User:Galactica1981/Galactica 1981 Reviews
This is a list of reviews by User:Galactica1981 for various Original Series content. Given to the Battlestar Wiki's policy of Neutral Point of View, they are found here rather than their respective articles.
These episode reviews originally appears on the Sheba's Galaxy site. They have been slightly revised.
TOS Episode Reviews
Saga of a Star World
RATING: Four and a half stars out of five
There's no question that on the night of September 17, 1978, Battlestar Galactica hit television screens with a bang. Saga Of A Star World is unquestionably the most elaborate televison movie ever made (and least up to that point!) When trying to rate something like this, it's important to examine it in the context of television during that time period. For sure, no sci-fi show of this magnitude had ever been done before in the history of television, and thus it deserves extra points for that alone. There are many great things that can be said about this episode (acting, special effects, music score), but I won't bother repeating what most people are already aware of. In the end, I had to decide against a full five-star rating, mostly because of the unforgivable "Star Wars" ending it was saddled with. The big explosion of the planet Carillon is a blatant ripoff of Star Wars, not to mention ridiculous as well. Setting fire to some tylium mines causes the entire planet to explode? This is ludicrous (although one could argue that destroying the massive Death Star by shooting a tiny exhaust port was equally ludicrous). Surely Glen Larson could have written a better ending than this. Ultimately, this had to reinforce many people's beliefs that Galactica was a second-rate Star Wars. Having a casino with all sorts of alien creatures also seems a little too close to Star Wars for comfort.
As a kid watching the show, I absolutely loved the Cylons because of how cool they looked. My favorite character was Starbuck who I idolized and wanted to be like. The series also had a phenomenal cast with tremendously talented actors (except for Maren Jensen), and it's a shame they were often saddled with substandard scripts. Starbuck and Apollo are wonderful in the lead roles, and they arguably have more chemistry than did Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. And Lorne Greene is superb as in the role of Commander Adama. In the pilot episode, the scene that perhaps stands out the most is the laser battle against the Cylon Centurions on the surface of Carillon, a truly awesome spectacle combined with the looming countdown as the Cylon raiders close in on the Galactica. It terms of the characters, my favorite scene is probably Starbuck's almost proposing to Athena. Finally, the musical score for the series is truly breathtaking, on a similar level as the one for Star Wars.
Of course, there are also some HUMONGOUS plot holes in this story, enough for any critic to tear it to shreds. I'm not going bother writing 5 pages about the plot problems of Saga Of A Star World. Instead, I'll just mention a few points:
The premise of the Colonial fleet seeking Earth, while interesting, is unfortunately flawed because no one (not even Adama) has any idea where it is! Apparently, Adama was the only one who even knew about Earth's existence, although he doesn't seem to have any proof. Thus the Colonial fleet is left to wander aimlessly throughout the universe looking for it. Fortunately, this problem would be addressed in War of the Gods when the Colonials finally learn the coordinates to Earth.
The Colonials seemed unbelievably gullible and naive regarding the Cylons' offer of peace. After a thousand years of war, you would think they'd have been more careful, but they foolishly leave their home planets undefended. President Adar is incredibly stupid when he sees a thousand Cylon raiders coming towards the fleet and assumes it is a peace envoy.
Apollo gets back to the fleet in time to warn them of the coming Cylon attack, yet he fails to do so. Why? Why does he take an hour to find the bridge?
Lost Planet of the Gods
Rating: Four stars out of five
The second half of this two-part episode has the theatrical feel of a movie, while the first half has often been blasted as being sexist. Of course, it is a bit strange that all the female cadets look like lingerie models. Still, I think the claim of sexism is a bit overstated. If you look at women in the U.S. military, they tend to act in supporting roles rather than be on the front lines. I don't know how many female jet pilots are in the U.S. military, but I suspect there aren't many. And I suspect this is due less to discrimination than to the fact that women tend to make different career choices than men (i.e. they tend to choose less hazardous professions). The reasons for there being no female viper pilots on the Galactica were probably along the same lines.
Regardless, the first half of the episode mostly serves as a set-up for the second half. Nothing wrong with that, but it does make the first half far less interesting.
Anyway, the two-part episodes fare better than most of the one-part episodes because Glen Larson would often blow the budget and vastly overspend. There are many fantastic scenes in the second half: Serina proposing to Apollo that they marry immediately; the Star of Kobol appearing in the port window during the wedding ceremony; the light shining off of Adama's medallion inside the tombs of Kobol; the Cylon raiders attacking the surface of Kobol; and, of course, Serina's death scene.
Serina's death is one of the most poignant moments of the entire series. But it came at a high price, as the show arguably suffered without her. And the writing would start to take a turn for the worse with the very next episode.
The Lost Warrior
Rating: Two stars out of five
After only two episodes, Battlestar Galactica's creative energy has fizzled out. This is the first of the so-called "bottled episodes." These episodes had few if any new special effects, enabling the producers to save money which would later be spent on the bigger, more extravagant "monster episodes." It's understandable that these "bottled" stories were necessary, but this is where rushing the show into production really hurt the series. The writers simply did not have time to create quality scripts. Of course, this would ultimately lead to the decline in ratings.
This kind of episode is tough to review because it's good but wrong. Based on the classic 1953 western film Shane, this actually makes a pretty decent western, but Battlestar Galactica is supposed to be a science fiction series. Sci-fi fans want science fiction, not half-hybrids of other shows (A mistake that Galactica 1980 would repeat). If I want to see a Western, I'd rather watch Bonanza. The only reason this gets two stars is because we get such a strong characterization of Apollo.
Unfortunately, this is not the only space western we would see on Galactica. Cowboys and saloons would return in The Magnificent Warriors. In fact, the very idea that an "old west" town would exist in Battlestar Galactica completely contradicts the Von Daniken premise of the show, that the Colonies and the ancient cultures of Earth (such as Atlantis and Egypt) have the same roots, the same beginnings. It is ludicrous that an Old West society could have any common connection with this. It raises all kinds of questions. The people of Equellis obviously had to arrive on that world by means of spacecraft, so why is the society so primitive? How could they not know of the Cylons since the war has raged for 1,000 years and the average human life-span is 200 years?
Why would Apollo be dumb enough to fly so far away from the fleet that he wouldn't have enough fuel to make it back? This really makes no sense. And why does Apollo promise Bella and Puppis that he will return one day? Why would he ever believe that possible?
Despite the lackluster plot, there are some good moments. Boxey beating Starbuck at Pyramid is funny, and the western style "shoot-out" between Red-Eye and Apollo is very well done. The only weak point is when Red Eye spots Apollo's laser and says, "Uh-oh." This trivalizes a very serious moment for the sake of silly humor. It is difficult to believe that a Cylon would use such a phrase. Ironically, for years I couldn't make out exactly what he was saying. I assumed it was some kind of challenge to Apollo, and it actually added to the power of the moment. You can imagine my dismay when I learned the truth. Also, Puppis gets pretty annoying pretty fast.
The Long Patrol
Rating: Three stars out of five
The Long Patrol is lot of a fun and a big improvement over the previous episode. Starbuck's computer companion C.O.R.A is a hoot. There are several funny scenes: Starbuck womanizing Cassiopeia and Athena; Boomer's jab at him before he goes off on the mission; Starbuck finding a fortune in ambrosia only to have it destroyed by the Cylon attack. Adama deciding to change the Galactica's course to keep distance from the Cylons is very well done, revealing how burdensome command of the fleet is and how it forces him to sacrifice his loved ones to protect the rest of humanity.
Maren Jensen (Athena) gets more screen time here than in most of the episodes. The scene with Athena revealing Starbuck's apparent death to Cassiopeia is especially moving, one of Jensen's best scenes of the series. The Athen/Cassiopeia rivalry was compelling and could have been developed in future episodes, but sadly this never happens. This was likely due to Maren Jensen's limitations as an actress which caused the writers to reduce her role.
Could C.O.R.A. have been the inspiration for K.I.T.T., the computerized car on Glen Larson's Knight Rider? Considering the amazing similarities between the two, it would have to be a possibility. Also, Glen Larson has went on record saying that K.I.T.T.'s swerving red eye was inspired by the swerving red eyes of the Cylons. It was sort of his way of keeping the Cylons alive.
