Friday, July 25, 2014

Galactica 1980 1.1: “Galactica Discovers Earth, Part 1”

Airdate: 1/27/80

The new cast
Following the cancellation of Galactica, hordes of sci-fi fans did what they do when they get pissed off: they wrote letters. A massive epistolary campaign convinced ABC that perhaps the show deserved another shot – so Glenn Larson was again brought on board to hammer out the further adventures of Adama and company. One caviat – the budget had to be slashed – not so easy for a sci-fi series, so Larson tried to retool ratger than resurrect the show. The new Glactica would feature only Adama, Boomer, Starbuck, Apollo and Baltar, who would again play the heavy, this time as a time-travelling gremlin whose intent - to speed up earth’s technology retroactively so as to offer a greater defense against the Cylons – backfires horribly.

ABC greenlit a pilot based on this concept, but neither Richard Hatch nor Dirk Benedict could return to reprise their roles. So the producers decided to set the show 30 years after the original took place, in 1980, with Boxey now a grown man called Troy (Apollo) and a new, more freewheeling guy named Lt. Dillon filling Starbuck’s shoes. Someone caught the temporal flaw in the time frame, however: 30 years plus means that the moon landing transmission at the end of the Galactica’s last episode precluded the modern-day from being 1980, so that was nixed.

Once filming got underway, the network wasn’t so crazy about all this time-travel tomfoolery, so again the writers scrambled to devise a plot that featured Galactica characters on earth, doing things that weren’t too expensive. The pilot that aired was actually shown in three parts simply called “Galactica 1980” (retroactively titled “Galactica discovers Earth”). Shown at 7:00 on Sunday nights, it was only up against the #1 rated show of that entire season, 60 Minutes. This time, the series took an even greater drubbing than its predecessor – evidently, even the letter-writers weren’t tuning in – and it was put out of its misery after only 10 episodes.

But it’s my self-appointed duty to review shows like this for you, so here’s my appraisal of Galactica 1980, beginning with the aforementioned pilot.

Finally! The Galactica reaches earth and Adama is curiously underwhelmed –perhaps he wonders why his entire crew is gone, different or aged ten years. Nah, it’s actually because he may have lured Cylons to their destination, where, based on their receipt of its transmissions, the technology is so primitive they couldn’t possibly withstand an attack from Adama’s sworn enemies. Pompous adolescent Dr. X (who looks like he could be Paul Williams’s son) proposes that they send stealth scouts to the planet and find institutes of learning where they could accelerate the knowledge base. 

Two fighter pilots, Troy (Boxey) and Lt. Dillon are sent to North America to Pacific Tech, but their intrusion over American skies is greeted with warplane fire that nearly ends their mission before it’s begun. But using their gadgets, like flying motorcycles and invisibility potions, they overcome getting locked up, chased by a news crew, and a general unfamiliarity with LA culture circa 1980 to reach their destination – Dr. Mortinson. He is elated when he sees what they did with his formula, but he has to find them first. Mistaken for anti-nuke protesters, they were taken to jail, so he tracks down an aspiring female news anchor named Jamie to locate them. Better hurry, guys, your stealth mission ain’t quite so stealth anymore now that a kid has discovered your viper plane.

As I’m watching this show I’m wondering if this at all satisfied the letter writers crying for the return of the original series. Most likely not, as the tone of this one is far different from its predecessor. It’s far broader, for one thing, and sillier too, forecasting the more whimsical, fanciful sci-fi of the early-80s typified by such fare as The Greatest American Hero and Voyagers! The two new leads, apart from reminding me of the two replacements for Bo and Luke Duke during that one season of The Dukes of Hazzard, don’t at all seem like professional military pilots to me. They play more like standard fish-out-of-water characters, puzzlingly looking about at all the “primitive” tools and devices around them.

But this is not to say it’s bad – I actually found it to be quite fun, something that was missing quite frequently from the original Galactica. It’s fun not only to ride along with the spacemen and their slapadoodle antics but also to see the 1980 culture from a 2014 POV. And I could be wrong but it seems like Jamie (the female reporter) looks a heckofa lot like Mindy from Mork and Mindy – perhaps she’ll fall in love with one o the guys and rip off another series. Who knows, and who cares – I’m along for the ride.

Rating:  ***

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