I can’t remember why, but a couple weeks ago I started thinking about “old” miniseries that I have enjoyed. Then, I decided to come up with a Top X list (not ranked) and share it with you all. So, here ya go! 🙂
One of the earliest miniseries I ever remember watching was “V” (1983), followed a few months later by “V: The Final Battle” (1984). (For purposes of this list, I am counting them together as one.) When some of my younger readers think of “V”, they probably think of the TV series (2009-2011), starring Morena Baccarin, Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut, et al. But, that was actually a reimagining of the series from the ’80s, which I loved. “V” stands for the extraterrestrial “visitors”, who appeared in their huge ships with promises of shared technology and peaceful co-existence. Of course, the resistance fighters discover that the human-looking Visitors are not what they seem and have much more nefarious plans. Key Visitors were played by Jane Badler (‘Diana’), Andrew Prine (‘Steven’), and Richard Herd (‘John’). Familiar faces among the resistance included Marc Singer (‘Mike Donovan’), Faye Grant (‘Dr. Julie Parrish’), Michael Ironside (‘Ham Tyler’), and Robert Englund (simple-minded ‘Willie’). Looking back now, I’m sure some of it would look hokey, but for its day, it had some pretty good F/X and a fun plot and characters. Btw, the miniseries were soon followed up with a regular series, but that unfortunately only lasted 19 episodes.
Fast-forward several years to the miniseries “Taken” (2002), not to be confused with the Liam Neeson movies. This one was 10 episodes long and spanned five decades of alien abductions experienced by four generations of three families. From a synopsis on IMDB: “World War II veteran Russell Keys is plagued by nightmares of his abduction by aliens during the war; the Roswell incident transforms Owen Crawford from ambitious Air Force captain to evil shadow government conspirator; the unhappily married Sally Clarke is impregnated by an alien visitor. As the decades go by, the heirs of each are affected by the machinations of the aliens, culminating with the birth of Allie Keys, who is the final product of the aliens’ experimentation and holds the key to their future.” Notable stars included Matt Frewer, Ryan Hurst, Emily Bergl, Heather Donahue, Eric Close. (Other familiar faces appeared in a few episodes, too.) Most memorable, however, was 7-year-old Dakota Fanning in her first big role as ‘Allie’. She narrated the whole thing and, of course, played arguably the central part (on-screen in the last 4 episodes) — a cute, precocious little girl who was much more than she appeared. She was amazing!
A couple pieces of trivia (from IMDB):
1) The character ‘Allie Keys’ was ranked #16 in TV Guide’s list of the “25 Greatest Sci-Fi Legends” (1 August 2004 issue).
2) At the time of its airing, it was the highest rated program on the SciFi (now SyFy) channel. The record was beaten the next year with “Battlestar Galactica”.
Speaking of BSG…
If you have read my “Notable Genre Anniversaries in 2018, part 1 of 3” post, you might remember that I was a fan of the original “Battlestar Galactica” TV series, starring Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, John Colicos, et al. When the reimagined version debuted as a miniseries in Dec. 2003, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. The visual F/X were terrific, of course, and much of the core of the original story was intact. But, as usual, I was put off by many of the changes made from the ’70s version, e.g., naming conventions, appearances of the Cylons, various other stylistic modifications, changing the gender of two major characters, “weak” & whiney Baltar, etc. On the other hand, the writing and acting was quite good, and you had stars like Edward James Olmos (‘Cmdr. Adama’) and Mary McDonnell (‘President Roslin’), along with lesser-known talents Katee Sackhoff (‘Starbuck’), Jamie Bamber (‘Apollo’), James Callis (‘Baltar’), Tricia Helfer (‘Six’), Grace Park (‘Boomer’), and Michael Hogan (‘Col. Tighe’). There were a few interesting, new characters, as well — e.g., ‘Six’, ‘Dualla’, ‘Chief Tyrol’, ‘Gaeta’, ‘Lt. Agathon’. All in all, it was enough to get me back in front of the screen when the regular series started up in Jan. 2005. Like “Babylon 5”, the broader story-arc was made even better with the various character-arcs. Great sci-fi drama, great sci-fi visuals. Highly recommended!
Honorable Mention: Originally, I was going to include in my list The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) with Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellan. But, it turns out that it was just an unusually long TV movie (142 min.) rather than an actual miniseries. There were several previous adaptations of Baroness Orczy’s novel (1905) about the “Reign of Terror” during the French Revolution for TV and film, and there has been at least one since — a 1999/2000 miniseries, though, technically, two 3-episode seasons. As I recall, the miniseries wasn’t bad but didn’t have the charm of the 1982 movie that so thrilled me in my youth. There’s no sci-fi or fantasy in the story, but there are shades of the Three Musketeers, Zorro, and even Batman (sort of).
My favorites quotes by Andrews’ foppish ‘Sir Percy Blakeney’:
1) “Sink me!”
2) “Odds fish, m’dear!”
3) “They seek him here, they seek him there.
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
But, is he in heaven? Or, is he in hell?
That damned elusive Pimpernel!”
If you haven’t seen any of the above, you should definitely track them down and watch!