The Long Patrol is definitely one of the better one-hour episodes of Battlestar Galactica.
The Gun on Ice Planet Zero
Rating: Three and a half stars out of five
This two-part episode is based on the 1961 movie The Guns of Navarone and the 1967 movie The Dirty Dozen. The episode has a theatrical feel to it because, as mentioned before, the two-parters had bigger budgets. Although the story is by-the-numbers, it is very enjoyable because of the fantastic special effects. Still, as good as Gun is, it is easily one of the lesser of the two-parters. While better than Greetings From Earth, Gun falls far short of The Living Legend, Lost Planet Of The Gods, and especially War Of The Gods.
This was actually the second episode filmed. This would explain why Serina and Cassiopea do not appear (Serina and Cassiopea died in the original version of the pilot before the decision was made to bring them back). Baltar and Lucifer's scenes were probably shot much later.
This episode raises a serious question. Considering the staggering number of people who had to be left behind due to lack of ships, why would the Colonials bother to take criminals with them? Perhaps they were already locked in the brig on the Galactica before the Holocaust or they somehow managed to sneak aboard the fleet to be captured later. Or perhaps most of them committed their crimes after joining the rag tag fleet. Considering how overcrowded, starved, and disorganized the fleet was when it was assembled, it is logical that many violent crimes would have occurred. An episode exploring this would have been nice.
The idea that there would not be enough qualified Colonial warriors to go on the mission is hard to believe. And why do Apollo, Starbuck, and Boomer get chosen? They are pilots, and their emphasis is not on ground assault. Logically, the Galactica would have a ground assault team available for these kinds of situations. It is also difficult to believe that Boxey would have found a way to sneak onto the shuttle. At least he and Muffit have an impact on the success of the mission.
In the book The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by J.W. Rinzler and Ridley Scott, it is revealed that part of George Lucas's anger towards Battlestar Galactica was because of this episode. Lucas planned to feature an ice planet in the sequel to Star Wars, and he felt that Galactica threatened to undercut him by featuring an ice planet on one of their own episodes. Did this fuel his lawsuit that Galactica was infringing on Star Wars? Is so, then Lucas comes off as disingenuous to say the least, for it would be absurd to claim that Galactica was infringing on a movie that hadn't yet been made!
Baltar's legs were crushed in Lost Planet of the Gods, yet in this episode the only evidence of Baltar's injury is a slight limp. Did the Cylons do major reconstructive surgery on his legs? I guess so.
At this point, the constant reusing of the same space battle scenes really starts getting redundant. Still, this remains one of the most popular episodes of Battlestar Galactica.
The Magnificent Warriors
Rating: One and a half stars out of five
Many fans consider this to be the worst episode of Battlestar Galactica. While I don't agree, I think it comes pretty close. The story is, quite frankly, terrible. We are again subjected to yet another old-western style shanty town? Once was enough! The Borays are disgusting and sound awful. The only redeeming moment is when Adama and company discover Starbuck at the gambling table. It's rather funny.
Siress Bellaby is hands down the most annoying character to ever appear on Battlestar Galactica. Most viewers probably couldn't understand why the Colonial Warriors didn't simply let the Borays kill her.
On a positive note, we are shown Lorne Greene's impressive range as an actor. It's interesting to see a comical Adama, a nice contrast to the serious commander that we usually see. Unfortunately, Greene is forced to play against Brett Somers (Siress Bellaby). Somers isn't funny; she's annoying, and it kills most of the comedy that is presented.
The premise of The Magnificent Warriors actually had a lot of potential. We are given a situation where the fleet has no food and everyone is aware of it (unlike in Saga Of A Star World when the Colonials were able to cover up the problem). This raises all kinds of fascinating issues. Would the fleet start a mutiny against Adama during such a crisis? How would Adama react to such a mutiny? How would he choose who to save? Would he allow each ship to make its own decision to leave? Or would he try to force them to stick together? And what decisions would Starbuck and Apollo be forced to make if such a mutiny occurred? So many interesting questions for the episode to pursue.
Sadly, standard television plotting is what we get. The Colonials are traveling through the vast uncharted regions of space, and they run out of food at just the precise moment they happen to be near a farming colony. Okay. Whatever. The Colonials land on the planet and meet the Borays. From then on, it's just another battle of good vs. evil. Putting the Colonials in a moral dilemna would have been much more interesting that what we were given here.
The Young Lords
Rating: Three stars out of five
This is the family episode of Battlestar Galactica. Starbuck is shot down and crashes on a planet. Yawn. This is essentially a remake of The Lost Warrior in which Apollo is stranded on the planet Equellus. Of course, Starbuck was also stranded in The Long Patrol and Cree was stranded in The Gun On Ice Planet Zero. Later in Greetings From Earth, Starbuck, Apollo, and Casseopia would be stranded on the planet Paradeen. At this point, the series was becoming so predictable that viewers each week must have been asking the question, "Who's going to have to be rescued this week?" In fact, Mad Magazine, in a spoof of Galactica, poked fun at this element of the show. (See Humor in the Original Series)
Considering the incredibly broad premise of the series, it's amazing that the writers had so much trouble coming up with a story that didn't involve someone being stranded on a planet. With this kind of plot, The Young Lords shouldn't even be watchable. And yet, despite all these drawbacks, this actually turns out to be a fun, enjoyable episode. Part of this praise goes to the tremendous production values. It is simply fascinating to see so many Cylons inside a medieval castle. The location is nothing short of spectacular. To top it off, Dirk Benedict delivers with a wonderful performance. There are many good scenes, especially Starbuck's rescue from the Cylons by Kyle and the children (plus his insulting remark to the Cylons moments before). Playing up kids in a series can be extremely fatal to ratings (Galactica 1980 became an infamous example of this), but fortunately Kyle and the gang never get to the point where they become grating; although they (and their song near the end) come dangerously close. (And are we to believe Starbuck and his Scooby Gang would actually take the time to think up lyrics for a song and memorize them? Please!)
The IL series Cylon Spectre is a delightfully conniving character. He is the perfect foil for Lucifer. His phony flattery of Baltar is hilarious, especially the way he manages to turn defeat to his own advantage. Unfortunately, the character does not appear again. Had the series continued into a second season, he probably would have. Spectre does appear in the later original Berkley novels The Nightmare Machine, Die, Chameleon! and Surrender the Galactica! where he is put to good use.
Most of the scenes of Baltar and Lucifer communicating with Spectre were recycled with different dialogue into the Galactica telemovie Conquest of the Earth.
Needless to say that by this point the Cylons have become a joke. When you stop and really think about it, it is ludicrous that an entire Cylon garrison is defeated by one colonial warrior and five children.
Still, this episode somehow succeeds despite every logical reason why it shouldn't.
The Living Legend
Rating: Five stars out of five
This is one of the very best episodes of Battlestar Galactica. The two-part episodes consistently deliver, and The Living Legend is no exception. The idea of a second survivng battlestar is a good one, as is a scenario where the fleet runs out of fuel.
This episode introduces two compelling characters, Commander Cain and his daughter, Lt. Sheba. Sheba's character is said to have been a ground-breaking role for women. She is tough, independent, and short-tempered. Basically, she's the exact opposite of virtually every other female character to appear on the series. Fortunately, she, along with Bojay, becomes a regular after this episode.
Lloyd Bridges is tremendous as Commander Cain. It's hard to imagine any other actor filling the role. The only weak moment for Bridges is when Cain lies to Adama about the "accidental" failure of the tanker mission. Cain's cavalier attitude about it makes it obvious to everyone that he purposely sabotaged the mission.
This story is different from any other Galactica story thus far because we see a clash of philosophies within the ranks of the military. Cain wants to wage an all-out war against Gamoray, and Adama simply wants to capture the much-needed fuel and escape. The earlier episodes were extremely simplistic in their portaryal of good versus evil. The Colonials are good. The Cylons are evil. Simple as that. Since the good guys are all in the military, the military is always portrayed as being right. Adama, Starbuck, and Apollo had very few moral dilemnas to deal with, which would have made the stories so much more interesting.
