Monday, June 30, 2014

Battlestar Galactica 1.12: “The Living Legend, Part 1”

Airdate: 11/26/78

Looks like I picked the wrong week..
The Galactica’s patrol pilots run into an old friend of Apollo’s, a friend he’d assumed dead many moons ago. He’s actually part of the “Fifth Fleet,” a group of colonials that engaged the Cylons in a battle where no humans were thought to have survived – they defied the odds under the command of the legendary Commander Cain, an old colleague of Adama’s. Cain’s battlestar, the Pegasus, rendezvous with Galactica, and the two old war cronies have a lot of years to catch up on. Adama, however, begins to suspect that Cain’s war mongering ways may pose a threat to the stability of the Galactica and its unarmed civilian fleet; the two come to loggerheads over Cain’s headstrong ideas of attacking the Cylon base star Gomorray, ones which Adama overrules when he learns of Cain’s rash attack of Cylon fuel freighters, which were meant to be intercepted, not destroyed. The show ends with a full-fledged Cylon attack (under Baltar) on Galactica (as Adamaa predicted), and Pegaus’s rushing to its defense.

Series is finally improving, and it’s no small coincidence that the drama is becoming more character-oriented. And of course, one of them, at least in this two-parter, is played by none other than Lloyd Bridges – his recklessly arrogant Cain is right within his wheelhouse, and it’s a pure delight to see him uttering the type of lines he would parody just a little over a year later in Airplane! You can absolutely see he end of this story coming, as the only way a TV drama like this can drive home the caution of Cain’s belligerence is through his own destruction. I just hope they don’t send gorgeous Anne Lockhart, who plays his daughter, with him, but they just might as it looks like she may fulfill the role of Starbuck’s must-be ill-fated love interest. Well, you can see hr in two seasons on Buck Rogers.

Observation – they seem to like starting off each show with a Cylon/Viper dogfight. Is this the intergalactic version of The Dukes of Hazzard’s weekly opening chase between Roscoe and the Duke boys?

Rating:  ***

Friday, June 27, 2014

Battlestar Galactica 1.11: “The Young Lords”

Airdate: 11/19/78

Audrey Landers - Ooh la la!
Starbuck crash lands on another earth-like planet called Atilla. (The Galactica crew is in for a letdown when they finally get to earth – and discover they’ve already been there every week!) Unfortunately, it’s controlled by a branch of Cylons and he is captured, only to be freed by a race of primitive humans that look like the groundlings at a Renaissance Fair. He is immediately charmed by one of them, a buxom blonde named Miri, but her brother, Kyle, has ulterior motives in mind. He plans to use Starbuck in a trade for his father, whom the Cylons have already kidnapped, but Starbuck warns of the fultility of negotiating with the ruthless “tin cans” – he’s right, of course, as the trade attempt ends in both sides faking out the other with dummy hostages. Starbuck leads the rebellious humans on a raid on the Cylon castle and their leader, Specrte, who must now report to Baltar of his failure.

Ah, definitely a so-so outing by Lorne Greene and co., but it sure as hell is abetted by the easy-on-the-eyes presence of Audrey Landers as Miri – and lets just say her skimpy fur duds, though modest by today’s standards, showcase her assets quite welcomely. The other “humans” are just a bunch of squeaky-clean freedom fighters…  and I do have to say these stories are sounding awfully familiar – stray colonists on Earth-like planet fighting against thievery and oppression (by Cylons or some other alien race) are helped by one (or more) of the Galactica crew. Hmmm.

