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Humankind's last stand.
A militaristic alien starfleet arrives on Earth from Sirius, and its people, human-like aliens, appeal to Earth to help produce chemicals to save their dying world. As months go by, the so-called Visitors infiltrate every level of human society. But a select few become suspicious; forming a resistance, they soon discover the truth — the Visitors are not like us, they are not our friends, and they don't want our help; they want our water. And other things.
Originally aired as two miniseries and a one-season regular series, V is, in the words of creator Kenneth Johnson, a story of power — how different people react to it, and how they react to those who have it. It is an unabashed metaphor for the rise of Nazism prior to World War II; in fact, the story was originally to be a direct allegory involving a home-grown fascist regime being elected to govern the United States, based on Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here, but NBC wanted a sci-fi show since Star Wars had been such a hit.
The story is told in several interweaving arcs, each following a different set of characters (not unlike The Lord of the Rings or many disaster films of the 1970s) as their individual plotlines eventually merge and they unite to combat the all-powerful evil.
V (1983): Fifty three-mile-wide spaceships take positions over key cities of the world. The aliens reveal themselves to be human in appearance (but with an electronic voice effect), and ask for help to save their doomed home planet. As they weave their way into society, biologists, archaeologists and scientists of similar fields begin disappearing; and a med student, Julie Parrish, organizes a small resistance.
Meanwhile, news cameraman Mike Donovan also grows suspicious and sneaks aboard the Mother Ship where he discovers the aliens' secret: they're really humanoid reptiles. He also learns that they've come to steal Earth's water and to harvest humans for food. The Visitors use their contrived influence with human governments to institute martial law, effectively taking over the world. The Visitors attack Donovan's home town and kidnap his family; meanwhile, in a biological "experiment", a kidnapped girl is impregnated by a Visitor. The rest of the miniseries focuses on the fledgling Resistance's struggle to become a significant threat to the Visitors' plans.
V: The Final Battle (1984): Moving forward several months, we find that the Resistance is still struggling a near-futile battle with the Visitors, and Robin Maxwell's alien pregnancy advances with no way to stop it. But the tide turns when the Resistance stages an attack on the Visitor admiral, unmasking him on live television. Unfortunately, leader Julie is captured and put through a brainwashing "conversion chamber", though she is later rescued. Robin eventually gives birth to twins, one a human-like girl and the other a reptiloid with blue eyes. The reptile dies, and a bacterium is found in its system. The girl, Elizabeth, quickly molts into the body of an eight-year-old, after which she is taken to the Visitors by a priest who believes she is a bridge of peace. He is killed for his trouble and Elizabeth stays with the Visitor leader Diana.
Meanwhile, the bacteria which killed the reptile baby is developed into a biotoxic weapon that will poison the Earth to the Visitors without harm to humans or the ecology. The Resistance mounts a bold attack to spread the so-called "Red Dust" into the atmosphere, but the villainous Diana has an ace — a thermonuclear device in her spaceship that will destroy Earth. And so, as the Visitors withdraw from all over the globe, the Resistance must take over the L.A. ship and fly it into space before the Earthshattering Kaboom. But Elizabeth deactivates the bomb with hitherto unreferenced magical powers, saving the day.
V: The Series (1984-85): A year after the events of The Final Battle, Star Child Elizabeth molts again, into a 20-year-old. Diana escapes custody on her way to stand trial and flees into space where it is revealed that the Visitor fleet has retreated only as far as the moon. It is also revealed that the Red Dust not only has had an impact on Earth's ecosphere, but that it requires a sustained cold spell to reproduce, rendering it ineffective in warm climates (like Los Angeles). The Visitors re-invade Earth, and Diana quickly strikes a truce with businessman Nathan Bates, making L.A. a "free" city.
However, the core members of the original Resistance (now including Bates' son Kyle) are having none of that, and they reunite to cause mayhem and disrupt the Visitors at every turn. Eventually, after heavy casualties on both sides of the struggle, the Visitors' "Great Leader" arrives on Earth to call off the war and to take Elizabeth home with him. The cliffhanger ending reveals that Kyle, who has pursued a romance with the Star Child, has stowed away on the Leader's ship.
V: The Second Generation (2008): Written by Kenneth Johnson and ignoring the events of the second miniseries and the series, this new novel picks up the progress of the Visitor occupation of Earth some twenty years later, here in the modern day. Answering a distress signal from Earth (sent at the end of the first miniseries), a new alien race has arrived to help the humans win their freedom.
Not to be confused with V for Vendetta.
- Air Vent Passageway: Used several times, in fact.
- Alien Invasion: Um... duh. Oh, and they have Flying Saucers, too. Hot dog!
- Aliens Are Bastards
- Aliens Speaking English: Since the Visitors are trying to fit into human society, they must speak the local language at all times. The trope was also subverted with the character of Willie — played by Robert "Freddie Krueger" Englund, no less — who was initially assigned to the Middle East and trained in Arabic, but ended up in Los Angeles by mistake and has to learn English on the fly.
