A TV sci-fi series from another era, Battlestar Galactica took over after the hard work of programs like Star Trek and even Space:1999 had softened up the TV viewing public for a feathered hair and soft leather goods vision with state of the arts special effects (for its time).
Originally envision by creator Glen Larson as a kind of Noah’s Ark in space featuring the survivors of a future cataclysm, the show morphed and changed until it followed the rag-tag group of alien refugees searching for their lost colony, Earth.
Of course hot on their trail were the chrome-plated Cylons with their wig-wam red light eyewear later made popular by Knight Rider. Assisting the Cylons was the traitorous Baltar brilliantly played in over-the-top style by John Colicos. Heroes included the cigar chomping Dirk Benedict as Starbuck and Richard Hatch as the straight-laced Apollo. There was also an annoying kid and his robot dog. The series’ unique look was created with the assistance of George Lucas’ special effects crew (later called Industrial Light & Magic), including artist Ralph McQuarrie. Lucas provided the crew on loan with the understanding that they were careful to not copy anything done on Star Wars.
Larson‘s creation is not without controversy and 20th Century Fox sued Galactica’s production studio Universal Studios for copyright infringement in ripping off 34 separate ideas from its creations Star Wars. Universal counter-sued that Star Wars ripped off Buck Rogers and the cult film ‘Silent Running.’ The legal fiasco was dumped in 1980, but the damage it had done was severe to Galactica‘s reputation.
Premiering with a strong feature film later shown on TV as the pilot, story lines involved alien slaver camps, western worlds and the exact same space battles re-run episode after episode. Nevertheless, the series commanded a dedicated following throughout its 24 episodes and so bad it never happened sequel ‘Galactica 1980.’ Like any science fiction series on TV, Battlestar Galactica suffered from budget restraints, scripting problems and poor viewing figures.
In 1979 at the 6th Annual People’s Choice Awards, the series won for Best New TV Drama Series, but even so, ratings were the death knell of the program. After three failed attempts at a revival including one in 1998 fueled entirely by former Apollo star Richard Hatch.
An intriguing project, Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming was a proposal for a continuation of the Galactica series using ideas from Hatch‘s novels. Several talented filmmakers, actors and special effects wizards assisted Hatch (without pay) in completing a 4 minute trailer that the actor took with him on a circuit of sci-fi conventions to drum up support. The entire project was done out of pure devotion to the series.
The story followed the adventures of an older Apollo now commanding the Galactica and featured redesigned CGI Cylons (design below), it was done without Universal Studios‘ consent and therefore did not result in a new series.
Another revival helmed by Bryan Singer was dropped so that the director could work on X2: X-Men United… (Fox TV decided to work on Joss Whedon’s Firefly instead)
All in all, it was looking like the series was done for.
Around this time the Sci-Fi Channel in America ran this documentary which paints the classic series in a bit of a madcap ‘what were they thinking’ light, aired on the exact same channel that would later lead to one of the most successful science fiction revivals as in 2003, Battlestar Galactica returned to the screens.
Far and away a very different creation in comparison with the classic series, this Battlestar Galactica series was an incredibly dynamic and sophisticated re-envisioning of the 1978 series, but its superficial deviations from the source material including humanoid Cylons and a female Starbuck and Boomer, caused many fans to call the series a blasphemy.
But many of those fans soon returned in time to see the stunning scripting, eye-popping special effects and superb acting that has made the program the most watched Sci-Fi series next to the original Star Trek.
But that’s another story.