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Battlestar Galactica

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1978

‘…delivered the high-concept space-action required…’

Well, it was a film as far as I was concerned at ten years old; early cinema experiences circa 1978/9 included Star Wars, Close Encounters, Battlestar Galactica and The Black Hole. Now, one of these things is not like the other; a tv pilot, constructed of two spliced together episodes, wasn’t an unknown way to create US product for UK cinemas, and I couldn’t tell the difference at the time. Having not set eyes on this space western until 2021, it’s pretty obvious that Battlestar Galactica isn’t cut from the same cinematic cloth as it’s competitors, but it’s not bad either.

‘I’ve got a funny feeling about this,’ murmurs one of the characters, and that’s only one of the reasons that Star Wars producers Fox sued Universal over copyright issues. The suit doesn’t seem to have too much merit; Fox were presumably more miffed that effects whizzo John Dykstra jumped ship with his precious Dykstrafelx system, creating dirty-space effects that actually still look great in the way that the original 1978 Star Wars still looks better to me that any of the CGI versions. The ship design of the Galactica feels massive, and the X-wing fighter variants, the Vipers, look nimble and cool; the dogfight sequences look fantastic. Things are less impressive when we leave the titular ship, with some shonky blue-screen and tatty glass paintings, but in general, the package still holds.

The story, however, is obviously broken backed; the Cylons have offered our colonial mover heroes a peace-deal via two-faced Count Baltar (John Colicos), and Colonel Adama (Bonanza’s Lorne Greene) has his suspicions, vindicated when the nefarious metal-men attack. As sole survivors, the Galactica crew make plans to head for the far-off planet of Earth, but first seek refuge on a gambling-and-sex planet Carillion that looks glam from the outside, but should be twinned with Mos Eisley in terms of villainy…

‘If it looks like a trap, and it feels like a trap…’ muses Adama ’…then IT’S A TRAP!.’ And indeed it is, although the real trap here seems to be avoiding getting sued by Fox, leading to some choice dialogue. ‘What of Preston and his council of twelve?’ Caprican tv reporter Serena (Jane Seymour) asks; what indeed? If Harrison Ford complained about the gibberish in his dialogue in Star Wars, he should cop an earful of this. ‘Would you be doing THAT if you knew I was a socialator?’ is the kind of chat that flyboys Apollo (Richard Hatch) and Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) had to struggle with, and yes, socialators are space hookers, although that element went way over my head at the time. ‘Do you ever take that smouldering weed out of your mouth?’ one character asks of Starbuck; meanwhile Lorne Greene just substitutes ‘Yahren’ for ’years’ in his dialogue to offer a veneer of interstellar hipness.

It’s been many, many Yahren since I saw Battlestar Galactica da Movie at my local fleapit, and I gather that it metamorphosed into many more sophisticated things since, but I can’t tell you much about them. At the time, this delivered the high-concept space-action required; the lines between film and tv were blurred long before Netflix came along. Time has moved on like a ‘daggit on a sunspot’, and we’re left to ponder how simple and fun things seemed when we were kids; much like Apollo standing at nightfall, pensively examining the two moons in the sky that suggest the world of adventure that awaits.

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  1. Saw it theatrically as well; multiple times.
    It’s a lot of fun. Still remember the “Sensurround” subwoofer kicking in every time the Vipers launched, or whenever there was an explosion.

    • Nice! Doubt my local flea put had the tech for that. Didn’t see a tv vs film conflict when I was a kid! Vipers were a cool design…

  2. Yeah. I binged BSG in the U.S. a couple months ago (and 6M Dollar Man) on NBC.com. NBC merged Galactica 1980 into BSG: TOS — and just call it Season 2.They did extensive reedits, dubs and changed the storylines a bit on that second season (now Jamie and Dillon are lovers, etc.).

    In the first season, in “Experiment in Terror” — they completely cut out the Hector and Vector robot soft shoe/vaudeville dance number, for one example of the Season 1 edits.

    The 12 theatrical cut from the series TV and theatrical movies: they’re on a completely different timeline, with unrelated episodes cut in to each other, with new actor dubs and even new, little scenes made with voiceovers, and previous cutting floor stuff coming back in.They’re pretty bad, actually, with continuity issues. (Apollo’s there, wait, how did he get over there. How come Starbuck’s hair keeps changing?)

  3. I positively loved the original Battlestar Galactice – movie and series. Went to a convention back in the early days of the internet, before the reboot, and met almost all of the original cast. Richard Hatch was hawking his trailer at the time to reboot the series. The best was John Colicos though, and he died about six months later.

    • Did he really die? Baltar was a slippery customer, he may have faked his death and still work for the Imperious Leader! My mind is blown that you met the crew; great show, mixing Trek and Wars, and somehow with its own flavour. Great story!

  4. Oh, this really tempts me to watch the original tv show. I watched the reboot series as it came to dvd in our library and really enjoyed that. I do remember as a kid having bought a bsg belt at a yardsale because it had a cylon on it and robots are cool period when you’re 7.

    I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the tv show offered anywhere though. Probably just need to dig around.

    • Yeah, the toys really didn’t take off. The clothes, etc.

      There was a BSG calculator, as I recall. And the “Cylon Bubble Machine.” I do remember the belts with the Cylon-head buckle.

      There was a BSG handheld came — that was Mattel’s retrofitted electronic football game: instead of “players” and a “ball,” it was Cylon Raiders shooting torpedoes at the Galactica. And you “caught” them, like the football in the old football game, only it was “bombs” being destroyed.

  5. I saw some of the TV series but was a Trekkie back in the day and it didn’t pull me in the same way. Hadn’t realised there was an original movie. Was Dirk Benedict in The A team?

    • I watched it last night, and it’s not bad at all. The space action is just great. I thought the kid was going to make-out with his space-monkey. It’s quite a ride.

        • Same here, some really trusted pals say the tv show reboot is amazing stuff, just couldn’t part with my memories of the original…eveil has a face, and it’s Patrick Mcnee as the Imperious Leader. Can’t believe I couldn’t find space to mention such details…Ray Milland in space!

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