Baltar personally leading the attack on the Galactica makes the battle much more intense and exciting, mostly because the battle has a storyline. Most of the Galactica space battles are nothing more than a confusing jumble of stock shots haphazardly thrown together with nothing in terms of a flow or climax. (One of the bigger flaws of Return Of The Jedi was that the Battle of Endor had nothing in terms of a storyline.) This time it is different. The Pegasus closing in on Baltar at the end of part one is the best cliff hanger of the series. It is rather fitting that Baltar's forces are taken by surprise, since it was Baltar who caused the colonial warfleet to be taken by surprise in the pilot.
The scene between Adama and Apollo right before the mission to capture the Cylon tankers is very powerful. It shows how, despite being father and son, each of their respective positions forces a distance between them personally. What is especially impressive is that this is done without words. Richard Hatch and Lorne Greene manage to convey more with a facial expression than most actors do with a page of dialogue.
Boxey really starts to get on the nerves at this point. Nothing against Noah Hathaway, but Boxey is a character all too typical of standard television. He is an ultra-cute TV kid doing ultra-cute things, yet usually has little or no bearing on the plot. These kinds of characters (most notably the Super Scouts from Galactica 1980) only serve to hurt a show's ratings.
When you put the story under scrutiny, there are some serious flaws. Why are viper pilots sent on a ground mission? Wouldn't the Galactica have specialized teams for that sort of thing? It is also a bit difficult to believe that Sheba could have found a way to go on the mission to Gamoray without permission. It is even more difficult to believe that Cassiopea would have been allowed to just hop on the shuttle. Was she given a crash course on parachuting during the shuttle ride? How could the Colonial warriors have known exactly which building in Gamoray contained the main communications center? And are we to believe that destroying one small communications center would disable the entire city's defense system? If, like me, you can overlook these flaws, this is still a great episode.
This episode and Fire In Space were later combined to form the horrid Galactica theatrical movie Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack.
Fire in Space
Rating: Two and a half stars out of five
This explosive episode is the one-hour equivalent of a disaster movie. It's basically a sci-fi version of The Towering Inferno (and stock footage from that movie was probably used here). There's so much action that it isn't until the end that you realize just how essentially empty it is. There are a lot of things happening, and at the same time there is nothing happening. By all rights this story should be downright awful, yet somehow it isn't. It really speaks volumes about the show's production values and the performances of the actors that this turns out to be an enjoyable hour despite another by-the-numbers script.
After this episode, producer Glen Larson decided changed the direction of the series, relegating the Cylons to the background. The Cylons are not featured again until the final episode, The Hand Of God. The reason for the change of direction may be that Larson had a feeling the series would be canceled and decided to try to create a storyarc that would end the series with the Galactica apparently getting close to Earth. In an interview, Larson has said that he wasn't surprised the show was canceled. The change of direction was really for the best because the battles with the Cylons were too ridiculously imbalanced in the Colonials' favor (due to the censors) making the Cylons look like a joke, and the reusing of the same space battle stock footage was becoming monotonous.
The ending the writers originally planned had Cylon raiders attacking the Galactica a second time, and it is their lasers that put Starbuck and Apollo in danger on the Galactica's hull. Unfortunately, the network censors overruled this because they felt it would have been too repetitive. The complete original ending from the script can be found here.
The story completely falls apart when put under scientific scrutiny because fires simply cannot exist in outer space, as many Galactica critics have pointed out. However, Star Wars was able to get away with this flub (Remember the fate of the Death Star?), so it seems rather unfair that Battlestar Galactica took so many shots because of it.
This is Terry Carter's best episode, since Colonel Tigh is thrust into the forefront, taking command of the Galactica while Adama is incapacitated. Carter does a tremendous job, and his strong performance helps save this cliched, overused story plot from losing steam.
Since the Galactica was on the verge of destruction by the time Starbuck and Apollo were planting charges on the hull, didn't it ever occur to Colonel Tigh to evacuate all non-essential personnel including the Colonial vipers so that, if the Galactica was destroyed, the fleet would at least have a fighting chance to survive? And since it was too dangerous to operate on Adama on the Galactica, didn't it ever occur to Dr. Salik to shuttle Adama to another ship in the fleet and perform the operation there?
A tremendous amount of damage is done to the Galactica (especially the landing bay), yet there is no sign of this in any future episodes nor any explanation of how the repairs went. Considering the abysmal plot, this episode was probably best left forgotten.
War of the Gods
RATING: Five stars out of five
War Of The Gods is one of the best and most popular episodes of Battlestar Galactica. It is not the very best episode, nor is it completely flawless, but it is easily the most complex of all the stories we were given. The bottom line is that it is extremely rare to see this kind of thing done on TV. This is one of the few episodes to fully utilize Galactica's Von Daniken premise (God Is An Astronaut). We learn that angels are not spirits of the dead, but advanced beings who are thousands of years ahead of the Colonials in both technology and spirituality. Count Iblis (whom Apollo addresses in part 2 as Mephistopheles) comes across as a form of devil. There is an interesting parallel with mythology. Just as the angel Lucifer (or Satan) rebelled against heaven, Iblis rebels against his brothers on the Ship of Lights.
Iblis may well be the most fascinating character in the entire series. What is fascinating is that his voice is the same as that of the Cylon Imperious Leader. Baltar recognizes this (and it would have been an unforgivable flub if he didn't). There have been two primary theories about Iblis' origin. The first is that Iblis exterminated the original reptile Cylon race and created the mechanical one, starting the thousand year war with the humans.
The second theory is that Iblis and the Imperious Leader are one and the same. Iblis calling Baltar "old friend" would seem to support this. Also, it is made clear in the end that Iblis cannot control anyone who does not choose to follow him. If Iblis is the Imperious Leader, then Baltar technically was "following him" since he (Baltar) was serving the Cylons. However, the theory that Iblis and Imperious Leader being the same person doesn't quite hold up because wouldn't the Cylons then easily be able to locate the Colonial fleet? Therefore, the first theory makes more sense overall. But there is still the question of how Iblis was able to make Baltar surrender to the Colonials. The episode tries to make it seem that Iblis did not perform his bigger miracles, that the white lights caused the crops to grow and Baltar came of his own free will (the latter is hinted by Apollo in a missing scene that was cut from the original script). Of course, the idea that Baltar would surrender on his own is ludicrous considering the coward that he is. And why would the white lights come to the fleet if that would cause the crops on the agro-ship to grow and thus fulfill one of Iblis' tasks? Most importantly, why would Iblis dare the Colonials to make 3 challenges for him if he did not possess the power to complete them?
Regarding Iblis' origin, I tend to go with the first theory, but I would take it one step further and suggest that the Imperious Leader is either a servant of Iblis or is somehow under Iblis' control. Thus Baltar, by serving the Cylons, would also be serving Iblis and thus would be subject to Iblis' commands.
You really have to wonder if Glen Larson planned to have Patrick Macnee play Count Iblis from the very first episode or if it was just an amazing coincidence that the same actor who provided the Imperious Leader's voice turned out to be perfect for the Count Iblis role. Considering how incredibly rushed the production of the show was, the latter would have to be a possibility. If it's the former, then you really have to applaud Glen Larson for planning so far ahead.
There are other marvelous scenes. Iblis' slow manipulation and seduction of Sheba is riveting (especially when he kisses her on the Agro-ship). The white lights and the Ship of Lights are a marvel and have to be considered among the best special effects the series has ever produced. The scenery of the red planet, including the visual effect of Starbuck, Apollo, and Sheba when they walk on that world is also outstanding. The triad court is a fantastic (and obviously, expensive) set. You have to give the producers a lot of credit for creating such a unique game for the Colonials to play. It makes sense. With the grueling struggle for survival in a rag-tag fleet, the Colonials have to have some sort of entertainment to take their minds off their plight.
