Once Upon A Geek – V: The Final Battle

ONCE UPON A VISITOR (part 2 of 3)! 

We continue our coverage of the classic 1980s sci-fi phenomenon entitled, “V”! Across three episodes we'll cover every aspect of the franchise.

This episode features 7 different fans discussing: V THE FINAL BATTLE, the spin-off novels published by Pinnacle and Tor, the toys that were produced around the world, and why people loved "V" so much!

  • 0:06:33 - V: THE FINAL BATTLE
  • 1:37:04 - V the Novels
  • 2:28:49 - V the Toys

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21 responses to “Once Upon A Geek – V: The Final Battle

  1. It’s a disappointment for me as an advocate for disabled people that they didn’t have Ham Tyler in a wheelchair being a disabled badass. That would have been in many ways a much more powerful depiction of this character.

    I always thought it was pretty nice of the Visitors to cure cancer, but then you think, what self-respecting lizard person would want to eat a human riddled with cancer? Clever, those visitors.

    So, how do you know that lizard-human hybrids don’t exhibit telekinetic powers? Have you ever mated with a reptilian?

    “…which will destroy the planet in a Firestorm.” I hear what you did there, Shag!

    I too never bought Donavan and Julie as a couple. Where I think they were going with it in the original mini-series was a romantic interspecies relationship between Mike and the Visitor Barbara. Which would have been much more interesting. Oh well.

    The lizard baby looked like a wet rubber puppet? Possibly because it was… well… a wet rubber puppet.

    The hot air balloon music… yeah. By itself it’s not a bad track. But does it work for “V”? An open question to be sure.

    I think Donovan on the horse underscores the degree to which the humans had to rely on asymmetric low-tech warfare to defeat the Visitors. They had shuttlecraft, and we had horses. But a lot of wars are actually like that.

    Wow! That’s a great touch— Donovan wearing Dr. Ben Taylor’s nametag.

    “V Universe”… V-niverse?

    How *did* Ham Tyler, who represents the right-wing world view, come to realize the Visitors were an unacceptable form of fascism? You’re right— that would’ve been a great prequel or novel.

    Daniel realizing that “To Serve Man” is a cookbook is indeed the most satisfying moment of V: The Final Battle. Talk about someone having it coming.

    Faye Grant’s performance in the conversion chamber is stunning. Too bad that sci-fi never wins Emmys or Oscars, because she should’ve had an Emmy.

    Unless the Emmy goes to Jane Badler, who is also exceptional throughout.

    I thought one of the sadder things about V: The Final Battle was how much Sean Donovan was converted and no longer loved baseball, no longer could see his dad as a hero, etc. I don’t think that it’s the fault of the actor, it’s just that he was playing the conversion. Kind of like blank-slate Firestorm. (There’s a stretchy reference!)

    “A science fiction property that kills the Black character?” A lot of truth in that!

    To be fair, if the starchild’s special powers is a bridge too far for “V”, then it’s just a bridge too far. There are a lot of things “V” asks us to buy into in our suspension of disbelief, but that is indeed probably the breaking point.

    Christine Walsh… it’s too bad because it’s too little too late, when she outs the Visitors.

    I think Shag sums it up perfectly when he says that considered by itself, V: The Final Battle is a success. But it’s less-than-ideal when considered as a follow up to the original miniseries. I concur completely.

    1. Hi Robert – Thanks for listening! I never thought about the self-serving purpose of the Visitors curing human cancer! Duh! How did I not think of that!!

      Mike Donovan and Barbara as a couple would have been very interesting!

      Nicely played with the Blank Slate reference! We understand each other. 🙂

      Thanks again for listening and your feedback!

  2. Great episode so far. I still have 2 hours to go.
    – Every kid on the playground discussed the lizard baby. They have a TO BE CONTINUED as the Alien baby stares into the camera! Pure television magic.
    – I will never use the grills in the park
    – A balloon attack would be really slow, reminds me of Austin Powers getting run over by a steam roller

    1. Hi Lucien – Thanks for listening and commenting! Yes, that cliffhanger with the alien baby was perfectly handled. Resonates nearly 40 years later!!!

      Thanks again!

  3. Great discussion Shag and fellow Resistance fighters.

    First off, I would pay money to see Shag and Bailey wrestle. I’m sure it would devolve quickly into a slap fight, but it would be fun to watch.