Rating:  **

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Battlestar Galactica 1.10: “The Magnificent Warriors”

Airdate: 11/12/78

Better than Charles Nelson Reilly!
A Cylon attack on the Galactica renders their farming unit nearly devoid ofvaluable seed, so Adama devises to trade a highly-coveted “energizer” for seed on the farming planet Sectar. One problem – he needs an untraceable energizer (lest the Cylons find it), but the only one without any identification belongs to a vampish woman named Belloby, who agrees to give up her prized possession in return for a courtship with Adama, whose feelings are not exactly requited. Everone heads down to Sectar, but it turns out the agricultural colony is terrorized by a marauding horde of alien thugs known as the Borays; they regularly plunder the town for grain (and woman) and always kill the town constable – no wonder the job has such a high turnover! The mayor, Bogan, schemes to trick Starbuck, who’s trying to win some money at cards to buy seeds and get back their recently stolen energizer. It works – and poor Starbuck is stuck doing the job that no one in the town is exactly clamoring for. It takes a full-on assault by the Galactica crew to check and further Boray advances, and Starbuck even talks the brutish leader into assuming the constable position!

Finally! Episode #10 marks the first halfway decent episode of the series – the plot is relatively straightforward, the dialogue clear and entertaining, and the action makes minor use of the same recycled shots of fighter planes, joysticks and explosions. Veteran TV action Barry Nelson is great in the supporting role as bad guy/good guy mayor, and Match Game regular Brett Somers (yes, that Brett Somers) is an absolute hoot as Belloby, although one does wonder why on earth she’d be in possession of such a coveted piece of hardware as an energizer. As its title hat-tippingly suggests, this episode bears more than a faint resemblance to the Western classic The Magnificent Seven; sure it’s a rip off, but unlike the previous disaster, “Ice Station Zero,” it has some fun with the premise. It reminded me of some later-to-come tongue-in-cheek adventure movies from the 80s, full of dime-store costumes, eye-winking dialogue and rousing, rooting climaxes.

Rating:  ***

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Battlestar Galactica 1.9: “The Gun on Ice Planet Zero, Part 2”

Airdate: 10/29/78

The worst face masks EVER
The Artic-bound Galactica crew is led back to the colony where their recent acquaintances, a ragtag gang of humans enslaved by the Cylons, live. Things aren’t a whole lot of fun there; it turns out they’ve been procreating behind their chrome-clad masters’ backs, but the head dude, the “Master Creator,” does seem to have peace-seeking intentions in mind, even if he is refusing to acknowledge that his death beam is being used by the Cylons as an instrument of war. The Galactica approaches the range where she can be blown to bits by the beam, so Starbuck and co. must find the beam’s installment and destroy it, or else we’ve got a real short series on our hands.

The silliness continues, but at least we get to look at Brit Ekland, even if she is wearing a Dutch-boy painter’s outfit - the official garb for this oppressed tribe of humans she’s a part of. The quasi-mad “Master Creator” is somewhat interesting in his self-imposed obliviousness and the warped rationale he uses to justify his inventions – he kinda reminded me of a heavy in a cheapo sci-fi flick from the 60s. But just about all of this is the same old tedium. So a few observations.

1.     We’re getting the same stock footage over and over again everytime the Galactica launches a Viper fighter. It’s true – I was paying attention. The fact that I was just shows how bored I was by the plot.
2.     The enslaved humans at first refuse to help Starbuck and the others destroy the beam – they believe it would render them defenseless. Stabuck rejoins with the logic that it would spare the Galactica, the only human colony battleship in existence, which could then rescue them. But in the end, they still refuse (unless I missed something). Thanks a lot, guys.
3.     And the Cylons keep firing the beam over and over again, at – nothing! They’re trying to prove how close it can get to the Galactica, and we see explosions, but never what, exactly, is getting destroyed.

Rating:  *1/2

Battlestar Galactica 1.8: “The Gun on Ice Planet Zero, Part 1”

Airdate: 10/22/78

Galactica gets “herded” towards a remote ice planet by the Cylons; reasons for this odd maneuver become abundantly clear when an intense laser beam emitting from the planet destroys a Viper and causes another one to crash land. Adama orders a fleet to land on the planet’s surface to take out the deadly beam – among those chosen for the mission are four unsavory prison convicts (each has a special skill just perfect for the specialized objectives of the mission). The Cylons, of course, are expecting such an action, so they shoot down the fleet, ad now the crew and the cons must work together in order to survive. Help does arrive, however, in the form of an exiled band of humans, whose motives do seem to be benign, despite potential association with Cylons.

Despite a change in scenery, this is another episode tediously laden with cardboard, techno-garble dialogue and devoid of any rooting interest or challenging adversary. Worse, it rips off the WWII flicks Ice Station Zebra, The Guns of Navarone and The Dirty Dozen (waiting for a bridge to be blown up somewhere so they can plunder yet another). The show continues to prove why it lasted only a season – it’s a sci-fi show as mechanical as the Cylons (which also explains the problem with the villains). I’m not looking forward to Part 2.

Rating:  *1/2

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Battlestar Galactica 1.7: “The Long Patrol”

Airdate: 10/15/78

Tell me that's not Randy Quaid
Starbuck gets to test out the prototype for a new Viper; the good news is it’s superfast, the bad: no lasers. Ah, well, it will take his mind off the two-timing he’s been doing lately, but on his joyride he finds himself coming between a “robber” and his would-be assailant. Crash landing on a deserted planet, Starbuck realizes the robber is carrying huge stashes of an awesome “alcoholic” drink called Ambrosia, and just when he tries to sample the merchandise the thug hits him from behind and escapes (with the brand new Viper). Starbuck takes his craft but gets intercepted by the robber’s chaser and is led back to a penal colony, where he is mistaken for the robber. There Starbuck discovers that all the inmates are there for crimes committed by their ancestors, and they are currently being forced to make Ambrosia for the colonies, who apparently don’t know they’re there. Also apparent: security at the prison is nearly nonexistent, so Starbuck leads everyone out of their cells to freedom. Meantime Apollo and the others, fearful that Robber’s transmission might arouse Cylon suspicions, fire on the person who is obviously not Starbuck, but upon discovering his begign intentions (he was also part of that penal colony) they rescue he and his family – and Starbuck – for a happy ending,

The premise starts out okay, but like most episodes of the series thus far, gets more incomprehensible, and ridiculous, as it wears on. Really just the story of a relatively innocent smuggler, and his “noble savages” in prison, but there’s far too much extra plot baggage here, including the unnecessary subplot of Starbuck and his ongoing love triangle with Cassiopea and Lena in the episode’s first half. Not a whole lot more to say here, except that “Robber” is a dead ringer for a young Randy Quaid.

Rating:  *1/2

Monday, June 23, 2014

Battlestar Galactica 1.6: “The Lost Warrior”

Airdate: 10/8/78

When Apollo tries to divert the Cylons away from the Galactica, he crash lands on a strange Earth-like planet when he runs out of fuel (oops!). There he discovers a young woman, Vela, and her son, Puppis, and learns that they are part of a small village controlled by a usurious thug named Lacerta. Why is everyone afraid of this portly oaf who looks like he came from a Tennessee Williams play? He gives orders to a Cylon warrior, who obeys unquestioningly. Only Apollo knows about Cylons, but he is puzzled by their relationship – in any case, he resolves to lay low lest he is outed as a star pilot and gets into worse trouble than he’s already in. This gets tough, especially when he sees Vela’s brother, after a bit too much grog, mouth off t Lacerta and get shot by the Cylon henchman in retaliation. Time to get tough, and so Apollo, mimicking Will Kane in High Noon, takes out his laser gun (against the law here, for obvious reasons) and beats the Cylon gunslinger to the draw. Hailed as a hero, Apollo declines the invitation to stay on account of his son, Boxey, and fuels up so he can rejoin his Galactic family.

A rip-off of not only the classic Western High Noon but also Shane, and it clearly bases its dapper but devious villain on Sydney Greenstreet’s in Casablanca. Having said that, it’s still an improvement over previous episodes, mostly because it goes easy on the monotonous techno-babble and relies on straightforward dialogue, which service a pretty solid story, even if it is cobbled together from screenplay parts. Katherine Cannon (Father Murphy) is a standout as Vela – too bad she didn’t stick around as a regular.

Oh, and by the way, this planet – Equilus, I think it’s called – is FRIGGIN’ EARTH! The conceit of the series is that they’re trying to find that lost 13th colony on Earth; well, they found it! (I don’t care how many stripes they painted on that horse, or how many sci-fi words they came up with to replace English words.)

All for now.

Rating:  **1/2

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Battlestar Galactica 1.5: “Lost Planet of the Gods Part 2”

Airdate: 10/1/78

OK, into the void the Galactica goes, but meanwhile Baltar keeps plotting with the Cylons a way of attacking our heroes and finally exterminating the human race. He does succeed in kidnapping Starbuck, so they cook up some scheme of keeping him as a ruse for another “peace mission” Meanwhile, Apollo and Serina marry, but no honeymoon until they can get out of the void. It turns out Adama was right – planet Kobol looks like it’s just waiting to be visited, and when he and the crew do, they discover ancient writings that seem to reveal that humanity did in fact start there, and that the “13th colony” of Earth must still be out there. The Cylons aren’t impressed – they attack the planet, and mortally wound poor Serina. Looking ever so beautiful or her deathbed, she bids adieu to her soon and newlywed, promising she’ll see then again the great beyond.

Conclusion to Battlestar’s first two-parter is even worse than its predecessor, with the most of the drama here either hokey, convoluted, or both. How convenient to land on a planet, looking exactly like Earth’s ancient Egypt, and then blast into a sarcophagus where all the secrets of the origin of man are revealed (were it not for that pesky Cylon attack). And what happened to that mysterious outbreak that grounded all the fighter pilots in part one?

I’m also noticing, in addition to lapses in story logic, a flaw in the editing. Crucial plot developments just suddenly happen (the landing on Kobol, Starbuck’s Cylon abduction), with no intermediary scenes to set them up or connect them fluidly to the others. And, even worse, there’s the continued lack of fun troughout the proceedings – if you’re gonna have such goofball plotlines, don’t be so damned portentous. Have a ‘lil fun with it all, a la the TV series Buck Rogers or theatrical release Flash Gordon (both to be released within the next couple of years).

This is around the time that CBS counterprogrammed Battlestar with All in the Family, and the ratings for the space saga took a fast nose dive. Creator Glenn Larson often complained that this was the reason for the show’s cancellation, but that doesn’t hold water: the two shows had vastly different audences. More likely word got out that Battlestar was a turkey, and the core fan base stayed away in droves.

(PS: Bad season for sci-fi weddings; just two weeks earlier Bill Bixby lost his dearly beloved on The Incredible Hulk!)

Rating:  *1/2

Monday, June 16, 2014

Battlestar Galactica 1.4: “Lost Planet of the Gods Part 1”

Airdate: 9/24/78

The crew of the Galactica, especially Commander Adama, warmly celebrates Apollo and Serina’s impending nuptials, although Starbuck seems a bit on the sad side to see his ol’ buddy leaving his bachelorhood behind. But a bigger concern comes up when a Cylon probe discovers two Vipers on a remote asteroid, and when those Viper pilots return, their appear to have contracted some debilitating virus that necessitates their immediate quarantine. Frantic, Adama orders the training of more Viper pilots to fill the void – women (all hotties, pretty conveniently). And speaking of void, Starbuck and Apollo discover a huge magnetic one, one which appears to be shrouded in complete blackness, and so the logical thing to do is go into it!  Well, in fairness, they can’t go back to the asteroid and risk detection (even though they send Vipers back there to get “the source of the infection”), but the main impetus seems to be Adama’s curiosity about the whole thing, and in the mythological planet of Kobol in particular. So here’s to throwing caution to the wind, and anyone who bets that new fighter pilot and newlywed Serina won’t be killed is a fool.

Beginning of the series proper lets its hair down a bit, despite the continuation of draggy scenes with taking heads droning on, peppering their dialogue with “futuristic” words here and there. The prep for Apollo’s bachelor party is fun, with Ed Begley, Jr. nearly getting nailed for swiping booze from the officer’s club. Video game scenes of outer space dogfights is in abundant supply, just as it was in the pilot, but for a twist it’s mostly female pilots, doubtlessly giving it the feminist endorsement. A marked improvement, to be sure, but still lacking dramatic bite.

