V (1983 miniseries)

Last updated

2001 DVD cover
Genre Science fiction
Written by Kenneth Johnson
Directed byKenneth Johnson
Theme music composer Joe Harnell
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes2
Executive producers
CinematographyJohn McPherson
  • Paul Dixon
  • Alan C. Marks
  • Robert K. Richard
  • Jack W. Schoengarth
Running time189 min
Production companies
Original network NBC
Picture formatColor
Audio format Mono
Original releaseMay 1 (1983-05-01) 
May 2, 1983 (1983-05-02)
V: The Final Battle
V: The Second Generation (novel)

V (or V: The Original Miniseries) is a two-part American science-fiction television miniseries, written and directed by Kenneth Johnson. First shown in 1983, it initiated the science-fiction franchise concerning aliens known as the "Visitors" trying to gain control of Earth, and of the ways the populace reacts.


Plot summary

A race of aliens arrives on Earth in a fleet of 50 huge, saucer-shaped motherships, which hover over major cities across the world. They reveal themselves on the roof of the United Nations building in New York City, appearing human, but requiring special glasses to protect their eyes and having a distinctive resonance to their voices. Referred to as the Visitors, they reach out in friendship, ostensibly seeking the help of humans to obtain chemicals and minerals needed to aid their ailing world, which is revealed to be a planet orbiting the star Sirius. In return, the Visitors promise to share their advanced technology with humanity. The governments of Earth accept the arrangement, and the Visitors, commanded by their leader John and his deputy Diana, begin to gain considerable influence with human authorities.

Strange events begin to occur. Scientists in particular become the objects of increasing media and public hostility. They experience government restrictions on their activities and movements. Others, particularly those keen on examining the Visitors more closely, begin to disappear or are discredited. Noted scientists confess to subversive activities; some of them exhibit other unusual behaviors, such as suddenly demonstrating hand preference opposite to the one they were known to have.

Television journalist cameraman Michael Donovan covertly boards one of the Visitors' motherships. Donovan discovers that beneath their human-like façade—a thin, synthetic skin and human-eye contact lenses—the aliens are carnivorous reptilian humanoids with horned foreheads and green, scaly skin. He also witnesses them eating whole live animals such as rodents and birds. Donovan, who first took footage of one of the alien ships flying overhead while on duty in El Salvador, records some of his findings on videotape and escapes from the mothership with the evidence. However, just as the exposé is about to air on television, the broadcast is interrupted by the Visitors, who have taken control of the media. Their announcement makes Donovan and his close friend and assistant Tony fugitives pursued by both the police and the Visitors.

Scientists around the world continue to be persecuted, both to discredit them (as the part of the human population most likely to discover the Visitors' secrets) and to distract the rest of the population with a scapegoat to whom they can attribute their fears. Key human individuals are subjected to Diana's special mind-control process called "conversion", which turns them into the Visitors' pawns, leaving only subtle behavioral clues to this manipulation. Others become subjects of Diana's horrifying biological experiments.

Some humans (including Mike Donovan's mother, Eleanor Dupres) willingly collaborate with the Visitors, seduced by their power. Daniel Bernstein, a grandson of a Jewish Holocaust survivor, joins the Visitor Youth and reveals the location of a scientist family, his neighbors the Maxwells, to the alien cause. One teenager, Robin Maxwell, the daughter of a well-known scientist who went into hiding, has a sexual relationship with a male Visitor named Brian, who impregnates her as one of Diana's "medical experiments".

A resistance movement is formed, determined to expose and oppose the Visitors. The Los Angeles cell leader is Julie Parrish, a biologist. Donovan later joins the group, and again sneaking aboard a mothership in search of Tony, who was captured, he learns from a Visitor named Martin that the story about the Visitors needing waste chemicals is a cover for a darker mission. The true purpose of the Visitors' arrival on Earth was to conquer and subdue the planet, steal all of the Earth's water, and harvest the human race as food, leaving only a few as slaves and cannon fodder for the Visitors' wars with other alien races. Martin is one of many dissidents among the Visitors (later known as the Fifth Column) who oppose their leader's plans and would rather co-exist peacefully with the humans. Martin then reveals to Donovan that Tony is dead, a victim of Diana's monstrous experiments. Afterwards, he befriends Donovan and promises to aid the Resistance. He gives Donovan access to one of their sky-fighter ships, which he quickly learns how to pilot. He escapes from the mothership along with Robin and another prisoner named Sancho, who had aided Robin's family in their flight out of occupied Los Angeles.

