Writer/director Kenneth Johnson gave us a modern retelling of the Nazi Third Reich in the event mini-series that so impacted me, and countless others, when it first debuted on 1 May, 1983.
It was all I talked about in school, finishing up the sixth grade. I didn’t get to see it all when it aired, and this was before VCRs were a common household item, so I got to see portions of it, and then my circle of friends would all get together, and we would try to fill in the holes of what each other had missed.
I was totally taken in by the designs ( I loved the ships, the shuttles, the lasers), the stylized swastika (something else I didn’t realize at the time) that marked the Visitors crafts and uniforms, but had no idea it was simply a variation on the horrors of Nazi Germany. To me at that age it was just a fun adventure, I didn’t see the connection between the brown uniforms of the Visitor youth program and the Brown Shirts.
But I’m getting ahead of myself the story sees the Earth shaken by the arrival of a fleet of starships that settle into station over the major cities of the world. Despite a problem with bright light, necessitating the use of sunglasses, and a strange reverberation to their voice the Visitors appear to be human-like.
As the alien leaders, John (Richard Herd) and Diana (Jane Badler – how I crushed on her) ingratiate themselves into humanity, a lot of people are quite happy to go along with the program even as they surrender control to ‘help’ the Visitors with the resources they need.
Others begin to suspect that there is something more going on, and a reporter, Mike Donovan (Marc Singer) gets a shocking glimpse of what is really going on on the spaceships, as well as the true nature of the Visitors – something that doesn’t happen until we’re over an hour into the first part, which makes it a stunning, and shocking reveal – I remember seeing this happen, and was completely freaked out!
A small resistance band, led by Juliet Parrish (Faye Grant – another crush. Two smart, strong, independent, beautiful women in one series, in the 80s, that’s a win. ) begins to spring up as we are introduced to a variety of characters and their families. We dig into relationships, and the mini-series takes it’s time building its story, introducing us to one idea after another. We watch as things get stripped away from them, and the fight begins.
But the first part sets up a lot, introduces us to heroes and villains on both sides of the story, including Robert Englund’s alien, Willie, Mike’s parents, Frank Ashmore’s Martin, and Mike’s ex, and fellow reporter turned Visitor spokesperson, Kristine Walsh (Jenny Sullivan). Families scheme against one another, betray others, while alliances are formed, and truths are discovered.
It takes a while to reveal what is going on, the first half of part one takes its time, hinting at darker actions being committed by the Visitors. They begin to turn the world against the scientific community as well as controlling the media (fake news anyone?).
The series has an all-star cast from the 80s including Joanna Kerns, David Packer, Leonardo Cimino, Micheal Wright, and Blair Tefkin.
Part one comes to the cliffhanger conclusion when one of the characters, a young doctor, Ben (Richard Lawson) is shot by the Visitors, and dies as his horrified, broken-hearted younger brother, a thief named Elias (Wright) refuses to accept the event, and becomes committed to the fight. And Abraham Bernstein (Cimino) shows a group of kids how to resist, with a V… for Victory.
Next week, we come to the conclusion, as I reminisce with V- The Original Miniseries.