This show continues the role of Baltar, a human traitor now working for the Cylons, who calls the shots that a Cylon named Lucifer follows. (He was introduced in the pilot; his life was spared by a Cylon who realizes his strategic potential.)

An added observation that I didn’t get to in my longer than expected review of the pilot: one reason for the show’s feeling of inconsequence may be the lack of a strong villain. Of course, in Star Wars we get the looming overlord of abject evil – Darth Vader (again, a Star Wars comparison), and the good guys had something to do besides play chess and warn each other ominously. Here, the Cylons amount to just a lot of clanky hardware, with synthesized voices straight out of an early-80s rap song. 

Rating:  **1/2

Battlestar Galactica 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3: “Saga of a Star World”

Airdate: 9/17/78

Set sometime many years in the future, somewhere in the far reaches of outer space, our story begins as a federation of twelve human colonies prepares for a long-awaited peace negotiation with the dreaded Cylons, feckless bunch of synthesized-voiced chrome automatons who are clearly not to be trusted. Only Commander Adama senses a trap, so he defiantly puts his battlestar “Gaactica” on high alert: a move that winds up saving his colony from destruction, a fate met by all other colonies, but not his son Zac, who initiated the assault against the Cylons with Adama’s other son, Apollo. Rounding out the lead roles s Starbuck, a hotshot pilot and best friend of Apollo.

But Adama won’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet; his home planet of Caprica seems the Cylon’s new primary target. Retreating to save the defenseless planet, Galacta’s pilots realize they are too late, and all they are able to do is pick up the straggling survivors of a newly ruined world. Among those rescued are a beautiful woman (Jane Seymour) and her son, whose crippled dog is given new life by the Galactica crew as a robotic pet called a Daggit. Apollo develops romantic feelings for the woman, and the boy sees to want him for a father.

Galactica finds a temporary haven the planet Carillon, which is home to numerous mines of tylium, coveted for its use as fuel for fighters. But it’s also a decadent hive of gambling dens, populated by hedonists of all walks of life. Meantime a man named Sire Uri, head of the brand-new Council of Twelve, tries to get Adama and his boys to drop all their weapons to sue for a new peace treaty with the Cylons – to celebrate, he and his men should all attend a lavish banquet. Again, Adama is skeptical, so he orders his boys to ditch the party and put some other poor suckers in his fighters’ uniforms so they will be the Cylon’s targets instead.

But what about Carillon? It turns out to be a planet of man-eating insect monsters who mine the fuel for the Cylons who let them keep their freedom (those Cylons know how to bargain!). Apollo and Starbuck plan to destroy the gambling planet just as the Cylon battlestar is nearby – so all get blown to smithereens, except a few remaining Cylons, along with their “Imperious Leader,” who will continue to chase the Battlestar Galactica as it continues to search for that “twelfth human colony”: Earth.

The gargantuan, triple-sized series premiere of Battlestar Galactica aired onABC in September of 1978, and after it was two-thirds over it was infamously interrupted by the announcement that President Carter had arranged the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel. (This was back when they did such a thing, as major news stories once were deemed more important than television entertainment.) Galactica fans need not have worried: they pre-empted the show and ran the conclusion in its entirety. (Did perhaps anyone notice the ironic juxtaposition of peace in the Middle East with warfare in outer space?) This shouldn’t be a surprise considering the huge bucks shelled out on this behemoth and the eager word of mouth leading up to it. I’m surprised they didn’t rebroadcast it the next day without interruption.

The good news: the money (all 3 million of it) is evident on the screen. This is a handsomely mounted production, and it has a feature-quality look to it (it was, in fact, released theatrically). This is due in no small part to the participation of John Dykstra as producer – he was the visual effects supervisor on Star Wars . Considering this is TV and doubtlessly had a much smaller budget than Lucas’s masterwork, it looks pretty good, with some shots experimenting with hazy filters and lower light levels and others clear and colorful. And bravo to Stu Phillips for composing a score that has become a minor classic, even if many (myself included) associate it with Airplane II.

