Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Last Word: “Battlestar Galactica”

I’m not going to be too long-winded here: if you’ve been following this blog you already know my general feelings about the series. The series pilot, “Saga of a Star World” just sort of set a negative tone that took half the season to recover from, and by that time most everyone had tuned out (excepting the show’s letter-writing fan base). Add to that clinky-clunky Cylon villains about as formidable as wind-up toy robots, repetitive video-game-style scenes of outer space dogfights between ships, and plotlines recycled from Westerns. war movies and abstract mythology and you get a major disappointment. Only toward the end of the season do we get some relief from this snooze-fast, when more personalized, character-based stories started to emerge.

But my **1/2 star rating (out of four) also includes Galactica 1980, which was a surprise delight for me, thanks primarily to the more simplified, down-to-Earth (pun intended) storylines and campy, whether intentional or not, tone. Two alien dudes, sans any kind of personality and not even trying, travelling via flying motorcycles and turning invisible whenever the need be, are infinitely more entertaining than miles and miles of technospeak and contrived visits to Earth-like planets while trying to get to Earth itself. Averaged out, the rating for both series, along with the pilot as theatrical release, is, as I mentioned, **1/2 stars: not terribly shabby methinks. Of course, it maintained such a cult following for so long after that they rebooted the show in 2004 for the Sci-Fi channel. That, I can assure you, will never get the honor of my keystrokes as I never recognized the turn of the millennium. At least on this blog.

Series Rating:  **1/2

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Galactica 1980 1.10: “The Return of Starbuck”

Airdate: 5/4/80

Dr. Zee, the teenage whiz-kid of the Galactica, tells Adama about his recurring dream, which frames the episode’s following story. During the timeframe of the original series, Starbuck, while on patrol with Boomer, crash lands on a desert planet with a damaged Cylon warrior. Fraught with so much loneliness he actually fixes the Centurion just to have a companion, he soon befriends his would-be enemy, whom he teaches the ways of human behavior. In return “Cy” returns with a female, a pregnant woman named Angela, the self-proclaimed matriarch of a new society. Constantly querying Starbuck of where he’ll be at the time of judgment, he picks up on her inference that he ought to be the spiritual father of her child and may have to sacrifice himself for departure for a new life elsewhere. All this does indeed come o pass (Starbuck ostensibly left to die at the hands of invading Cylons, despite Cy’s last-minute, sacrificial act of heroism), and we finally learn that Dr. Zee has these dreams because he is, in fact, the baby, and Starbuck his “father.”

Series finale feels more like an episode of the original Galactica; I’m guessing writer/producer Glenn Larson figured he’d use the hour of TV time to do the finale that never really happened, at least in terms of Starbuck’s story. It’s not terrible – it actually is nice to see Dirk Benedict reprise his role one last time, and with no one else around to steal his airtime at that. But it sure is an oddball episode, beginning as a variation on the WWII classic Hell in the Pacific, and ending a little too hippy-dippy for my taste (I mean, what is really up with the Angel-a character anyway?).

Well, anyways, that’s the ball game, folks. Series assessment next. This one gets a…

Rating:  ***

Oh, I never mentioned this before, but I have to make this observation: why do three Cylons need to pilot their fighters? I know they’re not people, but it sure must be awfully expensive to replace those two extras when a ship goes down. Okay, maybe there needs to be a co-pilot, but what the hell is that guy in the back doing?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Galactica 1980 1.9: “Space Croppers”

Airdate: 4/27/80

The Cylons destroy the Galactica’s agricultural facility, leading Adama to send Troy and Dillon to earth (again), to begin a farming colony there. They choose land farmed by a Hispanic man named Hector, who’s fighting an uphill battle against a rich, racist land baron who controls the local water supply, and none too fairly you might say. With the help of Galactica’s rain-making abilities, and a group of special scouts, they save the day for Hector. The growers association votes to eliminate all those damned dams, the Galactican colony finds a good home on earth, and Hector’s eldest daughter even gets the hots for Dillon!

Essentially the final episode featuring the series’ regulars, it’s a fun-filled outing that sort of feels more anthological – not unlike Universal’s other sci-fi show, The Incredible Hulk. You could quibble about the show’s flaws (the method they use to make it rain is way overxplained), but it’s hard to dislike something that so has its heart in the right place. Plus extra points for that scout work song the kids sing while planting the fields. And seeing hottie Jamie in those overalls.

BTW, is it me or is it increasingly hard to believe the Cylons still don’t know where earth is, given the almost continuous back-and-forth travelling between it and the Galactica?  And I’m starting to think that Lorne Greene filmed all off his scenes for the series on a soundstage somewhere in one afternoon.

