If the fans show up V could end up being the best truly sci-fi series on network television since the early days of X-Files. The pilot episode of the new ABC series, a reboot of the classic 1983 Visitors (which when you actually go back to watch it was just as hokey as the original Battlestar Galactica), delivers on the promise to improve the original. The early 80s was a time when TV sci-fi only existed as niche and silly escapism, V is attempting to do so much more.

Today V is awash in all of the minutia and hidden gems of the classic series, only its dealt with as if it were an actual weekly program that the network might want to support. The pilot establishes pages of rules, characters, plans, and even twists and turns. In essence this is a pilot episode of a hardcore science fiction show.

The aliens arrive, lead by the breathtaking Anna (Morena Baccarin), with promises of peace and technology to end diseases. They come not only in peace, but with a heartwarming smile and comforting hug for humanity. But there’s more to their presence than mankind initially believes. I’ll leave the revelations for the show, but let’s just say that when Anna requests a broadcast journalist (Scott Wolf) not ask any questions that would paint her race in a bad light there’s more than PR spin going on.

If you’ve seen the original, then you know what lies beneath the beauty on the outside of the aliens. You know their true purpose. And while this is unfortunately more of a reboot than Ronald D. Moore’s brilliant re-imagining of BSG, there is a lot of solid new aspects to take notice of. Alan Tudyk and Elizabeth Mitchell are welcome additions to any cast, and offer their usual stellar performances here.

While the show is far more sci-fi than most of what you find on network television the creators are smart enough to know that the geeks now have wives and husbands who need more. And that’s delivered with characters that you can relate to and care about. Great sci-fi is always about more than laser blasters and alien ships battling in space. V has the potential based on the pilot to explore humanity, especially in a world where many are wary of any outsiders.

Much of what happens in the pilot I’d consider heavy spoilers for the series. The Visitors may arrive calmly, but V doesn’t take a moment to breathe in its first hours. The question isn’t whether the creative team have put together a great sci-fi concept, they indeed have. Instead you have to ask whether the general public will be able to get behind a show that doesn’t hide its sci-fi heritage as Lost did in the early days. And look at how people reacted when that series started down a heavier sci-fi road.

Starring: Elizabeth Mitchell, Scott Wolf, Morena Baccarin, Joel Gretsch, Morris Chestnut, Laura Vandervoort, Logan Huffman
Premieres: Tuesday, November 3 at 8:00 PM ET/PT on ABC.

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