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Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series

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Battlestar Galactica 1978

Saga of a Star World

The Nova of Madagon, as seen in the series weekly opener

When I was growing up back in the late 1970s and early 80s, it seemed like absolutely nothing was as visually stunning, imaginative and exciting as Battlestar Galactica.  Well... except maybe Star Wars or Star Trek... or perhaps even the Planet of the Apes mythos.

In any case, what I loved most about the show was that while watching it, I felt totally transported by the futuristic universe that seemed to effortlessly breath renewed life and magic into the old TV set that flickered dimly in my family's living room every Sunday evening.

The brand new series wasn't Star Wars I soon found out, when it premiered on September 17, 1978, but to me and a multitude of other kids who eagerly tuned in each and every week, it was something just as phenomenal in its own right.

Cylon Basestars wait to attack

In those days, the epic battle between man and machine depicted in Battlestar Galactica sparked my young imagination like few other fictional realms ever have, before or since.  In so many ways, the Galactica universe seemed to have it all.

The special effects and space vehicles rivaled the amazing hardware the world had only recently first glimpsed in Star Wars and there were heroes, villains, alien creatures, robots and action scenes galore, all on an epic scale never before seen on the humble little boob tube.


A Cylon navigator at the helm of a Clyon Raider fighter craft

Apollo (Richard Hatch) and Starbuck (Dirk Benedict)

As a youngster, I was incredibly enthralled by Battlestar Galactica.  Though the show perhaps featured some elements that might be considered somewhat recycled or even cliche.

In the late 1970s, for example, the success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) was still fresh in the public mind. and that particularly popular Western film continued to score high ratings each and every time it was broadcast on prime time TV.

So naturally, back then, if you wanted to create a formula for an entertaining show, you would almost invariably need two Western style heroes (one blond and one brunette, usually) who had somewhat conflicting personalities.  Yet, no matter how much they may have been complete opposites, or just how rough the going would usually get throughout their adventures, they were sure to be friends to the end.  Hence, that was pretty much the relationship that Starbuck and Apollo shared throughout the run of the original series.


Traditional Western Heroes, Capt. Apollo and Lt. Starbuck

Lt. Starbuck and Capt. Apollo may have been the latest in a long line of buddy heroes (from Starsky and Hutch to Bo and Luke Duke on down), but they were certainly no Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.  Yet when the show hit the airwaves, just about everybody thought it was a Star Wars ripoff.  If not George Lucas himself, then certainly the studio heads of 20th Century Fox, who went so far as to file a legal suit against Universal Studios on the grounds of copyright infringement.


"Launch all Vipers."

"Fire!"

The suit was later dropped in 1980, but at the time, it sure did seem like there were far too many similarities between the two scifi-fantasy properties.  To be sure, notable Star Wars collaborators such as conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie and the same special effects team headed by John Dykstra that had worked on George Lucas' groundbreaking fantasy film were also instrumental in forging the Galactica universe.  But that was mostly where the similarities ended.  The fledgling series had actually been conceived by TV veteran Glen A Larson some years earlier, but he had never been able to get the project off the ground .  Until that is, the unprecedented success of Star Wars in 1977.


Cylon Raiders Attack

Inside a Cylon Raider


Lorne Greene as the faithful Commander Adama

In fact, originally called Adam's Ark, Larson's creation had always been intended to have a distinct Biblical flair, with Commander Adama (played by Lorne Greene of Bonanza fame) leading a flock of wayward tribes of humans lost, not in the ancient Middle Eastern desert, but in the dark, treacherous and mystical reaches of far-flung space.

For me, the show's obvious connection to the mythology of various ancient civilizations was what really brought the epic story of Battlestar Galactica to life.  The human odyssey wasn't just set in some nameless galaxy, far, far away, but within a multi-layered interstellar civilization inspired, or perhaps (as the show implied) even preceded by our own.  As a testament to this, the Galactica series made generous use of ancient Mesoamerican, ancient Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek and Roman plot devices, terminology and visual cues.


Echos of ancient civilizations are quite commonplace in the classic Battlestar Galactica series


The show's producers even sent a small crew to Egypt to capture authentic on location shots

Just another example of how classic BSG was wonderfully rich in ancient world imagery and influences

Heck, the first time I got a load of the Egyptian styled, futuristic fighter pilot helmets worn by "colonial warriors" of the fleet, who braved the cold of interstellar space in sleek, one man ships called "vipers," I was completely floored.  Not to mention totally hooked and drawn into an exciting futurescape that resonated so effectively with common themes of the collective human past and present.  Like the ancient Israelites who fled, scorned by their Biblical Egyptian masters, the brave people of the last vestiges of the twelve known tribes of man had only their faith to guide them "on a lonely quest, for a shining planet; known as Earth."


