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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr
enik1138 at popapostle dot com
V: Pilot V
"Pilot"
Teleplay by Scott Peters
Story by Kenneth Johnson and Scott Peters
Based on the miniseries by Kenneth Johnson
Directed by Yves Simoneau

With promises of advanced technology, a visiting alien race quickly builds a following across Earth. But do they have a hidden agenda?

Read the detailed episode recap at the V Wiki.

Didja Know?

Kenneth Johnson gets a "created by" credit for the series and story credit for this episode. If I've understood the Hollywood news correctly, Johnson was not directly involved in this incarnation of V, but is getting credit for creating the original concept and the story elements used here.

This episode is named "Pilot". Gee, how original for the pilot episode of a series.

Elizabeth Mitchell (Erica Evans) is known for her role as Dr. Juliet Burke on the TV series Lost.

Joel Gretch (Father Jack) is known for his role as Tom Baldwin on the TV series The 4400.

Morena Baccarin (Anna) is known for her role as the beautiful Inara Serra, the space prostitute in the science-fiction series Firefly. Alan Tudyk (Dale Maddox) is also known as Wash, pilot of the Serenity, on the same show.

Laura Vandervoort (Lisa) is known for her role as Kara (otherwise known as Supergirl) in the TV series Smallville.

The original V was known for the disingenuous phrase "The Visitors are your friends." The current incarnation's phrase seems to be "We are of peace. Always."

Didja Notice?

The episode begins with the questions "Where were you when JFK was assassinated?", "Where were you on 9/11?" and "Where were you this morning?" The first two questions relate to real world events which are etched in the minds of American citizens and each have a number of elaborate conspiracy theories attached to them (which may or may not be true). This would imply that the third question also relates to an event (the arrival of the Visitors) which will be etched in the minds of people all over the world and, possibly, lead to a number of elaborate conspiracy theories. But will they or will they not be theories that turn out to be true? In the world of fiction we usually get a final, satisfactory answer to our questions. Do the first two questions imply that this series may not give us final answers, leaving theories of the Visitors and their plots open-ended? (Update 2/2015: Since the series was canceled after its second season, we'll never know!)

As the three questions appear one-by-one on the screen, our view is an aerial shot moving slowly over the city of New York. Presumably this is a POV shot of the Visitor mothership arriving.

The opening scene takes place on Tuesday, 6:30 a.m. This episode also premiered on a Tuesday.

Our main character appears to be Erica Evans. We immediately see from her identification card on the nightstand that she is an agent of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division.

Erica's son's name is Tyler. Might series developer Scott Peters have borrowed the last name of Ham Tyler from the original V and used it as a first name here?

On television throughout this episode we see that newscaster Chad Decker is the host of a news program called Prime Focus. This is a fictional program.

At 1:24 in the episode, Decker discusses the foreclosure crisis and falling house prices. The news crawl at the bottom of the TV screen says something about "health care system" and something about the Vice President. Later in the episode, health care becomes one of the important trades the Visitors make in exchange for Earth's help. Of course, health care, foreclosures, and house prices are major topics today in the real world as well.

While purchasing an engagement ring for his fiancée, Ryan Nichols asks the jeweler if getting down on one knee for the proposal is too corny. This could be an early indication that he is actually a Visitor (as later revealed) and he is still somewhat unsure of appropriate behavior and traditions of humans. Moments later, when the vibrations occur throughout the city, he asks, "What was that?" Did he really not know? Or did he suspect it to be the arrival of a Visitor mothership?

The scene at 4:19-4:29 is a nice introduction to the mothership as it is, at first, seen by Ryan only in the reflections of the glass sidings and windows of the New York skyscrapers around him.

As Tyler puts on his helmet and hops on his motorcycle to race home to check on his mom, am I the only one reminded of Kyle Bates from the original V?

As he steps outside the church and sees the mothership overhead, Father Travis crosses himself.

At 6:10 in the episode, the television reporter says there are 29 ships now hovering over the major cities of the world; in the original V there were 50 ships. There is also a news crawl at the bottom of the TV screen, but it is too small and distant to read.