As with most episodes, the performances are all top-notch. Richard Hatch plays his end perfectly, carefully balancing Apollo's distrust of Iblis and his caring for Sheba. Dirk Benedict adds a whole new dimension to Starbuck. His rage and grief over the death of Apollo (especially when he attempts to shoot Iblis) stand out as some of Starbuck's most memorable moments of the entire series. Anne Lockhart is also great portraying Sheba's slow seduction and manipulation by Count Iblis. Her joy at Apollo's resurrection firmly establishes her inner feelings toward him, and this subplot would come to a stunning head in the final episode. Lorne Greene never falters in his performances, and this is no exception. Greene does a tremendous job portraying a man torn between his desire to find Earth and his distrust of Iblis. One of the best moments has to be during the Triad game. During the game, Adama and Iblis are seated on opposite sides of the court. There are really two battles going on here: the battle between the players on the court, and the battle between Iblis and Adama.
Despite everything, the episode is not completely perfect. Not all the questions are answered (which in itself is not a bad thing), but some of what happens doesn't quite make sense. First of all, why does the Ship of Lights kidnap the viper pilots? We are never given any kind of answer. What makes it more confusing is that by kidnapping the pilots, the Ship of Lights actually aids Iblis because the Colonials look to him for protection. And why does Baltar say that Iblis now no longer holds any power over him after Baltar recognizes Iblis' voice? Perhaps this is supposed to be a clue to understand who Iblis is, but if this is the case, I can't make anything out of it.
There is also the issue of what was inside the crashed ship on the red planet. A popular myth is that the ship is the the Battlestar Pegasus and when Apollo looked inside he saw the body of Commander Cain, but this is false. The original script and the Berkely novelization tell us exactly what is inside the ship: tall, cloven-hoofed horned beings with tails. This is a little hard to make sense of. Are the beings in the ship supposed to be devils? If that is the case, it doesn't really make Iblis appear all that evil for killing them. It could be viewed as another parallel of mythology. After being defeated by heaven, Lucifer and his followers fall into hell. Likewise, Iblis' ship containing his followers (the devils) crashes (falls) to the earth. It's not a perfect allegory, but fascinating nonetheless. (For more on this, see The Mystery of the Crashed Ship)
I'm not trying to pick the episode apart with these various criticisms. Actually, the story works much better with its mystery and ambiguity rather than easy, clear-cut answers. One of the problems with television these days is that shows rarely challenge the viewer to think; instead, most shows sacrifice ambiguity and insist on spelling everything out as simply and clearly as possible. The mystery of Count Iblis is really what makes War Of The Gods so special and one of the most famous and highly debated of all the Galactica episodes. I'm glad that we are not given the answer to who Iblis is because the only way a mystery can retain its power is as long as it remains unsolved. Why do you think the great magicians never reveal how they do their tricks? If you are looking for a great movie example of this, then I suggest you check out Peter Weir's Picnic At Hanging Rock.
Finally, one of the best things about this episode is that it provides us the first hint of romance between Apollo and Sheba!
The Man With Nine Lives
Rating: Four out of five stars
This episode is the only one that offers a significant look at the people of the fleet. Fred Astaire puts in an enjoyable performance as the rogue con-man Chameleon. The Borellian Nomen are interesting new adversaries for the Colonial Warriors, although they seem to be based on a Hollywood and societal stereotype of American Indians (Unfortunately, we are told very little of their origins). One of the best episodes in terms of characterization.
This episode pretty much makes it clear that Cassiopeia is THE ONE for Starbuck, thanks to Starbuck telling Chameleon that she's the only one he's ever considered sealing with (although that actually isn't true; he did almost propose to Athena in the pilot episode).
Don Bellisario was unable to think of a suitable name for the villains. In an after-work bull session, story editor Jim Carlson casually remarked something to the effect of, "It’s too bad they’re not from an ice planet, you could call them Snomen." Bellisario replied, "There’s no snow where these guys are gonna be!" Carlson answered, "Then call then Nomen."
This episode proves that great stories don't require huge explosions and fancy special effects. Unfortunately, the rushed production of the show made episodes like The Man With Nine Lives the exception rather than the rule.
Murder on the Rising Star
Rating: Two and a half stars out of five
Murder She Wrote in outer space??? This story had little point being part of a show like Battlestar Galactica. This is the kind of story that is done on almost every science fiction series when the writers are out of ideas. There is very little in the way of drama because the viewer knows the hero is innocent and will be cleared. This story tries to give the impression that Starbuck might be guilty (we don't get to see who shoots Ortega, Starbuck is shown running from the scene, plus Starbuck's anxiousness in the shuttle bay makes him appear guilty), but only the most gullible of viewers would fall for this. The story would be more forgivable if we learned some new insights about the characters or the fleet, but what do we learn? What is the point? Is it that the Colonial system of law is virtually identical to the U.S. system? (which is hardly believeable) Or that Adama has to spend time hearing court cases? (Not too believable either considering the incredibly burdensome task he has of commanding the fleet) Or is it that playing triad is more dangerous than anybody thought? What is the point of this episode except to fill an hour's worth of time???
This is the fourth episode that features Starbuck. While Dirk Benedict certainly plays a wonderful character, it would have been nice to have featured some of the lesser used cast members (Tigh, Boomer, Athena, Sheba).
One thing really stands out: It is absurd how little time Apollo is given to prepare a case for Starbuck's defense. He only has 10 centares, and the script for this episode has a key that states a centar is an hour. Only 10 hours to prepare for a murder trial??? Give me a break!
This story could have been done differently to make it more poignant. What if Apollo was unable to conclusively prove who killed Ortega, and Adama intervenes, using his power as commander to have Starbuck set free. It would raise the question of whether Adama was abusing his power. Even then, considering the fleet must be depleted when it comes to seasoned viper pilots, it could be argued that the fleet needed Starbuck as a warrior. It would have been an interesting moral issue, something Battlestar Galactica rarely had. I also think the story would have been more interesting if we were left with some doubt as to whether Starbuck killed Ortega (in self-defense, of course).
An interesting note: Karibdis appears early on in the story, serving drinks to Adama and Tigh while they watch the Triad game. This is an often-used writing device. You have the murderer/villain appear early in the story, sometimes at the very beginning, in what appears to be a minor or trivial role. This often fools the audience, as they rarely expect such a character to be revealed so quickly. This was also done on the miniseries for the new Galactica, when one of the human Cylons is leading a tour of the Galactica during the opening credits. If you want to get good at solving TV/movie mysteries, pay attention to the minor characters that appear early in the story.
Overall, the murder mystery itself isn't half bad, and there are fine all-around performances from the cast to make this watchable. In a way, it makes the episode more disappointing to have such great talent squandered on such a by-the-numbers story. But everyone holds up their end well, especially Dirk Benedict and Laurette Spang in their scene inside the brig. It's nice the writers found a way to bring Baltar into the story, and John Colicos still makes a great villain. The flashback of the destruction of Caprica is also well-done. There were certainly many crimes committed during the evacuation, and it illustrates that Battlestar Galactica was brimming with potentially interesting stories to explore, which again only makes this episode more of a letdown.
That said, it's important to realize that writers Jim Carlson and Terrence McDonnell were forced to write this episode in 36 hours straight. Considering what a rushjob this script was, it's amazing it turned out as well as it did. This is one instance where it might be better to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.
Greetings from Earth
RATING: Two and a half stars out of five
Greetings From Earth just doesn't measure up with the other two-hour episodes. The story makes for a passable first hour but quickly takes a nosedive in the second. Glen Larson's attempt at comedy falls horribly flat. Hector, Vector and the kids quickly wear out their welcome (A premonition of Galactica 1980?). The Eastern Alliance is introduced as a new adversary, but they are little more than cardboard Nazis with zero charisma (at least the Cylons looked cool). Another problem is that their primitive technology takes a lot of steam out of their threat. Unfortunately, the Eastern Alliance is never utilized to the fullest. A space battle between vipers and Eastern Alliance destroyers would have been fantastic, but the time and money needed to do such a complex battle scene made it impossible. Also, Apollo becomes a bit overbearing with his "Do The Right Thing" attitude in the first half (What's also annoying is that Apollo's dialogue in the first half is badly redubbed, apparently to make his voice louder).