But Dykstra’s involvement is not where similarities between this and Star Wars stop. Twentieth Century Fox, in fact, sued Universal for copyright infringement, citing 34 purloined concepts (the trial was later dismissed). It’s hard to argue against their case – despite Glenn Larson’s claim that he had this idea for over 10 years, it’s evident that the final product rips off Star Wars pretty blatantly – and shamelessly. Clean cut Apollo bears more than a fleeting resemblance to Luke Skywalker, while “average” flyboy Starbuck could easily be Han Solo. The wanton destruction of Adama’s home planet echoes Darth’s doing in of Alderran, and the gambling planet section plays like an extended version of the cantina scene. The Vipers and X-Wings are early identical, the Cylons are just metallic Stormtroopers, and the climactic race to destroy the Cylon’s “space station” is a veiled approximation of Wars classic finale. Well, at least there’s no cute robots, unless you count the fuzzy Daggit (I won’t).

There’s more, but I’ll stop. You get the point. Yet all this thievery could easily be overlooked if the whole thing was more – fun. My childhood reasons for not subscribing to its fandom are the same for my lukewarm review of it now: it’s kinda boring. After a dynamite first hour, things start to slow down. Once the Battlestar gets to Carillon, we get a whole mess of inconsequential developments, including a silly love triangle with Starbuck and a comely blonde and sexy brunette (well, it is 70s TV, I suppose). Worse than that, long – loooong – stretches of static scenes where characters spout technobabble at each other. Scenes are confusingly edited, too, so that keeping track of the plot requires nothing short of a slide rule (thank God for the DVD’s synopsis). And worse yet, I didn’t really care. In syndication, the epic is chopped into three single-length parts, and I’m sure it would work better that way given the lack of plot cohesion.

Through it all, I just kept thinking of Star Wars – the one thing they couldn’t steal from that “space opera” was its heart and soul. In 1977, George Lucas crafted a fantasy film (exactly when the country needed a fantasy film), but with an emphasis on character realism – yes, the setting was a galaxy far, far away, but these guys were fleshed out as thoroughly as those from his previous film, American Graffiti (Harrison Ford as Han Solo pilots his spacecraft with the same everyman bravado as he did as Bob in Graffiti). How ironic is it that the film that pretty much ushered in the blockbuster age could pass for art house film by today’s standards!

Evidently, TV audiences were not as discriminating. The show pulled in impressive ratings for its first month – until CBS moved juggernaut All in the Family opposite and beat the living asteroids out of it. My theory on its success, besides the fact there were only three networks to choose from back then, also has to do with time and place. Devout Star Wars fans, still hungry for space action and still several years away from home video, could tune in to Battlestar every week to get their fill. And on that count, it does deliver. I’ll keep blogging to see if it gets any better, but for now, my rating is:

Star rating: **  (out of four)

Wow – I just finished watching short interview with Galactica creator Glenn Larson on the DVD, and it explains a lot, namely the show’s general incoherency. He’s like Joesph Campbell on acid, blathering on about ancient civilizations and religions and prophecies with nary a lucid explanation for any of it. I guess the universe he created makes sense in his mind; for the rest of us, it’s pretty rough going.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Next Up...

Battlestar Galactica first hit the ABC airwaves back in 1978 for one reason and one reason only: Star Wars.

For a couple of years after the massive (and somewhat surprise) success of Star Wars in 1977, all of Hollywood turned their cameras skyward and decided that outer space was the best way to replicate Wars’ box office take. Creator George Lucas kept all proprietary licensing rights close to the vest – so we started seeing a plethora of film and TV offerings not just set in space but also featuring, sometimes none-too-subtly, aspects of Star Wars (albeit in different forms): cute robots, a looming, dark overlord for a villain, a clean-cut hero balanced by a renegade cynic, and as many realistic-looking spaceships as the budget would allow.

