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The continuing story of “V”

January 8, 2011

And who might this be? Hmmm?

Apparently the second-season premiere of “V” didn’t catch on with viewers, no matter how much advertising the ABC network put into it ahead of time.

I watched it last night. I have to tell you, there is some interesting stuff now on the show, but not enough. I think I know what would help, too:

Get some writers who know science fiction!

I mean, really – everybody thinks they know enough about aliens, and that aliens can be and do just about anything. No knowledge  of physics is required, no chemistry or biology either.

Every science fiction TV show, story, or novel requires some suspension of disbelief. Most kinds of fiction require it in some way. Do you really believe that all those crazy kinds of murders go on in Las Vegas, one a week?  Who would go there on vacation? Or that the CSIs in Miami have computer technology 20 years ahead of what we have in the real world?

Those writers know just how to walk the fine line so viewers stay interested but don’t sit back and say, “That’s just too freakin’ outrageous! I can’t watch this any more!” (Well, all of them but the writers on “CSI: Miami,” in my opinion. They’re waaaay over the top now, and I can’t watch it.)

Incidentally, I think there are two reasons why the original CSI has been better for the last two years: Lawrence Fishburne joined the cast, and they hired David Weddle and Bradley Thompson to exec produce. They were Ron Moore’s secret weapons running the writers’ room on the recent reimagined version of “Battlestar Galactica.” (Even though they made their writing chops on “Deep Space Nine.” But then, Moore came from “Star Trek: Next Generation” himself. Both of those shows, of course, made most aliens humans with latex heads.)

But back to my point. Most TV writers see aliens as either humans, usually with British accents and latex heads (see above), with usual human motivations and emotions, or as sort of the ultimate deus ex machina – they can do anything, be anything, and their motivations need no consistency. (See the film “Star Trek V” for one of the worst abuses of this idea.)

Our societies and cultures ares dictated by our environment, sure, but first and foremost by our biology. The built-in dual-sex mammalian  makeup of humanity imposes certain restrictions on our behaviors and motivations, whether we be tenth-century Mongols or present-day Americans. Human behavior for the last three or four thousand years has been more similar than different, when viewed from outside of humanity by aliens.

The V aliens ares supposed to be lizard-like, but we see them covered with a blanket of something similar to human flesh. Even the humans who know what the aliens really are tend to look at them as humans because the speak our language and look like us. (And they have one working with them…and he’s too “human” to be believable to me.)

Hopefully the writers will use this to their advantage this year. The idea that we are completely suckered by the aliens is an old one, but can be useful to this show if they can then show the incredible alienness of their real selves. In the old series there was some business about them needing water, then really wanting us as food; neither made any sense. (For water, go get a comet; it’s closer than going to another solar system. And why would we be food compatible with their biology, anyway?)

So what do these “pseudo-lizards” want? We don’t know yet. They’ve had advance teams here for quite a while – generations, perhaps. This merging of human and lizard doesn’t make any biological sense unless there is something else that went on in the past of which we are not aware. And the little bit of terraforming the red rain is supposed to be doing may be making the Earth more congenial for them, but do they need us for something? If not, why not just kill us all off and be done with it? Why the infiltration and deception? Slavery?
They can’t be “lizards” because they didn’t evolve on Earth. We have less in common with them than we do with bacteria.

So the job for the writers is to give the aliens motivations that ring true with the audience while not being human motivations. They have to do this while making the humans people we care about. So far I think they’ve had trouble with both of these. They need to make the aliens alien enough and give the humans a bit more humanity.

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