When an old enemy, the Cylons, resurfaces and obliterate the 12 colonies, the crew of the aged Galactica protects a small civilian fleet - the last of humanity - as they journey toward the fabled 13th colony of Earth.
Edward James Olmos,
When the initial Cylon attack against the Twelve Colonies fails to achieve complete extermination of human life as planned, twin Number Ones (Cavils) embedded on Galactica and Caprica must improvise to destroy the human survivors.
Edward James Olmos
Edward James Olmos,
Two families, the Graystones and the Adamas, live together on a peaceful planet known as Caprica, where a startling breakthrough in artificial intelligence brings about unforeseen consequences. A spin-off of the Sci Fi Channel series "Battlestar Galactica" set 50 years prior to the events of that show.
The leaders of the twelve human colonies are making plans to sign a peace treaty with their mortal enemies, the Cylons. On the eve of the ceremony, the Cylons attack and destroy most of the colonies. The remaining Colonial ships, led by the battlestar Galactica under the command of Adama, head out into space and seek out a "lost" 13th colony, which turns out to be Earth. Along the way, the Colonials encounter various races (both friendly and hostile), the legendary human warrior Commander Cain, and the planet Kobol, the mother world of all the colonies. All the while, the Cylons--led by the human traitor, Baltar--are in hot pursuit... Written by
Battlestar Galactica had so much going for it, and so much working against it from outside influences. That is has held up as an engaging sci-fi epic despite its myriad off-screen problems and short network run is a tribute to its many strengths in concept, overall production values, cast, and presentation.
Galactica was conceived as a series of TV movies, similar in format to the Columbo-McCloud-McMillan movie series format from earlier in the 1970s. However, late in the going ABC asked for a weekly series, a contingency for which Glen Larson, Universal, and company were not prepared. As a result, the series had a very uneven quality to the scripts, most notoriously shown in the standard-western scripts of the episodes "The Lost Warrior" and "The Magnificent Warriors." The passage of time, though, has been kind even to such clichés; the standard-western format of these early episodes can be traced to the western gunslinger themes of Star Wars and other 1970s sci-fi, and the performances of the casts, primary and guest, shine through and make these scripts work.
And as the show progressed mistakes were learned from and the writing became better. "Saga Of A Star World," "Lost Planet Of The Gods Part II," "The Long Patrol," and "The Living Legend" were more-sharply written stories combining the excellence of the cast with very good twists. It was with "Living Legend" (highlighted by Lloyd Bridges' show-stealing performance as Commander Cain, for which he will always be remembered) that really got the show's writing on a truly solid base, and excellent scripts followed in "War Of The Gods" (another story highlighted by the performance of the guest star, in this case Patrick Macnee, who immortalizes himself as Count Iblis), the excellent character-driven "The Man With Nine Lives," the surprisingly sharp murder mystery "Murder On The Rising Star," "Greetings From Earth," and the show's strongest and smoothest action drama "The Hand Of God."
The cast shines through good and bad in the show, from Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, Lorne Greene, and John Colicos (my personal favorite of the show) down through Herbert Jefferson Jr., Laurette Spang, Terry Carter, Jane Seymour in her all-too-brief involvement, and mid-season addition Anne Lockhart. The underused George Murdock, Jack Stauffer, John Dullaghan as Doctor Wilker, Ed Begley Jr., Sheila DeWindt, Janet Louise Johnson, Tony Swartz, and Larry Manetti also sparkle in their appearances, as does veteran character actor Olan Soule as agro ship caretaker Carmichel.
Guest stars were used to superb effect in many episodes. In addition to Lloyd Bridges and Patrick Macnee (both as Count Iblis and the Cylon Imperious Leader - the show smartly gave Iblis an angle on the fact that his voice is the same as that of the supreme Cylon), other show-making guest performers included Lance leGault (of later "A-Team" fame), Lloyd Bochner, James Whitmore Jr., John Hoyt, Murray Matheson (in two roles, Sire Gella and the Cylon IL Specter), and Ina Balin. The interplay between the characters in the main and guest casts was always superb, and the off-screen camaraderie among the cast (most hilariously shown in Galactica's in-house gag reel film displaying series outtakes, where Macnee lampoons his opening narration and Colicos concludes by offering to sell some swampland in Florida in full Baltaresque charm, and in the closing top-hat number "We Gotta Find Earth" sung hilariously by Hatch, Benedict, and Greene) made the performances all the better.
Much has been made of how the show reused SFX shots every episode; the criticism usually ignores the reality that no sci-fi series of the time could afford not to reuse stock SFX footage - Galactica's practice was hardly unprecedented to fans of the earlier Land Of The Lost series. Made today of course the show could feature new SFX each episode given the advances in SFX technology.
The combination of concept, cast, overall production values, and presentation made for an immensely enjoyable sci-fi series. Comparisons with the new Ronald Moore Galactica series are inevitable, but both add something to a superb concept.
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