V “War of Illusions” (part 2 of 4)
Cut to Lt. James leading a Visitor patrol through Los Angeles. He’s in a jeep, because as everybody knows, aliens love jeeps, and he tells one of his men to search a van. And this entire clip is reused from a previous episode, “The Rescue”. Which means we’re less than ten minutes in and I’ve already spotted three different uses of stock footage. This is not a good sign.
Cut to the Mothership, where the camera is focused on one of those balls with the static electricity, where you touch it and it generates an arc to your finger. A plasma lamp. These things were used a lot in Space Mutiny. Actually, by this point in the series, V was only slightly less ridiculous than Space Mutiny.
Below the ball, there’s a bubbling bowl of punch. This can only mean one thing: Visitor office party! Yeah, baby!
Lydia is pouring herself a glass of bubbling punch, and apparently she’s quite sloshed on the stuff already. Lydia didn’t appear in the previous episode I recapped, but real quick: she’s a Visitor officer who either worked for Diana, or was Diana’s superior, depending on the week. She’s really just there to be a rival to Diana and shamelessly imitate the Joan Collins/Linda Evans dynamic from Dynasty.
Lydia is played by June Chadwick, who went on to be a regular on Riptide, but her most famous role (other than this show) is when she played Michael McKean’s Yoko-esque girlfriend in This is Spinal Tap.
Both Lydia and Diana are dressed in shiny evening wear, and Diana addresses the party, explaining that they’re here to celebrate Slutor (“the annual perigee of our sun-star”) as well as the completion of the Battlesphere, which will allow the Leader to directly transmit his battle plans and blah blah blah. Frankly, this Battlesphere thing is just the MacGuffin of the Week and it really doesn’t matter what it’s supposed to do.
Philip is also at the Visitor office party, looking like he’s having a really, really bad time. What’s the matter, Philip? Not enough joints being passed around?
Diana says the Battlesphere will now be “installed in the control module”, and then some guys come in and take away the plasma ball. Holy crap. That cheap novelty lamp is supposed to be the Battlesphere? Are they serious? Jesus, the money was running out even faster than I thought.
Diana walks over to one of her flunkies, a Visitor named Oswald who was also a recurring character, and let me say in no uncertain terms that Oswald is a flaming homosexual. Like here, where he queens out about this party being “so exciting” and lisps, “I simply can’t wait for the war to be over! Colonization is… so much fun!” I mean, just think of all the interior decorating he’ll get to do! Actually, you might not notice it here, but trust me, the rest of the series makes it very, very clear that Oswald is gay.
Remember when Star Trek fans were constantly writing emails and making online petitions to get a gay character introduced into the Star Trek universe? And remember how the Powers That Be resisted this at every turn? And how they watered down the gay allegory episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation to the point where there was no gay in it at all?
Well, I’m here to tell you that by 1985, American primetime TV had already seen its first gay alien: Oswald. Not to mention Diana herself, who was strongly implied to be bisexual. So how the heck did gay characters in sci-fi suddenly become controversial again after twenty years?
Diana reiterates all the stuff about the Battlesphere and the coming conquest. She says she sent James to Earth to personally find a hacker who’s been interfering with their computers. Lydia drunkenly interjects, “Well, la di dah!” I’m pretty sure that’s not a Visitor saying. Lydia has clearly been screening Woody Allen movies in her down time.
And now, it’s time for yet another stock footage clip. They reuse a lengthy shot from the first miniseries, where a shuttlecraft enters the Mothership’s shuttle bay, and we’ll learn in a minute that this is James returning from searching for the hacker. Then it’s back to the Visitor office party, where we see Diana hanging out with some guy dressed like a giant fly. Well, why the hell not? Let your freak flag fly, is what I say. Or let your fly flag freak. Either one is fine.
Philip is alerted that the Leader’s battle plans are about to be transmitted, so he and Diana and Lydia leave the party early. James joins them en route, to report his progress in locating the hacker. He says, “We didn’t find a computer, per se.” We found a… well, it sorta looked like a computer, but I’m not entirely sure. Come to think of it, maybe it was a Speak & Spell. But we smashed it up good!
James says that despite not finding an actual computer, they destroyed a lot of storefronts in the area, so there’s nowhere left for a hacker to operate. Lydia is hammered, and I hope June Chadwick was hammered at the time as well, and she tells James that he has no idea if he stopped the hacker or not. There’s awkward silence before Philip says he’s sure James did his best.
James says he always does his best in “everything I undertake”, while looking Lydia up and down. Okay, then. Do the Visitors actually do anything besides eat live animals and bang each other all day? After another awkward silence, Philip directs everyone’s attention to the so-called Battlesphere, now in place on the ship’s bridge. He says the Leader’s transmission is now coming in, which is accompanied by plenty of random blips and bloops.