The Resistance strikes its first blows against the Visitors, procuring laboratory equipment and modern military weapons from National Guard armories to carry on the fight. The symbol of the resistance is a blood-red letter V (for victory), spray-painted over posters promoting Visitor friendship among humans. The symbol was inspired by Daniel Bernstein's grandfather Abraham, a Holocaust survivor.

The miniseries ends with the Visitors now virtually controlling the Earth, and Julie and Elias sending a transmission into space to ask other alien races for help in defeating the occupiers.


Inspired by Sinclair Lewis' antifascist novel It Can't Happen Here (1935), director–producer Kenneth Johnson wrote an adaptation titled Storm Warnings in 1982. [1] The script was presented to NBC for production as a television miniseries, but the NBC executives rejected the initial version, claiming it was too "cerebral" for the average American viewer. To make the script more marketable, the American fascists were recast as man-eating extraterrestrials in order to capitalize on the popularity of franchises such as Star Wars . V, which cost $13 million ($35,000,000 today) to make, [2] premiered on May 1, 1983. [3] [4] The tight production schedule (to be ready for broadcast during the 1983 May sweeps) with overtime and the genre-typical larger number of visual and makeup effects led to the relatively high costs. [5]

Historical references

With the Visitors' swastika-like emblem, their SS-like uniforms, and their German Luger-like laser weapons, the miniseries became an allegory of Nazism. [6] :28 [7] :254–255 A youth auxiliary movement called the "Friends of the Visitors" has similarities to the Hitler Youth, while the Visitors' attempts to co-opt television news reporters suggests the Nazi-era propagandization of news through the film industry. [6] :35 The miniseries' portrayal of human interaction with the Visitors bears resemblance to Occupied Europe during World War II, with some citizens choosing collaboration, while others join underground resistance movements. [6] :77 Where the Nazis persecuted primarily Jews, the Visitors were depicted persecuting scientists, their families, and anyone associating with them. [7] :254 As the Visitors start eliminating scientists who could reveal their true nature a Jewish family is shown hesitating on whether to help their scientist neighbor and his family, until their grandfather suggests that to do otherwise would mean they had not learned anything from the past. [8] [9]


The two-part miniseries ran for 200 minutes; the first part was the second-most popular program of the week, with 40% of the viewing television audience at that time watching it. [2] Its success spawned a sequel, V: The Final Battle , which was meant to conclude the story. In spite of the apparent conclusion, this was then followed by a weekly television series, V: The Series , from 1984 to 1985 that continued the story a year after The Final Battle. Johnson left V during production of The Final Battle due to disagreements with NBC over how the story should progress. [10]

In November 2005, Entertainment Weekly named V one of the 10 best miniseries on DVD. [11] The article noted, "As a parable about it-can-happen-here fascism, V was far from subtle, but it carved a place for lavish and intelligent sci-fi on TV. Its impact can still be felt in projects like Taken and The 4400 ." [11] (The 4400's executive producer Scott Peters later helmed ABC's 2009 reboot. [11] ) In December 2008, Entertainment Weekly put V on its list "The Sci-Fi 25: The Genre's Best Since 1982", and called Visitor leader Diana's devouring a guinea pig "one of the best TV reveals ever." [12]

For many years, Johnson has campaigned to revive V, and even wrote a sequel novel, V: The Second Generation , which picked up the story 20 years after the original miniseries (but omitted the events of The Final Battle and V: The Series). Warner Bros. Television (which owns the television rights to the V franchise) declined to make a continuation as Johnson had planned, and opted for a remake instead. A reimagining of V premiered on ABC on November 3, 2009, and ran for two seasons. [13] [14] Though Johnson was not involved in the remake, which featured all new characters, executive producer Scott Peters said that it would nod to the most iconic moments from the original franchise and may potentially include actors from the original in new roles. Both Jane Badler and Marc Singer appeared in the second season. As of 2009, Johnson has also said he is still moving ahead with his plans for a big-screen remake of his original V miniseries [15] [16] though no progress has been made.

