There are those that imagine that the best science fiction present of the twenty first century is Battlestar Galactica. These individuals most likely aren’t incorrect. However what makes the triumph of the Battlestar “reboot” so rattling juicy is that its progenitor, the 1978 collection of the identical identify, was initially branded as a large Star Wars knock-off.
It wasn’t, actually, even when it seemed that method.
Having fun with each a restricted theatrical launch and a daring three-hour TV premiere on ABC, Battlestar Galactica was, in September 1978, merely the most important and most formidable science fiction TV collection ever produced. In Rob Moore’s fashionable replace, the phrase “all of this has occurred earlier than” ominously means that the battle between the Cylons and the people exist in a tragic loop of everlasting recurrence.
In actual life, relative to the unique Battlestar, that everlasting recurrence is 100% actual. Battlestar was made within the late Nineteen Seventies, returned from the lifeless in 2003, and will be rebooted again someday sooner or later. Because the Moore reboot quickly recedes into TV “historical past,” large love for the traditional BSG will get more durable and more durable to seek out. That is precisely why you need to watch the unique frakking Battlestar Galactica proper now, presently streaming without spending a dime
The unique Battlestar Galactica, defined
Once you watch the unique Battlestar (streaming free on Tubi), the very first thing you’ll discover is that the present’s pilot appears to increase nicely previous the primary few episodes. That’s as a result of the traditional BSG was initially conceived as an epic 7-part made-for-TV miniseries and never a weekly TV collection.
Impressed by the success of Star Wars, Glen A. Larson’s notion for the present was to have that very same epic high quality of a galaxy far, distant, however with an unique story. Like the fashionable present, the traditional BSG is all a couple of misplaced “tribe” of non-terrestrial people, battling the robotic Cylons, looking for a misplaced colony known as Earth to name dwelling. The present solely lasted one season, with a complete of 24 episodes, however for its time, every episode had the appear and feel of a serious sci-fi characteristic movie.
A part of it’s because the manufacturing design of Battlestar (like Larson’s 1979 Buck Rogers) was influenced instantly by Star Wars. Ralph McQuarrie did a ton of the idea artwork, and John Dykstra — the particular results legend who labored on the primary Star Wars — was a producer on Battlestar Galactica. Though George Lucas unsuccessfully tried to sue BSG for copyright infringement in 1978, the general public notion — good or unhealthy — of the unique Battlestar was related to Star Wars.
Fairly merely, ABC would have by no means greenlit Battlestar if Star Wars fever hadn’t swept America.
Structurally, nevertheless, the present hadn’t initially been designed for an ongoing Star Trek-style collection run. When it grew to become a weekly collection, it bumped into hassle. Within the oral historical past of Battlestar Galactica, So Say We All, unique Apollo actor Richard Hatch places it like this: “It was initially presupposed to be a seven-hour miniseries; then, midway via the opening three-hour pilot, which they instructed us was additionally going to be a film, they picked it up as a collection. The exhausting half was that it was not constructed to be a collection.”
Within the newer Battlestar, we’re instructed the Cylons had a plan — however within the traditional present, you may actually inform, after about seven episodes, that they completely didn’t have a plan.
Nowadays, large epic franchises like Star Wars and Marvel have found out easy methods to translate that scope into weekly TV, however the pseudo-tragedy of the traditional Battlestar was that it tried to copy the epic scope of a Star Wars characteristic for twenty-four episodes. The consequence is likely one of the most spectacularly unusual sci-fi collection in historical past. It’s each epically formidable, however surprisingly small, principally due to the bounds of what TV might accomplish on the time. And though the present was fairly profitable within the scores, its enormous objective — to be a weekly Star Wars — merely could not be maintained creatively, or monetarily.
The upshot of OG Battlestar’s unwieldy high quality is the present takes enormous dangers always. Even after you’re previous the primary three episodes, you’re really nonetheless sort of in the beginning. What’s actually cool about this and what feels very up to date, is the present can nonetheless kill off main characters and seriously change its format all through its run.
For those who decide a random episode of the sixties Star Trek from its first three seasons, the format and characters are primarily the identical. You’ll not be confused as to the established order on the Enterprise in Episode 3 versus Episode 66. However, in simply one single season, the traditional Battlestar adjustments the established order always. A serious character (it’s a spoiler to say who!) dies in Episode 5. In Episodes 12 and 13, the Galactica encounters one other misplaced Battlestar, and the crew of that ship and the common ship are built-in. When this plotline was reimagined for the fashionable present, the Battlestar Pegasus didn’t even present up till the second season. However the traditional present doesn’t have time to attend. Every part is about change. Every part is a couple of new option to inform the story.
The traditional BSG takes large plot swings and small character swings with equal zeal. And even by episodes 15 and 16, the story appears to problem the fundamental premise of the whole collection. In between all of that, you’ve acquired a smattering of trope-heavy planet-of-the-week type tales. A robotic Cylon is a gunslinger in a small city. Starbuck’s dad (performed by Fred Astaire!) is a con-man gambler. Fighter pilots argue with one another, and spaceships catch on hearth. Ice planets are visited and whodunnits play out throughout an enormous house fleet.
Maybe the best episode of the traditional Battlestar can also be the silliest. In “The Lengthy Patrol” (Episode 7), hotshot pilot Starbuck (Dirk Benedict earlier than the A-Group) crash-lands on a jail planet, the place all of the prisoners are in jail for crimes dedicated by their ancestors. Their names reveal what every of their ancestors was in for, which is the way you get characters known as “Assualt 9,” and “Adultress 58.” It’s an outdated sci-f trope; the concept an remoted house colony may very well be outlined by the deeds of their forebearers, however the OG Battlestar turns it right into a joke. When the opposite inmates assume Starbuck is additionally on the planet as a result of his ancestors dedicated a criminal offense, Adultress 58 asks him, “Nicely, what sort of a criminal offense is star-bucking?”
If that single joke doesn’t promote you on the flavour of the traditional Battlestar, nothing will.
For the reason that fashionable collection is so revered, the standing of the traditional present’s utter bravery and attraction has been oddly diminished. The 1978 Battlestar has been unfairly relegated to a kitsch curiosity by most fashionable sci-fi followers, imprisoned to obscurity for acts dedicated by its offspring, itself a critically acclaimed and groundbreaking reboot.
In reality, the one crime the traditional Battlestar dedicated was being an excessive amount of, too quickly. Because the success of the reboot proved, the world wasn’t prepared for Battlestar Galactica in 1978. For those who revisit the wealthy and risk-taking unique present proper now, you’ll see why.
Battlestar Galactica 1978 is streaming for free on Tubi. Google will inform you it’s on the NBC app, too, but it surely’s not!