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Galactica 1980 was first broadcast on the ABC Television Network in the United States from January 27, 1980, with its final episode first airing on May 4, 1980. Running for only 10 episodes, it was poorly received by both critics and viewers.
The series first aired in Sunday's 7:00 PM time slot, during what was known as the "family hour", targeting the show's audience primarily for children.
Set a generation after the Original Series, battlestar Galactica and its Fleet of 220 civilian ships finally discover Earth but find that the planet is technologically backward in relation to Colonial technology. As a result, Earth couldn't defend itself against the Cylons as originally expected. Therefore, teams of Colonial Warriors are covertly sent to the planet to work incognito with various members of the scientific community, hoping to quickly advance Earth's technology.
The promotional material for Galactica 1980 sets the series at thirty years after the events of the Original Series.
Commander Adama and Colonel Boomer—now second-in-command in place of Colonel Tigh—send Captain "Boxey" Troy, the adopted son of Adama's own son Apollo, and Lt. Dillon to North America. The two become entangled with TV journalist Jamie Hamilton who aids them in devising ways to help Earth's scientists and outwit the handful of Cylons that discover the planet.
Greene (Adama) and Jefferson (Boomer) were the only major cast members of the Original Series to reprise their roles in the ten episodes, with Dirk Benedict reprising his role as Starbuck in the last episode.
Galactica 1980 had a promising start in its ratings with a three-hour adventure that saw Troy, Dillon and Hamilton sent back in time to Nazi Germany to save the future, but the series could not sustain this momentum. The series was unceremoniously canceled after only ten episodes, many of which were multi-part stories, or what would be referred to now as story arcs.
The final episode, "The Return of Starbuck," aired on May 4th, 1980. The episode featured the return of Dirk Benedict as Lt. Starbuck in a flashback episode. The episode's popularity was too late to save the series. Repeats were aired through August 17th; the series was replaced by repeats of Fantasy Island the following week.
In the fall of 1979, ABC Television approached Glen A. Larson and Universal to bring back the Galactica series. According to 1980 story editor Chris Bunch, neither Larson nor Universal wanted to do the series at all. Bunch claims that both parties were threatened to do the series for reasons which were not known to him, and attributes the reason that Larson agreed to do the series to "[whore] for the money with a bad attitude". This is also corroborated by Bunch's then-writing partner, Allan Cole.
All the parties agreed that the discovery of Earth would be a suitable vehicle for drawing back viewers. However, many of the actors had moved on to other roles, most of the sets had been struck, and the time available for completing the production before the proposed January 1980 airdate was short. Actors and production personnel who worked on Galactica 1980 describe a crazy shooting schedule that involved working on multiple episodes at the same time, last minute re-writes, and working days that extended well into the night.
Bunch notes that both he and Cole were "literally blackmailed into the gig because of ostensible expertise in SF". They (including Robert L. McCullough) were story editors for the series, and would chant "Come on, 13" every morning. "13" was the ratings number that, should 1980 ever hit or go below it, would result in the series' cancellation.
Larson wrote or rewrote the entire series' worth of episodes from either Hawaii or Malibu. Further episode rewrites happened on the sets just prior to shooting. Additionally, there was no clearly defined purpose to the show prior to development, as the purpose of the show changed on a daily basis. Additionally, new characters were created for the series, and then subsequently dropped as though they never existed.
As a result of having crews work overtime, the budget for the series continued to creep up in cost. That, in conjunction with ratings that went from historic highs with the first episode down to a dismal showing by April, spelled the early end of the program.
Despite what Cole calls "revisionism" from people, such as lead actor Kent McCord -- who claimed that they needed a way to "economize" Battlestar Galactica, ergo 1980 -- ABC "knew very well that Glen [Larson] never met a budget that he didn't hate".
The series itself cost between $1.2 and 1.5 million to produce per episode; the $1.5 million number is the budget that "The Super Scouts, Part I" used. As ABC only paid $600,000 to $700,000 per episode, Universal was left to pay the remainder for each hour of programming.
Additionally, Cole notes that "there were almost as many producers listed on the show as secretaries. I mean, every day we'd be introduced to another guy who had just joined the staff as a new producer. I don't know what any of them did -- we rarely saw them again -- but they sure were collecting the bucks." He adds that this was Universal's decision as they "figured [that] if they were going to eat the big green slime anyway, they might as well take care of some obligations and dump all their losses into one (overflowing) bucket." This constant overflow of personnel to the series did nothing to alleviate the budget issues.
"Kiddie Hour", Standards and Practices, and "kids crawling out of your ears"
This timeslot was deemed by Standards and Practices as children-friendly, and thus had restrictions as to the type of stories that could be told, or how they could be told.
The content of shows airing in this timeslot needed to be educational, and thus the Galacticans' lack of knowledge on Earth cultures and locations, and finding out about them through their wrist computrons came to satisfy this.
Furthermore, there could only be so many incidents of violence per episode. These incidents included shooting Cylons, despite the fact that they were robots; blowing up trees with laser pistols was also forbidden by ABC's censor, Susan Futterman, who caused many of the series's problems according to Cole, making the show impossible to work on.
Additionally, people in the series needed to be clean-cut and presentable, thus removing any ability to present realistic presentations of people. Furthermore, Standards and Practices complained to Larson that there weren't enough kids; according to Cole, Larson replied "Okay, I'll give you kids crawling out of your ears." This resulted in The Super Scouts and the episodes that they were featured in, notably "The Super Scouts, Part I", "The Super Scouts, Part II", "Spaceball" and "Space Croppers".
Unfortunately, shooting with large groups of children proved another major headache for the series, forcing the producers to hire child actors who were twins. In addition to the kids having reduced hours of availability, and the lack of professionalism exhibited by them, the cast and crew had to deal with the "stage moms, all of whom ought to be locked up" and the teachers for each kid. As Cole put it, "if the kid is a star you have to listen to the teacher as if she were speaking from on high" regardless of the reason.
Later, as told by Bunch, Futterman questioned the information in the planetarium scene in "The Night the Cylons Landed, Part I", and believed the meatball joke in the same episode to be sexual innuendo -- which resulted in Larson peppering additional meatball jokes in that episode, in addition to its conclusion, "The Night the Cylons Landed, Part II".
Syndication, VHS and DVD releases
The ten series episodes were rolled into the television syndication package for Battlestar Galactica and were given the same title as its parent program. Some of the episodes were edited together to produce a VHS home video under the title Conquest of the Earth. Very few out-of-print copies of the VHS release of Conquest of the Earth remain publicly on sale. Unlike its Original Series parent, Galactica 1980 was late to release for home video.
As of August 2006, the Sci Fi Channel in America and the SPACE Channel in Canada periodically air the series. The three parts of the pilot were featured as part of SPACE's 2006 New Years Day marathon of the Original Series.
This is the opening narration to Galactica 1980, spoken by Commander Adama.
Affixed after (or overlaid on top of the freeze framed) final scenes of the 1980 episodes, starting with "The Super Scouts, Part II" and ending with "Space Croppers", is a disclaimer regarding Jack Sydell's Air Force Special Detachment One: