilities; vastly greater power than the people over whom they want to rule; use of deception and scapegoating in order to undermine resistance; and the like.
A member of the Christian clergy, Father Jack Landry (characterized excellently by Joel Gretsch), remains central to the resistance effort, along with FBI agent Erica Evans (likewise well played by Elizabeth Mitchell). Both are determined, kindly, and fundamentally decent and unselfish. Father Jack continually wears the traditional turned-around collar identifying him as a clergyman.
Leading the visitors, by contrast, is Anna, an extremely charismatic woman whose appearance includes both Caucasian and African characteristics. Anna claims to be for treating all people as equals and helping those who haven’t been successful in life, stopping just short of directly quoting President Obama and other progressive politicians. As the show progressed through its first season, however, she was increasingly revealed as a cold-hearted monster whose words of benevolence are entirely phony.
In episode 8, “We Can’t Win,”, for example, one of the V leaders describes flooding caused by a monsoon, which has possibly killed thousands of people, as a “tragedy.” “No,” says Anna, smiling triumphantly, “an opportunity,” echoing the words of former Obama aide Rahm Emanuel. Later, Anna tells a sympathetic journalist, “There’s tragedy every day all over your world. So many opportunities to help.”
In that same episode, Anna and the visitors continually refer to their takeover plans as “progress,” an apparent allusion to contemporary statists’ self-description as progressives.
As noted, the religious orientation of the show is strongly Christian. The leaders of the resistance use a church as their base of operations, and the climactic scene of “Welcome to the War” takes place in the church’s sanctuary. The church thus serves as a source of sound, eternal values and gives emotional strength to the resistance. The resistance members are clearly shown to be in the movement to protect their families, faith, freedom, and personal integrity.
In another positive allusion to Christianity, resistance member Georgie sacrifices his life to ensure that he won’t give away the identities of the other resisters, an evident allusion to Christ and to subsequent Christian martyrs. The show doesn’t avoid difficult moral quandaries, either: in “We Can’t Win,” Father Jack shoots a human agent of the Visitors.
The Visitors, too, recognize the power of religion, but they use it to their own ends. Erica’s teenage son, Tyler, becomes interested in “The Church of V” concocted by the Visitors as another means of distracting people from their real intentions.
In addition to the human resistance, among the aliens are some good individuals who sympathize with the humans. In fact, “John May,” the first V to turn against Anna, actually started the resistance. His name is of course reminiscent of John Galt, the hero of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. Two prominent aliens working against their government are given biblical names, Joshua and Samuel.
Episode 9, “Heretic’s Fork,” includes allusions to Nazi eugenics programs, with V doctors performing experiments on live human subjects. These events also resonate with contemporary issues such as elective abortion and embryonic stem cell research, however, as when Anna refers to an unborn V-human hybrid baby as a “mongrel” and insists it should be put to death in the womb. In “We Can’t Win” she kills an unborn Visitor just to make a point in a personal conversation.
The media’s role in pushing for big government is also prominent in the show. Newsman Chad Decker (Scott Wolf), for example, offers to do a story about the Fifth Column, the small group of humans who distrust the visitors. “Just point me in the right direction,” he tells Anna. Later, he meets Father Jack in the latter’s rectory and asks him for information about the Fifth Column. Jack says he doesn’t know anything, and this and a subsequent scene leave it ambiguous as to whether Chad is really cooperating with the visitors or acting as a double agent.
As the season progresses we find that the resistance, have been falsely branded as terrorists, and FBI agent Erica is assigned to head task force to find fifth columnists, Visitors who oppose their leaders’ plan to exploit humanity.
All of that leads to “Red Sky,” the finale of season one. The Vs are about to attack the earth openly and take over. A fifth columnist willingly gives up his own life to save all of mankind and his fellow Fifth Columnists, in a Christlike sacrifice. Tellingly, the Fifth Columnist is named Joshua, the Old Testament translation of the Jewish name translated as Jesus in the New Testament. Later in the episode, Joshua is resurrected, literally brought back to life.
After Joshua’s killing, Father Jack preaches a sermon in which he tells his congregation, “You are going to have to choose who you’re going to follow: the V’s or God. Because you can’t serve two masters. . . . There is a war upon us: a war for our souls.”
The war resumes tonight.