Battlestar Galactica

1978-1979, Glen A. Larson Productions et al

When Universal Television execs saw the first footage of a proposed miniseries, they immediately changed it to a running series instead. With John Dykstra (of Lucas' ILM) doing the effects, the series bore obvious parallels with Star Wars, and lawsuits between Fox and Universal started flying. As a sprawling space soap opera, Battlestar is endearingly bad—some older folk will sheepishly confess they still kinda like it. Glen Larson's ambitions far exceeded the show's ability to deliver, even with a $1 million budget per episode (a record-breaker for its day), often devolving into cheesy nonsense. There was a distinct stylistic tug-of-war going on between Dykstra and Larson; glimpses of originality (such as a sequence shot on infra-red film) contrasted with cringe-worthy pew-pew-pew ray-gun battles between our heroes and the clunky chrome Cylons. Similarly, the special effects—considered groundbreaking at the time—varied wildly from still-pretty-decent to laughably lame. Led by stiff-lipped patriarch Lorne Greene, the ensemble cast is unimpressive, although Richard Hatch somehow manages to make the nonsense he utters sound earnest. Initial positive ratings plummeted in the second season, and the show was cancelled.

"Launch when ready."

   

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Galactica 1980

1980, Glen A. Larson Productions et al

The cancellation of Battlestar Galactica resulted in a massive letter-writing campaign, which led ABC to re-evaluate their decision. But the follow-up series, which was completely retooled and downsized to reduce production cost, was so godawful that it lasted all of ten episodes (it was cancelled during production of the eleventh episode). Due to scheduling conflicts and second thoughts, most of the original cast did not sign on; only Lorne Greene remained, accompanied by newcomer Kent McCord, although Dirk Benedict made a guest appearance as Starbuck in the final episode—wherein he's riding a motorcycle, and the trailer on which the bike was mounted is clearly visible in the frame! Yeesh.

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Battlestar Galactica

2003, David Eick Productions et al

Richard Hatch, the original series' Apollo, became somewhat obsessed with reviving Galactica, to no avail. Finally, Universal decided to reboot the property as a miniseries, tapping Ronald D. Moore (renowned for having successfully breathed life back into Star Trek) to produce. Substantially reimaged, the new program featured some heavyweight talent, most notably Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner) and Mary McDonnell (Dances with Wolves).

Although aspects of the show were significantly retooled (including the gender reassignment of some key characters—to the show's benefit), the new Galactica retained a few iconic elements from the original series, such as the Viper fighter ships, as a Valentine for closet fans of the original. Not all of the changes worked, however; the new humanoid Cylons, while providing opportunities for some dramatic plot twists, seemed like a cop-out. Regardless, the show was exceptionally well-produced, immensely popular, and served as a three-hour pilot for a new series. I only wish they'd held the bloody camera still! Yeah, I know, it's a "style" meant to give it more of a "you are there" documentary feeling—and I hate it (see Firefly and Stargate Universe for how to do this right). Pretty sad when you need Dramamine to enjoy a program.

       

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Battlestar Galactica

2004-2009, David Eick Productions et al

Despite frustratingly inconsistent scheduling, Galactica became Sci-Fi Channel's most popular show, winning 33 awards (including four Emmys) during its five-year run. Writing, performance and effects were all outstanding, although the stories did begin to get a bit far-fetched toward the final season. On the other hand, some of the scenes in the final episode were heartbreaking. Richard Hatch guest-starred in a few episodes, and Bear McCreary provided an awesome, memorable score. That spastic camerawork still spoiled things, although it did settle down a little as the series progressed.

       

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Battlestar Galactica: Razor

2007, Universal Cable Productions et al

One of two stand-alone telefilms in the Battlestar universe, the 81-minute Razor was a critical hit. In order to appreciate it, however, one must be well-versed in the series' lore. It also suffers for having too many flashbacks and temporal shifts. But it has solid performances and the production quality as befitting the rebooted franchise.

     

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Battlestar Galactica: The Plan

2009, Universal Cable Productions et al

The origin story of the Cylons and their conflict with the Colonists is explored in this 112-minute telefilm that looks and feels like an extended episode. Since it targets series' fans, it requires familiarity with the rebooted franchise. But for this aficionado, it's ultimately not very satisfying, bearing the faint whiff of a money-grab.

   

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Caprica

2010, Universal Cable Productions et al

While Caprica is a spin-off of Battlestar Galactica, it bears none of its look or characters. Wishing to avoid the potential pitfalls of recycling a formula, producer Ronald D. Moore was adamant about having a totally different look and feel, and he certainly achieved that. Whereas its parent series is a space opera, its offspring is a science fiction drama, focusing on the struggles of two powerful families on one of the Twelve Colonies, some decades before the Cylon wars. But while occasionally interesting, Caprica did not have the gripping, visceral quality of Galactica, and was cancelled after only one season owing to low ratings.

 

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Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome

2012, Universal Cable Productions et al

This two-hour one-off, originally released online as ten 12-minute shorts, depicts some of the adventures of William Adama as a young pilot in a time between Caprica and the rebooted Battlestar. Shot using digital recreations of the parent series' sets, which had by then been dismantled, Blood & Chrome is not an especially memorable member of the franchise.

   

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