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No, the Creator of NBC's V Miniseries Wasn't Trying to Warn Us About a Reptilian Conspiracy

Like Rod Serling before him, Kenneth Johnson used science fiction to explore human nature.

By Josh Weiss
Visitor Soldier wearing a helmet and holding a gun in front of a vandalized poster from V: The Mini-Series

In 1983, over two nights at the start of May, NBC aired V

Comprising two episodes (both clocking in at just shy of two hours), the iconic sci-fi miniseries from writer-director Kenneth Johnson revolved around humanity's reaction to a global invasion by an advanced and hostile alien species of reptilian predators. Like Rod Serling before him, Johnson sought to explore human nature and authoritarianism through the prism of heightened genre storytelling (classic episodes of The Twilight Zone like "To Serve Man" and "The Obsolete Man" are obvious touchstones).

"I got to thinking, 'God, how would everyday people feel if suddenly there was a sea change in our life that turned it all around, if suddenly some hyper power rolled over us, just like the Nazis rolled into Europe?'" the creator remarked during a 40th anniversary interview with Vanity Fair.

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Johnson continued: "V was always about how individual people react to power. Some will suck up, like the Vichy French did to the Nazis, and others will try to keep their heads down. The heroes say, ‘This power is being abused and we’ve got to fight back.’"

But instead of interpreting the show as an allegory for World War II and its lesson of opposing tyranny wherever it may rear its ugly head, many took V at face value. Hordes of conspiracy theorists whole-heartedly believed it to be a confirmation of the idea that a secret society of Reptilian humanoids rule society from the shadows (a claim rooted in centuries of anti-Semitic and xenophobic rhetoric).

"I’ve gotten emails over the years and letters from people on the fringes who say, ‘Oh, you get it!’ ‘You know that there are lizards among us!’” Johnson revealed. "QAnon has adopted a whole thesis that the Democrats are aliens disguised. It was really hard for me to imagine that people could misunderstand to the point of actually believing that there really was a lizard race and that I had been trying to warn everybody." 

Despite the wild misconstruing of his material, Johnson still hopes to convince the crazies, often replying with: “‘No, if you watch really carefully, what it’s really about is this….’ And I try to nurture them along."

The original V spawned a second miniseries, V The Final Battle (1984), a short-lived weekly series (1984-85), and a 2009 reboot. All three were produced without involvement from Johnson, who is still hoping to adapt the IP for the big screen.

Want more sci-fi offerings? Head over to Peacock for Galaxy of Terror, Hulk, Land of the Lost, The Invisible Man, M3GAN, and more!