In the first episode of ABC's remake of the '80s alien-invasion series V (Tuesdays 8/7c), a teen boy is led down the path of destruction by a powerful force: the winsome smile of a cute girl. The dark threat behind innocent flirtation illustrates not only an allegorical shift from the original V series, but also the theme of the new hour-long drama: Things are rarely as pretty as they look.
In the original V, the conquest of powerful reptilian aliens—known as the Visitors—was a metaphor for Hitler's Germany. The Vs rose to power with Nazi-like propaganda, persecution, and overwhelming military force. But the new V isn't about dominating with might. Led by their beautiful and diplomatic leader Anna, these Visitors attack not with guns but with hope. These aliens appear with messages of peace, love, and understanding. They arrive in sleek, elegant ships hovering over 29 major cities, and promise amazing technological advancements. They heal the sick. They raise spirits.
They come—in a desperate time of war, disease and despair—as earth's saviors. As one skeptical character says, "The world is in bad shape; who wouldn't welcome a savior right now?"
And the show asks: Would we believe them? "The chief allegory here is the idea of blind devotion," said V executive producer Jeffrey Bell in an interview with Christianity Today. "If anyone is showing up and saying something too good to be true, are people thinking? Are they asking questions? Are they prepared and informed? Are you just accepting and believing what you are told?"
The show's chief cautionary voice is Father Jack, a priest. He is skeptical of the Vs—indeed, of the existence of aliens. "I don't see any basis for this in Scripture," he tells his elder priest, who has quickly concluded that the aliens are part of God's plan—not because of miracles as much as increased attendance at worship. Surely, he thinks, God is in this. Besides, the Vatican has officially endorsed the Visitors as part of God's creation. So Father Jack is initially the lone skeptic, preaching that people should fully explore anything they are tempted to believe in. They must compare claims to what they know is true: Scripture. It's refreshing for a strong Christian character—especially one facing his own existential crisis—to speak for informed, intelligent belief.
Since the Vs masquerade as angels of light, the show feels like a sci-fi take on Christian apocalyptic fiction, especially Left Behind's tale of the Antichrist's rise to power. Like that saga's Nicolae Carpathia, Anna attains power with lies and deception—a wolf in sheep's clothing. A desperate world is quick to embrace Anna. As one character says, "[The Visitors are] arming themselves with the most powerful weapon out there: devotion." But Father Jack and other characters form a small band of freedom fighters who meet secretly to dissect false teachings and spread the truth.
For many readers of this magazine, the series will yield comparisons to the Christian walk, spiritual warfare, and the church. Others may see the story's depiction of blind devotion as an indictment of the Christian faith. Others still may view the story politically—associating the aliens' hidden agenda with recent presidential administrations.
In the end, this suspenseful alien yarn suggests a passage from 1 Thessalonians: "Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil." Whether they look like lizard aliens or not.
Todd Hertz is a freelance writer and film/TV critic for CT.
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