What makes the first hour so interesting is that the Colonials are faced with a perplexing moral issue (a rarity, for sure). Do they allow the humans to leave, or force them to remain at least until more information is learned? There are actually opposing opinions within the Colonial military, at least for awhile. Apollo's view quickly wins out, though. The Council of Twelve is portrayed as being incredibly selfish and uncaring, but it could be argued they were right. It was possibly life or death for the Colonials to learn about the human race that awaited them. Certainly the humans could have been revived long enough for the Colonials to get the necessary information out of them. Apollo's plan to let the ship go had a good chance of failing. How could he be certain enough that they wouldn't get lost, or wind up so far away that they'd never be able to make it back to the fleet?
When you think about it, why don't Starbuck, Apollo and Cassiopea have super powers when they are in Paradeen's weaker gravity just as the Super Scouts do when they are in Earth's weaker gravity on Galactica 1980? Wouldn't it have been fun to see Starbuck, Apollo, and Cassiopea bouncing up and down and jumping into trees?
Unlike the other two-parters, this one ends with a whimper instead of a bang as Starbuck and Apollo's capture of the Enforcers is about as anti-climatic as you can get. This script really comes across as being rushed, which was probably the case. Overall, Greetings From Earth is yet another episode that failed to reach its potential due to the constrainments of a weekly series.
Experiment in Terra
Rating: Three stars out of five
Experiment In Terra initially comes across as a superb episode, but under close inspection the story unfortunately has serious flaws. The Ship of Lights recruiting Apollo to help Terra is a cool idea, but their reasoning as to why they need to use a mortal human doesn't hold up. John says that the people of Terra can't see the "Guardians" (my own name for them) outside the confines of their ship. And yet on Terra, John makes himself visible to Starbuck by merely touching him. Even more problematic, Apollo's mission never makes sense. The Guardians know that the Eastern Alliance is going to launch a missile attack, so the master plan is to have Apollo tell the "west side" that the Eastern Alliance has been attacking them? Um, okay, but even if Apollo succeeds, how will this stop the Eastern Alliance from launching their missiles? Why not just have Apollo tell the Galactica to travel to Terra and destroy the missile attack? The answer, of course, is that there wouldn't be much of a story.
Sadly, there are many other flaws. Apollo says he can't reach Terra because the distance is too great, so he is "teleported" right in front of the planet. So how is it that Starbuck is able to eventually reach the planet on his own? Logically, he wouldn't have had enough fuel. Adama's decision to pull the Galactica out of the fleet is more out of whack than it may first appear. He didn't do that in earlier episodes when Starbuck or Apollo were crashed/stranded. This time Adama doesn't even know who the two pilots are, and yet he pulls the Galactica out of the fleet.
Even more ludicrous is the idea that the Galactica travels to Terra at light speed (and not just because it is scientifically implausible). If the Galactica was traveling to Terra at the speed of light, they should have reached Terra almost instantly (in fact, they probably could have found Earth during the pilot episode!) And how is it that the Galactica was able to travel to Terra unmolested? Surely there would be Eastern Alliance destroyers patrolling the area around the planet. And how does the Eastern Alliance not know that the Galactica was responsible for destroying their missiles? Surely the Galactica would have been picked up on their scanners.
Also, the West President's reasoning for withholding knowledge of the Eastern Alliance's attacks is questionable. Why does he think he can make peace with the Eastern Alliance if they are constantly attacking him? And if the Eastern Alliance has wiped out all of the West's satellite planets, how could the President possibly prevent word of this from leaking out? It's not realistic at all. Plus, the idea that the Eastern Alliance would be willing to destroy the entire planet (at least half of which they own) is pretty ridiculous. Okay, they ARE Bad Guys, but what's the point of destroying most of their empire when they were already winning the war?
With such a long list of problems, you would think that this is a terrible episode. Amazingly, this isn't the case. In fact, Experiment In Terra still ranks as one of the better one-hour episodes of Battlestar Galactica. Seeing the Ship of Lights again is a treat, and Edward Mulhare is delightful as John, Apollo's guide. This episode is another example where the great production values and strong performances from the actors are able to overcome the plot inconsistencies. What makes Experiment In Terra work so well is that its plot holes aren't immediately noticeable. I didn't realize how many there were until I sat down and really thought about it. Apollo's mission to save Terra, as pointless as it winds up being, is still extremely engrossing. Apollo's speech to the Precidium is very dramatic and moving, even though (as we've already said) everything Apollo does on Terra turns out to be a waste of time since nothing he does has any chance of preventing the Eastern Alliance from launching its missiles.
This episode is extra fun to watch if you're aware that the script was originally written with the roles of Starbuck and Apollo reversed. After Richard Hatch complained that his character was getting the shaft, the script was quickly rewritten with the dialogue mostly remaining the same, resulting in Apollo talking suspiciously like Starbuck. At one point, Apollo says "Felgercarb" for the first time ever!
The ending scene is touching, as John tells Apollo that Terra is not Earth but "You must have faith." Many Galactica fans have interpreted this to mean that Apollo would successfully complete the journey to Earth.
Here are some humorous notes from British writer Matthew Wharmby:
- I'm sorry, but I thought the final scene was tremendously weak. All that buildup to a good scrap, heart-stopping music included, let down with a pathetic green shield spat out of the front of the Galactica. And from a terrible angle made necessary by two separately matted halves; one of Earth and one of the Galactica's underside. And you don't mean to tell me that the Galactica could extend such a shield over the whole planet? If so, why couldn't she have performed the same thing over Caprica in the pilot, and let the attacking Cylon fighters blow themselves up in it?
- Nobody seems too panicked about the impending nuclear annihilation! I don't know about you, but when us kids growing up in the late Cold War used to speculate nervously about the four-minute warning, the usual consensus was that we'd be doing, well, what it takes four minutes to do. 'You can do it twice,' the girls would quip.
- I'm not mad keen on Brenda's attitude. If every girl who had boyfriend trouble called the Old Bill on such a weak pretext, there wouldn't be a bloke alive out of prison!
Take the Celestra
Rating: One star out of five
This is probably the worst episode of Battlestar Galactica. A lot of people will probably disagree, but I have to go with this choice simply because I found this episode to be incredibly boring. The Magnificent Warriors and The Lost Warrior were also really bad (and they were certainly more simplistic), but they were never really boring. A story focusing on the hardships of voyaging on the rag tag fleet is a great idea, but this episode takes one self-destructive turn after another and may be the best example of a wasted opportunity for the series. Many of BG's bad episodes were somewhat saved by wonderful performances from the actors, but there is nothing here that stands out (although the Starbuck/Cassiopea reconciliation at the end is a nice moment). Starbuck and Apollo actually look stale. This is one of the few times that neither Richard Hatch nor Dirk Benedict are able to rise above the mediocre writing. Commander Kronus is incredibly boring - a static, stale character with little depth. Because it's hard to care about the character, it's hard to feel anything during the "dramatic" finish when Kronus dies. Given the moronic decisions he makes, I felt like saying "Good riddance." On the other hand, Ana Alicia suceeds in making Aurora interesting, but she is mostly wasted in this episode. Unfortunately, her boyfriend is more boring than Kronus, and I just wanted him to shut up. Despite these issues, the main problem with Take The Celestra lies in the script itself.
One of the biggest (yet least noted) flaws of Battlestar Galactica was the way it portrayed life in the rag-tag fleet. Day-to-day existence on a fleet of mostly derelict ships would no doubt be a grueling struggle for survival. Yet the series rarely ever indicated this. Most scenes with civilians consisted of parties, gambling, and triad games aboard the Rising Star! (hardly the most accurate look we could have been given) Take The Celestra was the perfect vehicle to change this, but unfortunately the writers took the easy way out. Aurora and the other mutineers were "illegally forced" to work so many double shifts. This makes the issue of right and wrong very easy to determine, but consider another direction the writers could have taken.