Just then, a Visitor off to the side of the bridge tells them that something is “interfering with our reception”, and “it’s like somebody’s… tapped into our master computer sources!”
Apparently, the mysterious hacker has struck again. James promises that his men are closing in on the hacker’s location at this very moment, and he leaves to personally supervise the capture. Well, it’s a good thing he came all the way up to the Mothership for this thirty second appearance.
Down on Earth, we zoom in on a storefront next to a whole lot of boarded-up storefronts, and this one has a sign painted in the window that says “Atkins Deluxe Market”.
Cut to inside, where this “deluxe market” seems rather small and empty and non-deluxe. Behind the counter, a mush-mouthed young guy named Henry rings up a customer, and I guess the customer is not being friendly enough, because after he walks out, Henry mumbles, “Where’d you buy your discount personality?” Oh snap!
Cut to the back room, where someone’s typing on an old ass laptop, with a screen capable of showing an amazing eight lines of text at once. Aficionados of early portable computers will recognize this as a TRS-80 Model 100 with the Radio Shack logo blacked out. At the time, one of these cost about $1000, so I’m pretty sure they blew the budget on this thing, and that’s why this week’s MacGuffin is a novelty lamp.
And the guy typing away is Conrad Janis. Aficionados of crap ‘70s TV will recognize him as Mindy’s dad from Mork & Mindy. Conrad is playing the aforementioned Dr. Atkins, and he calls out to his son to say, “Henry, this is remarkable!” Henry wanders in as Dr. Atkins says they’re “actually talking to the computer aboard the Mothership!” You read that right. They are hacking into an alien computer system… with a TRS-80.
We know they’ve hacked into the Mothership because all eight lines of the screen are now taken up by Visitor symbols. Henry types away and proudly says, “I can tap into this any time I want to!” Well, la di dah.
And the guy playing Henry Atkins is the worst actor to ever appear on this show, which is no small feat. He delivers all of his lines in a lifeless grumble, mostly emoting with his chin and hands. I have no idea how the actor got this part, because it’s obvious he has no clue what he’s doing. I think they were running short on time and just grabbed some kid off the street.
Amazingly enough, this guy went on to get small parts in other shows and movies, and even ended up directing the Guns N’ Roses “Live and Let Die” video. But I think I’ll do him a favor by not mentioning his name here and associating him with this horrible performance.
An elderly couple walks into the Atkins Deluxe Market. They’re Mr. and Mrs. Butler, but the subtitles indicate that Mrs. Butler was originally supposed to be alone. She says, “I’d… like a can of tuna?” Well, would you?
Dr. Atkins and Son explain that tuna is hard to come by, now that the Visitors are “cracking down”. Mrs. Butler complains, “What do they expect us to eat?” Dr. Atkins runs behind the counter and pulls out a small can, and for a second there, I actually thought it was a can of cat food, which would have been hilarious. Instead, it’s a can of tuna they’ve been “saving” for a “special customer”.
Just then, they hear sirens. Outside, a Visitor patrol is pulling up, with Lt. James in the lead jeep. They’ve apparently zeroed in on the hacker, and the hacker, as you may have already guessed, is Henry Atkins and his TRS-80 laptop. Dr. Atkins hustles Mr. and Mrs. Butler out the front door, then tells Henry to go hide.
Henry spreads out his arms and says, “We can both hide!” And he says it in a weird surfer guy accent, almost like the next line is, “It’d be bodacious!”
Finally, Dr. Atkins shoves him into the back room with one final, “Remember I love you.” Henry replies, “And I love you,” in an astoundingly insincere tone of voice. And then the Visitors barge in, so Dr. Atkins runs directly into their waiting arms. Very subtle, Doctor.
Cut to a back alleyway, as Henry sneaks past a couple of Visitors. And one of the Visitors has a parakeet. In fact, it’s the same parakeet that was on the counter back in the store. The Visitor then turns to the Visitor next to him and pulls another parakeet out of his vest. He says, “Take this one, I’ve got two!” See what I mean? The hungriest species in the galaxy. They’ve been closing in on the hacker for all of what, maybe two minutes? Screw it, it’s snack time!
And it’s obvious these two actors were given helmets completely the wrong size, and can’t see a damn thing, because they awkwardly fumble with the fake parakeets. It’s really quite sad.
Naturally, Henry shows no reaction to his pets being eaten. A moment later, he’s now somehow up on the rooftops across the street, and he sees people being rounded up and loaded onto a Visitor van. Among them are the Butlers, as well as his dad. So Henry puts on his gut-bustingly hilarious “angry” face and muddles his way through the line, “You’ll pay. I swear you’ll pay for this.”