At 6:20 in the episode, we see on the TV images of the ships over New York and Los Angeles. The reporter says, "The sheer mass of the ships moving through New York and L.A. was enough to rock both cities for miles." This may suggest that these are the only two ships hovering over the United States. The news crawl at the bottom of the screen says, "...will not confirm or deny whether the President has been..." As Valerie Holt changes the channel to the Prime Focus show, the scrawl there may confirm the presence of just 2 ships over the U.S.: "...over the major cities of the world, including L.A. and New York. Still no..." Valerie changes the channel again to another news report, but the crawl is too small and blurry to read.

Decker's newscast indicates that NORAD has reported that the first jets to encounter the spacecraft experienced full electrical failure, which explains the jet fighter we saw a few minutes earlier that crashed into the New York street near Ryan. Presumably, this is a self-defense mechanism of the motherships. NORAD is the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a joint operation of the U.S. and Canada to provide early warning and defense against air and space offenses against the two nations.

At 6:32 in the episode, two teen geeks are interviewed for man-on-the-street reactions. The first kid excitedly says, "Dude, this is Independence Day!" and the second replies, "Which was a rip-off of any number of alien invasion predecessors." This, of course, is a reference to the 1996 film Independence Day. It was accused of being a rip-off of previous alien invasion predecessors, including the original V!

At 6:47 in the episode, it is now 9:55 a.m.

The female leader of the alien fleet says her name is Anna. Di-ana anyone? (Of course, Anna's mother is introduced later in "Red Rain" and is called Diana, even being portrayed by the original series' Diana, actress Jane Badler.)

As she makes her introductory speech to the world from the giant view-screen on the bottom of the ships, Anna says that until now they thought they were the only intelligent life in the universe. She says, "We are overjoyed to find out that we are not alone." The phrase "we are not alone" as a reference to extraterrestrial life was popularized as the slogan of Steven Spielberg's 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Anna says she is the leader of her people, which seems to imply that she is the leader of more than just the fleet that has arrived on Earth. However, she is later called High Commander. The title is similar to John's title of Supreme Commander in the original V series. This may suggest she is not the leader of all her people after all, just of the fleet now on Earth. (However, later episodes reveal she is apparently the queen of the Visitor species.)

Anna admits they need our help with obtaining water and a mineral abundant on Earth in order to sustain themselves; in the original V the Visitors kept their need for water secret, saying only that they needed to manufacture certain chemicals with our help.

At 8:55 in the episode, the news crawl at the bottom of the TV screen says "...House will not confirm or deny whether the President has..."

During Anna's speech, we see cities around the world which are the locations of some of the other 29 Visitor ships. We are shown Paris, France; Rio de Janiero, Brazil; and Cairo, Egypt. After the speech we are also shown London, England and Moscow, Russia. In the episode "Pound of Flesh", we learn of ships over Sydney, Australia; Mexico City, Mexico; Shanghai, China; and Madrid, Spain. In "John May", we learn there is a ship in Tokyo, Japan. In "Red Sky" we see ships over Hong Kong, China and Florence, Italy. In "Red Rain" we see ships in Rome, Italy and Beijing, China. A Fifth Column map in "Unholy Alliance" indicates the 29 locations (although if we add up these cities with others seen in the previously mentioned episodes, we get 31, thus 31 motherships, not 29!):
Vancouver, Canada
Los Angeles, US
New York, US
Mexico City, Mexico
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Lima, Peru
Santiago, Chile
Buenos Aires, Argentina
London, England
Paris, France

Berlin, Germany
Madrid, Spain
Rome, Italy
Moscow, Russia
Lagos, Nigeria
Johannesburg, South Africa
Nairobi, Kenya
Cairo, Egypt
Baghdad, Iraq
Tehran, Iran
Karachi, Pakistan
New Delhi, India
Bangkok, Thailand
Hong Kong, China
Shanghai, China
Seoul, South Korea
Tokyo, Japan
Jakarta, Indonesia

I noticed that during Anna's speech that not only is the speech broadcast in the different languages of the cities shown, but we can see that Anna's lips move according to the words/language spoken in the United States and France (in the other countries we don't see her face during the speech). Did she pre-record the speech numerous times in different languages so they could all be broadcast at once? Or is the image we see from the ships a live computer simulation of her that can show the desired lip motion at any location? We receive no indication whether she is speaking live or pre-recorded, though she does make mention of the turmoil their arrival has, regrettably, caused. 

