While there has been much talk lately regarding how SF and Fantasy have come to so dominate popular culture and the collective social conscience that we may now be entering into a "post-SF" era, it should be noted that film and television have been saturated with SF and Fantasy narratives since their beginnings. Even prior to the television and films that affected me as a young Gen X viewer, these media had entertained generations with fantastic SF/F. This earlier influence is what made growing up an SF/F fan in Generation X such a joy. There was an amazing abundance of quality sfnal material to watch when I was growing up, and it wouldn't have been there if not for how much earlier entertainment influenced those who created entertainment in the 70s and 80s.
Let's take a quick look at some of the entertainment offerings that Generation X was able to enjoy. On television, we had THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN and the BIONIC WOMAN, SUPERFRIENDS, JOHNNY QUEST, STAR BLAZERS, BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, SPACE 1999, SALVAGE, and V. In film, we had ALIEN, OUTLAND, STAR WARS, KRULL, THE LAST STARFIGHTER, EXCALIBUR, SUPERMAN, FLASH GORDON, and BLADE RUNNER. The lists above don't even scratch the surface of how much wonderful sfnal material was being produced as Generation X was growing up. Science Fiction and Fantasy films may have bigger budgets today, but they are no more ubiquitous today than they were in the 70s and 80s.
It is often jokingly remarked that the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 13 (or insert some other young age), as that is the time one can best enjoy the fantastic tale merely for the sake of its being fantastic. I'm not one who usually agrees with this statement, as I have yet to be disillusioned about the SF/F I read as a child. Most of what I enjoyed, I still enjoy. Most of what I missed that others tell me I should have read, but may not enjoy as much now that I am "a more mature reader," I have enjoyed. Sometimes, as was the case with the ending of SLAN, I find small quibbles with particular narrative devices or decisions, but for the most part I find that a good story remains a good story.
I remember V being a very good story. It was a wonderful reversal of the alien story told in films like THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. We had aliens who were visiting our planet claiming to be peaceful, like in DAY. Unlike the humans in DAY, we believed them much to our eventual dismay. That one small difference made V more plausible to me than the high minded and hopeful narratives offered by movies like DAY.
The argument in DAY is, essentially, that if all the scientists can work together (because they understand the futility of war) then Earth can become a wonderful and peaceful place. Of course, if they cannot then the Earth will be destroyed, since apparently the Galactic Community believes in using violence preemptively to stop nuclear capable planets from attacking them. I very much enjoy DAY, but still have trouble with the "we have evolved beyond violence and if you don't..we'll destroy you" narrative. The short story is better with regard to this issue.
The argument in V is "beware of aliens bearing gifts." The aliens come to help us achieve peace and can end all the problems facing human society. One small thing, they really want to turn us into dinner. Given the messages that tyrants have used throughout history to attain power have been ones of "peace," "equality," and "progress." I found the story plausible. (I also found the narrative in ALIEN NATION extremely plausible, and more compelling than V as a "human" story.) The costumes the aliens wore, and the way they manipulated specific humans in order to get their "help," are fairly obvious references to Nazism.
I cannot wait to see what ABC is doing with the new V series on November 3. To get ready, I recommend watching the miniseries link above from google video and watching the spin-off series on Hulu. I've embedded the first episode of the followup series below. It isn't as solid as the miniseries, and I don't know how it will hold up as I'll be finding out over the weekend, but I have fond memories.