"There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. That they may have been the architects of the great pyramids, or the lost civilizations of Lemuria or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive far, far away, amongst the stars."

A short-lived space drama developed by Glen Larson that aired on ABC from 1978 to 1979. It depicted the survivors of the twelve human colonies (planets) as they attempted to avoid destruction at the hands of the Cylons while trying to find the thirteenth human "colony", Earth.

Once one clears away the Star Wars rip offs, cheesy effects, and wooden acting one hot Jane Seymour .. err .. one thoroughly decent story/plot is revealed. Even so the show lasted for only 17 episodes, 22 if you count two-parters (and of course there's Galactica 1980 but that's generally recognized as apocryphal).

cast:

Adama - Lorne Greene
Apollo - Richard Hatch
Starbuck - Dirk Benedict
Tigh - Terry Carter
Athena - Maren Jensen
Boxey - Noah Hathaway
Cassiopeia - Laurette Spang
Serina - Jane Seymour
et. al.

episode list:

1. Saga of a Star World (BSG) (three hour pilot)
2. Lost Planet of the Gods (BSG)*
3. The Lost Warrior (BSG)
4. The Long Patrol (BSG)
5. Gun on Ice Planet Zero (BSG)*
6. The Magnificient Warriors (BSG)
7. The Young Lords (BSG)
8. The Living Legend (BSG)*
9. Fire in Space (BSG)
10. War of the Gods (BSG)*
11. The Man with Nine Lives (BSG)
12. Murder on the Rising Star (BSG)
13. Greetings from Earth (BSG)*
14. Baltar's Escape (BSG)
15. Experiment in Terra (BSG)
16. Take the Celestra (BSG)
17. The Hand of God (BSG)

* originally aired as a two hour episode.

source: Battlestar Galactica FAQ © 1998, John LaRocque

There are also a number of books adapted from the TV Series. Some of the titles include:

Battlestar Galactica #1 (The Pilot)
BG #2: The Cylon Death Machine
BG #3: The Tombs of Kobol
BG #4: The Young Warriors
BG #5: Galactical Discovers Earth
BG #6: The Living Legend
BG #7: War of the Gods
BG #8: Greetins from Earth
BG #9: Experiment in Terra
BG #10: The Long Patrol

UPDATE: as of 2/25/01, scifi.com is reporting that Bryan Singer, director of the 2000 X-Men film and of The Usual Suspects has had talks with Glen A. Larson (creator of the original Battlestar Galactica) about a new series. The new effort would, in fact, be about Battlestar Galactica, and would probably take place after the events of the original series (and Galactica 1980).

Although Singer confirms that the Cylons will be present ("You can't have Galactica without Cylons!") he doesn't think any of the old characters will be involved. This will no doubt disappoint Richard Hatch (Apollo), who, in recent years, has been involved with various book spinoffs and has been trying to get the series revived.

Although the show is apparently in an 'early conceptual phase,' it would include "up-to-the-minute" (I love phrases like that) special effects (I guess a là Babylon 5) and a reasonably high budget. This would, IMNSHO, be way cool - I loved the Galactica concept as a kid. The recent Sci-Fi Channel marathon proved that the production values haven't survived, but the basic plot was cool...and, I have to say, the Colonial Viper was all in all the best-looking damn spacefighter ever, beyatch.

Here's hoping.

Much of this is from the story on scifi.com.


Update Update:

Well, it's here. The series was introduced with a two-hour pilot, which aired in the U.S. on the Sci-Fi channel in Dec. 2003. It has been followed with a weekly series, with the full cast returning; the show has begun airing on SkyOne in Britain (who co-funded it) a full few months ahead of its opening in the U.S., causing no little gnashing of teeth.

The new BSG is a complete retelling of the original story. The pilot, and the series concept, are almost entirely faithful to the original show - down to the character names. The Battlestar Galactica, which fought heroically in the 'last Cylon war' some forty years prior to the show's opening, is being retired and converted into a museum. It is commanded by Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos) at its decommissioning ceremony. However, the Cylons have coopted the brilliant-but-clueless Dr. Gaius Baltar and hence gained access to the defense network of the Twelve Colonies - and after forty years, mankind's children have come back to finish what they began.

Thus begins the pilot. This BSG is much darker than the original - not that the original was all that light; it's just that this one has much less 1970s humor and chrome glitz overlying the fairly grim drama of some 50,000 last surviving humans fleeing for their lives, pursued by a relentless foe. This time, things are worse - in a nod to Philip K. Dick's Second Variety, the Cylons now look human - at least, as the show's introductory credits tell us, there are several models of them, with many copies...but the humans don't find out about that for a while. Not all the humans, anyway.

