On May 1st 1983, NBC aired part one of a 4 hour miniseries called V. The story of V begins as giant alien spacecraft come to Earth and hover above all of the world’s major cities. The aliens, known as The Visitors, say they have come in peace and need Earth’s help in mining a chemical that can save their planet. In exchange, they will share their technology and cures for diseases. But soon, it is discovered that the Visitors have a more sinister agenda. They have come to take all of the planet’s water and to take our people for food. A band of resistance fighters from all walks of life band together to fight this new enemy. The V miniseries was one of the highest-rated television programs in the 1983 season, and NBC would order a sequel mini-series that aired in May of 1984, and then a weekly series which ran from 1984-1985.
Warner Archive has remastered V: The Original Miniseries and is set to release it later this summer on Blu-ray. To celebrate, they held a panel at San Diego Comic Con, where they showed off some of the new hi-def footage. Members of the Warner Archive team appeared along with Marc Singer (The Beastmaster), who starred as TV-reporter turned resistance fighter Mike Donovan, and V writer/producer Kenneth Johnson, who is also responsible for the classic television hits The Bionic Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and Alien Nation.
Johnson said he was inspired by Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here, a satirical story about the rise of European-style fascism in the United States. To make his script more marketable for NBC, Johnson made it a sci-fi parable with seemingly friendly aliens as stand-ins for modern Nazis.
“V is a timeless tale,” Johnson said. “It’s Spartacus and the revolt of the slaves. It’s the American Revolution, or the fight against apartheid, or the struggle wherever people are oppressed.”
Singer said V has resonated with audiences because it tells a classic story. “There are a lot of things that conspired to make V relevant again over the generations,” he said. “But I think the basic reason is that it’s an adventure story of daring-do. Everyone loves to see a hero beating the bad guys. But more importantly, it draws together a community and celebrates the entire world we inhabit. There’s a lot of power in the message that we’re all in this together.”
Footage from the new Blu-ray was screened during the panel and some of the clips can be viewed in the link below.
Johnson broke the news during the panel that he is developing a new V trilogy of films. Producer Ted Field (Jumanji) has stepped in to oversee production, and Johnson showed off a short clip of what some of the VFX would look like for the films. The plan is for the first film to retell the story in the 80s and then the sequels would take place 35 years later so that the original V actors like Singer could return to play their roles as the older characters.
Johnson and Singer sat down with us after the panel to discuss the new Blu-ray, the original miniseries, the new V movie that is in development, and why V has remained popular with fans for over 35 years.
Johnson revealed that the miniseries will be presented on Blu-ray in a 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, instead of the 1980s-standard 4:3 television ratio. Johnson recalled his pilot for “The Incredible Hulk” in 1977 being released theatrically in foreign markets, so he said V was filmed with the idea of a potential theatrical release in mind. Edges of the frame were protected so as not to reveal microphones or other production equipment. This allowed the restoration team at Warner Archive to use the wider aspect ratio. It will also feature a new soundtrack. “When they released it on DVD, it had mono sound because Warner wouldn’t let me mix it in stereo,” Johnson said. “I spent twice as much time doing the sound for this Blu-ray to get it right.”
Singer said V fulfilled the desire he had as a kid watching Westerns to be a television hero.
“When I first read the script, the immediate reaction was the writing was terrific and the story was terrific. It was almost as if it was meant to be for me to be in it.”
Singer said he was cast because Johnson had seen him perform a stage production of The Taming of the Shrew, as well as his starring role in the 1982 action-fantasy film The Beastmaster.
Singer said his background in Shakespeare offers a valuable lesson to storytellers. “Every actor and every writer should start off with Shakespeare, period,” Singer said. “The architecture of his writing was almost legalistic. Every word is like a contract, defining who a character is, and they do not not step out of that identity.”
V: The Original Miniseries will be released by Warner Archive Collection on August 27th.