Battlestar Galactica (1978)

From Academic Kids

This article is about the original movie and television series; for other versions, see Battlestar Galactica (disambiguation).

Battlestar Galactica is an American science fiction movie and television series, produced in 1978 by Glen Larson and starring Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict. It was reimagined in 2003 by the Sci-Fi Channel with Edward James Olmos stepping into Lorne Greene's role of Commander Adama. A weekly series on Sci-Fi followed in January 2005. (See Battlestar Galactica (2003) for more.)

Contents

Synopsis of the original 1978 pilot film

Battlestar Galactica is set in a distant part of the galaxy in an age described as "the seventh millennium of time." Twelve colonies (planets) of humans have been fighting a thousand-year war against the android race of Cylons, who seek to exterminate all of humanity.

The Cylons unexpectedly sue for peace, through the diplomatic channel of human councilor Count Baltar. The human leaders and commanders of the military fleets are lulled into complacency by the Cylons offer of peace. All of the human military vessels, including the twelve carrier vessels called "battlestars", are supposed to meet at the armistice talks for the final actions sealing the peace. This is a trick: Baltar has betrayed humanity for personal power and glory, and the Cylons have no true plans for peace.

Adama, commander of the Battlestar Galactica, had been suspicious of the Cylons' motives. He ordered a regular patrol consisting of his two best pilots; Adama's eldest son, Apollo, and another pilot. Adama's son Zac convinced the second pilot to let him go in his stead. This patrol discovers many squadrons of Cylon fighter craft in hiding just as they are discovered by the Cylons. The Cylons jam communications of the patrol most of the way back to the Galactica. Zac's fighter is hit, reducing his speed, forcing Apollo to leave him behind so that the fleet can be warned. Zac is killed by the Cylons just short of the fleet before Apollo can return to help him.

Despite the orders of the President for restraint, Adama is able to prepare the Galactica before the Cylon fighter fleet attacks, but all of the remaining battlestars are unprepared. The result is that almost the entire fleet is caught off guard and annihilated. During the battle, Apollo tells Adama that the fighter fleet was found with tankers. Adama realized that they had done this to extend the range of the fighters from the Cylon carrier ships, basestars. He orders the Galactica to withdraw in order to protect its home planet, Caprica, but he is too late; upon arriving home he finds the devastation that the basestars have left. Adama soon learns that all twelve colonies have met the same fate. And after devastating the colonies of man, the basestars were sent to finish off the battlestars at the "armistice talks".

With the colonial civilization in ruins, and the Cylons likely to continue their extermination of humanity, Adama sends out a call for every craft that can make it to space to flee the Cylons. The hope is that the Galactica can protect this fleet long enough to find a legendary thirteenth human colony, known only as Earth which could have sufficient technology to be able to defeat the Cylons. Legends and myths say that this colony is known only to the last lord of Kobol, the planet abandoned thousands of years earlier during humanity's mass exodus to explore the galaxy.

Helping Adama in the quest for Earth are Colonel Tigh, the second in command of the Galactica, as well as a squadron of viper (fighter) pilots led by Apollo (Adama's remaining son), Starbuck, and Boomer. The Cylon Imperious Leader, disdainful of harboring even a temporarily useful traitor, orders Baltar's execution. In the movie, Baltar was beheaded. But in the television series, the execution is halted just short of Baltar's neck so that he could help the Cylons hunt down the remaining humans.

The Galactica and her "ragtag fleet of fugitive vessels" find brief respite on the resort planet of Carillon. But the Ovions, Carillon's indigenous inhabitants, are to delay the human fleet while the Cylons gather forces to destroy the human fleet. The Ovions take advantage of the situation and have been kidnapping and consuming crew and passengers of the refugee fleet. Apollo and Starbuck are investigating the disappearance of some of their comrades when they discover the conspiracy. After rescuing some their imprisoned comrades, Apollo and Starbuck, in a firefight with Cylons, set fire to the subterranean tylium mined on the planet.