I've been trying to decide what the motherships in this version of V remind me of. I've decided they most closely resemble a horseshoe crab, which itself resembles the facehuggers of 20th Century Fox's Alien film franchise!
Visitor mothership Visitor mothership
horseshoe crab horseshoe crab

At 10:06 in the episode, it is now Wednesday, 9:20 a.m.

At 10:07 in the episode, Father Jack is bewildered that in just one day the Vatican has accepted the Visitors, saying we are all God's creatures. Father Jack comments, "Rattlesnakes are God's creatures too, doesn't mean they're good for us." The Vatican's quick acceptance of the Visitors may indicate that the Visitors have already converted key people on Earth, such as Vatican officials, ahead of their public arrival. We do learn later in the episode that there has been a Visitor presence here for decades.

At 10:46 in the episode, Fathers Travis and Jack find that their congregation has grown overnight. This is probably a realistic portrayal of how many otherwise non-religious people would feel the need for spiritual comfort in the event of an extraterrestrial announcement on Earth.

At 11:02 in the episode, the news crawl at the bottom of the TV screen reads, "...relief felt around the world following Anna's broadcast. Scientists baffled by alien technology..."

Erica notices that terrorist cell chatter went down when the aliens arrived except for one cell whose chatter spiked. Later we learn this cell is a previously planted Visitor cell.

There is a news crawl on the TV at 11:41 in the episode, but it is too far away to read.

At 11:54 in the episode, the news crawl at the bottom of the TV screen reads, "...begin to return home to major landing site cities. Cellular networks..." This may indicate that many people fled the cities at which the spacecraft had arrived, but were mostly now mollified by Anna's announcement and are returning to their homes.

At 12:23 in the episode, the news crawl at the bottom of the TV screen reads, "...later today. Leaders around the world react positively to Anna's statement." This may be another indication of world leaders already converted before the official arrival of the aliens.

There is a news crawl on the TV at 12:33 in the episode, but it is too far away to read.

At 12:58 in the episode, the news crawl at the bottom of the TV screen reads, "...message of peace toward humankind. Statement expected from U.N. later today..."

At 14:03 in the episode, a Visitor holoscreen shows Decker's report on Prime Focus. The news scrawl at the bottom of the screen reads, "...questions from reporters at U.N. Building in New York..."

At 14:31 in the episode, it is now 3 weeks later according to Decker's broadcast. It is in this broadcast we first hear the Visitors called the V's. He also mentions the Visitor Healing Centers to which people are flocking to seek treatment for the 65 ailments the V's are capable of curing. Also, he reports that government officials have begun talks to open Visitor embassies. The news crawl at the bottom of the TV screen reads, "...react positively to Anna's statement. Anna reiterates message..."

At 15:04 in the episode, we see Agent Dale Maddox drinking coffee and eating a sandwich. Since he is revealed to be an undercover V later in the episode, this would seem to indicate that they can eat normal human food, unlike the Visitors in the original V. I suppose the fact that the "fifth columnist" Ryan has a human fiancée would also be an indication that they can eat normal food since it would be hard for someone who was secretly a Visitor to develop a close relationship with a human without eating with them frequently.

At 15:07 in the episode, the news crawl at the bottom of the TV screen reads, "...major world capitals. Armed forces of the world providing security perimeters..."

When Tyler and his friend Brandon board the mothership for the tour, I was pleased to see that it has a futuristic, high-tech look throughout. I am tired of many modern science-fiction TV shows that, for budget reasons, depict most of their spacecraft or starbase interiors as looking like warehouses with corridors. Thank God for CGI greenscreen!

Aboard the New York mothership, Tyler and Brandon are introduced to the Visitor Lisa. Might series developer Scott Peters have borrowed the name Lisa from the Visitor character who is a crewmember of the New York mothership in the original V novel East Coast Crisis? Well, probably not, but who knows?

Erica discovers that the terrorist cell she's been following since the arrival of the V's was printing fake documents, passports, and ID's, the best forgeries she's ever seen. Presumably these were used to allow the previously arrived V's to assimilate into human society.

Lisa tells Tyler about the Visitors' new Peace Ambassador program where humans can act as V ambassadors in their own communities. "You even get a uniform," she says. Sounds a lot like the Visitor Youth program that Daniel Bernstein joined in the original V series. Given the enthusiasm of both characters, is this a hint that Tyler is going to take the same dark turn as Daniel? (As it turns out, he doesn't go quite so far as Daniel, but he does wind up a Visitor meal just the same in "Mother's Day").