And so Galactica became the first major work of this ilk, and was a huge gamble for the network (given its unheard-of budget, especially for TV). Creator Glenn Larson was the driving force behind all of it – his conception began in the late 60s but after Star Wars he dusted it off and pedaled it around to interested parties. ABC bit, and Larson was hoping to give them a series of two-hour TV movies, beginning with the three-our pilot, Saga of a Star World, which had already been released, in an edited form, theatrically in Canada (and would later be in the U.S.). ABC instead opted for a standard season of one-hour episodes, but compromised somewhat by allowing five episodes to be two-hours in length.

The buildup to the series premiere, on September 17th, 1978, was unprecedented. So was allocating 3 hours of prime network airtime, on the biggest ratings night of the week – Sunday, to a relatively untested property. But one must not underestimate the holy grail of space opera that everyone was chasing at the time. ABC was clearly the first out of the gate on this count; in addition to Battlestar they also had Mork and Mindy and Quark going on Thursdays. (It took NBC another year for their return volley, Buck Rogers.)

So did the gamble pay off? All depends on whom you ask. After the first few episodes aired, CBS moved its juggernaut, All in the Family, to 8:00 on Sunday, directly opposite Battlestar, effectively crushing it to dust. And given the show’s humungous budget, the decision by network execs to cancel it was an easy one; it would move Mork and Mindy to Battlestar’s timeslot the following season in an attempt to dethrone Archie Bunker in his new show, Archie Bunker’s Place (it didn’t work; America’s favorite Orkan was forced to return to his Thursday night home with his tail between his legs).

But the show had a fervent following. Like Star Wars, it merchandised itscharacters out for everything from trading cards to action figures, clearly targeting a young male demographic hic for its audience, who stood by the show in a massive letter-writing campaign. ABC reconsidered it decision by enlisting Larson and Donald Bellisario (creator of Magnum P.I., Quantum Leap, Airwolf) to create a spin off/continuation of the series for the next season. Galactica 1980 picked up five years after the original series, with a few of the same characters – and promptly flopped after only ten episodes. Even Lorne Greene couldn’t survive this one; his career never fully recovered.

But like its TV antecedent Star Trek, Battlestar has refused to die; in the years since it cancellation it has been studied, analyzed – and celebrated – at comic conventions and sci-fi gatherings all over the world. (Its stigma as a Star Wars copycat has all but vanished, probably since such cannibalization is so rampant today it barely gets a second look.) Inevitably, in 2003 the concept was resurrected for a Battlestar Galactica miniseries for the Sci-Fi channel. With far less pressure to perform on a niche cable channel, it did spectacularly, and was promptly commissioned as a TV series, which lasted for four years. Additional, it a attained a viral presence when a spin off series was created for the Internet – and now it has become a franchise. Hardly surprising given that its detailed matrix is tailor-made for wired 21st century sci-fi buffs.

That’s probably why I wasn’t a fan back in 1978. The show was pretty boring to me; it lacked the operatic qualities of George Lucas’ universe – the gee-whiz, wide-eyed innocence of Luke Skywalker, the edgy but identifiable cynicism of Han Solo - and of course, the special effects. Perhaps Battlestar was too mannered, too cerebral for me, I don’t know, but that’s precisely what I intend to find out. The Rocket’s next blog will be Battlestar Galatica and Galactica 1980. Same format, same concept, with the only difference being that this time I will give a star rating to each episode, and then a final rating for the whole series. I’ll see how the show looks now through 44-year-old eyes, in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

About my rating system – the four-star scale is simply the format I’m most comfortable with -  I grew up with the local paper’s TV guide using such a system for movies. And it’s best, too; any more stars and it’s meaningless. The review itself will qualify my opinion, and explain, for example, how one show might get a higher three-star ranking and another a lower one. Like Roger Ebert once said about his thumbs-up/down system, it’s merely a “theatrical device.”

So here we go, beginning with that behemoth pilot episode (the television version, that is – the theatrical version will get its own review when it aired later). I’m using the Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Epic Series box set, and if I have time I’ll even review the extras. It’s only one season, so we’re probably looking at a month or so. If you’re ready, let’s go….

The Rocket is revving up – to take you back to 1978!!!

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