Meanwhile, the new ruling council, believing that the Cylons have fallen far behind insist that the humans take time to celebrate. The ruling council have arranged a party and award banquet that is mandatory for all fighter pilots in which an outspoken councilor would call for a unilateral disarmament despite the threat of the Cylons. The Cylons, believing that all of the fighter pilots are at the award banquet on Carillon, launch a fighter attack against the Galactica in orbit. But Adama and Tigh had suspected a trap and had arranged for support crew to impersonate most of the fighter pilots. The actual pilots were standing by for trouble and soundly defeated the Cylon fighters.

Again, Apollo knows that the Cylon fighters couldn't have gone far without support ships. Apollo and Starbuck go hunting for these additional vessels and find a Cylon basestar on the far side of Carillon. In defiance of Commander Adama's recall order, Apollo and Starbuck decide to attempt to destroy the ship to enable the refugee fleet to elude pursuit. They fool the Cylon base star into thinking that it was going to be attacked by multiple viper squadrons. The base star descends into Carillon's atmosphere to avoid detection, and is destroyed when the planet explodes due to the spreading fire.

Despite their victory, the humans realize that the Cylons will still be pursuing them, and thus they begin their "lonely quest: a shining planet known as Earth."

Cast

(starring)

(also starring, listed alphabetically)

(guest stars of movie, listed alphabetically)

(guest stars of television series, listed alphabetically)

Creative Cast:

Broadcast history

The opening narration is as follows: "There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of human who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. 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 far, far away, amongst the stars."

The pilot to this series, the biggest budgeted ($7 million) at the time, was originally released theatrically in Canada, Western Europe, and Japan in July, 1978 in an edited 125-minute version.

On September 17, 1978, the uncut 148-minute pilot premiered on ABC to spectacular Nielsen Ratings (attracting 65 million viewers). Two-thirds of the way through the broadcast, ABC interrupted with a special report of the signing of the Camp David Accords at the White House by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and witnessed by U.S. President Jimmy Carter. After the ceremony, ABC resumed the broadcast at the point where it was interrupted.

In 1978, 20th Century Fox sued Universal Studios (the producers of Battlestar Galactica) for plagiarism, claiming it had stolen 34 distinct ideas from Star Wars. Universal promptly countersued, claiming Star Wars had stolen ideas from the 1972 film Silent Running and the Buck Rogers serials of the 1940's. The lawsuit would be eventually dismissed in 1980 as having no merit.

As the series progressed, the ratings began to slide, even though the show still consistently won its coveted Sunday evening timeslot. Although each episode had a budget of about $1 million, the show reused so many special effects shots due to budgetary constraints that many critics derided as "overplayed into tedium."

In mid-April 1979, ABC executives cancelled the still strongly-rated show. Some sources indicate that the million-dollar-per-episode cost led to the show's demise. Others believe that it was a failed attempt by ABC to position its hit comedy Mork & Mindy into a more lucrative timeslot. (The ratings for Mork plummeted far below what they had been for Battlestar Galactica.) The cancellation led to viewer outrage, protests outside ABC studios, and even contributed to the suicide of Eddie Seidel, a 15-year-old boy in Saint Paul, Minnesota who had become obsessed with the program. [1] (http://www.kobol.com/archives/suicide.html) On May 18, 1979, the theatrical version of the pilot was released in U.S. theatres.

See also: List of Battlestar Galactica episodes

Religious and mythological references

Greek mythological references

Battlestar Galactica contains obvious references to Greek and Roman mythology.

The cylon armor is also clearly derived from Roman designs, while the Colonial Pilots wear helmets derived from Egyptian designs. The birthplace of humanity is a distant planet named Kobol, external shots for which were taken in Egypt around the pyramids. It is meant to hint that this really was the origin of Earth and the Earth refered to in the series is definitively us for better or worse.

Mormon influences/references

Probably less noticed are references to the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (more commonly known as the Mormon church). Producer Glen Larson is a member of this church.

