By the Lords of Kobol—Battlestar Galactica (Classic)

Battlestar Galactica (Classic)

Original Aired: 1978-1980
(Two Seasons)
Available on: Tubi

“There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe,  with tribes of humans 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.” – “Saga of a Star World”

Thanks to the movie Star Wars my attention in the late 70s was hyper-focused on space dramas. Anything with space battles and laser guns caught my eye. It is no surprise that the television show Battlestar Galactica became my favorite show at the time. Even after it left the airwaves, it still held a special place in my heart. I purchase the whole series on VHS. Sadly I no longer have a functioning VHS player, but thanks to tubi, an internet video streaming service, I can watch it all again for free.

Left to right: Captain Apollo (Richard Hatch), Commander Adama (Lorne Greene), Lieutenant Starbuck (Dirk Benedict)

Battlestar Galactica premiered in September of 1978 with an exciting 148-minute pilot episode. Its opening theme music was reminiscent of Star Wars—a grand orchestral introduction. In the pilot episode, the Twelve Colonies of Mankind were on the brink of peace—ending a thousand-year war with a group of warrior robots knowns as the Cylons. Unknown to the Twelve Colonies of Mankind, the Cylons had no intention of peace. Instead, they used this rouse to make their final attack on the colonies to eradicate the human race once and for all. If it were not for one Battlestar, the Gallactica, all of humanity would have been lost. Seeing through the Cylon’s deception, they made a valiant effort to save the colonies. Unfortunately, their effort came too late, and the Twelve Colonies of Mankind were left unprotected. A handful of humans survived the initial attacks, but the Cylons were not finished. Only when the total eradication of all humans was complete would they stop their conquest. With their homes destroyed and certain death if they stay the commander of the Galactica, Commander Adama, played by Lorne Greene, sent forth a message to all survivors to board any space-worthy ship and join in his “rag-tag fugitive fleet.” As many as could, crammed aboard 220 ships to join the Battlestar Galactica on their journey in search of the legendary thirteenth colony known as Earth.

The pilot episode set the stage for the further episodes to follow. A total of 24 episodes aired before the show was canceled a year later. The episodes that followed at first featured the Cylons as the main adversary as they continually chased the fleet out of their territory. Later, once far enough away, the protagonists against the fleeing refugees varied to local authoritative and god-like beings. A lot of the episodes could be considered hoaky, and they were. Some reminded me of old Star Trek episodes where Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy would arrive on a themed planet, i.e., gangster, western, etc., which was done to reduce the show’s production costs. At the time, Battlestar Galactica was the most expensive television program produced. The show’s rating slipped, and its high cost was its downfall.

The day the show was canceled was a sad day for my younger self. It was my favorite show at the time. Somewhere on cassette tape, you can hear me in hysterics when I forgot an episode of Battlestar Galactica was airing. In my defense, back then, a show played once, and if you missed it, you missed it. There were no video recording devices in my household or reruns of the show at the time. You could imagine how excited I must have felt when Galactica 1980 premiered.

Galactica 1980 came about after an outcry from fans following the cancelation of Battlestar Galactica. The show renewed with the fleet reaching Earth 30 years later. Most of the original cast did not return, and the stories were unrelentingly terrible. The show premiered with an extra-long pilot like the original, and the show only lasted ten episodes before being canceled. Out of the lot, only one episode, the final one, possesses any redeeming qualities, “The Return of Starbuck.

The Return of Starbuck” portrayed my favorite character, Colonial Warrior and Viper Pilot, Starbuck, played by Dirk Benedict. Starbuck was a cocky flyboy who loved to gamble and make it with the ladies. He was suave and charming. In the final episode Starbuck Viper, his sleek combat spacecraft, was damaged by a Cylon fighter and forced to crash land on a deserted planet—getting left behind the ever-in-motion fleeing fleet. In the episodes, we learn of his final days on the planet—a sad ending to his character.

Tubi has crammed Battlestar Galactica and Galactica 1980 into Battlestar Galactica (Classic). Galactica 1980 is listed as the second season. Note the three-part pilot makes up the last three episodes of the second season. A fact that may not be a factor as I strongly suggested that you avoid it and never, ever dive into that cesspool of television trash.

Battlestar Galactica not only touched my heart but also taught me some new vocabulary words or substitutions for words. Throughout the series, the characters would substitute words like units of time with their own lingo. Minutes became a centon, hours were a centar, and frack, even though it was a made-up word for a profanity, still got your mouth washed out with soap in my household.

Since Battlestar Galactica and Galactia 1980 aired, other incarnations of the show retold the tale. Most notable is the 2004 remake of Battlestar Galactica that ran for several seasons—also available on tubi. I must admit I have never watched the remake. I wasn’t under a rock at the time. My reasoning is purely self-centered and immature, which I hope to remedy in the future. For me, it’s a hard pill to swallow—giving in to another person’s interpretation of a piece of work you have fond memories of. The new version was highly acclaimed, earning itself a spin-off show Caprica and a roleplaying game.

Muffit the daggit played by Evolution the chimpanzee.

Honestly, watching episodes of my favorite show from my childhood doesn’t hold up to the esteem I once gave it. The show’s stories and acting weren’t that great. The character of Boxy, the adopted child of the main character Apollo was annoying—always getting into trouble and getting bailed out. Costuming was hit or miss—cheezy Egyptian-themed Viper helmets the pilots would wear. Though in contrast, I still think the Viper Pilot’s jackets are the coolest ever. I’ve encountered one replica jacket worn by an individual at a gaming convention. If it were the right size, I would have emptied my wallet to own it. My love for the show aside, it’s great that these shows are available again and for free. Take a step back into time and watch a few episodes and know the characters of the mechanical daggit, their version of a dog, is played by a chimpanzee—only in the 70s.

~Stephen Pennisi

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m in the reverse situation. I’ve seen the 2004- “new” BSG, but barely remember the original BSG. I’ve been afraid all these years to watch the classic BSG, as it’ll surely let me down.

    New BSG is excellent, if imperfect. It has almost nothing to do with the original, just a few faint echoes and some shared proper nouns. Great characters and a compelling story. Ranks right up there with Babylon 5 and The Expanse as the best sci-fi on television.


    Liked by 3 people

    1. scifimike70 says:

      The BSG reboot gave me the best appreciation at the time for how far a sci-fi reboot could go with refreshing an original series concept. Edward James Olmos as Adama was remarkably different from the role that Lorne Greene originated and that opened my mind on the spot.

      Liked by 1 person

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