Interstellar drama Visits your television

ABC has a knack for crafting serial dramas that grab your brain and don't let go, and "V," the new science fiction show that airs after "Lost," is 100 percent capable of holding your neurons hostage.

It sounds like a formulaic concept: The Visitors (V for short) have come to Earth, parking their ships over major cities and telling everyone all they want is peace and a "mineral that's plentiful on Earth." Under the command of Anna, played by the always-beautiful Morena Baccarin, the Vs enact a public relations campaign that promises cures for cancer and heart disease and the unveiling of clean, waste-free energy that doesn't need infrastructure. Woah. Of course, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is: The Vs have ulterior motives.

The incredible intrigue comes in with their opposition, a consortium of humans and renegade Vs who call themselves the "Fifth Column." Several critics have already drawn the rather obvious parallels between the Vs' meteoric rise and conservative criticisms of the Obama administration; the Fifth Column, then, comes to represent a Tea Party with guns and nothing to lose. The analogy seems a bit of a stretch, though, as no one has ever heard of Obama munching on people's heads, which Anna has been noted to do.

The cast is full of stars who ABC is counting on viewers to recognize, and it works: Elizabeth Mitchell of "Lost" fame takes on the role of FBI agent and Fifth Columnist Erica Evans, and Laura Vandervoort, the eye candy from "Smallville," plays a V named Lisa who comes to identify more with humanity than with her own species. Most underrated, perhaps, is the double agent Fifth Column V named Joshua, played by Mark Hildreth, who works under Anna's nose, undermining her at every turn while maintaining a charade of loyalty.

What the show comes down to, though, is an intense look at the nature of humanity. An Army-chaplain-turned-parish-priest has his faith shaken. A newscaster examines the role of the reporter in the modern world: to tell the facts, or the story? We see the human condition through the eyes of Erica, whose son is enamored with the Vs - looking at Vandervoort, no one can really blame him.

Most compelling is the view of humans from the V perspective. Anna sees us as creatures to be dominated and tamed (perhaps eaten?), giving no more thought to priorities of humans than we give to those of cows. Fifth Column Vs like Joshua and Ryan, played by Morris Chestnut, take a more sympathetic view of humanity while still not necessarily understanding us. And Lisa, a young V thrust into the human world, grows more than anyone could expect.

The writing is great, the stories are fine, the themes are incredible and the acting is top notch. Watch "V," if only to see what an alien invasion would look like.