Some parallels between the series and the religion include:

  • The race of humanity is led by Commander Adama, whose name bears similarity to that of Adam, the first human.
  • Central to the plot of the series is a legendary thirteenth colony, somewhere far distant from the twelve that are known. In Mormonism, there is no doctrinal or cultural references to a 'Thirteenth Tribe'. But there are some parallels that may have inspired this 'Thirteenth Tribe' idea:
  • A Council of Twelve, headed by a president, governs the colonies. A president who is assisted by two counselors and a Quorum of the Twelve Apostles preside over the Mormon Church.
  • Marriages in the Battlestar Galactica mythos as well as in the Mormon religion are sealed for eternity.

These parallels are explored in more detail at Battlestar Galactica and Mormonism (http://www.michaellorenzen.com/galactica.html).

Other versions of Battlestar Galactica

Galactica 1980

Main article: Galactica 1980

In this 1980 sequel series, the fleet finds Earth and covertly protects it from the Cylons. This series was a quick failure due to its low budget, widely-panned writing, and ill-placed time slot (Sundays at 7:00 PM, a time slot generally reserved for family-oriented programming and, more specifically, 60 Minutes). The show also included obviously recycled space battle sequences from the original program, to the great dismay of fans. Some syndication packages for Battlestar Galactica incorporate the episodes of this series.

Revival attempt

The original show has maintained a cult fandom, which has supported efforts by Glen Larson and Richard Hatch (independent of each other) to revive the premise. Hatch even went so far as to produce a demonstration video in the mid-1990s which featured several actors from the original series combined with state-of-the-art special effects. This video, titled "Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming," was displayed at science fiction conventions but did not lead to a new series.

Battlestar Galactica (2003)

Main article: Battlestar Galactica (2003)

In December 2003, the American Sci Fi channel produced and aired a four-hour miniseries that reimagined Battlestar Galactica. The success of the miniseries led to a new series (October 2004, UK; January 2005, North America). A highly edited version of the miniseries aired on NBC on January 9, 2005, five days before the American debut of the series. Notable changes from the original series include: Cylon models closely resembling human form; Starbuck is a female character; Boomer, formerly an African-American human (and genuinely human), is now portrayed by a Korean woman and covertly a Cylon infiltrator; and Col. Tigh, formerly portrayed by an African-American actor, is now portrayed by a white actor. Commander Adama is now played expertly by Edward James Olmos, he is still a paternal figure but differs from Lorne Greens characterization because he believes Earth is a myth and makes it his destination to keep hope alive. Lorne Greens character also seemed part commander and spiritual leader, he had been part of the civilian command structure. Olmos is definitively military in background but is a considerably more flexible and insightful leader than the civilian President.

There are less humans living in this series than the original, only fifty ships are in the fleet (while the original series had more than 200) and only fifty thousand people are alive. The ships are in much better condition though and are capable of hyperspace travel, but that is incredibly dangerous thanks to Dune-like suspicions about artificial intelligence that keeps the computer technology just a touch ahead of where we are today. Space battles take place using newtonian physics, which may be a first for television although it has been commonly done in video games like Wing Commander. Overall the series pays alot more attention to the logistics of survival than the original series did. It is darker and more serious than the original. There is heavy suggested sexual content and the violence is less cartoon like and more painful than before. The show displays a genuine sense of loss and is never callous even if it isn't as family friendly as before. There is also a perceptive but occasionally heavy handed approach to character development and plot lines, thorny and very contemporary social issues are discussed and some characters deal with addiction, divided loyalties, and coping with both personal and community grief and tragedies. Much of the early controversy from original series fans simmered down once the mini series proved to be dramatically better than most people expected. It has met with considerable success, with all-time record high ratings on Sci-Fi channel.

Other media

A number of novels based upon the series have been published over the years, including a mixture of novelizations based upon televised episodes (including the pilot episodes of both the original series and Galactica 1980) and original stories. In the 1990s, original series star Richard Hatch co-wrote several new novels based upon the series as part of his efforts to spark a revival.

Marvel Comics published a short-lived comic book series based upon the show between 1978 and 1981.

A Battlestar Galactica video game has been published on the Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox platforms.

See also

External links

nl:Battlestar Galactica de:Kampfstern Galactica

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