On February 6, 2018, Desilu Studios announced that it would be producing a feature film of V. The film was to be written and directed by Kenneth Johnson, and produced by John Hermansen, Barry Opper, and Johnson. Johnson added, "We are delighted to team up with Desilu to bring the timeless — and timely — story of resistance against tyranny into the 21st century ... V will be the first of a cinematic trilogy, which will tell the full epic tale in the manner I always envisioned." [17] However, in late 2018, CBS (owners of the Desilu name) reportedly had initiated legal action against Charles Hensley, a convicted marketer, whom they claim used the Desilu Studio name to influence investment into a shell company. [18]

Production notes

Production was halted for two weeks when Dominique Dunne, the 22-year-old actress originally cast to play the part of Robin Maxwell, was murdered outside her apartment by her ex-boyfriend while rehearsing with actor David Packer. [19] Some scenes with her are still in the original series, but only of the back of her head. Blair Tefkin was hired on to play Robin after her death.

Johnson subsequently dedicated the series to her memory.


Posters appeared in train stations of a smiling man behind wraparound sunglasses, others grinning along with him, with only a motto "The Visitors are our friends" to explain it. Days later, those posters had a red "V" (for "victory") spray-painted on them. Nothing suggested this was an advertisement for a television show, which made the marketing even more intriguing. [20]



The miniseries was first released as V: The Original Miniseries on VHS during the mid-1990s, and later on DVD in 2001. The VHS release was in 4:3 fullscreen format as originally broadcast, while the DVD release is in a matted 16:9 widescreen format. The miniseries was originally filmed in open matte format, with director Kenneth Johnson stating he had also composed the picture to be more or less "widescreen-safe" in the event that it got an overseas theatrical release, which it did not.[ citation needed ] It was released on Blu-ray on August 27, 2019.


A. C. Crispin wrote a 402-page V novelization in 1984 for Pinnacle Books that combined both the original miniseries and The Final Battle. Following the release of V: The Second Generation in 2008, Tor Books re-released the original miniseries' section of Crispin's book, with a new epilogue by Johnson that tied the events of the first miniseries with Second Generation.

Related Research Articles

<i>Earth: Final Conflict</i> American-Canadian television series

Earth: Final Conflict is a science fiction television series based on ideas developed by Gene Roddenberry. The series was produced under the guidance of his widow, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, who possessed notes kept by Roddenberry that would provide the conceptual basis for the series. It ran for five seasons between October 6, 1997, and May 20, 2002.

V is a science fiction franchise created by American writer, producer and director Kenneth Johnson about a genocidal invading alien race known as the "Visitors"—reptilian humanoids disguised as human beings—trying to take over Earth, and the human reaction to this, including the Resistance group attempting to stop them, while others collaborate with the aliens for power and personal wealth.

<i>Species</i> (film) 1995 film by Roger Donaldson

Species is a 1995 American science fiction horror film directed by Roger Donaldson and written by Dennis Feldman. It stars Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Alfred Molina, Forest Whitaker, Marg Helgenberger, and Natasha Henstridge in her film debut role. The film's plot concerns a motley crew of scientists and government agents who try to track down Sil (Henstridge), a seductive extraterrestrial-human hybrid, before she successfully mates with a human male.

<i>The Invaders</i> American television series

The Invaders is an American science-fiction television series created by Larry Cohen that aired on ABC for two seasons, from 1967 to 1968. Roy Thinnes stars as David Vincent, who after stumbling across evidence of an in-progress invasion of aliens from outer space—the aliens disguising themselves as humans and gradually infiltrating human institutions—tries to thwart the invasion despite the disbelief of officials and the general public, and the undermining of his efforts by the aliens. The series was a Quinn Martin production.

<i>Something Is Out There</i> American TV series or program

Something Is Out There is a 1988 American science fiction television miniseries that aired on NBC, and a weekly series that followed in the fall of 1988, which lasted from October to December 1988.

