Soul searching on 'V'

Todd Hertz

When the new incarnation of "V" premiered in 2009, I interviewed executive producer Jeffrey Bell, who told me, “Some of [the show] will make Christians say, ‘Awesome, they agree with our worldview!’ Other times, they will say, ‘Whoa, wait a minute…’”

Last week’s spiritually rich episode, "Serpent’s Tooth," made at least this Christian think something in the middle: “Uh, where is this going?”

The series, which focuses on visiting aliens whose true motives are in question, airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST on ABC. Last week's episode was one of those installments that genre fans call a “mythology dump.” "V" revealed a great deal of exposition and, most interestingly, explored — in two parallel story lines — the theme of the human soul.

In the first plot line, a Visitor turncoat now fighting alongside humans wrestled with whether he has a soul. Ryan’s fellow V-fighter, a priest named Jack, assured him that “every creature can feel the grace of God.” He added the circular logic that if Ryan didn’t have a soul, he wouldn’t be feeling worry and remorse over not having a soul.

Anna balks:  “Nothing is too complex for our technology. I will isolate it in the medical bay. The soul is the single greatest threat to our species.”

And so, "V" has revealed a new battle royale: Anna versus the human soul. Or is it science versus faith? Technological progress versus the supernatural? From a purely entertainment perspective, Entertainment Weekly wrote “this could either be fun (like an Ayn Rand novel) or incredibly belabored (like an Ayn Rand novel.)” From a Christian perspective, I was left thinking this could either be interesting and provoking (like another ABC program that tackled big spiritual topics) or terribly juvenile and convoluted (as "V"’s track record suggests).

Will "V" deliver a feel-good, generic “the soul makes us special!” message? Or can it go deeper? Will the soul, as two characters debate, prove to be a blessing or a curse? While I don’t trust the show’s writing to do this topic justice, I do appreciate its handling so far of the priest character, who has called the war between humans and visitors “a battle for souls.” It's refreshing for a strong Christian character - especially one facing an existential crisis — to speak for informed, intelligent belief on TV. His presence gives me some hope that this new soul emphasis will bear fruit.

Still, some have already seen a skeptical side to this theme. One reviewer for the science fiction site i09 cites a scene last week in which Ryan and Jack kneel to pray. As soon as alien Ryan turns his thoughts to prayer, Anna appears to him in his thoughts saying, “Feel my warmth. Feel my comfort. I can ease your suffering. You have no soul, Ryan. You will never have a soul. But you can have my bliss.” Bliss is a feeling of euphoria Anna bestows on Visitors. This feeling of safety and comfort is used by Anna to manipulate them.

About this scene, i09 writes, “The moment Ryan opens his heart to God or whatever, Anna is right there trying to fill him with bliss! Does that mean Anna is actually God? And that prayer is just a way of getting bliss? Wow, 'V' is suddenly launching a sneaky critique of Christianity.”

As the series continues tonight, where do you think it is going with its emphasis on the soul?

Image courtesy of ABC.

Topics: TV, Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Entertainment, Theology & The Church, Theology