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Intersection of Life and Faith

V: Snakes or Saviors?

  • Gary D. Robinson theFish.com Contributing Writer
  • 2009 7 Dec
<i>V</i>: Snakes or Saviors?

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  John 3:14

… Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  2 Corinthians 11:14

They come from above, as saviors of fact and fiction often do.  They come at a time when, as one character says, the world is broken and needs fixing; with H1N1 killing children and brain embolisms thwarting the ambitions of men in the prime of life.  They come in their beauty and power to make the earth a paradise. 

They are the Visitors.  They are our friends. 

But, as those who remember the original 1983 mini-series know, the angelic light of the Visitors blinds humanity to the scaly horror beneath.  They come, not as saviors to earth, but as the serpent into the garden.  The titular V appears on our screens not as a symbol of victory but dripping with death. 

The original V was the brainchild of Kenneth Johnston.   He viewed the Visitors as fascists from outer space.  The original series contained thoughtful dialogue on the parallel between the alien culture and Hitler's Germany.   The revamped version, produced by Scott Rosenbaum, has its finger on the jittery pulse of modern America with her worries about terrorism, fear of pandemics, and dread of the future.    

Into this milieu, like snakes sliding into a cage of quaking mice, come the Visitors.  The pilot episode builds an appreciable amount of suspense as slight tremors in water (reminiscent of T-Rex's approach in Jurassic Park) give way to rattling lamps and falling shelves.    Mammoth space ships, the source of the disturbance, are hovering over 29 major cities of the world.  As the ships throw shadows over the streets below, humanity cranes its collective neck upwards.    Like the shepherds outside Bethlehem, people are "sore afraid."  Then the gigantic image of a beautiful woman appears in the sky.   Anna, the leader of the Visitors, speaks soothing words of peace and comfort.  The Visitors are here to share their advanced technology with us.  "We are at peace."   Whew!  What a relief!

But not everybody's fears are relieved.  FBI agent Erica Evans is trained to be apprehensive.  The recently-divorced mother's suspicions widen the gap between her and her son.   Tyler Evans sees the Visitors as the salvation of mankind.  (Of course, the fact that he's hot for an attractive blonde Visitor, tends to strengthen that opinion.) Meanwhile, Father Jack Landry, Catholic Priest and former army chaplain, preaches a healthy suspicion to his congregation.   Predictably, Landry receives intelligence damning the blessed Visitors.   Erica's doubts turn to grim certainty as she stumbles on the Visitors' true reptilian nature and ulterior motives.   Eventually, she joins forces with Landry.   Soon, a third member joins their covert society, Ryan Nichols, who turns out to be a friendly Visitor in disguise.

Along the way, we learn that "the Vs" have lived among us for many years, wearing human skin, getting close to us, studying our weaknesses.   Thankfully, however, not every V is an enemy.   Nichols is a member of the "Fifth Column," Visitors sympathetic to humanity, risking exposure and torture as they work against their own people. 

Slowly, quietly, the Vs and the human resistors go about their conspiracies, setting things in place for conquest on the one hand, exposure on the other.   But will the coalition of humans and Fifth Columnists have time to act before the serpent strikes? 

The series is taut, well-acted, and, for the most part convincing.  I'm having some difficulty believing that Anna, who looks like a literal living doll, whose mechanical smile and bland talk about peace reminds me of a Stepford Wife, hasn't sent mobs to the gun store.   But then, discernment has never been humanity's strong suit.  The Vs know this about us, of course.  Having studied humans for years, they know what frail and frightened creatures we are.   Thus, as part of her master plan, Anna prepares to offer an injection that will strengthen the human immune system.  It will cure cancer and retard aging; do everything, in fact, except cure the common cold (guess that would be too obvious a ploy).   Yea, verily, the aliens giveth—and  taketh away.  Even as the new "vitamin injection" is being prepared, humans are dying grisly deaths as the Vs experiment with a deadly drug, one they mean to add to vast shipments of our own flu vaccines.  The result, of course, will be increased paranoia and greater devotion to the Visitors. 

The new series has done a good job of tapping into our culture's current bogeymen.   Good science fiction, like all good fiction, reveals the truth about us.  Whether they intend to or not, the makers of V are making a statement about American culture:  our growing dependence upon wonder drugs and state-of-the-art medical technology, our adolescent demand for quick fixes, and our yearning for a secular savior.   We are quite predictable and, as Agent Evans grimly notes, "The more predictable we are, the more vulnerable." 

As Tommy Lee Jones says to Will Smith in Men in Black, "A person is smart.  People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals…"  He might have added to his list, so anxious for saviors.   Numbers 21 tells how rebellious Israel was punished with venomous snakes.   Moses' prayer for deliverance yielded a startling cure—a bronze serpent on a pole.   Those who looked up at the snake were healed.   One of the great ironies of the story is that we who normally abhor the reptilian form, enduing it with evil, are so willing—eager, in fact—to embrace without question any supposed savior:  a politician, a preacher, even the proverbial snake in the grass. 

But there is one Savior unlike all the rest.  He came from above, but so quietly only a few shepherds knew.  Though he had power to heal, he was impatient with the demand for signs and wonders.   He too was lifted up, but on the most awful pole ever devised—a cross.  His words ring down through the centuries.  We can even hear an echo in this TV show, if we're listening:  Believe in me and find eternal life.   

V, on hiatus for a few weeks, airs on ABC. Check your local listings for dates and times. Episodes also available on hulu.com

Posted on December 7, 2009.

Gary D. Robinson is a preacher, writer, and Superman fan living in Xenia, Ohio.  Check out his website, "Look!  Up in the Sky!" (www.garydrobinson.com).