Nazi Lizards From Outer Space: The Politics, Literature, and Cultural History of Kenneth Johnson's V

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Copp, Daniel Voldemars
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Middle Tennessee State University
When Kenneth Johnson's NBC science fiction miniseries V premiered on May 1, 1983, it took America by storm. The two-part alien invasion epic netted forty percent of the viewing audience; more than eighty million households tuned in to see Earth besieged by a fleet of three-mile-wide flying saucers inhabited by legions of power-hungry reptilian invaders. The stellar ratings for V were also accompanied by critical praise that still resonates thirty years later. In 2005, Entertainment Weekly ranked V as one of the ten best miniseries on DVD and named it as one of the genre's most endearing franchises. On the surface, V is an alien invasion piece riddled with science fiction clichs. But behind the laser pistols, anthropomorphic lizards, and flying saucers dwells a compelling story about power, totalitarianism, and resistance inspired by both classic literature and the events of human history. In 2009, producer Scott Peters rebooted V on ABC hoping to rekindle the franchise's 1980s glory. Despite a robust premiere, the V remake hemorrhaged ratings as the season progressed, and critical reaction for the new show was largely negative. Both versions of V were products of their respective times, but the original was inspired by classic works by the likes of Sinclair Lewis and Leo Tolstoy. Johnson's predilection for literature and history helped give his telling of V a sense of heart and depth that the contemporary version sorely lacked.