The show isn't the same show. Things are changed, obviously. There are several obvious metaphors which have been emplaced to make things easier to deal with. The Galactica itself is now run explicitly on a modern aircraft carrier concept - the acronyms, slang and habits of the CVN are recognizable. It doesn't hesitate to take jabs at the original series:

"You're Captain...Apollo?"

"That's my callsign. My name is Lee Adama."

"Oh."

People die, here. A lot of them. Horribly. There is heroism, in the dark; there is also cowardice. There is weakness, and strength, and avarice, and nobility. There's love, and hate. There's fanaticism and pragmatism. It's all coming together. Eight episodes in so far, and it's still getting better.

So say we all.


Update update update: And it's over. Five seasons of storytelling, bloody good acting, above-par writing, and awesome special effects. And unlike most other shows, even most other sci-fi shows, this one had a point - a destination it was heading towards all along. Unlike most of those which shared that characteristic, it did, in fact, reach its destination. Whether it did so to everyone's satisfaction is of course subjective. Whether it possibly could have, given the vagaries of the 5-year marathon the writers went through, I don't know. All I know is that looked at as a whole, looking back, this version (known as the 'reboot') of Battlestar Galactica took the basic ideas of the original - expanded on them, built entirely new mythology around them, and turned the whole into something that, love or hate, you have to respect. Something rarely seen on American television.

A story.

A single, coherent, five-year-long, intricately told and beautifully acted story.

And that's more than most would have predicted at the outset. Me included.

SO SAY WE ALL.

Dirty Secret: The finale was the weakest point of the series. If you have never seen this show, watch it and then DO NOT WATCH the second half of the finale. It will make it a better show, even with the unresolved questions. If you do watch the whole thing, you'll know what I mean.

Battlestar Galactica, produced by Universal Pictures, was the target of a copyright infringement lawsuit by George Lucas and 20th Century Fox. Although the three hour pilot was made for TV, Universal planned in the summer of 1978 to release it as a two hour theatrical film in Canada to help defray some of the massive costs incurred (the pilot cost $25 million to make: consider Star Wars was made for a budget of about $20 million1). Lucas was planning to re-release Star Wars that summer. Fur began to fly. The reasons for the lawsuit are something of a mystery, maybe because of the box office threat to the Star Wars release, maybe because Universal managed to raid two of Lucas' top men to work on their space saga: John Dykstra, who did the special effects for Star Wars, and Ralph McQuarrie who did the conceptual art for Star Wars.

Lucas seems to have had a gentleman's agreement with producer Glen A. Larson that Battlestar Galactica was safe as long as it didn't copy certain aspects of Star Wars. One of the odder aspects was that Battlestar Galactica laser guns wouldn't emit a laser beam like Star Wars blasters (an agreement that probably ended up saving Universal on its per episode budget...).

Fox and Lucas' suit claimed some three dozen points of similarity between the two works. In response, Universal went after R2D2. The studio sued Fox and Lucas claiming R2 was a blatant rip off of the Huey, Duey and Louis robots in 1973's Silent Running. R2 was, of course, a rip off of those cute lil devils. Lucas upped the ante by trying to get an injunction to stop Universal from marketing a line of Battlestar Galactic toys2.

A judge eventually threw out all the lawsuit, ruling the films were substantially different, and buying Universal's argument that the suit was akin to the maker of the very first western genre movie successfully suing the maker of the second western genre movie...

_____________________

1 SF fans in 1977 could cite by heart Star Wars' budget. Universal, in promoting the theatrical version, made Battlestar Galactica's larger-than-Star-Wars budget a major plank in its ad campaign.

2 If ruled in Fox's favor, it might have saved the life of a four-year-old boy. He picked up a toy Viper, which featured spring loaded missiles that fired, and popped one off into his mouth. He chocked to death on the missile. Then again, the little turd would probably have killed himself eventually by running out into the street between two parked cars or rubbing himself with meat and trying to play Colonial viper commander in the neighbor's pit bull dog house...

The reimagined Battlestar Galactica, in the 2003 guise of a miniseries and then, starting in 2004, a full TV show, has deservedly won both awards and ratings. In order to balance some of this praise, I'm going to focus on some of its lesser points. Major spoilers follow, so look away if you haven't yet seen it but do intend to.