Kenneth Culver Johnson is an American screenwriter, producer and director. He is known as the creator of the V science fiction franchise as well as The Bionic Woman (1976–78), The Incredible Hulk series (1977–82), and the TV adaptation (1989) of Alien Nation. His creative efforts are almost entirely concentrated in the area of television science fiction.

<i>Battlestar Galactica</i> (miniseries) 2003 American science fiction miniseries

Battlestar Galactica is a three-hour miniseries starring Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell, written and produced by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Michael Rymer. It was the first part of the Battlestar Galactica remake based on the 1978 Battlestar Galactica television series, and served as a backdoor pilot for the 2004 television series. The miniseries aired originally on Sci Fi in the United States starting on December 8, 2003. The two parts of the miniseries attracted 3.9 and 4.5 million viewers, making the miniseries the third-most-watched program on Syfy.

<i>Battlestar Galactica</i> (2004 TV series) 2004 American science fiction television series

Battlestar Galactica (BSG) is an American military science fiction television series, and part of the Battlestar Galactica franchise. The show was developed by Ronald D. Moore and executive produced by Moore and David Eick as a re-imagining of the 1978 Battlestar Galactica television series created by Glen A. Larson. The pilot for the series first aired as a three-hour miniseries in December 2003 on the Sci-Fi Channel, which was then followed by four regular seasons, ending its run on March 20, 2009. The cast includes Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff, Jamie Bamber, James Callis, Tricia Helfer, and Grace Park.

<i>V The Final Battle</i> 1984 TV miniseries

V: The Final Battle is a 1984 American TV miniseries. It is a sequel to the 1983 miniseries V written by Kenneth Johnson about aliens known as "The Visitors" trying to take over Earth.

"Distant Origin" is the 65th episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the 23rd episode of the third season. Voyager encounters an alien race, but runs afoul of their principles. The Voth are humanoid lizards, and the plot revolves around one particular scientist who has taken an interest in studying Voth origins.

V is an American science fiction television series that aired in the United States on NBC from October 26, 1984, to March 22, 1985. It is a continuation of the V franchise about an alien invasion of Earth by a carnivorous race of reptilians known as "Visitors", which was originally conceived by American writer, producer, and director Kenneth Johnson. Johnson, however, was not involved in the production of the weekly series.

<i>V The Second Generation</i> 2008 Kenneth Johnson novel

V: The Second Generation is a novel written by American telewriter/producer Kenneth Johnson. It is an alternative sequel to his 1983 science fiction television miniseries V, which depicted an advanced race of carnivorous reptilians known as "The Visitors".

<i>War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave</i> 2008 film by C. Thomas Howell

War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave is a 2008 direct-to-DVD science fiction film directed by and starring C. Thomas Howell. The film was produced and distributed independently by The Asylum.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ancient astronauts in popular culture</span>

Ancient astronauts have been addressed frequently in science fiction and horror fiction. Occurrences in the genres include:

<i>District 9</i> 2009 science fiction film by Neill Blomkamp

District 9 is a 2009 science fiction action film directed by Neill Blomkamp in his feature film debut, written by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, and produced by Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham. It is a co-production of New Zealand, the United States, and South Africa. The film stars Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, and David James, and was adapted from Blomkamp's 2006 short film Alive in Joburg.

<i>Alien Siege</i> American TV series or program

Alien Siege is a 2005 Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie about an alien race that comes to Earth seeking a cure to a deadly virus, for which the antidote is human blood.

<i>V</i> (2009 TV series) 2009-2011 American sci-fi TV series

V is an American science fiction drama television series that ran for two seasons on ABC, from November 3, 2009, to March 15, 2011. A remake of the 1983 miniseries created by Kenneth Johnson, the new series chronicles the arrival on Earth of a technologically-advanced alien species which ostensibly comes in peace, but actually has sinister motives. V stars Elizabeth Mitchell and Morena Baccarin, and is executive produced by Scott Rosenbaum, Yves Simoneau, Scott Peters, Steve Pearlman, and Jace Hall. The series was produced by The Scott Peters Company, HDFilms and Warner Bros. Television. On May 13, 2011, ABC cancelled the series after two seasons.