You gotta love those original Viper helmets

Starbuck is illuminated by the flash of blue Cylon laser fire


Viper helmets from the original BSG series are quite possibly the coolest in all of sci-fi history!

And on top of all that, there were even absolutely stunning actresses like Anne LockhartJane Seymour, Laurette Spang and Maren Jensen on display in the show each and every week!  How could any healthy, red blooded, pre-pubescent American boy possibly ask for any more?


Jane Seymour as Serina

Maren Jensen as Athena

Laurette Spang as Cassiopeia

Cassiopeia and Sheba (Anne Lockhart)


Seems you can never have enough scantily clad female pilot recruits hanging around...

Well... I suppose you could have asked for more money, maybe.  The show cost a lot.  The original pilot film came in at a price tag of 7 million (which was quite a chunk of Colonial cubits at the time) and with individual episodes reportedly costing a cool million each and every week, Galactica's days were, unfortunately numbered.  At least we got 17 classic episodes for that price (24 hours total in syndication), a round of officially licensed merchandise (including some really awesome and memorable action figures and ships based on the show) and the birth of a whole new scifi-fantasy franchise, complete with books, comics and other assorted merchandise.


Cylons R Us - The Toasters are apparently not just expensive, but rather high maintainence too

A whole new realm of imagination to explore had just opened up for the millions who craved the escapist thrill of it all.  Perhaps the show's opening monologue said it best, "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. That they may have been the architects of the great pyramids, or the lost civilizations of Lemuria or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive, somewhere beyond the heavens."

Probably, my all time favorite character from classic Battlestar Galactica would have to be Boomer (played by Herbert Jefferson Jr.).  Unfortunately, he didn't quite make it intact into the 2003-09 re-imagined BSG mythos.  The incredibly lovely Grace Park certainly didn't disappoint however.  Curiously, she not only inherited the name Boomer, but also Athena, and both characters turned out to be CYLONS, no less!


Flight Sergeant Jolly, played by Tony Swartz

My favorite character, Lt. Boomer (Herbert Jefferson Jr.)

Cybernetic "Daggit" Muffit and his boy, Boxey (Noah Hathaway)

Col. Tigh (Terry Carter), second in command of the Galactica

The evil Baltar, played by master character actor, John Colicos

Lucifer, played by Felix Silla and voiced by Jonathan Harris

If you're interested in watching the classic Battlestar Galactica series and live in North America, you can visit NBC.com.  They are currently running all 24 full hours (17 episodes broken into 1 hour segments) of the original show.  Man, it's great when you can watch good TV on the Internet!

Now... Who Doesn't Love Cylons?

Let's be honest.  Cylons are just plain cool!  Whether they're old school "tin cans" from the original Battlestar Galactica series or the re-vamped "toasters" that relentlessly stalk humanity in the re-imagined Syfy Channel version, these mechanized warriors from the far flung reaches of space are definite attention grabbers.

Amoktime.com took over distribution of the two 1:6 scale classic Cylon figures pictured below.  Initially designed and produced by Majestic Studios, several other characters from the original show were also made available, including Commander Adama, Capt. Apollo and Lt. Starbuck.  Amok Time usually has a fairly nice selection of Battlestar Galactica toys and action figures.  Click on the pic below to see what's currently in stock.

Classic Battlestar Galactica Cylons from Amok Time

Battlestar Galactica Toys

As far as classic Battlestar Galactica action figures go, the best and most comprehensive site I've yet seen that showcases the full line of figures and related toys that Mattel produced in the late 1970s is Bug Eyed Monster.com.

ToysYouHad.com also has some really great pics of the original Galactica toys, as well as a nice shot of Captain Lazer, the 12 1/2" figure from 1967 that was retooled by Mattel to create their first two Galactica action figures, the Colonial Warrior and Cylon Centurion.

Battlestar Galactica and all related characters, marks and images are the property of Universal Pictures
Battlestar Galactica theme music by Stu Phillips
The No. 1 Site for Battlestar Galactica Collectors!

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