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They arrive. In Earth’s first alien encounter the Visitors--human-like beings who know our languages and provide other-worldly gifts of technology and healing--arrive on massive motherships hovering over 29 major cities worldwide. Some consider them saviors in this post 9/11 world; others feel differently. Are these alien visitors here to save us or hurt us? What are their intentions after arriving on Earth? What is the shocking truth behind the Visitors – or V’s? A fledgling resistance is on the rise, determined to reveal the shocking truth.

V - The Complete First Season
Among the underground cadre: an FBI Counter Terrorism Agent (Elizabeth Mitchell) who uncovers a terror cell no one ever expected who and finds that her teenage son (Logan Huffman) is drawn to the beauty and promise of the Visitors; a priest (Joel Gretsch) who finds his faith shaken and must come to terms with his past to face the future; a soon to be husband and father (Morris Chestnut) who hides a shocking secret that he will have to reveal if he has any hope of saving those he loves.

To a 10-year-old back in 1983 the original miniseries V was the coolest thing on television at the time outside of a talking car. What kid could resist lizard men from outer space who came to basically to drink all our water and eat us? It was and remains one of my favorites from my childhood, and some of the shocking images I saw—such as the Visitor leader Diana eating a whole gerbil in one gulp and that first time Mike Donovan peeled away a Visitor’s skin to reveal that reptilian skin and glaring red eye—still make me a bit giddy when I watch the series that series on DVD now.

V - The Complete First Season
I should have absolutely loved this ‘re-imagining’ of the original show, so why is it after watching all this 12 episode first season do I feel completely indifferent towards it? But after thinking about it, I guess I felt the same way about the original incarnation back when the Visitors where brought back for a full season of episodes back in 1984 after the second miniseries, V: The Final Battle. That series started out promising, but a few episodes in started to get bogged down by too much drama, backstabbing and silly plots. As each fan favorite character left the show or was killed off my interest in it got less and less, and seeing as it only lasted 18 episodes more than a few must have felt the same.

For me this new V shares sort of same problem, only that where the original series managed to get more corny as it went along, this one just actually manages to zap a lot of the fun out of the alien invaders bent on world domination concept. Part of the blame is the success of television series such as ABC’s Lost, which at times was far more concerned about building a mystery than telling an interesting story. But whereas Lost actually managed to pull it off far more times than not and made for compelling television, other series such as V have been less than successful—cases in point being other ABC series such as the one and done Invasion and FlashForward.

V - The Complete First Season
There are too many meandering subplots and drama going on here, and if V is to survive much longer it needs to get back to what the original series was all about and what fans of that show really want. If the average viewer is anything like me, what it needs is a little more action and less mystery building. Unless the producers are going to go with a radically different reason for the V’s being here, we already know what mechanizations are going on in their reptilian brains, so the folks behind the show need to get to it and step up the pace a bit. I understand that unlike the combined eight-hour running time of original two miniseries that with this new series they are running a marathon and not a sprint in storytelling terms, but unless I missed something along the way after watching the whole of this season I’m still not sure what their plan actually is other than wiping us off the face of the planet. I fully expected to at least know the ground rules for the show by the end of the season and they never quite came along. I’m willing to give the upcoming second season a shot, but I’m not too sure that the majority of viewers are going to have the patience here to stick around if the series continues along as it has so far.

Ultimately I find the series so far to be frustrating—it has a good cast, the special effects are decent enough for television more often than not and the basic premise is as tried and true as you can get for the genre. At times I found the 9/11 parables, such as the perceived notion of The Fifth Column as a terrorist cell and the addiction to ‘Bliss’, and some of the changes made to the Visitors interesting, but just give us some gerbil eating and frickin’ lasers already.

V - The Complete First Season
Video
Warner Home Video presents V: The Complete First Season with a fairly satisfying 1080p, 1.78:1 VC-1 video transfer. The series definitely looks better than what I remember from watching it during its broadcast run last year and earlier this year with solid color and skin tone reproduction and solid contrast levels with nice solid blacks. The only problem I could really be bothered to bring up concern the effects work on the series.