- And This Is For: Right before tossing a Molotov Cocktail into a Visitor craft, Ruby says, "This one's for Abraham".
- Anyone Can Die: Major characters are routinely Killed Off for Real throughout the weekly series' run.
- The Baroness: Diana.
- Bizarre Alien Reproduction: Visitor females develop a ring of discoloration around their necks when pregnant, which is how Willie recognizes that Robin is expecting.
- Bottomless Magazines: The captured Visitor laser pistols seemingly never need to be reloaded or recharged.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Julie, but she gets better.
- Brainwash Residue: Diana has attempted to brainwash Julie Parish into being her slave. She fights off the brainwashing, mostly successfully, but occasionally catches herself using the wrong hand. In V: The Final Battle, Diana telepathically commands Julie and she has flashbacks to the brainwashing. Julie doesn't quite give in, but the internal struggle gives Diana a chance to escape.
- Cool Guns: Ham Tyler's Ingram MAC-10. In the TV series, everyone seemed to have one.
- Creator Provincialism: Although the story is said to have a global scale, most of the pivotal events occur in Los Angeles.
- Danger Takes a Backseat: Early in the first miniseries, a scientist who becomes suspicious of the Visitors is kidnapped from his car and never seen again.
- Daydream Believer: Ever got one of those chain emails from schizos about Lizard Folk? See Paranoia Fuel.
- Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes
- Day of the Jackboot
- Deus Ex Machina: The Red Dust, which initially does exactly what the plot needs it to do to ensure a happy ending.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Especially egregious during the original mini-series. Try playing a drinking game which requires imbibing upon the appearance of Nazi, Holocaust, or Hitler Youth references. It is unlikely you will see the end of the series due to intoxication.
- Do Not Adjust Your Set
- Dressing as the Enemy
- Dull Surprise: Mike Donovan's only expression. Except when he closes his mouth. Then it's just dull.
- Dying Like Animals: In particular, hero Mike Donovan's traitorous, got what was coming to her collaborator mother
- Eighties Hair: Diana (and most of the other women as well) suffer acute cases of this at various points.
- The End of the World as We Know It: Since the Visitors are Planet Looters.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: No, it really isn't.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Actually, birds and rodents. Justified, given the reptilian nature of the aliens.
- Evil Feels Good: It is clearly stated that Evil Overlord Diana enjoys what she does.
- Evil Twin: Combining this with Back from the Dead, we have Phillip, who adopts the same human guise as his brother, the late Reverse Mole Martin. Phillip later pulls a Heel Face Turn.
- Expanded Universe: A number of novels explored the adventures of Resistance fighters from other key locations around the globe. Probably the best of these was East Coast Crisis, set in New York City and concurrent with the original miniseries.
- Faked Rip Van Winkle: The Visitors try this on Donovan in one episode of the original series, trying to locate Elizabeth so they can kidnap her.
- False-Flag Operation: The Visitors blame scientists for terrorist activities, using this excuse to enact martial law, as well as turning public opinion against the people most likely to discover the Visitors' true nature.
- Femme Fatale: Diana, among her own people.
- First Contact
- Flash Back: Original Miniseries: Josh catches us up on how he ended up alone in the street at the beginning of part 2.
- Functional Magic: Elizabeth's powers were never explained or examined in any detail-- and we can't help thinking that's probably for the best, as any Hand Wave the writers came up with would probably have been even more teeth-grinding than the powers themselves.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Elizabeth Maxwell, the so-called Star Child.
- How to Invade An Alien Planet: The inspiration for this trope.
- Huge Holographic Head
- Humans Are Special: Diana told her Supreme Leader that Humans are unusually resistant to her conversion process. Thus, while it's useful for putting a few important individuals under their control, mass conversion of the entire population is completely impractical for now.
- Icon of Rebellion: The "V" hand gesture.
- Immune to Bullets: The Visitor soldiers wear body armor which resists small-caliber weapons fire. Only Donovan's stolen energy pistol is effective, but the Fifth Columnists can't supply any more considering the weapons are too closely guarded. Fortunately Ham Tyler, mercenary extraordinaire (played quite effectively by Michael Ironside), later comes to help with armor piercing ammo that can take the Visitors out. And no, no one has the wit to try a rifle, or shoot for the head.
- To be fair, the Visitors' helmets probably protect the head pretty well too. But no, nobody's smart enough to shoot for the throat. And nobody's smart enough to realize that the bazookas they used to shoot down Visitor fighters will work on infantry even better, either. However, Donovan does recommend shooting for the legs in one scene when he realizes the Visitors aren't bothering to wear armor there.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: But only when it was situational appropriate. They randomly blew a lot of things and people up too. It became comical as the series went on; the Visitors, supposedly an alien invasion army that makes worlds tremble, can never shoot straight if a named character is onscreen.
- It Only Works Once: The Red Dust stops working in warm environments. Further deployment of the Dust is ruled out because it affects terrestrial reptiles as well.
- Intrepid Reporter: Mike Donovan and his cameraman Tony.
- For an Evil Counterpart version, look no further than Kristine Walsh.