What if the harsh working conditions existed throughout the entire fleet? (and, logically, they should have) What if Aurora and the others were not working harder than anyone else and simply decided they had had enough? Would they be morally right in trying to escape the fleet (considering that the loss of manpower would likely hurt the remaining Colonials)? Apollo, Starbuck and the rest of the military are always talking about the importance of freedom. Apollo talks about it strongly in his speech to the Precedium in Experiment In Terra. When Starbuck tries to convince the prisoners to rebel in The Long Patrol, he says "You have rights. You're human beings!" When they finally escape, he says, "That's freedom." An interesting idea to explore is how free the Colonials actually were. Surely many of them wanted to settle on some of the planets the fleet passed by. If Adama refused their wishes, he would technically be restricting their freedom. Unfortunately, this kind of story is problematic because the extent of Adama's power is never clear; in fact, it varies from episode to episode (depending whatever works best for the story that week). But this kind of story would have made it a tough call as to whether Aurora and her friends were right and whether Starbuck and Apollo were totally justified in stopping them.
Anyway, that's the episode I would have liked to see, or anything other than what we did see, the most boring Galactica episode to date. The story is riddled with holes, outdone perhaps only by Experiment In Terra. Whereas that story's flaws are not immediately noticeable, most of this story's flaws are. Commander Kronus' decision to immediately shuttle the prisoners back to the fleet despite being so far away doesn't make much sense. His accompanying the shuttle makes even less sense. Colonial law states that a commander has to personally take the mutineers in for charges? Huh? Even when his ship is out in the middle of nowhere? Okay. Whatever. Kronus should have waited until the Celestra rejoined the fleet. His decision makes him look like an idiot.
How is it that Chakka is able to get almost the entire crew to mutiny with him on a whim? He couldn't have been planning mutiny beforehand because he had expected to become commander of the Celestra. And if the entire crew wasn't with him in the mutiny, then how could he have expected to get away with powering down the ship? And could Starbuck and Apollo both be so clueless that they wouldn't be able to remember which heading the fleet was on? And how does the shuttle run out of fuel so fast? And how is it that Kronus could not have known or heard about any of the harsh working conditions? The Celestra isn't that big of a ship. Are we to believe that he never left the bridge? To top it off, why is there such an urgent need in the final battle scene to "level out" the Celestra? It's not as though there were any ships or planets around that it could crash into. Almost nothing in this episode makes any sense.
The minor plot of Cassiopeia agonizing over Starbuck's evasiveness in their relationship is far more compelling than the main plot of the Celestra mutiny. But even the Starbuck/Aurora plot has problems. For one thing, the writers have Starbuck act like a total jerk by skipping his date with Cassie so he can see Aurora. Why would Cassie put up with that? And how is it that Starbuck had a serious relationship with Aurora going during the time of the Destruction? Didn't he clearly have something going with Athena back then? (If there's anything worse than the writers making things up as they go, it's when they unmake things up as they go.)
Anyway, this only makes Starbuck look like a bigger womanizer than anyone thought (not exactly the best way to endear him to viewers). Aurora makes a valid point in her anger towards him. If Starbuck really did care about her, why didn't he check to see if her name was in the fleet computer? Just because her house was destroyed doesn't mean for certain that she was killed. It's also highly questionable that Starbuck ever made it back to Caprica after the Cylons attacked. We've never been given any indication that anyone besides Adama and Apollo ever went back. Considering how dangerous it would have been (not to mention how strong a chance that someone might have led the Cylons back to the Galactica), it's absolutely ludicrous to suggest Adama would have allowed anyone to return to the planet.
I almost want to pretend that this episode was just a bad dream. Fortunately, the very next episode would raise the roof.
The Hand of God
Rating: Five stars out of five.
They saved the best for last. The Hand Of God is arguably the best episode of Battlestar Galactica, and my personal favorite.
No doubt about it, The Hand of God is Galactica at its best. Donald Bellisario shows the other writers how it's done, pulling out all the stops with this one. Both the script and the performances are stellar. Never before have the characters been portrayed in such a powerful way. Although there is nothing innovative about the basic plot itself (The Galactica battles the Cylons again), there are enough things going on that make this story extremely engrossing.
This episode is fascinating from start to finish. Visually, it is a treat as we get to see the inside of a Cylon basestar's landing bay for the first time. We also get to see Cylon Centurions boarding their ships for the first time. And the Celestial Observation Dome is a marvel, as is Apollo's analogy that being inside it is like riding in the Hand of God.
What makes this story especially memorable is the culmination of a story thread that has been running since War of the Gods. In that episode, we see the first hint of romance between Apollo and Sheba. Nothing happens in the other episodes following, although Anne Lockhart does a good job showing, in a subtle way, Sheba's emerging feelings for Apollo.
Kudos go to both Anne Lockhart and Laurette Spang for winning performances. Sheba's confrontation with Apollo and their kiss inside the Cylon raider is the best scene of the episode. That and Cassiopeia's argument with Starbuck in the landing bay are both incredibly moving, providing each actress with her stand-out moment of the series. It really gives the viewer a chance to appreciate the range of Anne and Laurette. Women on this show were usually stuck in the background; this episode placed demands on each actress they rarely had to face. Give each one credit for not dropping the ball. Fortunately, they are both aided by outstanding dialogue from Bellisario. Of course, Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, and Herbert Jefferson, Jr. hold up their end as well. Starbuck, Apollo, and Boomer clasping hands in the pilots barracks (with the accompanying music score) powerfully expresses the bond of their friendship more than words ever could.
Extra congratulations go to Donald Bellisario who also directed this episode. His use of slow motion twice during Starbuck and Apollo's battles with Cylon Centurions make the scenes much more intense and suspenseful. Let's face it. Thanks to ABC's family-friendly censors, the Cylons often looked like a joke (Remember The Young Lords when Starbuck and five children wiped out an entire Cylon garrison?). If Starbuck and Apollo's shootout scenes had been shown in real time, there would have been little (if any) impact.
Another reason The Hand of God works so well is because the Cylons were not featured in the previous seven or eight episodes. Glen Larson wisely saw that the constant reusing of the same space battle footage was hurting the stories and thus moved the Cylons into the background after Fire In Space. So much time has passed since then that the Cylons seem revitalized. There's nothing spectacular about the dogfight between the vipers and raiders or the slugfest between the Galactica and the Cylon basestar (since it's the same footage seen in previous episodes), but the story is compelling enough that it all still works.
If there is one flaw with this story, it is the idea that Adama would attack a Cylon basestar and risk the fate of the entire human race just for the sake of wreaking some vengeance. This is the same man who told Commander Cain, "I'm not interested in military victories. I'm interested in saving lives. What few of them are left." It would have worked better to have a scenario where the Galactica simply could not backtrack and thus was forced to attack the Cylons. Still, it is a minor flaw in an overall outstanding script.
It is extremely frustrating that we never see a follow-up to Apollo and Sheba's relationship since this was the final episode. For fans who would like to see some kind of continuation, there are some fan fiction stories that I highly recommend. There is a short story called My Father's Daughter which takes place immediately following the events of The Hand of God and is quite simply the best Sheba story I have ever read. Three other novels, Second Coming, Joint Maneuvers, and The Race For Earth also explore Apollo and Sheba's relationship and are outstanding. These stories are all available free online at a site I own called Free Battlestar Galactica Fan Fiction Novels.
Many fans were and still are saddened that the original show ended so soon. Personally, I'm at peace with it. If the show had to end, The Hand of God may have been the best way to close the curtain. After reading Glen Larson's Season Two proposal, all I can say is, "Thank god the show ended when it did!" It appears that, if there had been a second season, half the cast would have been cut in order to save money, Sheba would have been killed off, Commander Cain would have returned as a Cylon android, and Apollo would have shirked his responsibilities and started partying and messing around with numerous women. Ugh!!!
I think I can accept Battlestar Galactica for what it was, always remembering that the light that shines twice as bright only burns half as long.
Galactica 1980 Episode Reviews
Galactica Discovers Earth
Rating: Two stars out of five
Galactica Discovers Earth turns out to be a watchable pilot, but watchable is about all. From the very first episode, Galactica 1980 is clearly nothing more than an attempt by ABC to cash in on the Galactica name by creating a cheap show that simply reuses the expensive special effects stock footage from the original series. The later episodes would only reinforce this. Kent McCord (Troy) and Barry Van Dyke (Dillon) come off as inferior clones of Starbuck and Apollo. In fact, the script for the pilot was originally written for Starbuck and Apollo. When those plans changed, the names were simply switched to Troy and Dillon. Jamie Hamilton comes off as a carbon copy of Lois Lane. Unfortunately, we are never given any backstory to any of these characters.