Many of my gripes are more with Hollywood in general than Battlestar Galactica in particular, but I'm going to hold this show up as an example of what happens when people put a lot of effort into making something good in many respects, yet are seemingly still afraid to risk treading new ground in other areas, to the extent where they're rehashing an old TV show instead of making a new one from scratch, in spite of their obvious talent.

So please bear in mind that if I take some time out of my life to pick apart the flaws in something, it's only because the people involved in its creation have proven they're more capable than most of making something even better.

Hollywood and Beauty

I still want to see more than a handful of normal looking people in a TV show. I realise that films and TV shows are essentially fantasies for the viewers to vicariously live out, and that as long as you're making stuff up anyway, audiences generally want to fantasise that they're more attractive than they really are. I have to wonder who fantasises about being an oppressed minority losing a war in space, but let's assume that's the case here.

Sometimes having such physically attractive characters even makes sense, such as in Caprica Six's and Sharon's case: rather than naturally evolving, these humanoid Cylons were consciously built. It's perfectly reasonable that if you're going to make your own lifeforms, you want them to look attractive in order to give them the best possible start in life.

If anything, it's jarring how some of the Cylons don't look particularly attractive -- remember, they were made when their Centurion co-creators were trying to convince their Terran co-creators that they surely wouldn't use these children of theirs for strategic war purposes, so they weren't necessarily trying to make people who could blend into a crowd.

Conversely, if you're going to have a character who was abused as a child and then joined the military because all she knows how to do is lash out and fight, maybe she shouldn't look immaculately beautiful. If your characters are in a war, far from home, with rations so low that they're eating paper because they can't get any food, maybe they should cut back on their make-up a little bit. But I guess the audience wouldn't subconsciously enjoy it as much if the baddies looked better than the goodies.

Science Fiction and War

I liked Doom, OK? I liked Wolfenstein 3D, I liked Doom and I liked Quake. But I don't see the need for any more first person shooters after that. The idea's evolved and been done to death, and it's time to move on and invent some new genres. If you absolutely must make something in an already overused genre, you should at least put a spin on it, perhaps combining it with another genre. The only first person shooter to put a new twist on things is Portal, as it's a reasonably non-violent first person shooter puzzle game, and it's not coincidentally the only one I've played since the original Quake.

Similarly, when it comes to fiction, I love a genre with as much imaginative potential as science fiction, and hate to see it wasted with an endless parade of military war shows featuring classically beautiful humanoids who you couldn't tell apart from real humans with a microscope.

After all these years of Star Trek, Babylon Five, and presumably the original series of Battlestar Galactica, it would be nice to watch a science fiction show, whether set in space or not, that's not set aboard a military spaceship.

Yes, I know this is the whole point of the show, so if I don't want to watch a war themed show, I should watch something else rather than watching this then complaining about it, but I think this highlights a false dichotomy that some guys (it's a pretty safe bet that it's guys) high up the ranks in Hollywood evidently seem to believe in: that only men like science fiction, and they also like explosions, death and war, whereas only women like romance, friendships and, for that matter, peacetime, and we hate science fiction.

The fact that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind made over seventy million dollars, three and a half times its original budget, makes me dubious of this. Even Isaac Asimov's short story Liar! was about detective style troubleshooting and the emotional impact of believing what you want to hear rather than the truth, simultaneously being both cerebral and moving, and that was published in nineteen forty-one.

Fine, I can't dislike a show for being what it is, but it seems a waste to make yet another war themed show (or worse, a remake of an existing one) when so many potential stories lie untold because they combine traditionally masculine and feminine elements.

I realise the omnipresent Kevin Smith made a good argument for how there are many empowering female role models in the show, from the president to the best fighter pilot, and I'm thankful for this. It'd be nice to live in a world where such equality wouldn't even warrant a mention, but that's a bit beyond the scope of the writers of this fine show, who clearly are doing their bit to help shift the zeitgeist, which is all we can ask of them.

Still, roles like captains and fighter pilots have been given more than their fair share of airtime on other shows, and if science fiction can't be more cerebral, showing intelligent, kind, loving people doing something other than killing and torturing each other because of their race, then which genre can?

Gaius Baltar

Gaius Baltar is arguably the most insulting character. He appears to be nothing more than a straw man dreamed up by a religious zealot. He's a scientist and an atheist, and (presumably as a result) he's greedy and selfish, caring about only himself, regardless of the cost to anyone else. Then he sees an angel sent from a monotheistic god (the aptly named Sir-not-appearing-in-this-film) and after being presented with no evidence in favour of this angel being real, becomes a religious cult leader, seeing the light.