"Pilot" is the series premiere of the 2009 reimagining of the 1983 miniseries V created by Kenneth Johnson. The episode's teleplay was written by Scott Peters, with story credit going to Johnson and Peters. Yves Simoneau directed the episode, which originally aired in the United States on ABC on November 3, 2009. The episode sees spaceships appear over 29 of the world's major cities. Though the alien "Visitors" claim to come in peace, it transpires that they have been infiltrating the planet for decades, and are planning on enslaving the human species.

Independence Daysaster is a 2013 Canadian science fiction action television film directed by W. D. Hogan and stars Ryan Merriman and Tom Everett Scott. The film premiered on June 27, 2013, on Syfy and was released on DVD on May 27, 2014. The film is a mockbuster of the 1996 film Independence Day.


  1. "SDCC 2019: Marc Singer and Kenneth Johnson on the past and future of V". SYFY Official Site. August 1, 2019.
  2. 1 2 Bedell, Sally (May 4, 1983). "'V' SERIES AN NBC HIT". The New York Times. p. 27. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  3. Gross, Edward (Fall 2004), ""Visiting Hours" TV's Most Famous Alien Invasion Saga Comes Home To DVD", CFQ Spotlite, no. 1
  4. Original Miniseries DVD commentary.
  5. Breznican, Anthony (May 23, 2023). "The V Files: The Shocking Legacy of an '80s Sci-Fi Cult Classic". Vanity Fair.
  6. 1 2 3 Copp, Dan (August 2015). Nazi Lizards from Outer Space: The Politics, Literature, and Cultural History of Kenneth Johnson's "V" (Master's thesis). Murfreesboro, TN: Middle Tennessee State University. No.1597421 ProQuest   1718550153.
  7. 1 2 Koistinen, Aino-Kaisa (December 2011). "Passing for Human in Science Fiction: Comparing the TV Series Battlestar Galactica and V". NORA - Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research. 19 (4): 249–263. doi:10.1080/08038740.2011.621898. S2CID   145810713.
  8. Booker, M. Keith (2004). Science fiction television : a history (1. publ. ed.). Westport, CT [u.a.]: Praeger. p. 91. ISBN   9780275981648.
  9. Johnson-Smith, Jan (2005). American Science Fiction TV : Star Trek, Stargate and Beyond . Great Britain: Wesleyan U Pr. p.  121. ISBN   978-0819567383.
  10. Johnson, Kenneth (Writer/Director) (2001). V: DVD commentary (DVD). Warner Home Video.
  11. 1 2 3 Susman, Gary (November 17, 2005). "Mini Splendored Things". Entertainment Weekly . EW.com. Archived from the original on February 25, 2014. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
  12. Jensen, Jeff (December 11, 2008). "The Sci-Fi 25: The Genre's Best Since 1982". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
  13. Rice, Lynette (July 25, 2009). "V: ABC's alien series invades Comic-Con but does it come in peace?". Entertainment Weekly . Archived from the original on July 27, 2009. Retrieved July 27, 2009.
  14. Sullivan, Brian Ford (August 8, 2009). "ABC Books V for November 3rd". The Futon Critic. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  15. Schneider, Michael (October 30, 2009). "'V' voice revisits familiar turf". Variety. Archived from the original on March 12, 2010.
  16. Lee, Patrick (August 11, 2009). "V producer on who might return and other homages". SYFY Wire. Archived from the original on February 27, 2020. Retrieved October 22, 2009.
  17. Haring, Bruce (February 11, 2018). "'V The Movie' Coming From Original Creator Kenneth Johnson And Desilu Studios". Deadline. Retrieved March 16, 2022.
  18. Evans, Greg (October 31, 2018). "CBS Lawsuit Claims "Desilu Studios" Brand Was Used To Dupe Investors". Deadline. Retrieved March 16, 2022.
  19. Justice: A Father's Account of the Trial of his Daughter's Killer, Vanity Fair , March 1984
  20. Johnson, Allan (August 12, 1996). ""V": It was a different kind of mini-series when NBC first..." Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on September 25, 2017.