This may be the only pilot in television history in which the premise changes in the middle of the episode! At first it's about advancing Earth's technology in order to fight the Cylons. Then it suddenly changes and is about capturing a time-traveling villain. It's really bizarre. Anyway, the time travel adventure in Nazi Germany is never particularly interesting, partly because Xaviar just isn't that compelling of a villain, but mostly because this is NOT Battlestar Galactica.
The idea of the Galactica having to protect a primitive Earth from the Cylons is actually a compelling premise, but the problem is that Dr. Zee's plan to slowly increase Earth's technology is flawed. At the rate in which the Colonials were going, it probably would have taken at least decades to get Earth's technology increased enough to be able to fight the Cylons. Long before then, the Cylons would probably tire of waiting and decide to just destroy the Colonial fleet. Even if the Cylons didn't attack, how far could the Galactica lead the Cylons away from Earth before they (the Colonials) were too far away from the planet to ever go back there? It probably would have been smarter to temporarily abandon Earth and lead the Cylons away until Dr. Zee could invent some technology that would allow the Colonials to destroy the Cylon armada. (Actually, since Colonial Vipers can now turn invisible, it should have been fairly easy for the Colonials to launch a surprise attack on the Cylons and defeat them once and for all!)
The problem with the original premise of Galactica 1980 is that it would have eventually become tiresome: Troy and Dillon each week would find a way to introduce some new technology (clean nuclear power, etc.) which would make some small improvement, but do little to bring Earth up to the level it would need be to fight the Cylons. As a result, the series could never evolve to the next level (i.e. Earth is ready to fight the Cylons), because the series' budget was too small for any kind of "final battle". As a result, Galactica 1980 was stuck in a rut from the get-go. It tried to distract viewers from the main plot (the Cylon threat) with time travel and cub scout outings because there was little that could be done with the original premise. It might have worked well as a single movie or perhaps a series of movies, but it's unlikely that Galactica 1980 could have ever jelled as a weekly series.
The show looks second-rate. For example, take the opening sequence. This has to be one of the worst opening sequences in television history. It's nothing but a series of stock footage shots from the original show haphazardly thrown together. Even the rendition of the Galactica theme seems inferior to the one we heard on the original show.
That said, there is some nice chemistry between the trio of Troy, Dillon and Jamie. There's one particularly touching scene in part 3 when Jamie says goodbye to Troy and Dillon at the bus stop. But whatever positives the actors had would not be enough to overcome a number of self-destructive turns that would begin with the very next episode.
The Super Scouts
Rating: Zero stars out of five (DUD)
The Super Scouts arrive, and Galactica 1980 plummets into an abyss it would not survive. In the beginning, we're forced to endure a series of boring classroom educational lessons. Things get even worse when the intergalactic 'Our Gang' reaches Earth. We get ultra-cute campfire songs and even more educational lessons shoved down are throats. The original series had flaws, but at least it never insulted its viewers with sitcom humor or by getting into preachy moral issues. Galactica 1980 gives us an ultra-simplistic environmental message of "Don't pollute the water," and does so with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
One could make the case that Galactica 1980 is a great tool for writers to learn how NOT to write drama. One key is to create powerful villains and put the heroes in situations that are difficult to deal with. But all of the villains in Galactica 1980 are weak. The Colonials have so many advantages over the people of Earth - spaceships, super powers, invisibility fields - that they are essentially invincible, thus robbing the series of any possible drama. In Galactica 1980, there are no worthy villains. The bumbling cops and incompetent military personnel never have a prayer of apprehending Troy and Dillon, so there's no suspense. And it's certainly not funny to watch Earthlings constantly being confounded by extra-terrestrials. Yet that is what we're forced to endure again and again throughout the entire series.
Rating: Zero stars out of five (DUD)
This is crap. Spaceball is the worst, most hated episode of Galactica 1980. It's silly, stupid, and just plain dumb. Little kids playing baseball??? This is Battlestar Galactica??? Spaceball may be the most inconsequential hour of science fiction ever made. It's nothing less than an insult to the original series that this bionic version of The Bad News Bears was shot under the Galactica name.
The Night The Cylons Landed
Rating: One star out of five (Poor)
The Night The Cylons Landed is the best episode since the pilot. Of course, this isn't saying much, since watching a blank screen would have been almost as entertaining as the previous two episodes. Anyway, the Super Scouts are finally relegated to the background. This expands on the storyline involving the evolution of the Cylons over the 30 years since the destruction of the Colonies. A new, bigger, and more powerful Cylon raider carrying a newly advanced Cylon lifeform crashlands on Earth. Two surviving Cylons attempt to communicate with the Cylon armada to tell them of Earth's location. This is a cool idea, but the execution is terrible. We are treated to so much silliness, culminating with Troy and Dillon dancing on stage with cartoon characters like Yogi Bear! There are other problems. The more powerful, heavily armored Cylon raider is crippled after the punier viper rams into it??? The viper certainly doesn't hit it very hard. If the Cylons were a joke in the original series, then in Galactica 1980 they are a laughing stock. Andromus, the evolved Cylon clone of a human, certainly doesn't look or act very advanced. Centuri, his Centurion buddy, comes across as being even sillier with his constant banter of "I will protect you. That is my mission." This is the monstrous, all-powerful race which threatens the Earth's destruction and that the Colonials are so concerned about??? The two Cylons provide some funny moments, but it can't make up for the letdown of a plot that had so much potential.
With this episode, Galactica 1980 provides yet another example of how NOT to write drama. Conventional storytelling says that when you have a character trying to solve a mystery, you want the audience to move along at the same pace as the character. If the audience knows more than the character does, they find themselves simply waiting for the character to catch up, which is boring. Unfortunately, Galactica 1980 violates this basic rule of storytelling as we're forced to endure Colonel Briggs's investigation of the aliens. We know everything, he knows nothing, and thus there is nothing even remotely interesting about the subplot.
Rating: Zero stars out of five (DUD)
The Space Croppers starts out interesting, but quickly takes an abrupt nosedive into looney land. The plot parallels that of The Magnificent Warriors. Due to the destruction of the fleet's agroships by a Cylon attack, another source of food supply must be found. The Magnificent Warriors was a terrible episode, so it must be considered quite a feat that Space Croppers turns out to be even worse.
The plight of the Alonso family to save their farm never becomes the least bit interesting. Even worse are the 'educational beats' that bring the story to a grinding halt: a lecture about Hispanic history, the soil requirements for planting legumes, and how rainfull is produced. This is beyond bad. It's unwatchable.
If Dr. Zee is such a genius, why doesn't it ever occur to him to use Galactican technology to create money so the Colonials can simply buy the food that they need? I guess such a simple solution would have made this story pointless.
Furthermore, the Imperious Leader's plan to force the Galactica to lead the Cylons to Earth makes no sense. How could Imperious Leader know that Earth was nearby? And if he did know, why not just destroy the Colonial fleet and conduct a search of the nearby planets? Did anything on this series make sense? Was anything supposed to?
Last, and certainly least, Troy and Dillon bouncing high in the air and throwing seeds while the Super Scouts sing their song is hands down the most ludicrous thing ever shown on Galactica 1980, and that's saying something.
The Return of Starbuck
Rating: Five stars out of five (Outstanding)
This is undeniably the best and most popular episode of Galactica 1980. It is even better than most of the episodes of Battlestar Galactica. What is there not to love about this episode? There are so many outstanding scenes: Adama's chilling reaction to Dr. Zee's mention of Starbuck; Boomer's heartwrenching goodbye to Starbuck, Adama explaining to Boomer that they can't go back to find him; Adama saying his farewell to Starbuck; Starbuck's rationalizations about how the planet belongs to him; Angela's words, "Starbuck, would you die for me?"; Starbuck sacrificing his chance to return to the fleet to give Angela and her baby a better chance; Starbuck's goodbye to Cy. The list goes on. Best of all, we see growth in Starbuck's character! A true classic to be treasured for all time by Galactica fans.