    Based on listening to your coverage, I can say I remember The Final Battle a bit more clearly than original mini. It makes sense, I was older, and I was probably more psyched since now I knew what to expect. And much like Superman II, the whiz bang aspects of the second series appeal more to kids. When you grow older, you begin to appreciate the more nuanced, mature themes of the first mini-series. Just like most adults prefer Superman: The Movie over Superman II now. 😉

    The Lizard Baby… I think more kids of the 80s remember that better than Live Aid. Okay, maybe not better than when Queen destroyed everyone else at Live Aid, but you get my drift. My sister (who was about 17 or so at the time) was really into the “alien pregnancy” storyline, so when the babies were born, she was jumping up and down on the couch (she’s very excitable). When that first baby stuck out her forked toungue, that was a HUGE shocker. But then the “hold my beer” moment came when that “wet rubber puppet” emerged. Holy crap, who was expecting THAT? That’s some kind of weird body horror from a Cronenberg movie, or at the very least a Larry Cohen flick.

    The Star Child bit didn’t make any sense to me as a kid, and I’m kind of sorry to hear there’s no better explanation for it now.

    I have never read the V novels, but Scott’s passion clearly came through. I know Shag loves his “based on” novels. I’ve seen enough pictures of his feet at the beach to prove that.

    The merchandise! Yes, I would have loved to have had that 12″ Visitor figure, but I don’t recall ever seeing in the wild. Maybe just in the Sears Wish Book? I didn’t know about the other potential figures and vehicles until Brian and Plaid Stallions came along. I would have been in for some of those. Too bad they didn’t have the toys ready for the 2nd mini-series. I think they would have sold like hot cakes.

    Great packaging on horrible toys is a common theme for foreign (often unlicensed) merchandise, but I think these V products kind of take the cake. I’ve seen domestic PVC type figures with equally horrible paint jobs, so I wasn’t quite as shocked by the V figures as Shag was. Hearing Derek getting cracked up over the “space missile” was worth the price of admission.

    Looking forward to Part 3, although I don’t recall ever watching an episode of the ongoing TV series. I was part of the problem!

    1. Chris – Thanks for listening and commenting!

      Wow. Very (not so) subtle dig at Bailey and I for the long-forgotten SUPERHERO MOVIE BRACKET! Well, played sir.

      “The Lizard Baby… I think more kids of the 80s remember that better than Live Aid.” Bwah-ha-ha!!

      Thanks again!

  4. Whew! Another 3 hour V episode in the books and I enjoyed every minute of it! Shag, it’s great you’ve been getting guests that share the same love for V that you do. All the guests were enjoyable to listen to. Since I only have vague memories of seeing V when it came out, it’s been a treat to hear a more deep dive into the story and all the merchandise behind it.

    Though I haven’t read any V novels, I’m all on board novelizations of movies/shows and then “continuing adventures” tie-in novels. I have a BUNCH of Star Wars, X-Files, and Indiana Jones novels. The V novels sound like lots of fun and there’s something satisfying about being able to knock out a book in a day.

    Shag, it’s funny that you were winding down on Star Wars figures when V came out, because I was just at the right point to want all the Return of the Jedi figures and, if I saw V figures, I probably just thought they were Star Wars knock off toys from the dollar store.

    I’ve really been enjoying these V episodes but I am really forward to the next episode with the comic tie-ins! Well done, everyone! Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Mike – Thanks for listening and commenting! Always happy to find another Movie/TV Tie-In novel fan!! Expanded universe books bring me so much you!

      Thanks again for listening!

  5. Many thanks for another epic episode, with three more hugely knowledgeable and personable guests, and our various visionaries.

    Random comments…

    Hamilton, eh? I had assumed the name ‘Ham’ was a biblical nod but Hamilton makes more sense… I’d never heard of it as a forename back then.

    One nice thing about V was that we got a heroic Martin. Martins are rare in fantasy fiction. DC has Martin Champion, Martin Stein (and even his good name was recently sullied) and, er…

    Buying four books for every one read? It’s not just you, Scott!

    A V novel set in the United Kingdom sounds rather wonderful (unlike the horrific Christmas annual for kids). Where does it fit on the cor blimey scale?

    1. Hi Martin – Thanks for listening and commenting!

      Like you, I never thought about the name being “Hamilton” until it was brought up on the show. Surprised me, but makes sense.

      Regarding the V novel set in the United Kingdom, I didn’t want to be too harsh during the show, but let’s just say that particular book is NOT one I would recommend. Sorry!

      Again, thanks for listening!

  6. Cool find on the Argentinian V fighter! I get the feeling this ship has flown with many fleets; a quick search shows someone has found it later sold on a card for Alf, with the wing markings being cartoony portraits of him!

    The TV fighter has always given me the image of an economy car, I never really think of it as threatening. It does make a cool shuttle. The front and back clamp onto a boxy shape, or several of the boxy shapes for a troop transport. There was even a tanker rig for it! That’s why when the model kits come out, I’m going to hang on for a 4-in-1 convertible version.

    1. Hi Jack – Thanks for listening and commenting! Wow, great find about the skyfighter being re-used! For ALF too… LOL!!

      And the fighters were absolutely designed to be modular as you described. They discussed that in some behind-the-scenes stuff for the first mini-series.

      Again, thanks for listening!

