Aliens Among Us
You might've seen the commercials for ABC's new alien-invasion series , V (our review), which premieres tonight (8/7c). It's a reinvention of a 1980s TV series by the same name, but with quite a makeover. This time, the aliens don't appear scary and lizard-like; they appear like beautiful humans, benign, almost divine—and bringing great promises to a frightened, confused world. Earthlings buy into it, though some remain skeptical—including a priest, one of the central characters, who remind his flock to test all things against the truth of Scripture. (Yes, a priest on mainstream TV actually says that.)
CT television critic Todd Hertz recently interviewed V executive producer Jeffrey Bell (The X-Files, Angel, Alias) about the big-idea allegory behind the show's aliens, the priest's role in the story, and the power of science fiction.
How does the creative team view the show's connection with the 1983 miniseries?
When the idea first came up, the vision was to reimagine it and pay respect to it but also to update it, give it relevance. There are differences. The lead characters are different. How the Vs [aliens, or "Visitors"] present themselves is different. How we unfold the plot is different. After all, we couldn't ignore the fact that the original show is out there. Everyone knows the Visitors have a dastardly plan. It didn't make sense to anyone to play that card face down. Instead, we thought: Let's just get to it in the first episode.
The biggest difference between the two franchises is that the original felt like a military show; it was war versus the Vs. But for us, this is about discovery. Our small band of characters sees through the Vs' plan, but don't know enough yet to wage any kind of battle. They are still living their lives as cops, priests, etc. and secretly trying to figure out what they're up against.
The original show was an allegory for the Nazis. What's the chief allegory here?
It's the idea of blind devotion. If anyone is showing up and saying something that is too good to be true, are people thinking? Are they asking questions? Are they prepared and informed? How are you deciding who you can believe? In the original, it seemed pretty easy to distinguish between visitors and humans. You knew your friends from foes. That's because in the early 80s, the idea of an enemy was a united country. A fascist German model for your enemy was a good one. Now, our enemies are not so much countries but groups and factions all over. We can't tell who is who. They are among us.
And so, the idea of paranoia is huge. In our V, you can't easily tell who is a V and who isn't. Some characters don't know their own significant others or friends are Vs. It could be anyone, anywhere. We think that captures the paranoia of the times.
Whether it is the Vs or any person offering great big promises, anyone merely accepting what is presented to them is especially at risk if the promise has a hidden agenda.It's not literally a fascist metaphor like it was originally, but it asks the same sort of question: Are you just believing what you are told?
How do you respond to the claim of conservative radio host Laura Ingraham that the Visitors have clear parallels to the Obama administration?
Oh, she said that? Fantastic. Good for her. Here's how we view it: This show was conceived during a Bush administration and is being executed during an Obama administration. There are people who really want to politicize this show, but that isn't our intention. We're just trying to tell good stories with arguments on both sides. What is interesting to us is that America—under Bush or Obama—is the giant imperialistic force imposing itself around the world for good or bad. In our story, humans are the colonials and the Vs are showing up as the imperials; we're the locals and the giant Roman army has just shown up in motherships above us.