This episode is based on an earlier script written for the second season of Battlestar Galactica that never happened. The main differences are that a regular woman appears (not Angela), and Starbuck is eventually rescued by Boomer. The only thing believed to have been taken intact from the early script is Starbuck's dialogue with Cy. While that would no doubt have been a tremendous episode, it still would not have come close to being as great as this one is. The reason why is very simple. One of the problems with creating dramatic and suspenseful stories in any weekly series is that the viewer knows the hero will ultimately prevail. For example, when Starbuck is accused of murder in Murder on the Rising Star, there is little in terms of suspense because it is a foregone conclusion that Starbuck will be vindicated, just as it is a forgone conclusion that Starbuck isn't going to die in The Young Lords when he is hunted by the Cylons on the planet Attila. In the beginning of The Return Of Starbuck, it is quickly established that Adama doesn't know what happened to Starbuck and that Starbuck never returned from the mission where he was shot down. As a result, in what is most unusual for any action/adventure television story, the viewer sits through the entire episode knowing that Starbuck isn't going to make it!
This makes the story much more gripping and intense than virtually any other episode of either series. The grim reality of Starbuck's eventual fate is all reinforced by Angela's question "Starbuck, will you die for me?" and her warnings of disaster, telling him that he must prepare to make "the final judgement." Of course, we do not actually see Starbuck die at the end of the story. Larson leaves Starbuck's fate ambiguous, especially since an intact Cylon raider is left nearby. Having Starbuck die would have been a gutsy and innovative move, but the ending shown is really for the best. The beauty of the ending is that it lets the viewers make their own interpretation of Starbuck's fate. If one goes with the idea that a single person alone cannot fly a Cylon raider, then Starbuck could have easily died on the planet. Many fans don't consider Galactica 1980 to be canon for the original series, except for this episode. With the interpretation that Galactica 1980 didn't happen, Starbuck could possibly have flown the Cylon raider back to the fleet, returning to Apollo, Adama, Sheba, and the other original characters. Much Galactica fan fiction over the years has interpreted the episode in this manner.
Despite having a small role, Lorne Greene gives what may be his best performance ever as Commander Adama. The look on his face when he asks Dr. Zee to tell him his dream is worth a thousand words. His farewell to Starbuck, saying that he loves him, is also incredibly powerful. A wonderful performance!
In conclusion, The Return of Starbuck is an incredible ending to the series and a worthy finish to the Battlestar Galactica saga overall. Galactica 1980 was crap, but it sure went out with a bang.
Galactica 1980 comic series
Rating: Two and a half stars out of five
Comic adaptations of television shows are often very good because the writers are free from the usual constraints that a television show faces: limited budgets, censors, and network meddling in the storylines. Unfortunately, this is a double-edged sword, as the comic book writers' unlimited freedom sometimes allows the story to go flying off the rails.
Such is the case with the Galactica 1980 comic series, a cool idea that feels like a missed opportunity. First, the comic does a number of things right. It is a reboot rather than a continuation, delivering a War of the Worlds type story with the Colonials and Cylons battling over Earth. It even makes Dr. Zee a villian, a great move considering that Zee is hands down the most hated character in the entire Galactica universe. Baltar and Lucifer are also in it, leading the Cylons to Earth. Unfortunately, writer Marc Guggenheim decides to go for shock value. In the first issue, we learn that Troy is a drunk and Adama is suicidal. Personally, I found this ugly and disturbing.
Even worse is the end of issue #1 when the Galactica is destroyed by nukes. Again, it feels like the writer is just trying to hit us with one shocking surprise after another. Surprises can be great fun, but I get annoyed when they lack logic as this one does. Why would Adama be so stupid as to fly the Galactica directly over the White House without first sending a message and waiting to see what the response would be? This just makes no sense.
And I just didn't like seeing the Galactica destroyed. After all, this is Galactica 1980, so therefore the Galactica should be in it. If the Galactica had to be destroyed, it should have happened in the final issue (#4), not the first.
Lo and behold, we get yet another shocking surprise in issue #2 when Dillon is killed off (and rather undramatically). I have a big problem with this as well. Troy and Dillon were the heroes of Galactica 1980, and I just don't think that either should have been killed (at least not less than halfway through the story). I was also disappointed that Jamie Hamilton is given nothing more than a cameo appearance in issue #4. Given that she was one of the main characters on the original show, she should have had a larger role in the story.
In the end, I wish Guggenheim had written a story that might have been done on television if not for the limited budget and children's hour restrictions that ultimately crippled the series. The War of the Worlds premise was perfect for Galactica 1980, but in this case the execution fell short.
The Galactica Telemovies
Conquest of the Earth
Rating: Two stars out of five
The opening sequence is outstanding, although it mostly uses footage from the original series. It has a truly epic feel, and it gives the impression that we will see a grand conclusion to the Battlestar Galactica saga. Sadly, this does not happen. Still, Adama's opening declaration that Earth has been found is also magnificent, much better done than it was in the original episode. By removing the time-travel subplot as well as much of the silliness including Troy and Dillon dancing on stage, the whole is better than any of the original Galactica 1980 episodes it is composed of. Yet this hardly makes Conquest of the Earth a great movie. The opening minutes rate five stars, yet starting with the first appearance of Dr. Zee (who bizarrely speaks with two different voices), the rest of the movie rates much lower.
Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack
Rating: Two stars out of five
This movie is less entertaining than the individual episodes it is composed of (The Living Legend and Fire In Space). The separate episodes don't mesh together seamlessly, resulting in several plot holes and odd hairstyle changes between scenes. The movie especially suffers because many great scenes from The Living Legend episode are missing. All scenes and dialogue relating to Starbuck's relationship with Cassiopeia are cut, which only makes the Cain/Cassiopeia subplot less interesting. The battle scenes are a little more elaborate because additional stock footage is used, but that's not enough to overcome the movie's deficiencies. A different sound effect is used for the engines of the Cylon raiders that's a little jarring for anyone who is a die-hard fan of the original show.
Bottom line, this movie is only recommended for curiosity's sake.
Saga of a Star World
Flagship of the 12 Worlds fleet, she was as large as a planet, yet as swift as the Starhound fighters she launched from her bays. For generations the vast ship led the thousand-year war against the Cylons for control of the known Galaxy. Now that war was in its final phase, and Galactica had one final mission, win or lose: blast through the deadly grid of the Cylon Starfleet and dash for deep space in a desperate attempt to find the legendary "Stonehenge" of the universe - the lost planet the ancient microfilms call "Earth."
This is the opening paragraph to the Berkley novelization of the Battlestar Galactica pilot "Saga Of A Star World". This is easily one of the most fascinating Galactica books ever written, and there are a number of things that make it so interesting. First, the book is based on an early script of the pilot and, although changes were made before it came to print to make it more like the version that aired, there are a number of alternate scenes in the book. The Galactica universe is also different in several aspects, such as the Cylons are living aliens underneath their armor instead of total machines. Also, there are missing scenes left out of the final cut of the movie that survived intact in the book (Starbuck's confrontation with Tigh on the bridge after the Colonies are destroyed; Starbuck's extended conversation with Cassie on the shuttle; Adama's resigning from the Council).
Perhaps best of all, certain events are more fleshed out in the novelization than in the movie such as the surprise Cylon attack. The novelization helps to fill a number of gaping plot holes and unanswered questions that the movie was saddled with. Many chapters begin with an entry from the Adama journals, and the reader is able to learn a lot of information and insight from the Galactica's commander.
Many fans are unhappy with the Berkley books, feeling that they don't remain true to the series. I respectfully disagree. First of all, as already mentioned, the novelizations often have extra detail and explanations that help cover up plot holes that existed in the episodes. Second, the fact that the novels portray the BG universe in a slightly different way and that they are not exact retellings of the episodes is good because the books would be pretty boring otherwise. Third, some of the characters such as Athena are fleshed out better in the novels. Make no mistake, this is the best of all the Berkley novelizations and is a must-read for any fan of the original series.