At 24:20 in the episode, Erica is watching an online video at VIDShoot.com of her son spray-painting a red V on a wall. It stands for Visitor, not "victory" as in the original series. There are other video links visible on the webpage which all seem to be related to the V's, featuring V signs made from every day objects. One appears to be a line-up of red apples in a V shape and another looks like red jelly spread in a V shape on top of a slice of peanut butter bread.
VIDShoot.com

When the FBI searches the home of the dead Owen Chapman, a victim of the Visitor terrorist cell, notice there are 3 televisions in his living room; a large flat panel mounted on the wall and two cathode ray televisions on a stand below it. Why? Is it significant? The agents don't comment on it.
3 TVs

At 28:47 in the episode, Erica and Maddox read a text message on Chapman's cell phone which mentions a meeting taking place tonight at 4400 Pier Avenue, Brooklyn. The address is an in-joke regarding Scott Peters' previous series, The 4400.

The injured man who delivers the envelope to Father Jack says he's right to question the V's. He goes on to say, "The V's are going to obliterate us." We don't learn what happened to this man. Did he die of his injuries?

During Anna's interview on Prime Focus, she tells us that their home planet is a world of great beauty, vast cities, massive oceans. But if they have massive oceans, why do they need our water? She goes on to say that her world is not divided into countries as it is here, they are one united people. She also states they plan to open a healing center in every major city on Earth.

In the original V series, the reptilian aliens wore a realistic synthetic skin made of a pliable plastic-like substance. Here, the V's wear cloned human flesh grafted over their reptilian bodies.

At the resistance meeting, Georgie says the V's have been here for decades, implementing a plan that will exterminate every human on Earth. When Georgie says that the V's have finally revealed themselves to "share friendship and technology" only so they can position themselves as the saviors of mankind, we see Father Jack react, as it goes back to what he said earlier to Father Travis, asking why have they shown up now, right when the world is a mess and in need of a savior.

Given what we have heard about the V's in this episode, I am left wondering if they are even necessarily interested in the water as they claim. Anna said their world has massive oceans, so the sea water could be desalinized for drinking; that would certainly be less expensive a prospect than sending a fleet across the cosmos. And both Georgie and the injured man at the church talk about the V's exterminating/obliterating humans on Earth. Is their real goal to get rid of humanity with a minimum of damage to the planet and the cities and take it as a home or colony for themselves? And could it be that, given their reptilian nature, they are the evolved descendents of some species of dinosaur that left Earth in the far distant past and now have returned to take it back from us pesky humans? During the ambush of the resistance meeting, presuming the ambushers were V's, notice that they seemed partial to using knives as weapons, cutting and slashing at the human resistors; maybe an instinctual urge to cut and slash is left in them from a past ancestral species like the taloned Velociraptor? Perhaps when Anna said their world was like Earth, beautiful with massive oceans and vast cities she was obliquely saying that their world is Earth...and they want it back.

At 38:58 in the episode, we see a V device, a small orb that shoots shrapnel all around, injuring or killing many of the people attending the resistance meeting. At 39:07 we see it's computerized POV with changing V symbology visible on the screen. The characters/symbols variations of those seen in the Visitor alphabet from the original V series.
V writing V writing
V writing V writing
V writing Visitor alphabet (V2000)
Visitor alphabet (from Omniglot)

After the ambush at the resistance meeting, Erica takes a look under the torn flesh of her partner and we get a brief glimpse of his slitted eye and scaly skin.
V eye and skin

As Erica and Father Jack discuss their options at the end of the episode, she comments that the V's are arming themselves with the most powerful weapon: devotion. This goes back to Father Jack's own fears which he discussed with Father Travis earlier in the episode, that gratitude to the V's could morph into worship or devotion.


Memorable Dialog

dude this is Independence Day.wav
we are of peace.wav
God's creatures.wav
I'm at a loss.wav
they're calling themselves the Visitors.wav
an ugly Visitor.wav
don't they need to earn our trust.wav
part of God's plan.wav
I thank God for the Visitors.wav
blessing in disguise.wav
who wouldn't welcome a savior.wav
more than fair.wav
process and expel all negative feelings.wav
sleeper cell of Visitors.wav
unless you have an aversion.wav

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