  7. Apropos to the finale, I listened to this one on the plane.

    As a child, I preferred Return of the Jedi and The Final Battle, but you get some wisdom with age and hopefully adjust your values to something with more weight than “pew-pew.” What strikes me as most offensive about the sequel is how goyish it is. The first mini-series is true speculative fiction, using the metaphor of the Holocaust and the arc of colonialism to paint a grim picture of how the interest of alien visitors would negatively impact society. You have multiple generations of Jewish characters whose past and present experiences play out in a human drama buoyed for the masses by science fiction elements. Then that narrative itself undergoes a hostile colonization as all the heebs are replaced by a Catholic priest, communal discussions about whether a specific young woman should be forced to come to term for the greater good, and a nauseating excess of God out of a box to dictate and resolve the story. Don’t worry ya’ll, Lizard Baby Jesus will starchild you out of anything major. She’ll solve the climate crisis next with her magical mix of messiah and direct descent from fossil fuels!

    And along those same lines, we’ll turn the pretty blond into a damsel in distress and love interest for our boy Donovan, and center the conflict on his son and very male rival. Nobody wants a lady boss around. I also spent an inappropriate amount of time freeze-framing Julie during the conversion process trying to figure out of she was actually nude. I knew it was unlikely, but it was also the ’80s, so for all I knew she had a Linnea Quigley thing happening. And I wasn’t even that into Faye Grant. Purely a scientific evaluation! Mere curiosity!

    There’s a case to be made for “launching the balloon assault” as a variant on “jumping the shark.” As a kid, I was dumbfounded by that turn. I accepted the Starchild largely uncritically, but then again, I didn’t stick around for the TV series. I bought the A.C. Crispin novelization many moons ago and never made it past a chapter or two. The show was always right there, on UHF-TV or video. The books never really appealed to me, not unlike the series. The story more or less wraps up in the second mini-series, with a hard reversal required of the pilot to walk back that resolution. I still had enough Star Wars love to watch the Ewoks movies, but they were similarly unnecessary. Get out of Ferris Bueller’s house, kids!

    We definitely barbecued in the park in the ’80s, but I don’t recall if we used the grungy public grills. I wouldn’t put it past us, but I think we just used a cheap portable grill out there.

    Nobody loves V like a big pink space missile. I think I saw the Visitor laser pistols on sale briefly as a kid, but I bought the ’45er instead. Besides identifying more with the resistance, it’s the only toy pistol I ever encountered with a working slide and recoil. Extremely realistic by the standards of the day, so that I enjoyed loading like an action movie star almost as much as firing it. The mechanism wore out fairly quickly though, leaving it a silent and inanimate hunk of plastic.

    Yeah, I’d have knifed you on the playground for V action figures. Where is ReAction on that? I saw an ad for the Visitor doll in a comic book and could not focus on watching The Dead Pool theatrically for want of getting to a Toys R Us, not understanding how mail order worked. To whatever degree the dolls were ever on toy shelves, they were obviously long gone by 1988.

    1. Hi Frank – Thanks for listening and commenting! As always, I adore your comments.

      You accepted the Starchild bizarre powers in FINAL BATTLE without question, but the balloons were a bridge too far?!?! Even as a child, you were a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

      You actually saw the V toys guns in the store! Wow! You had your finger on the pulse of kids toys!! And yes, Reaction needs to get on the ball and make some V figures!

      Again, thanks for listening and commenting!

  8. I finished a rewatch of The Final Battle today and that third part is so much rougher than the other two. I can see where they were setting up the ongoing series but also trying to bring everything to a satisfying climax. And, to your point in your episode about the music, I can see why the scoring in this just doesn’t match up, especially with the last 30 minutes or so. I love the opening theme to V:TFB because of its Terminator/John Carpenter feel, but what is it with the sexaphone between Mike and Julie, and the weird ’70s-ness of the balloon sequence and the very end. I was half expecting the Fifth Dimension to sing “Up Up and Away in my balloon …” during the balloon/red dust moments and at the very end we’ve suddenly cribbed “The Love Boat” or something?

    When I first saw V:TFB in its entirety, I hated the whole red dust thing. Now, it’s actually not a bad idea. The balloons aren’t either, although I do question the tactic of releasing everything at 11:00 a.m. It seems a little late. Anyway. But the star child? I don’t get that. I mean, you knew there was something up with her when she molted from an infant into some Heather O’Rourke clone within a few days, but the deus ex machina of her powers took me out of the ending.

    Ah well, it was very fun. And btw, this episode is filled with joy and I love it. Great talk with Scott about the books (I’ve got several that are waiting to be read) and I can’t wait to hear what you have to say next time!

  9. Hi. I tried to post a message here earlier today but it still hasn’t shown up. Going to try again. Hopefully it won’t now show up twice.

