TV Review – Battlestar Galactica (1978) Pilot Episode

1978 Universal Studios

Three Stars

Battlestar GalacticaThe runaway success of any movie pretty much guarantees that copycats will soon be popping up to try to ride the popularity wave it generates and no movie had more copycats and wannabes than Star Wars. Probably the most blatant Star Wars ripoff of all was the TV series Battlestar Galactica. Made solely to cash in on the success of the Twentieth Century Fox mammoth blockbuster this expensive series became very popular very quickly and then died, a victim of the incredible expense of producing it.

Being ravenous for anything Star Wars or resembling Star Wars I jumped on this like a kid in a candy store. Even back in my childhood I knew this was a ripoff but I didn’t care. Strangely enough though this had a charm all its own with a very likable cast, an interesting storyline, and some good special effects. It soon built a very passionate fan base and was doing pretty good in the ratings. The pilot episode was also released in the theaters to take advantage of the science fiction/fantasy craze.

Battlestar Galactica has a grand story with an epic scope, as the pilot episode begins we are introduced to the human citizens of the twelve colonies of man who are celebrating a peace armistice with their longtime foes the Cylons. During the celebration when their guard is down the Cylons attack and devastate the twelve colonies. The survivors flee their home worlds and rendezvous with the lone surviving Battlestar, basically an air craft carrier in space. In an attempt to avoid genocide the remnants of mankind flee their solar system and begin a quest for the mythical thirteenth colony located on a planet called Earth. The Cylons, a machine race, pursue the rag-tag fleet of assorted space vessels hellbent on extermination every living human in the universe .

For television back in the 1970’s this series was huge: huge budget, huge cast, huge sets, and a huge story to boot. I was in heaven and impatiently awaited each new episode. I collected the model kits and other toys and was just enjoying it all immensely. Then it was cancelled and the world just sucked! My friends and I were very bummed when this show went off the air. We had a blast talking about the show at school and playing my handheld Battlestar Galactica Space Alert video game in which little red dots would rush toward your Battlestar and you needed to fire red dots at the red dots to destroy them. Awesome graphics.

The good:

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The scenes of the destruction of the colonies are well done if a bit limited by the budget.

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The Colonial Viper. I’m not ashamed to say I love this ship even more than the X-Wing.

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The Cylon Raider. Looks mean.

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The Battlestar. Just plain awesomeness.

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The Cylon Base Star. Underrated ship in my opinion. Yes they do look like giant spools.

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The Cylons. Uber cool bad guys.

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The bridge of the Galactica. Terrific design and I love the large-scale.

Some of the special effects are impressive.

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JS

Jane Seymour. Yowza!

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The Ovions. Cool little bug-eyed bad dudes. Quick get the Raid!

The handheld Battlestar Galactica Space Alert game. I mean just look at it!

Space Alert

The not so good:

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The stupid daggett. Yes it’s kind of cute but it’s also kind of creepy. Look at those glassy Ewok eyes.

Some of the special effects are not that impressive.

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The Battlestar Atlantia gets obscured by pasted on explosions. You can still see the model is in perfect condition.

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Ahhhh my eyes.

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Lets see there’s one really cool full size Viper mockup, two cardboard cutouts, and a bad painting in the background. Beautiful.

The reuse of special effects. Even in the pilot episode they were recycling effects shots.

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One of the many shots used twice in the pilot. Did they think no one would notice?

After the fleet reaches Carillon the story gets kind of dumb. None of the people there are aware that the twelve colonies have been destroyed and no one in the fleet seems to be in a hurry to tell them. Clearly these are citizens of the colonies seeing how there are already colonial warriors in the casino when Starbuck and Boomer arrive.

Starbuck wants to take the singing group with the four eyed two mouthed girls on the star circuit claiming it's his ticket out of the military. The twelve colonies have just been destroyed is there even a star circuit anymore? Nice of him to want to bail out of the military when every man or woman is needed. As soon as they reach Carillon the story gets kind of dumb.

Starbuck wants to take the singing group with the four eyed two mouthed girls on the star circuit claiming it’s his ticket out of the military. The twelve colonies have just been destroyed is there even a star circuit anymore? Nice of him to want to bail out of the military when every man or woman is needed.

Random thoughts and observations:

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Sarah Rush should have been given a bigger role.

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When Zac bites the dust you can see light spilling out underneath the canopy. Nice airtight seal.

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Is the Imperious Leader a biological life form? He looks like one but it’s mentioned that he has been programmed.
How does he get up to the chair?

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He looks reptilian not mechanical.

Even as a child I always thought it was a bit peculiar that the Cylons would have let Baltar live. In the theatrical release they didn’t, they beheaded him.

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In the TV version the Centurion begins to draw his sword and then stops at the command of the Imperious Leader…

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…in the theatrical version he’s not so lucky.

Early in the pilot episode Apollo and his younger brother Zac go on patrol. Just after they leave a Cylon Raider is seen for a few frames following them. This is a case where the editor neglected to trim the scene short enough, the Cylon was not supposed to be there!

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Pay no attention to the Cylon Raider in the lower left corner.

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You can see the wire that powers the strobe light running into Apollo’s sleeve.

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“We will find Earth…so say we all.”
“SO SHAVE OUR BALLS”

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2 thoughts on “TV Review – Battlestar Galactica (1978) Pilot Episode

  1. The cylon ships were so cool and the cylons themselves were just amazing. It was almost impossible to get the action figures in the UK but I knew they were out there in the States …. In fact, it wasn’t easy watching this series in Britain and I was never sure at the time if it was a TV series or a movie. I liked the Cylon leader though – I thought it was really mysterious.

    • The Imperious Leader was damn cool and mysterious but was he a machine or was he organic? He was programmed but looked like a lizard? Very weird.

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