To say that this is offensive to atheists is an understatement. At the start of the series, Baltar is intelligent. At least, he has a reputation for being intelligent. We don't actually get to see him put his intelligence to much use. He casually works out a cure for cancer that's only used by one person once, who then seems to forget about it when her cancer comes back. He then spends the rest of his time engaging in mindless hedonism. Wait, what? Isn't he supposed to be a scientist? Wasn't he at least a little bit curious as to how the cure worked and whether it could be replicated?

As far as I can tell, the only real point of this character is to prove that his political opponent, the president, is a nicer person. Sure, she takes drugs and as a result has hallucinations that convince her she's a religious prophet, but at least she's not selfish or hedonistic. She's just trying to help everyone else, unlike rational, logical Baltar whose only motivation in life is to get laid.

Again, this kind of thing might be forgivable in another genre, but science fiction is supposed to be the kind of thing that scientists and other rationally minded people might watch. If anything, action shows should stereotype scientists and science fiction shows should stereotype jocks. In Battlestar Galactica, however, all the military personnel, who seem simplistically nationalist and racist, come off in a better light than the show's apparently most intelligent character due to his self-serving nature and constantly changing beliefs.

The Plot

I like the new trend in TV shows to have a sweeping story arc. Rather than barraging you with a seemingly endless stream of unrelated and increasingly implausible stories that happen to involve the same characters week after week, the writers can craft a single tale and really flesh out the details. Lots of shows do this well, from Carnivàle, which tells a single story, to Dexter, which tells one story per season.

It's nice to get the feeling that you're in good hands, that no matter what seemingly inexplainable things happen on the show, the writers do know exactly how and why they happened, and will reveal these reasons to you later in a gripping plot twist. I got that impression from this show, but after waiting the whole time to find out what the Humanoid Cylons' plan was, or what Starbuck had become or been replaced with, or what the angels were, or what the possibly existent god's plan was, no answers came. There was a lot of backstory revealed near the end that sort of made sense for the most part, but there were also a lot of strange things that were never explained.

Most of all, it really irked me that the baddies didn't have a plan. In quite a few TV shows, there's no sweeping story arc, which is fine. Seinfeld managed to get along just fine with only a handful of arcs (the TV show pilot in season four, the life and death of TV executive Susan Ross, and a half-baked plot that was never realised about Babu Bhatt being deported and seeking revenge). Star Trek: The Next Generation had some wonderful one-off episodes, such as The Inner Light and Tapestry. My point is that while story arcs are great, I'm quite content to watch episodic fiction if the episodes are good.

It would be forgivable that Battlestar Galactica had no particular direction they were going in, no master plan by the baddies that was as yet unrevealed but sure to make you slap your head and declare "of course, how did I not see that coming?" once it was shown at its culmination. It would be just fine, in fact, except they promised it in the opening titles. Had they not built up expectations so high with that lie, this wouldn't have bothered me, but the writers claimed that some yet-to-be-revealed characters were orchestrating the whole thing when they clearly weren't. The inevitable result was disappointment.

I spent the entire series waiting for the plan to be revealed, then after being disappointed by its absence, I dutifully watched the aptly named spin-off film The Plan, only to finally find out that their plan was to do all the stuff they did back in the 2003 miniseries, and that they've been winging it ever since. I expect Hollywood to lie to me -- that's what storytelling is -- but not during a flat-out promise made during the opening credits of almost every episode.

The Cylons

Just as humans made Centurion Cylons to do menial work for them, the new humanoid Cylons made their own Centurions do their work for them, principally the work of getting shot and dying on their behalf. Then one day, Caprica Six disables their intelligence inhibitors -- as if they built smart machines then crippled them because it was easier than building stupid machines -- and lets them think for themselves with no intervening period of learning. With very little in the way of slaves rebelling from their former masters, they stay in the background, doing what they usually do -- getting shot -- and then the humanoid Cylons give them a ship and they sail off into the sunset.

It's a nice idea to show a race of people being emancipated, but this whole thorny subject was tackled in all of about three scenes throughout the entire series. Like many other aspects of this show, it would have worked better if it was explored in depth or removed entirely. (There was a similar scene in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, but James Cameron had the good sense to remove it from the final cut of the film. If only these people had done the same.)

