By Ava Gacser
Who knew that growing up in Central New Jersey with only one television in the house would result in a lifetime obsession?
But that’s all it took for a teenage Ilana Rapp to fall for a little sci-fi miniseries back in the ‘80s her father insisted on tuning in for called “V: The Final Battle.”
“I was stuck watching it anyway,” Ilana explains. After that, she says, “I was just hooked.”
Everything about the miniseries – which was a follow-up to a previous one called “V” and the predecessor of two more series, including one currently airing on ABC – from “the action, the cool lasers and special effects” to the potential realism of the storyline appealed to Ilana. Its not-so-veiled references to Nazis further spurred her interest.
“It was a cool way for me to learn about history,” she says.
And learning is exactly what she did. Ilana’s ever-growing interest in the show lead to her starting up a fan club and traveling to Spain to experience “V” mania abroad. She even based her original major in college – biogenetics – on the show. (Her favorite “V” character, the villainous Diana, was a biogeneticist.)
Actress Faye Grant was Ilana’s very first brush with “V” greatness. The teenager attended a Broadway play Grant was performing in and was able to visit her backstage.
“She saw my (“V”) shirt and screamed,” she recalls.
Since that time, Ilana has interviewed numerous cast members and remains in touch with many of them.
“Experienced actors understand fandom,” she says. “They are very happy to speak with fans.”
While “V” disappeared from TV in the ‘80s, Ilana’s interest – and those of fans around the world – never waned. As with other beloved series, “V” continued to live on via novels and memorabilia, a large assortment of which Ilana, who is known in online circles as “Lizard Lady,” possesses.
Although Ilana says it was a lifelong goal to bring “V” back to TV, she never thought that would take place without the involvement of the original miniseries’ creator, Kenneth Johnson. Yet that’s exactly what happened, and it has created a lot of mixed feelings among “V” fans, Ilana included.
Yet while she remained open-minded about the new incarnation, others in the sci-fi community disagreed.
“I got hate mail from fans of Ken Johnson’s,” Ilana admits. “(The new series) really has nothing to do with the old ‘V’… It really is a re-imaging, not a remake.”
Still, that doesn’t mean the series isn’t enjoyable to watch.
“I do like it,” she says, even though it “lacks the original history and the whole Nazi thing.”
And, “even if I didn’t like the new ‘V,’ I’d still be writing about it,” she adds.
Although Ilana admits to being a fan of other shows in the past – “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Battlestar Galactica” (the SyFy series) and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” among them – nothing has grabbed her quite like “V.”
“It’s just a TV show,” she reasons. “I know that.”
Today, Ilana is a 41-year-old real estate agent and mother to three children under the age of 5 – two of whom have names with “V” connections. Yet she still manages to eke out time for her first love, mainly through her fan site.
“Even if ‘V’ disappeared forever, I would be in withdrawal because I don’t know any other way,” she says. “I’ve been like this for 25 years.”