    Hi Shag. I discovered your “Once Upon a Geek” podcast via Bob Greenberger sharing on his Facebook page the episode he’s interviewed on. I have been listening to your episodes on my evening walks and while driving in my car and have been very much enjoying them. (I just now started listening to your third “V” episode so have not actually gotten to your discussion with Bob about the comics yet but I look forward to listening to it.

    As you and the people you’ve had on (and many of your listeners, I’m sure), I was not only big into “V” the two mini-series and the hour-long regular series at the time they came out, I also got all of the comic books and novels, too. (I was eleven years old in 1983 when the first “V” mini-series aired.)

    As a big buyer of comic books at that time (the first local comic shop opening in my town in 1982 when I was ten, the age I started regularly weekly pilgrimages to the comic book store complete with what’s now called a “pull list”), buying and reading the entire DC Comics “V” run was an obvious no brainer for me. (I also regularly bought Bob’s “Star Trek”comic at that time, although I obviously didn’t know who Bob was yet other than a name in the credits box.)

    I also was a regular buyer of Star Trek, Star Wars, and any Marvel or DC superhero tie-in novels that I could find (plus the occasional tv novelizations with Knight Rider and Street Hawk). So, when I saw the “V” novels, it was another no brainer, of course I bought them all. However, as your guest said, I likewise tended to buy many more books than I actually got around to reading (more “collecting” them with the intention to eventually read then).

    So, outside of one or two, I didn’t actually read any of the “V” novels at the time. (I do recall reading “The Pursuit of Diana” back then.) I did, however, finally start to read through them from 2006 to 2010 and managed to read eleven out of the sixteen over the course of those four years before, as usual, putting them aside to get into something else. For the record, I still need to read “The New England Resistance”, “Path to Conquest”, “The Oregon Invasion”, “Below the Threshold”, and “Symphony of Terror” (and also Kenneth Johnson’s “V: The Second Generation”, which I also have).

    One thought on “The Pursuit of Diana”. As you mentioned, I also recall the opening scenes of it detailing Diana’s fleeing the captured mother ship and capture as being different from what was shown on the first episode of the hour-long series. I wonder if this might have been another case of the novel writer having been given only a very early version of the script for episode one or maybe even just a rough early plot treatment and then the tv script ended up getting changed while he was off writing his book (probably on a crazy tight deadline) and no one told him or there wasn’t enough time for him to do a rewrite of those chapters?

    As for your discussion of the toys, you mentioned that the toy skyfighters seen on the “V” mini-series being played with by Donovan’s son were actual shooting models. I wonder, does anyone know what happened to the “V” studio models (mothership and various skyfighters)? Did they eventually get sold to private collectors or were lost after the show ceased production? (A lot of the Star Trek studio models eventually were sold at auction, I know, but they had the benefit of Paramount knowing they may still need them for a future tv show or movie and therefore only a few of the original 1960s models were actually lost, I think.)

    In conclusion, I know I was very upset when the hour-long tv series was canceled. It didn’t matter to me that it had lost a good bit of its quality by that time, I was nonetheless emotionally invested in Mike Donovan, Juliet Parrish, and the others. The series ending on a cliffhanger and the comic book ending soon after that was my first real experience of something I really liked suddenly ending and that feeling is something I can still remember to this very day.

    Thanks for doing this podcast. I look forward to continuing to listen as you make your way through other topics. (If I may, I’d like to suggest that one of them be a deep dive on another 1980s genre classic tv series, “Knight Rider”!)

    I’ve been aware of the Fire and Water podcast network and it’s various podcasts for awhile now but “Once Upon a Geek” is my first that I’ve actually listened to. (I have a bunch of Fire and Water podcasts in my queue though as I’m listening through as many of the early 2006 comics podcasts that I can still listen to. I’m still making my way through those but plan to eventually start to mingle in to the early F&W ones as I get to them.)

    1. When you’re a new poster or posting from a different IP address than usual, one of the moderators needs to approve the comment. We get to it fairly quickly, but that’s what happened there. I will remove the original copy of the message.

  10. Another outstanding episode. I type this, just after re visiting (pun totally intended) the original mini series so I am still on a major happy nostalgia high. I definitely agree on how V is “ours” as far as generational. I remember when the ads for Independence Day starting airing. All I kept thinking and let people know is how they seemed to be ripping off V and it seemed as if no one knew what I was talking about. I think that may have been the first time I felt “old”

    Robotech is my 2nd favorite fandom after Star Wars so the moment I saw the blaster rifle toy in the store, I knew exactly where they got it from. Sadly, due to age, not able to legally work and allowance money going to more important things (comics!) I never bought the darn thing, I still do not own and but every time I run across it at a con, I always get tempted to get it.

    I had a few of the novels and sadly they did not survive multiple moves from place to place, but they may be slowly re purchased via Ebay as I have a fondness for movie tie in novels from the 80’s.

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