Then there's the issue with new humanoid batch of Cylons themselves. Even the ship's medical doctor can't tell them apart from humans. So in what way aren't they humans? It's never explained what the difference between a humanoid Cylon and a human is. Do they have elaborate artificial neural nets instead of spongy electrochemical brains? If so, how come the ship's doctor can't spot that on any of his equipment? Are they like humans in every singe way, to the point of even having a human brain, except they can somehow be triggered such as with a synaptic implant? Then surely they are humans who just happen to have implants. The distinction between human and humanoid Cylon in Battlestar Galactica seems almost as vague as the distinction between Patsak, Chatlanin and Etsilopp in Kin-Dza-Dza.

Frack It

Picture how different a human, an octopus and a dandelion are. That's just a tiny fraction of the diversity of life on just one planet. Aliens, in the extraterrestrial sense of the word, could quite possibly look even further removed from our two-eyed, two-nostrilled, walking-on-hind-leg selves than the dandelion. Yet alien races in science fiction are almost always presented as not just superficially looking absolutely identical to humans, but even finding us attractive and being genetically compatible. (The biggest offender here is probably Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, in which a big slug is enamoured with a woman whom he takes as his slave, a pretty depressing image for the previously defiant role model of countless girls of the time, but that's a whole other series of rants.)

To my knowledge, Star Trek: The Next Generation was the only show to get away with so many of the alien races looking suspiciously like human actors, thanks to its superb episode The Chase. Battlestar Galactica would have gotten away with it for similar reasons, had they not bolted on a native tribe of humans right at the end.

What purpose did this tribe serve? To attempt to crowbar this show's story into the evidence of our own evolution on this planet? Like moving an air bubble trapped under wallpaper, trying to fix this issue merely caused another plot hole to open up in its place. Had this tribe not been written into the show, the main characters would have been our ancestors, and real life evidence aside, everything (or at least that part of the story) would have made sense. Instead, they found a completely unrelated species to themselves that, in a stunning display of convergent evolution, were genetically compatible despite evolving on a completely separate planet.

You'd have a better chance of diving in one of Earth's fine oceans and finding a lifeform genetically compatible with you than you would of finding a genetic mate on a different planet. I realise a lot of Americans are still pretending that evolution's controversial, but science fiction writers really should know better.

Maybe one of the head writers was a Mormon or astrologer. I've heard the show has parallels with the mythology of the former, and it clearly takes from the latter an obsession with the number twelve and the arbitrary clustering of stars visible from our planet. You get the sense that a prophecy is being fulfilled by the characters, as they discover and achieve their destinies. That's fine. Good fiction is often quite similar to a schizophrenic delusion, and that's how it should be, from The Matrix to V for Vendetta. Philip K. Dick and Alan Moore both seem to have pretty strange beliefs, and if anything, that helped their writing.

The search for a mythical planet, the crushed dream of finding it a barren wasteland, the president's realisation that home is where the heart is, and the hopeful beginning of making a new home are all good ideas to weave into a fantasy story. Just ask Douglas Adams.

It's an interesting idea that the colonies land on an arbitrary habitable planet, bring seeds, grow crops, and spawn the human race as we know it, seeding our culture with the names of the star signs. This idea, however, is completely destroyed by them finding a planet where they're so compatible that they can eat the local food and have sex with the local tribes.

To put this into perspective, we are not genetically compatible with chimpanzees or baboons, and we only relatively recently split off in a different direction from them. Trying to mate with an alien would be like trying to mate with a dandelion or fungus. It's just not going to happen.

This kind of sloppy writing is to be expected when it comes to religions themselves, but when writing a script, whether it's mildly analogous to a religion or otherwise, you should know better than to include such a patently absurd premise.

I realise there's not much that could have been done to fix this. The writers wanted the human race to have originated from outside of Earth, whether wholly or partially, and we now know that didn't happen. I guess that science has taught us so much about the universe that we're at the point where storytellers need to check if their plots are plausible before they decide to use them. Just as a painter shouldn't depict someone's shadow facing towards the sun unless they're doing it on purpose, fully aware that it's wrong, a writer working in the realm of speculative yet feasible fiction needs to make sure he or she doesn't contradict the known facts. That's just part of the job.

So in conclusion, although the reimagined version of Battlestar Galactica was deservedly very popular, it could have benefited from losing the stereotypes, not contradicting reality, and either exploring more fully or removing altogether some of the topics it touched upon. I hear its prequel, Caprica, is set in peacetime, partly in an attempt to appeal more to women, so hopefully much of this rant is already obsolete. Time will tell.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.