V “War of Illusions” (part 4 of 4)
Cut to the next day, and that same junkyard from the start of the episode. Philip is handing the big blue Hershey bar over to Mike, saying it’s the Leader’s battle plans. He explains that “Every facet of the invasion will be computer controlled.” And what could possibly go wrong with a plan like that?
He reminds all the slow viewers, “The only way it can be stopped is by computer!” And then he asks if the Resistance has had any luck finding one of these rare, precious computers. Mike says they’ve been trying to track down a guy named Dr. Atkins, and Philip reveals that Atkins is onboard the Mothership, and he’s Diana’s prisoner.
Mike goes back to Kyle and Henry. I guess Henry is supposed to be bitter because they haven’t rescued his dad yet, because he asks in his usual whiny smartass voice if Mike is “fresh from another foul up”. Kyle tells him to shut it, and Henry asks, “What’s the matter? Truth hurt?”
Mike reveals that Henry’s dad is a prisoner aboard the Mothership. Henry doesn’t miss a smartass beat, and without taking even the slightest pause, he goes, “Oh, that’s really excellent!” Hey, stupid, do you realize the only reason your dad is up there is because he confessed to being the hacker? He’s only Diana’s prisoner because he’s protecting you, dipshit.
I realize the idea was to make Henry sort of a selfish brat, you know, as in the typical computer hacker stereotype. Which probably wouldn’t have been tolerable even with a skilled actor in the role, so suffice to say, the terrible acting job here is making this character insufferable.
Henry says he’ll figure out how to get his dad back on his own, but Mike grabs him by the shirt, and in a wonderful turn of events, he starts to rough Henry up a little bit. But then Kyle ruins the beauty of this moment by pulling Mike away from him.
Mike tries to talk some sense into Henry, pointing out if they don’t hack into the Visitors’ novelty lamp, they’re all dead. Henry whines, “Don’t try to make me a hero!” And so, Kyle gives Henry a badly overdubbed heartfelt talk, all about how his dad was so proud of him, and had such high hopes for him. “Don’t let him down!” By which he means, don’t let him down any more than you already have.
Back on the Mothership, Diana reports that the Battlesphere has “detected an unauthorized entry into the memory components!” She tells Lydia and Philip that the Fifth Column may already have the battle plans, as in, the big blue Hershey bar. Philip, evidently a master at deflecting, immediately yells at Lydia for providing lax security.
Diana says it’s too late, because the battle plans have already been put into “operation”, whatever the hell that entails, and they can’t be stopped. Very convenient.
A flunky provides a dot matrix printout listing all the nearby “computer installations” capable of interfering with the Big Plasma Lamp. Diana decides to send Lt. James down to the “Science Frontier Annex” to locate the hacker, given that “It’s the closest and most likely target!” As well as the only other set we have to film on!
Sure enough, down at Science Frontiers, the whole Resistance gang shows up, plus Henry. There’s no real reason for them to be at Science Frontiers, by the way. Nathan Bates, the president of Science Frontiers, is dead, and Julie doesn’t work here anymore, so it couldn’t be more obvious that they just needed a cheap location to film in, and decided to simply dust off their unused Science Frontiers set.
Henry does more bad chin acting as he comes up another nickname, this time calling Kyle “Answer Man”. Henry asks where the computers are, and Kyle says they’re on the top floor. So the dumbass asks, “And how do we get there?” Um, there’s this new invention called an elevator? In another endearing move, Mike actually shoves Henry toward the elevator. I’m pretty sure this was ad-libbed and Marc Singer was getting just as tired of this shithead as the rest of us.
Just then, James shows up with all his men, surrounding the Resistance members from all sides. The guys realize they’re trapped, so Mike says, “Let’s get to the elevator!” And for no apparent reason, the Visitors all just stand there and watch as the Resistance members run into the elevator.
But once they get inside, nothing happens. Kyle yells, “The door won’t close! It’s stuck!” And on that unbelievable cliffhanger, we go to commercial break. And I’m actually kind of hoping that once we come back from break, the resolution will be that Mike forgot to press the “close doors” button.
Actually, between the clumsy blocking in this scene, and the shooting script as seen in the captions, I’ve pieced it together that the scene was originally supposed to take place in a much longer corridor. The heroes were supposed to see the Visitors approaching off in the distance and make a run for the elevator. But I guess once they got to the set, they realized that the Science Frontiers corridor was only about twenty feet long. I give the director and the actors credit for trying to make the scene work anyway, but it was doomed from the start.
Back from break, the Resistance is still in the stuck elevator. Willie clarifies the situation by saying, “The power is gone!” That’s correct, Willie. The power is out. Even though the entire building is brightly lit. Mike says they have no choice but to surrender, and Mike and Kyle start to lay down their guns.
Suddenly, Elizabeth puts her freaky Starchild powers to work. She stares really hard, and flings her hair around, and the doors close, and the elevator rises. Henry says, “That was radical!” Shut up, Henry.
As the elevator rises, the director feels the need to add in lengthy stock footage from inside an elevator shaft. Hey, so that’s how an elevator works!
When they get to the top floor, Mike makes Elizabeth use her freaky powers to send the elevator back down, just so he can toss a grenade in as the doors close. There’s more stock footage of the elevator shaft, and then a minute later, all the Visitors pile into the elevator and get blown up. What the hell? Nobody saw the grenade before they all ran in? And do they really make grenades that take a full minute to explode?
Also, I should note that Lt. James is not one of the Visitors who gets blown up here. He’s nowhere in sight, and in fact, he completely disappears from the rest of the episode.
Finally, the Resistance guys get to the Science Frontiers computer room, which is shrouded in darkness. They find a room full of old PCs, and Henry tries and fails to get his TRS-80 hooked up to one of them.
