- "Welcome to the game, Sydney Bloom."
Somehow, 1995 has become a really long time ago.
The title is a (pseudo?) scientific reference to sensory immersion.
- VR 1 is a basic computer - pressing keys on a keyboard to preserve ideas as data.
- VR 2 is a video game - commands you input guide a virtual representation of yourself through a virtual world.
- VR 3 is a flight simulator - manipulating realistic controls guides a realistic aircraft through a virtual world in a realistic manner, which you view as if through the viewscreen of a realistic aircraft.
- VR 4 is Cyber Space - the virtual world is displayed around you as if real, and you can manipulate it as if it were real.
- VR 5 is a total sensory reality, indistinguishable from reality. But as the only thing in it which is real is your mind, it can get really weird in there...
Sydney Bloom works as a telephone engineer, but she's also a computer genius playing with Virtual Reality (VR). One day she accidentally discovers that she can take other people into VR5 (full immersion VR) with her, just by calling them up on the telephone. Once inside, she can find out about them, but afterwards, they have little or no memory of the incident. For reasons which only become clear in the series finale, Sydney and her childhood friend Duncan seem to be the only people who can take people into VR5. The shadowy 'Committee' discover her talent, and co-opt her to do investigations for them.
VR.5 provides examples of:
- Alternate Universe: The Episode Parallel Lives has Duncan wake up in what he eventually dubs the B-side of his life. In this universe, he is a famous artist, Samantha, not Sydney, is the one who survived the car crash and Oliver is a ruthless jerk who ends up busting a cap in both of their brows. Of course, it is later revealed that the whole thing was a VR trip Dr. Bloom put Duncan through in order to test his loyalties.
- Anyone Can Die: Dr Frank Morgan, who was listed as one of the three main characters in the opening credits, bites the dust as early as episode 4.
- Awful Truth: Sydney has a hard time accepting the fact that her father was a member of the Committee.
- Blessed with Suck: Sydney's ability to control and remember her VR trips sometimes seems to be more trouble than it's worth.
- Cliffhanger: The series ends with Sydney in a coma.
- Curiosity Killed the Cast: Most notably, Morgan's inquiry into Dr Bloom's work and his subsequent death.
- Death by Origin Story: The death of her father and sister and her mother's suicide attempt are a major motivation for Sydney's continued involvement with the Committee and VR.
- Fake Kill Scare: Abernathy fakes his own death in order to scare Oliver into fleeing.
- Faking the Dead: What actually happened to Dr. Bloom and Samantha.
- Flashback Nightmare: Sydney has a lot of these and understandably so, considering how troubled her past was and the fact that VR trips often cause her bad memories to resurface.
- Gender-Blender Name: Sydney. This may be because the main character was written as male early in the show's development.
- Hollywood Hacking: Into human minds via an acoustic modem, no less.
- Homage: Too many to list. One of Duncan's trips into VR.5 recreates a number of classic TV shows and movies, including The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, The Avengers and Dial M for Murder. The episode "Simon's Choice" pays homage to Sophie's Choice, both in the title and some of the plot elements. "The Many Faces of Alex" is a Vertigo homage festival, both in small Shout-Outs and the main plot line, which was described by the authors as 'Oliver's descent into Vertigo.'
- It's a Small Net After All: And Sydney accesses it via an acoustic modem.
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: The mystery behind the Bloom car crash is revealed in bits and pieces of info scattered throughout the entire show's run and culminates in the finale, which finally explains it all.
- Keeping Secrets Sucks: Or as Oliver laments, "...a lifetime spent guarding secrets that no one gives a toss about."
- Knight In Sour Armor: Oliver. According to Abernathy, chivalry is something that runs in the Sampson family.
- Love Hurts: Oliver seems to have horrible luck when it comes to women. The love of his life, Alexis Miller, first abandoned him, then got shot and died in his arms about 5 minutes after they reunited years later. One of his VR experiences also showed him standing by what was presumably the death bed of another woman from his past. And then, of course, there's Sydney who ended up in a VR induced coma, much to his horror.
- Mind Screw: Present to some extent in all episodes, but particularly in Escape and Parallel Lives.
- Not So Stoic: It gets harder and harder for Oliver to hide his emotional outbursts as his disenchantment with the Committee deepens.
- Rapid-Fire Typing: Sydney never seems to use a mouse, despite living in the era of graphic interfaces.
- The Rashomon: Sydney and Oliver's versions of events in "Escape" are radically different in terms of Oliver's role in her abduction.
- Rule of Symbolism: In the VR scenes, some elements are in color and others are black-and-white. The color elements represent things that are true. The black-and-white elements represent things that the subject's subconscious has created to fill in the gaps. This is most relevant when Sydney uses VR to probe her own memories.
- Shout-Out: Taster's Choice coffee. Sydney makes a cup for Oliver, Anthony Head landed the part of Oliver partly thanks to a series of Taster's Choice commercials he starred in.
- Smoking Is Cool: Oliver in his pre-Committee days, as well as his Jerkass alternate universe persona. According to one of the writers, Anthony Head suggested introducing this to up the noir factor in "The Many Faces of Alex".
- Telephone Teleport: Sidney can transport herself and anyone anyone else into virtual reality by calling them up on the phone and slamming the receiver down on the acoustic coupler of her modem. The callee has no memory of the event after she hangs up.
- Understatement: "I appear to be shot."
- Your Mind Makes It Real: Not just the titular VR5. The series rotates on the concepts of virtual experiences, the placebo effect, and how that effect can have extended results.