The original series had some groundbreaking work done in the special effects area at the time it first aired and featured some wonderful makeup work and matte paintings. The only real problem with the older series was that some of the effects work, particularly those matte paintings, were done by different effects companies and were wildly inconsistent throughout leaving some looking third rate and this new series suffers from the same type of inconsistencies. While some of the effects are very good, others—most notably interior shots of the V motherships and the digital backdrops used therein—really show what a lack of budget can do to a genre show on television. These shots didn’t look so hot on television and they’re even more glaring obvious given the upgraded definition and clarity of this Blu-ray release, so much so that they can often times take you out of a scene as they say. Not only do they look fake and make the actors look as if they’re walking on air at times, but they show a few of the limitations of extensive green screen work and as it relates to the video presentation with some haloing and other such technical anomalies popping up consistently in such shots. Given that, the video quality is still very good and based on the source this home video representation holds up well.

V - The Complete First Season
Audio
There's some good news and some bad news with the audio. Bad news first--just like other recent Warner Home Video television release on Blu-ray—such as Fringe the only audio option for each episode in the set is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track--there is no lossless audio track here to be found. The good news is that each episode's track is pretty good with ample use of the surround channels throughout each episode and clear dialogue from the center channel and a booming LFE output. I found the sound design of the series impressive and quite surprising as it is a much more aggressive sound mix than I'm accustomed to hearing while watching a television series, although like the visual effects work it can be inconsistent as well. Action scenes and the series’ score are both well represented, but it’s the quieter moments that are little underwhelming. Overall the audio experience here is above average for a television series even without the lossless option.

Extras
The two-disc set does come with an assortment of featurettes in high definition with running times of around 15-minutes each and one audio commentary on the penultimate episode of the season, “Fruition”. The audio commentary with executive producers Steve Pearlman and Scott Rosenbaum is more or less concerned with the series as a whole rather than just focusing on this particular episode, which given the fact that it is the only such track included in the set is somewhat expected. There is a lot of information to be had here, but a few more commentaries would have made for a more rounded view of the series and some better focus on a particular episode.

Moving on to the featurettes the first, entitled ‘The Actor’s Journey from Human to V’, features the principal cast of V discussing the techniques, challenges and rewards they faced in terms of bringing V alive for a new generation. The next featurette, ‘An Alien in Human Skin: The Makeup FX of V’ details the techniques of special effects makeup application and execution are revealed. Following in the same vein is another effects feature, ‘The Visual FX of V’ which focuses on the visual effects used to help enhance V, featuring a guided tour through ZOIC studios, the visual FX powerhouse responsible for the series’ extensive computer generated effects work. The featurettes come to a close with ‘Breaking Story: The World of V’, which offers a look into how the producers were able to create a fresh perspective on the V mythology. The rest of the features are rounded out by a series of deleted scenes and a blooper reel. Overall this is a decent amount of features for a television release, but a few more commentary tracks would have gone a long way.

V - The Complete First Season
Overall
The new season of V starts up in January and I plan on watching it, but if the series moves along at the pace of the first season it may become less than must-see viewing in a house that generally loves anything on television in this genre. The pieces for a good show are here, now the producers need to find a way to pull it all together and make a more entering hour of television out of it. This first season makes for more frustrating viewing than it ought to, and hopefully the pace shown in the last few episodes is indicative of what to expect from here on out. Warner Home Video’s Blu-ray presentation of the first season of V is quite good. The video is top notch, the sound—while not presented in a lossless format—is decent enough and the special features are a little more than what is usually offered with a television season with so few episodes. While I can’t fully recommend a purchase for those who are going in blind here I won’t rule out renting the series over a weekend and giving the series a spin, while those who are already fans of the show shouldn’t be disappointed in a purchase.

*Note: The images on this page were provided by Warner Home Video and are not representative of the Blu-ray release.


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