Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979)   2 comments

The Galactica in Orbit of the Planet Terra, from the episode Experiment in Terra

The success of Star Wars prompted the development and release of other science fiction in the late 1970s.  Paramount Pictures, after years of vacillating, gave the green light to Star Trek:  The Motion Picture (1979).  TMP was really the Motionless Picture, but c’est la vie.  (People wearing bland-colored one-piece spandex pajamas, er, uniforms, while staring at special effects is about as motionless as a movie can get.)  However, Universal Pictures and ABC, in conjunction with Glen A. Larson (who used plenty of spandex in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century), put Colonial warriors in comfortably fitting uniforms in Battlestar Galactica.

(Note to science fiction series and movie costume designers:  Avoid spandex!)

A Cylon

Battlestar Galactica feeds off the mythology of ancient astronauts.  The pilot opens with the robotic Cylon race, which has been at war with the twelve human colonies of Kobol for a thousand yahrens (years), using a truce as a pretense to exterminate humanity.

The Peace that Wasn’t

They almost succeed.

Baltar

Baltar, a member of the ruling council, has sold out humanity in hopes of become the leader of the survivors.  The Cylons have led him to believe that this will happen.  They have lied to him.

Commander Adama

Commander Adama, commanding officer of the Battlestar Galactica, has the good sense to escape from the Cylon ambush, so his battlestar survives intact.  He thinks that it was the last battlestar until he encounters the Battlestar Pegasus, commanded by Commander Cain, played by Lloyd Bridges.

Adama and Athena

Athena, Adama’s daughter, is a bridge officer aboard the Galactica.

Captain Apollo

Apollo, Adama’s son, is one of the viper, or fighter, pilots.  Apollo is the dutiful, responsible voice of morality and reason.  He is a straight arrow.

Starbuck

Starbuck is not a straight arrow.  Sometimes he dates Athena, sometimes not.  He is not ready to settle down yet, but he is an excellent pilot and a basically good guy.

Adama gathers up as many survivors as possible and shepherds a rag-tag fleet in search of Earth, the thirteenth colony, the precise location of which he does not know.  Cylons pursue the fleet, posing a continuous danger, while, from time to time, Adama must overrule the ruling council, populated mostly with fools.

Galactica is a post-apocalyptic story, one ABC decided to air in the old “family hour.”  The “family hour” was a good venue for family dramas and clean comedies, but not a post-apocalyptic saga about human survivors stuck inside cramped spaceships.  So network demands watered down the possible power of the series, which came to suffer from the cutesies.

Hector and Vector

Exhibit A:  The annoying robots Hector and Vector, who, mercifully, appeared in only one episode.  Here they are singing and dancing.

No more exhibits are necessary.

Another weakness was the lack of character development.  Actions in one episode rarely had consequences in another, except in the case of a two-part story.  So most characters felt like stereotypes.

Also, most of the early scripts were bad.  The network rushed into series production after the pilot, giving the writers insufficient time to develop good stories at the beginning.  So many early episodes have tried-and-true plots.  The Magnificent Warriors, for example, is based on The Magnificent Seven.  Watch the original instead.  And Fire in Space, set after a Cylon attack on the Galactica, is based on many 1970s big-budget, all-star-cast disaster movies.  Avoid those.

There was also Boxey, an annoying boy, with his more annoying mechanical daggit, or dog-like creature.  Apollo is raising Boxey as his son, which is noble, as is the captain.  The less one says about them, the better.

There was also sexism.  Early in the series, most of the male viper pilots become ill.  So the defense of the rag-tag fleet is left to…gasp…women!  There is much concern about this, but the women do their jobs well.

On the other hand Lorne Greene, as Commander Adama, brought gravitas to his role.  Who wouldn’t want to follow Pa Cartwright during such a time of crisis?

“John”

The best element of the original Battlestar Galactica was the group of mysterious people who wore white and lived in white ships.  These were deceased humans who had ascended to a higher realm.  They intervened on behalf of the Galactica during the series.  This does beg a question, though:  Why did they not prevent the attack in the pilot episode?

Battlestar Galactica ran for one season only, ending more because of production costs than its place in the ratings.  There would, however, be a follow-up series, Galactica 1980, the subject of my next post at this blog.

As the late, great Peter Falk said in character as Lt. Columbo, “one more thing.”  In the final episode, The Hand of God, the Galactica receives a signal they cannot understand.  It is on a frequency they do not use much any more.  Besides, the signal is garbled.  But, once the signal is cleaned up, we have the big reveal.

“The Eagle has landed.”

It comes from Apollo 11.  The events we have been watching are set after 1969.  And that is no felgerkarb.

I remember watching Galactica for the first time in the 1990s.  It was okay, I thought, but I was sure to keep watching, even if only to poke fun at 1978-1979 hair styles.  Then I saw the Ronald D. Moore version, beginning with the 2003 miniseries, and never looked at the old show the same way again.

Yet the 1978-1979 series retains certain charms, despite the hair.  They (not the hair styles) are worth discovering for one’s self.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2011 COMMON ERA

All images are screen captures I took via the PowerDVD program.

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2 responses to “Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979)

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  1. Pingback: Galactica 1980 (1980) « SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

  2. Pingback: Guide Post: Silly Science Fiction | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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