I love science fiction shows on television, but I was born at a difficult point in Sci-Fi TV history. I was way too late for Star Trek, I was also too late for Battlestar Galactica due to myself being clad in diapers. Most of the shows I watched as a kid were coked-up sitcoms that revolved around can-do orphans or creepy robotic children (see: A Small Miracle). Although I may have missed Battlestar in all of its broadcast glory, we now have access to the internet in which we can instantly go back in time and re-live these wonder years (even if the only memories you have from that point in that time were dropping a deuce on the carpet or getting tangled up in that plastic playpen thing). If you are looking for a unique old-school series to watch front-to-back, you should queue up the original Battlestar Galactica series immediately and start watching it for these five reasons:
5.) There are a lot of stars of the Eighties getting their first big break on this show.
Lots of huge stars that broke into movies in the Greatest Decade got their start on the good ship Galactica. The biggest star to emerge from this show would be Jane Seymour, who would later become Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and even later on be the lady who sells those weird Quasi Hearts Jewelry made of tears of small children and bloodiest of blood diamonds.
The other notable stars that used Galactica as a jumping point:
Noah Hathaway (Boxey): The loveable little space orphan with the annoying robot dog creature grew up slightly to become Atreyu in The Neverending Story. You know that movie, right? It’s the one where the skinny little kid has to save the universe from The Nothing, and along the way drowns his horse in a swamp while whistling “Don’t Worry, Be Happy?” Yeah, he’s that kid.
Dirk Benedict (Starbuck): The mouthy, maverick, ace pilot who was always gambling all the ship’s money away; and drinking himself to paralysis, went on to be Faceman on The A-Team. He was Mr. T’s bitch most of the time during missions carried out in the back of that sweet ass black van.
Ed Begley Jr. (Stand-in pilot): One of the pilots of the Galactica, he did not have much screen time or speaking roles, but he went on to star in St. Elsewhere for several years, and starred in Transylvania 6-5000 alongside a very photogenic and boner-generating Geena Davis and her amazing twins.
4.) The Campy Low Budget Feel, With Lots of mistakes
There’s a lot to be said with the scope of the sets they used for shooting Galactica. They did not have the “school hallway” feel of Star Trek, but felt more like the gritty intricate pipework hallways more akin to badass movies like Alien. Despite the incredible looking small-scale ship models and impressive amount of detail, there’s still a lot of scientific inaccuracy involved. When the fighter ships on sortie mission run out of fuel, they just drift for an hour aimlessly until they defy one million lottery odds and manage to crash land on an earth-like planet. The fighter launch sequences are really exciting and impressive, but they use the same tricks as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe did. Any cool looking (i.e. expensive) scene like this is recycled several times in a single episode.
The land vehicles are pretty desperate attempts at looking futuristic by simply draping a big gray cardboard box over a Jeep and calling it an “assault vehicle.” On occasion, whenever landing on an alien world, they change out the color filter on the camera lens to completely cancel out anything blue to make it look like Planet Pink, which gives you an enormous headache after a few minutes of watching. When the action shifts to the exterior of the Galactica to do repairs or disarm bombs, they float the actors around on strings which are extremely visible, just slightly more than the ones used in that idiotic Hoverboard viral video from earlier this month.
Even with some of these silly mistakes, the story and setting still manage to pull you in and feel fuzzy all over hoping for humanity to overcome these robotic foes who shine more brightly (and annoyingly) than that one weekend your cousin spent all day shining up his spinning rims on his Kia Rio.
3.) The Idea of Deep Space Travel, Seventies Style
The Colony’s main battleship uses most of the available space aboard to make hundreds of swanky crew lounges, complete with kidney-shaped purple couches and foosball tables, because somehow the sport of soccer is still relevant in outer space. I like to think that this is what airline travel looked like in the seventies, when it was still cool to get loaded on Jim Beam and smoke a pack of cigarettes, reading Highlights For Children while spread out comfortably in the airline seats. In every episode, the Colonial Warriors are always decked out in the freshest leather battle jackets despite never once showing a single space cow anywhere in the fleet. Where did that huge surplus of leather come from? Is it genetically engineered faux-leather? Do they get to enjoy reading about the hijinks of Goofus and Gallant? Everyone on board sports the most popular hairstyle required for intergalactic travel (feathered locks on every man, woman, and child) to the point it looked as though every ship was populated with nothing but clones of Andy Gibbs and Farrah Fawcett. It is almost a time capsule that showcases America recovering from the hangover of disco.
