This year marks the 40th anniversary of Battlestar Galactica.
Created by Glen A. Larson, the classic sci-fi TV show starred Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict.
Loved by fans worldwide, it ran for the 1978–79 season on ABC before being cancelled. I can remember watching the pilot at my grandparents house on a 13 inch color TV. I was mesmerised when I first heard the opening narration spoken by Patrick Macnee.
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. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive—somewhere beyond the heavens!
On September 17, 1978, the full 148-minute pilot premiered on ABC.
The story takes place in a distant star system where the Twelve Colonies of Man were reaching the end of a thousand-year war with the Cylons, warrior robots created by a reptilian race. A sneak attack took place on their homeworlds by the Cylons, carried out with the help of a human traitor, Count Baltar (John Colicos).
Protected by the last Battlestar named Galactica, the survivors fled in any available ships. The Commander of the Galactica, Adama (Lorne Greene), led this “rag-tag fugitive fleet” in search of a new home. They began a quest to find the long lost thirteenth tribe of humanity that had settled on a legendary planet called Earth. However, the Cylons continued to pursue them relentlessly across the galaxy.
It was compared to Star Wars, but it was truly unique.
Did you know that In 1978, 20th Century Fox sued Universal Studios (producers of Battlestar Galactica claiming it had stolen 34 distinct ideas from Star Wars?
20th Century Fox’s copyright claims were initially dismissed by the trial court in 1980, but the case was later “resolved without trial.”
Starbuck became the face of an unlikely male role model.
Lieutenant Starbuck was my childhood hero. He was a Viper pilot, gambler, womanizer and smoker of cigars. He was involved in relationships with Lieutenant Athena and Cassiopeia, and his best friend was Captain Apollo.
Later in life when I met Dirk Benedict, I learned that he survived a prostate tumor believed to have been cancerous. That definitely qualifies him as a real-life hero.
Merchandise could be found everywhere.
Mattel capitalized on the success of Star Wars action figures and released two series of action figures. The first series included six figures: Commander Adama, Lieutenant Starbuck, Daggit, Imperious Leader, Ovion, and Cylon Centurion. The less common second series included four figures: Baltar, Lotay, Lucifer, and Cylon Commander.
There was also board games, puzzles and a 13″ Cylon Centurion to collect.
Photos courtesy of ToysYouHad
Then tragedy struck.
On December 25, 1978, 4-year-old Jeffrey Warren put the nose of a Mattel Colonial Viper ship into his mouth where the missile discharged and got stuck in his larynx. This led to Mattel putting warning stickers on existing warehouse inventories. This was the first public acknowledgement of a safety concern with the Battlestar Galactica toys. Just a toddler, Jeffrey Warren died on December 31, 1978.
On January 11, 1979, news of the death was coupled with an announcement from the CPSC that Mattel was instituting a missile recall program. Newspaper announcements in 10 major cities carried the message urging parents to either dispose of the missiles or mail them back to Mattel in exchange for a Hot Wheels car.
In mid-April 1979, ABC executives cancelled the show.
This led to viewer outrage and protests outside ABC studios, and it even contributed to the suicide of Edward Seidel, a 15-year-old boy. Because letter writing campaigns in favor of restoring cancelled television programs were uncommon in 1979, it prompted ABC to re-think their reasons for canceling the show. After some deliberation, they contacted Glen A. Larson to see about reviving the series, albeit in some modified and less expensive format.
The series got a spin-off in 1980.
Galactica 1980 is a spin-off from the original Battlestar Galactica television series. It was first broadcast on ABC in the United States from January 27 to May 4, 1980. The program was poorly received during its run and was cancelled after only ten episodes, many of which were multi-part stories. The final episode shown was “The Return of Starbuck”, which featured a guest appearance by Dirk Benedict from the original series.
“Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming” sparked a revival in 1999.
Co-created, co-written, executive produced and co-directed by Richard Hatch who starred in the original series as Captain Apollo, the pilot film was conceived to convince Universal Studios, the owner of the Battlestar Galactica franchise rights, to greenlight a new project based on this concept.Richard Hatch was able to get many stars from the original series including John Colicos (Count Baltar), and Terry Carter (Colonel Tigh, now President of the Quorum of Twelve) to appear in the film. Hatch himself also reprised his own role of Apollo (now Commander of the Fleet).
Concurrent with The Second Coming was Glen A. Larson’s movie proposal. This would have revived BSG as a feature film, centering on the Battlestar Pegasus, set after its appearance in the TV show, and consistent with Galactica 1980. The project that got the go ahead was the re-imagining of the original series by Ronald D. Moore, which was greenlit as a miniseries by the Sci Fi Channel.
Battlestar Galactica is re-imagined in 2003 and becomes a massive success.
In 2003, Ronald D. Moore and David Eick developed a re-imagining of the 1978 Battlestar Galactica television series created by Glen A. Larson. The series first aired as a three-hour miniseries on the Sci-Fi Channel, and ran for four seasons thereafter, ending its run on March 20, 2009. The series features Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell, and garnered a wide range of critical acclaim, which included a Peabody Award, the Television Critics Association’s Program of the Year Award, a placement inside Time’s 100 Best TV Shows of All-Time.
After 40 years, I am still a fan of Battlestar Galactica.
Fleeing from the Cylon Tyranny, the last Battlestar Galactica leads a ragtag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest… a shining planet known as Earth.
The original 1978 Battlestar Galactica had amazing special effects and great story arcs. I recently purchased the Blu-Ray box set of the original series and still enjoy watching it today.
What’s your thoughts?
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