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Battlestar Galactica : The original series

by Philip Schweier
Order 'Battlestar Galactica,
The Complete Epic Series' - on DVD

Battlestar Galactica Original Cast photoBattlestar Galactica was cancelled by ABC after only one season. Low ratings were not the problem, however, it was a question of budget overruns. Production costs had to be reduced for the network to continue to air the show. The disappointing result was Galactica: 1980, which premiered on January 27 of that year.

It told the story of the fleet as it finally arrives on Earth, some 20 "yahrens" after the destruction of the colonies. Promotional footage suggested a great deal of excitement, but this was unfortunately misleading. By incorporating Cylon raiders into stock footage from 1974's Earthquake, they created a very effective sequence of an attack on Earth by the Cylons.

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This "war of the worlds" premise would have added a great deal of drama to the show, perhaps taking Galactica in a fresh direction altogether. But alas, it turned out to be a mere simulation constructed by the Galactica's war computers to demonstrate the folly of joining the population of Earth. Instead of immediately joining their Terran cousins, the refugees plan to slowly infiltrate Earth's population, subtly raising its technology to a level that will help protect it from the Cylons.

Many of the original cast members had been invited to participate in the new incarnation. Richard Hatch decided to turn it down because he felt the new show had destroyed the premise of the original.

Dirk Benedict felt it was not as good as the first series, based on the scripts he was shown. Out of all the shows he has done, he regards Starbuck as the one time when he did a fully dimensional character who was not only humorous and lighthearted but also, at the other end of the spectrum, had a seriousness and an underlying emotional quality. Being so fond of Starbuck, he couldn't bring himself to do it, equating it to cheating on one's wife.

Lorne Greene on the other hand accepted the offer to reprise his role, as did Herb Jefferson Jr. Now Col. Boomer, he aided Adama while Apollo's adopted son is now grown, going by the name of Troy. Together, he and his buddy Lt. Dillon are sent to the surface to make contact with the civilian population. These roles were played by Kent McCord (of Adam-12 fame) and Barry Van Dyke (who ABC originally wanted as Starbuck in the first series), respectively. On Earth, they win the trust and friendship of news reporter Jamie Hamilton, played by Robyn Douglas.

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Kent McCord was attracted by the concepts presented in The Day the Earth Stood Still, a classic science fiction film of the 1950s. However, ABC scheduled the program for Sundays at 7, when typically children's or family shows are aired. Instead of high-minded ideas of man's role in the universe, McCord was relegated to juvenile plot devices such as babysitting a group of Galactican children stranded down on Earth. -

But Benedict did take one last turn as the lovable space rogue. In what would be the last (and best) of the 10 episodes produced, it is revealed that he had crash landed on a distant planet following a tangle with a Cylon raider. After Starbuck repairs and reprograms one of the Cylon centurions, a mysterious woman joins their small encampment, and over time, she and Starbuck fall in love, and a child is born. When a Cylon raider finds them, Starbuck is able to destroy the pilots. The woman is revealed to be of the race from the mysterious Ships of Light from the original show. Starbuck is able to use the Cylon raider to send the woman and child back into space to locate the fleet. Benedict was very happy with the script, and approached Glen Larson about doing a show featuring Starbuck's adventures as he tries to locate the Galactica, sort of a Fugitive in Space.

The Return of Starbuck served to explain the origin of a controversial character of Galactica: 1980, Dr. Zee. Zee is a teenage savant, whom Adama consults on most matters. Gifted with an intellect far above that of other humans, Zee serves as defacto advisor to Adama. Most fans felt this undermined the leadership of Adama, and diminished the character portrayed so well by Lorne Greene on the original show.

The show also suffered as writers tried to demonstrate through very forced humor the interaction between the advanced Galactican population with the "backward" people of Earth. While fans of the original series may not have approved, the new show did have its high points, such as the dramatic footage of the Cylon attack on Earth. Viewers were also given a glimpse of the evolution of the Cylons, as well as the villainous Commander Xavier (played by Richard Lynch).

While some of the new show's ideas failed to measure up to fans expectations, the fact of the matter is that Galactica 1980 was never intended to be a weekly series. It began as an idea to continue the Galactica saga in a limited format, but with the response, ABC ordered more episodes. Knowing the difficulties of getting on the air in the first place, producers rushed into production, with the hopes that the network would lend the new incarnation greater support, and in time, any rough spots would be ironed out.

Ultimately, Galactica: 1980 was the victim of its own inception. Network execs believed that the only audience interested in Battlestar Galactica were preadolescent children (wrong), and by eliminating the action and adventure of the space epic, they could produce a show that was just as successful (also wrong) without the cost. Their only accomplishment was to diminish a promising science fiction program by reducing it to pablum.

If the show is believed a failure, it is through no part of the cast and crew. Much of the fault lies with the network. ABC sought a runaway hit, and because Galactica didn't measure up to their expectations, they applied pressure to the producers to deliver the series while pulling much of their support. What ended up on TV screens across America represents only a fraction of the effort that went into producing the show.

Yet for a TV series that amounts to only 25 hours of programming, Battlestar Galactica has a devoted fanbase, and is a strong presence both online and at science fiction conventions. New fans are discovering it through airings on the Sci-Fi Channel. Some will insist it holds up quite well, with special effects that don't have the dated appearance of most 25 year old science fiction programs.

Naturally, talk of a revival began. Many cast members are very enthusiastic, assuming a network or studio is committed to the idea, and good scripts can be provided. With ancillary markets in Europe and Asia, the actors are often surprised to discover how widespread Galactica fandom is. This enthusiastic following of a 25-year old show is often overlooked by the part of the networks.

Lockhart adds that she would love to revisit the role of Sheba, one of her favorite roles. She tells the worldofltsheba.com website, "The very sudden and surprising cancellation of Galactica left me feeling like, 'Wait a minute, I wasn't done!' I had so much more to explore with her, because she was such an interesting and complex person. I would love to explore where she's been in the ensuing 20 years. I certainly hope she's gotten a promotion past lieutenant."


1970s TV Shows
NEXT: PART THREE
The show is revived after a long gestation!


Battlestar Galactica: the Original Series

 

1970s TV Shows

Battlestar Galactica: the Original Series
Battlestar Galactica: the Original Series - part two
Battlestar Galactica: the Original Series - part three


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