With Wonder Woman getting so much attention from the media, grandly declaring her debut solo film as ‘at last, a female action hero!’ (an accolade which was quickly derided on social media with lots of photos of Ripley, Buffy, Xena, Sarah Conner et al), I thought I’d go back and share some thoughts on my own female hero from my youth – V’s Juliet Parrish.
I’m a bloke, but I’ve always found female characters much more interesting than male ones. Part of this comes from their complexity; a story is much more likely to explore the more emotional, conflicted and vulnerable parts of their character than with male action roles. But before I get into the why, for anyone who never saw the original V series, here’s a quick recap.
What was V all about, anyway?
Made in the early 1980s and set in what was then present day, V explores what happens when humanity is suddenly host to a fleet of UFOs. The aliens, called the Visitors, look just like us and proclaim they come in peace. They’re willing to share their technology and expertise with us, and all they require in return is some materials that we don’t need anyway.
It soon becomes clear, however, that they have a hidden agenda and soon Earth starts resembling a totalitarian state, fueled by an alleged conspiracy by a group of scientists who are determined to kill the Visitors. But why are the aliens so scared of anthropologists in particular — what secret are they trying to hide? Juliet Parrish, a medical student, gets drawn into discovering the truth and starts a small resistance group to fight back.
Juliet Parrish – a reluctant leader and hero of the Resistance.
Growing up in the 80s, we had a vast selection of action heroes to look up to, but most of them were muscle-bound Goliaths using pure strength to get things done. I love Arnie films as much as the next person (probably a lot more, actually), but the characters weren’t really that relatable to a skinny, scifi computer nerd such as myself.
In V, however, the main character (at least in my eyes — it’s an ensemble piece really) is a scientist / doctor, just like I wanted to be. Juliet starts the Resistance with a group of friends and neighbours, spreading out contacts and eventually forming an alliance with reporter Mike Donovan, who has seen the Visitors close up. She is ill prepared for what awaits her as a leader at first, taking too much responsibility on her own shoulders, but grows into the role with the help from others. She cares deeply for all members of the group and is deeply troubled when one of their first attacks goes badly.
As the Resistance movement grows in numbers, equipment, and scope, she starts to plan operations to disrupt the Visitors’ grip and expose the truth to the world. She’s also not afraid to lead from the front, culminating in one of the best parts of the series, where the Resistance attacks a televised function to reveal the Visitors’ true form. Juliet is captured and tortured by the beautiful and deliciously evil Diana (whom, on reflection, probably triggered my life-long fascination with attractive, psychotic women), who heads the science division of the Visitor fleet. She attempts to brainwash Juliet, a process called ‘conversion’, but Juliet is rescued before the process completes.
After her failed conversion Juliet manages to keep the loyalty of the group despite a challenge from militant Ham Tyler (played by Michael Ironside, who is awesome as ever!). After a series of events involving an cross-species breeding experiment devised by Diana, Juliet’s scientific expertise comes to the fore again when they try to develop a biological weapon to use against the Visitors. Despite a successful test, she refuses to use it until the aliens who have turned against their leaders and who are helping the Resistance are protected, despite enormous pressure from Ham and the others.
Juliet in many ways is an idealistic hero, who tries to do her best for a cause she believes in and for the people around her. In many stories today where our protagonists (including my own) are often flawed people living in shades of morality, it’s sometimes refreshing to root for someone who embodies traits and a vision to aspire to.
V – The good, the bad, and the remake.
V is certainly a product of its time, and as a result some of the special effects are a bit dodgy (for example, the bit with Diana and the guinea pig is more comedic than shocking now), along with the fashion. Also, the climax at the end suffers from a serious dose of deus ex machina, but if you can look past all that then it’s a great series with a fantastic story. The themes and symbolism are a pretty obvious allegory for the Nazis, but are still very much relevant in today’s social climate.
V was originally broadcast as a two part mini-series in 1983, with the Final Battle three part series being shown in 1984 which wrapped up the story. Then for some reason, they decided to make ‘V – the series’ in 1984 -1985, which was completely dire (seriously, don’t watch it) and doesn’t exist in my version of reality, along with Highlander 2. It was rebooted in 2009 with a new set of characters, but got cancelled after season two, just as it was getting good, and ended on a massive cliffhanger.
As an added bonus, here is one of my favourite bits of dialogue from the series, between Abraham and his son. I tried to find a clip of it on YouTube but failed, but the performance never fails to put a lump in my throat.