Every so often a terrible, weird and yet strangely enjoyable scifi show comes along. These are never forgotten. A basic component to being a scifi fan is rambling at people about shows which should never have been cancelled. But who can blame us when even now, scifi doesn’t get the attention from TV it deserves?
V was one such show that it is hard to let go of. The title has had many iterations but the most recent was in 2009. It didn’t last for more than two seasons and that’s not really a surprise. This was pre Hulu and Netflix domination, where scifi budgets were even more exorbitant than they are now and CGI was still very much a work in progress. These factors meant scifi shows were hard to invest in, especially when shows relied so much more on traditional outlets – namely, network TV. V’s CGI wasn’t great, and for a show all about aliens, it was kind of an essential element. However, worse still was the writing. It was inconsistent and the dialogue was incredibly weak, but the cast did try to save it and they managed to put in really engaging performances for characters that otherwise would have been cringe-worthy.
Yet, the great injustice with V was not that it was cancelled. I get that. I understand why, in a capitalist world when TV was much more boring, such a funky show would be thrown out. I watched season two knowing full well that there would be no season three. It was not disappointing in itself. I just wished there were more shows that also had the free spirited nature just to embrace kooky and cheesy scifi, and that wasn’t the only one I had to stick with (no matter how absurd). Until, I watched the finale. My life has never been the same since.
To cut a long story short – or a really short TV series even shorter – V is about an alien invasion where the aliens all seem peaceful but really they are just trying to take over. The main way they attempt to get control is through ‘bliss’ which subdues humans, putting them in a state of tranquility and subservience. The end of season two saw everyone in humanity besides Erica (Elizabeth Mitchell) being blissed.
Seriously?! That’s the end that we are forever stuck with?
It is quite possibly the most miserable end to any show that has ever existed. All of humanity has fallen and that’s that. There is nothing to save the day. There isn’t even a hope of a plan because nearly all of the main characters have been subjected to bliss or are dead. Of all of the worst moments to cancel a show, that has to be it. Never has an audience been left so crushed.
However, it’s easy to look at V with bemused annoyance at the ending. Mostly, because so much else about the show was so forgettable, but one day V might actually be examined for its surprising cultural commentary.
V was never a deep show. It was about seductive and power hungry aliens, and it was easy to just go along with that wild ride as a Brit because so much of the subtext really didn’t feel relevant (especially as I was a teenager when I started watching). But when you get into the subtext, as coarse as it is, there are really quite worrying messages. The aliens promised universal care so as to be in a position of trust to carry out their plans. They needed human support to get their way. This was at a time when Obama was in his first term, fighting to get healthcare reform passed. It could have been a story about just how low the bar had been set in America, that the promise of such basic and fundamental rights were enough for aliens to exploit. It could have been a call out against not having those basic requirements in the first place. It wasn’t. It came off as a show written by cranks trying to warn about bliss by Democrats, which made the show seem even more ridiculous. It’s legacy is particularly relevant now, in the age of Trump. Never has it actually been worth re-watching V before. So many shows have gone political because everything is so fraught right now. It’s impossible to ignore. But what do the shows of the recent past tell us about politics? Did we allow them to influence us? Did we take the power of the cranks for granted? Did we focus too much on that ending of despair rather than what was going on behind it?
V ended at an awful time for the finale, but its real legacy is the lingering questions it has left behind. TV is dominated by criticisms that it is too liberal and too left-leaning. Perhaps this is my idealism speaking, but of course it should be. Writers and creators have a duty to be critical of power structures in society. The problem is, V did this in the worst way while it presented itself as a kind of out there but harmless scifi product. It was political. It was right wing. The laughs at its audacity and terrible writing are harder to stomach now. Really, it was a scifi show for white geeks which was vocalising all of the paranoia about Obama and any push towards progressive (domestic health) policies. In hindsight, no extra season was probably a good thing but V remains a mystery that might have given us more answers than we thought, if we had paid a little bit more attention to it.