- Karmic Death: Danny and Eleanor both get served different versions of this. The latter's doubles as a crowning moment of awesome for Stephen when he twigs what she's about to do and shoots her in the back as she tries to switch sides.
- Klingon Promotion: Diana pulls this off twice near the end of the second miniseries.
- La Résistance: Cleverly named "the Resistance".
- Latex Perfection: The Visitors only look human...
- Left Hanging:
- A big deal is made of the abduction and conversion of Donovan's son in the miniseries, and The Series revisits this in one episode. After this, no follow-up is ever attempted.
- The Series ended on a cliffhanger episode. After this was filmed, the series was unceremoniously canceled and the cliffhanger never resolved (except in a comic book adaptation).
- Les Collaborateurs: Eleanor Dupres and Daniel Bernstein.
- Light Bulb Joke: None, they like the dark!
- Malaproper: Willie was supposed to be sent to Israel, not California, so he's not that proficient at English and does this pretty much all the time.
- Mind Probe: The "conversion chamber", which employs More Than Mind Control. This also leaves A Sinister Clue — Conversion renders collaborators left-handed (or right-handed, if they were lefties to begin with).
- Mook Face Turn: Willie gets captured by the Resistance and ends up joining them.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Does the name "Nathan Bates" sound like one of the most famous psychopaths in cinema?
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Visitors' logo is just two strokes away from being a swastika. Also there is the Nazi-like propaganda that they employ against scientists.
- Novelization: A. C. Crispin wrote an unusually good one covering both miniseries. She also co-wrote the previously mentioned East Coast Crisis.
- Ominous Floating Spaceship: Seen, famously in the beginning.
- One-Letter Title
- Planet Looters: The Visitors come to earth to strip it clean, but are focused on water and meat (and humans are so damned plentiful). The Novelization makes an effort to justify it; in the Visitors' experience, the industrial effort necessary to develop interstellar civilization inflicts irreversible damage on biospheres. Recycling technologies are found to be insufficient when applied to billions of people, so all civilizations they know of are fighting over what few natural resources remain. Earth is thus ripe for the plucking.
- Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Elizabeth grows from infant to romantic-plot-capable in record time. In a single night she grows from an infant to about ten years old. Say, where'd all that mass come from? Last night she was a nine-pound infant, now she's a ten-year-old.
- Plot Hole: Some reviewers at the time noted that the script seemed to be constructed largely of these.
- Putting on the Reich
- The Quisling: Kristine Walsh, Eleanor Dupres, and Daniel Bernstein are the most prominent examples. Kristine pulls a Heel Face Turn and gets shot by Diana, Eleanor tries to save herself and gets shot by Stephen, and Daniel is framed by the Resistance as a spy and it's implied he gets eaten by Stephen.
- Redemption Equals Death: Kristine Walsh, who's essentially become the Visitors' PR agent, breaks and announces their true nature on air. Diana promptly shoots her.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Visitors in their true reptilian forms.
- Inverted with Elizabeth's twin brother, who looked creepy because he had blue human eyes in a reptilian face.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Visitors in their real form eat cuddly, fuzzy little hamsters and guinea pigs. They eat pretty little parakeets. And they have creepy red-and-yellow eyes. They spit acidic venom.
- The Reptilians: The Visitors.
- Reverse Mole: Actually, a whole slew of them, in the Fifth Column.
- Scary Dogmatic Aliens
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The Visitors are going to put all the water in Southern California into a three mile wide spaceship? Um...No?
- Shout-Out: In a scene welcoming the Visitors, a high-school marching band plays the Star Wars theme — badly.
- So Happy Together: Brad and Maggie agree to get married right before going on a raid. Brad doesn't come back.
- Stock Footage: Little alien ship flies into big alien saucer vessel. Little alien ship flies out of little alien saucer vessel. One little alien ship shoots death rays at another little alien ship, pew pew pew! Apparently the first one or two episodes used up the entire special effects budget, and these three sequences are reused over and over and over and OVER and over and over and over and over, to the point of being really, really noticeable.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Martin, Elias and Robin's father in the first few episodes of the weekly series.
- Too Dumb to Live: Robin Maxwell.
- To Serve Man: One EU novel highlighted this by having a Visitor munching on
ladyfingersa lady's fingers.
- Truce Zone: Los Angeles in the original series.
- Two-Keyed Lock: In the last episode of the second series. It doesn't really work all that well, but it is there.
- The Unfavorite: Elias, who suffered Why Couldn't You Be Different? in comparison to his doctor brother, Benjamin. Tragically, he gets over it too late.
- Technically, Elizabeth's short-lived, scaly brother qualifies too, as no one but Willie was willing to show him any affection and he was never given a name.
- We Come in Peace, Shoot to Kill: Version 2.
- You Don't Want to Die a Virgin, Do You?: Danny pitches this to Robin before he realizes she digs Brian and not him.
- You Fail Biology Forever: Is the Red Dust a bacteria or a toxin? The two things are very different, but the dust is referred to as both, seems to have the properties of both, and doesn't make sense as either.