Rating:  ***

Friday, August 8, 2014

Galactica 1980 1.8: “The Night the Cylons Landed, Part 2”

Airdate: 4/20/80

Andromus, the world’s worst party crasher, is still hell-bent on getting to thattransmitter, and his nerves are so frazzled he blasts a microwave oven when its radio waves incapacitate his Cylon companion. Troy and Dillon have to deal with the usual NYC hazards, including Central Park muggers (this was the early 80s after all), in order to thwart their nemeses’ fiendish plans, and it all comes to a head atop a radio tower, where even Wolfman Jack gets into the act.

Two-parter’s conclusion is still fitfully campy, abetted by camp actors Lara Parker (Dark Shadows) and Wolfman Jack, who would be the totally awesome subject of a Halloween-themed TV and movie marathon (check out his IMDB; he’s done more than you think). Race to the finish is actually pretty thrilling, but just what is it with all those disclaimers at the end, telling us the government stopped investigating U.F.O.’s in 1969?

Rating:  ***

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Galactica 1980 1.7: “The Night the Cylons Landed, Part 1”

Airdate: 4/13/80

A Viper patrol strikes and cripples a Cylon ship, where it plummets to earth, about 60 miles north of NYC. Troy and Dillon, believing it to be the Viper, fly cross country from LA, thrawting a hijacking the the process but arousing suspicion of their identities when they land. They just miss the Cylons, who are led by an evil-intentioned human named Andromus, whose devious plan is to find a powerful transmitter with which he can signal back to the Cylons his wherabouts and begin the invasion of earth. Just his luck – they are picked up by some Halloween revelers on their way to a party hosted by the general manager of a radio station. Troy and Dillon are in hot pursuit, but they themselves are pursued by the FBI, Air Force and state police.

Fun opener of a two-parter finally gets the Cylons back in the game, and the show’s tongue-in-cheek tone, of course, arranges it to be Halloween for their would-be dramatic entrance. Odd that the main Cylon villain, Andromus, is another rogue human; don’t these tin men have baddies of their own kind? It’s definitely a hoot, though, to notice how just about everything that happens during Troy and Dillon’s cross-country flight segment would be impossible or improbable in today’s post 9-11 era. Equally is seeing Lara Parker as Vampira in the show’s last scene, anlong with William Daniels as a clown, whose given the show’s best lines of dialogue.

Rating:  ***

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Galactica 1980 1.6: “Spaceball”

Airdate: 3/30/80

The Galactica kids are still “scouts” on earth, but now Xavier has come back from his time travelling excursions to wreak havoc on the present day. For starters, he maroons Troy and Dillon in outer space with a defective Viper, and now he has landed on earth, planning to hold the kids hostage as a bargaining chip for his freedom. The kids have are a bit busy these days; at a baseball camp, under Jamie’s direction, they face off against a rival team, but cannot use their superpowers lest they are discovered as aliens by a Air Force Colonel Sydell (from the previous episode). But Jamie realizes their victory would cause enough media attention to thwart Sydell’s exposure, along with Xavier’s treachery – and she winds up being right. Troy and Dillon repair their ship and land just in time to tie up the loose ends, but Xavier gets away, able to return again to be the series’ recurring villain.

A truly weird episode, even by Galactica standards. Premise #2 is official now (as per the post-opening narration by Adama): the kids will stay on earth as Troy and Dillon just sort of hang around in outer space, making sure they are well cared for on their new planet. Small wonder it got canned after ten shows; viewers were no doubt confused by this point – as was Richard Hatch, as it was the reason he gave for not retuning. And the plot of this episode in particular seems influenced by sources as varied as The Bad News Bears and Marooned, with the lack of cohesion you’d predict. Robyn Douglass is still pretty damned easy on the eyes, though.

Rating:  **

Monday, August 4, 2014

Galactica 1980 1.5: “The Super Scouts, Part 2”

Airdate: 3/23/80

With the feds in hot pursuit, Troy and Dillon try as best they can to keep the scouts under cover, but with three of them gravely ill from toxic consumption, that’s a pretty tall order. The doctor under whose care they are placed is quite suspicious, especially after he detects that the kids have no identifiable blood cells, but he is also quite sympathetic, and helps the aliens in their quest to blow the whistle on the chemical plant owner’s corrupt and deadly dealings. Dr. Zee, meanwhile, hears Dillon’s distress call and flies to earth on a huge “mother ship” to nurse the children, who are still technically alive, back to good health, but with the Cylons still at large the safest place for them is still earth, provided they aren’t trolling around contaminated reservoirs anytime soon.

Pretty good conclusion keeps the environmental message intact. Good supporting performances by the doctor – a dead ringer for David Naughton – and the nurse – a dead ringer for a young Bonnie Hunt (it’s actually Carlene Watkins, who would go on to star in one of my favorite underrated sitcoms, Best of the West). Some silly stuff, particularly near the beginning (e.g. the invisible kids steal the cop cars), reminded me a little too much of a late70s live action Disney film. And while we’re at it, the big “mother ship” landing toward the end is pretty obviously inspired by a particular Steven Spielberg film that was then red-hot. But I still like the tone of campy fun that pervades throughout this show. Still a real hoot.

Rating:  ***

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