Kyle yells, “I thought you said these units were compatible!”
Henry replies, “They cut the power, remember?” Um, yeah. That would make it tough to use a PC, I would imagine. I’m guessing Kyle is the kind of the guy who calls up tech support complaining that his screen is black before being told to plug the damn thing in. Well, unlike the corridor on the ground floor, at least it’s not brightly lit in here.
Kyle says, “Elizabeth, can you…?” And that wagging of his head can be loosely translated as I don’t know what the hell kind of powers you have, but apparently they can do whatever the plot demands, so get to it. Elizabeth puts her hands on top of a PC, spooky music plays, and just like that, all the lights in the room come on. Wow!
When the series first started, it kind of seemed like Elizabeth’s “powers” were at least along the lines of typical ESP abilities: You know, telekinesis, clairvoyance, telepathy, etc. ESP is all horseshit, but at least her powers had some sort of well-established history in fiction and popular lore. But it appears the writers gave up on this, too, and now her powers can do anything.
Henry taps away at his Model 100, causing a PC to come to life and display a game of Space Invaders. Oh, wait, I guess this is supposed to be some sort of graphical representation of the Leader’s battle plans.
Up on the Mothership, Lydia and Diana confront Philip. It seems they’ve learned he wasn’t in his quarters at the time the battle plans were stolen. He says he hopes they’re not accusing him of being a member of the Fifth Column, because that would be grounds for a court-martial. I can see they’re not too keen on questioning authority in the Visitor command structure.
Back at Science Frontiers, Henry is whining that he “can not stop the attack!” Kyle tells him not to give up, so he sasses back, “You gave up on my dad!” What is he talking about? When did they do that?
Finally, even Elizabeth is fed up with his whining. She says, “Now either you can be a man and forget your petty little snit, or you can continue to throw your tantrum while all of us and the entire Southwest is blown away forever!” Umm… “snit”? Did they really just make her say “snit”? Maybe the line was originally “you can stop being a petty little shit” but Standards and Practices made them change it. Well, probably not, but I can dream.
And so, Henry, having been put in his place by a two year old girl, goes back to typing away.
Cue the standard stock footage shot of the Mothership shuttle bay, which was seen countless times throughout the series, including in the opening credits of this very episode. Cut to Philip smuggling Dr. Atkins into a shuttlecraft piloted by another Fifth Columnist, and sending him safely home.
And then the shuttlecraft flies out of the shuttle bay, and two things to note here. One, it’s clearly daytime in this stock footage, whereas in the previous stock footage it was night. Two, this shot of the shuttle leaving the Mothership was also reused countless times. In fact, I know exactly when it was first used. It was when Mike escaped from the Mothership in the first miniseries and flew a Visitor shuttlecraft for the first time.
Which is why the shuttlecraft wobbles around as it leaves the shuttle bay: it’s supposedly being piloted by a guy who doesn’t know how to fly it. But they kept reusing this shot over and over every time any shuttle left the Mothership, giving the impression that nobody knows how to fly these damn things.
Back at Science Frontiers, Henry says he now has to “install” a “translation program”. Thankfully, all he has to do to accomplish this is type “translate” into his TRS-80, and that pretty much does it all. A few moments later, he’s “tapped into their skyfighter guidance system!” On the screen, a couple of red blips move away from the Space Invaders formation.
On the Mothership, Diana and Lydia stare at the plasma lamp, and they somehow know their fighters are being “completely thrown off course!” As they talk, there are random inserted shots of Visitor shuttles crashing. A shuttle crashes into a tunnel. A shuttle crashes into a mountain.
If these shots look a little familiar, it’s because they’re both stock footage clips from the miniseries. In fact, we’re about to see every single shot from the two miniseries where a shuttlecraft crashes, all recycled here to give the impression that the Leader’s “battle plans” are being sabotaged by whatever the hell Henry is doing. Which means the Leader’s battle plans were basically… what? To take all the shuttles that were already on Earth, and put them under computer control, and somehow, this was supposed to wipe out the entire Southwest?
Henry then launches into a bad acting symphony as he’s beside himself over his accomplishments. Mike says they have to get going, but Henry wants to get in one more “lick”. He mumbles, “This one… is for my dad.” Some fight for money. Some fight for glory. He’s fighting… for his dad’s love.
Henry does… something, and then Mike yells at everyone to get “back to the woods”. A moment later, they’re all in the woods, where a Visitor van has dropped off Dr. Atkins, and father and son are reunited. The Resistance guys tell Dr. Atkins that Henry did him proud, and he prevented them all from being “blown away”, or whatever. You know, I think I’m just about done pretending that anyone was in any serious danger this week.
And then there are three more stock footage shuttle crashes, including one shot that shows a shuttlecraft being destroyed by enemy fire, giving the impression that Henry somehow made it spontaneously explode in midair.
Diana and Lydia see all the destruction on their console. Lydia says, “Better luck next time!” and walks away, and that’s the end. Really, that’s it, but if you think that’s abrupt, it’s even worse than that, because the music cuts her off. So the final scene is basically, “Better luck next ti—Dah dah dahhhhhh… dah dah dah dah!”
Also, Lydia has on a different costume than the one she was wearing five minutes ago, so I’m pretty sure this is stock footage, too.
Well, that was one big clusterfuck. This is why shows that are desperately over budget usually don’t attempt to depict the potential annihilation of a large part of the United States. The only good parts were the character moments with Philip, as he tried to win over Mike’s confidence while keeping his duplicity a secret from Diana and Lydia. Everything else was pure junk.
For more crappy episodes of V, tune into ABC this Tuesday night at 10/9 Central.