2.) The wonderfully blended Sci-Fi Universe.
The Battlestar Galactica series is a wonderfully balanced hodgepodge of all the greatest parts of all the best science fiction shows.
The Weaponry and Spacecraft of Star Wars– The Viper fighter craft have the same look, feel, and gritty patched together look of the Rebel X-Wing. They even used the same crappy Rebel Alliance HUD that looks as though it was lifted right off a monitor of an Apple IIe. The likeness was so noticeable that they even ended up getting sued by 20th Century Fox. The Cylon fighter ships look like the alien fighting craft from any space game on the Intellivsion; which brings back fond memories of Space Battle and Star Strike. The Egyptian styling of the flight suits and helmets was a unique and welcome touch as well.
The Philosophy Angle of Star Trek– The ragtag colony fleeing across the galaxy makes it a point to try to only get the supplies they need only when necessary and try as hard as possible to not interact or expose themselves to the indigenous life forms of each planet. But when they do, they act as diplomatic as possible and yet they end up really screwing things up most of the time (See reason #1).
The Story Line from Robotech– The last surviving colony carrying the last of cradle of humanity fleeing across several galaxies is very reminiscent of the Robotech/Macross saga. The overwhelming desperation of a small fleet of freedom fighters battling against an overwhelmingly technically advanced enemy is a drama we can all get behind. The scrappy underdog overcoming a much stronger foe is a story that has transcended generations, and is one we all know and love. What Battlestar Galactica gets right that Robotech did not… is that it does not have all the horrific “singing” from pop star/drowning cat Lynn Minmei.
1.) The seriously messed up plot resolutions.
I’ve researched a little bit of the background of this show, and the writer for most of the episodes was knee-deep in Mormonism, and most of the plots were loosely based on Mormon theology. I don’t know too much about that particular religion, but I never found this show to be transparently preachy as something like Bible Adventures for the NES. There’s no dressing up in a snappy white shirt and tie and going door to door in this show. Most of the plots revolve around escaping the Cylons, getting betrayed by Baltar, and main characters being killed painfully and slowly by a fatal laser blast to the ankle.
But there is only so narrative that can fit into a 45 minute slot, so many of the plots were left with some serious WTF endings. In one episode, “The Magnificent Warriors,” the Colonial Warriors go to a planet surface to barter for some planting seeds for the agriculture barge. They manage to get robbed, carjacked and put in charge as the planet’s marshal and judicial branch in the span of being on the planet’s surface for ten minutes. They rectify this by openly waging war against the far more dominant species on the planet, and then putting one of these enemies as the acting overlord, enslaving the rest of the human farming population. Way to go, guys!
My favorite messed up ending, however was the postscript to episode 11, “The Young Lords”. The premise was literally a single family of five people left on a planet that had a large Cylon outpost stationed on it. The Cylons had the patriarch of the family imprisoned and were trying to use him as bait to capture the rest of the group. The Warriors reunited the family, and in the process of doing so, destroyed the shit out of the outpost. The Cylons then fled the planet, and when the colony offers the family asylum with the Colony, but the family refuses to leave with them to the Galactica. They are somehow unaware that in order for a family of five to repopulate an entire planet, there is going to have to be some serious hardcore inbreeding that must take place over the course of several generations. Hopefully they have access to some country music to set the mood properly.
The entire series only consists of 24 episodes that clock in at around 48 minutes each, so watching (or re-watching) this series won’t put too much of a dent in your social life, unlike how watching all 1,278 episodes of America’s Funniest Home Videos will. I’ve tried watching the newer version of Galactica, but those episodes have a different feel because they are really long and are really dark. It’s telling the same basic story as the original, but with far more graphic and depressing genocide and 100% more Edward James Olmos. I personally just prefer the more light-hearted, swinging seventies approach to the story, instead of watching cities of children be annihilated mercilessly by robots.
Please take some time out of your evenings to enjoy this fantastic voyage back to what the 70’s thought the future should look like. If you enjoy this show and are browsing for other Battlestar options, AVOID THE BATTLESTAR 1980 SERIES AT ALL COSTS. Frack that unholy piece of crap!