Monday, August 04, 2008

The Original Battlestar Galactica--Commentary Part One

***Picture from Episode 10*****

There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. That they may have been the architects of the great pyramids, or the lost civilizations of Lemuria or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive somewhere beyond the heavens...
So say the opening lines of the 1970s Battlestar Galactica television series.
I was a bit young when these first came out (five!). Star Wars was the hottest thing in the universe and everyone with a television studio was trying to capture the hype of space shows. Star Trek became revitalized because of the hype and came out with the first of, what, nine movies now. Think of it in today's terms of all the comic book movies coming out.

So it was cool to see these Colonial Vipers in a resemblance of X-Wing Fighters. Cylons looked like different kinds of Stormtroopers. There were similarities but there were also differences. The biggest being the fact that they were fleeing to Earth. Earth is a dream.
The basic concept of Battlestar Galactica is pretty cool, cool enough for the spectacularly perfect revitalization on the SciFi Channel 25 years later. However, as I watch these original 1970s episodes, all available for free on, I remember why I didn't like the bloody show in the first place.
It stinks.
It was 25 years too early. There are parts of me that thinks it was necessary to engage in this show for the betterment of science fiction on tv, and parts of me that think it just wasn't handled right.
It is sort of like watching the 1970s Spider-Man movies and then watching the new Spider-Man. They wanted to do stuff but just couldn't.
That's one of the reasons I waited so long to watch the new show. I waited until DVD, got it through my Netflix account. I was worried, I really was, that it would be a cheesy remake of the 1970s show. But it wasn't. It was one hundred times better, and that first Battlestar Galactica mini-series remains some of the best science fiction I have ever watched.

So I have gone through every episode on and have gathered my thoughts on the show. Pointless, I know, but I am a geek that likes doing this crap.

Episode 1: "Battlestar Galactica--Part One"

Even the opening music sounds like Star Wars. It's good theme music though. It still actually has good space effects that stand up today. Those ships are pretty cool, all of them. Then the episode starts...
Do they ever really explain who the Cylons are, or are they just an alien race? (Not until episode 2.) Why do they hate the humans? In the light of retrospective history, this episode has nothing on the first episode and mini-series of the new show. I remember my jaw dropping with awe when I saw the new show. Not here. I distinctly had the feeling that they were taking the annihilation of the Twelve Colonies quite well. There was no "utter devastation" and hopelessness that should have been there. The only thing it seemed to have is that kind of Empire Strikes Back feeling of being beaten. Although, it still did not seem hopeless.
Apollo and his brother Zack (played by Rick Springfield) go out to fly by the Cylon convoy for a peace conference. It was kind of fun to watch Rick Springfield get blown up! Apollo also has a sister, Athena, in this show.
Starbuck, a male Starbuck by the way, feels the worse of anyone but is still tying to make a play for love on Athena. All during an utter holocaust.
Baltar is so different on this old show than on the new show. The new show is definitely a change for the better, whether you think the new Baltar is whiny or not on the new show.
All in all, it seemed to be an episode that focused on cool effects over story. Flashiness over substance. And that is exactly what it lacks--a heart. Sure, it is cool to see the Colonial Vipers take off but there is really no concentration of the effect that this devastation plays on its characters.
Episode 2: "Battlestar Galactica--Part Two"
The continuation of episode one. The Ray Milland character Yuri as a hoarder was quite cool. That plays well into some of the best new BG episodes on the black market and such.
Now the real differences, apart from Baltar, take shape. The Council of Twelve is said to be still active, Yuri being one of them. The Laura Roslin--Secretary of Education now President--character is not there at all. Adama seems to have complete control.
I still have a soft spot for that stupid robotic dog character, Muffet the Daggit. I remember having a figure of him as a kid.
Now it gets...strange. As the Galactica is fleeing, they come to a SPACE DISCO! I kid you not. The entire human race gets wiped out and the people left alive are hanging out in a space disco and gambling in the casino. It's a planet called Carillon, inhabited by some insect people. And a really strange woman/man alien with two faces. This was the obligatory CANTINA scene knockoff from Star Wars. Bad space music and aliens drinking. And it has that classic feeling of "too good to be true."
Interestingly, in a side conversation with that kid Boxy, Apollo talks about the Cylon origins.
Apollo: [Cylons] are machines created by living creatures a long, long time ago.
Boxy: Who created them?
Apollo: We didn't. Another race did called the Cylons.

He goes on to say that the organic form of the Cylons was dying off. They created the robotic Cylons in human form because of the apparent perfection of the human form. Makes you wonder what the original Cylons looked like. Still never answers the question of why they hate humans. They just do. Remind me one day to talk about this compared to the Matrix movie.
Episode 3: "Battlestar Galactica--Part Three"

Part three of the three-part opener. They are still having the time of their lives in a space disco. Colonel Tigh says, "The people are having the time of their lives." On another note, this Colonel Tigh is extremely one-dimensional compared to the foibles of the drining Colonel Tigh of the new series. Will they ever give this Tigh a personality? Substance? (The answer is no, because they completely removed his character as being superfluous when they go to create the Galactica 1980 tv series.)
Cylons are already part of the Carillon planet. They are going to finish the humans in one stroke. Apollo and Starbuck accidentally find the food chambers that the insect people are putting the humans into, and accidentally start a chain reaction with the made-up combustible substance they are mining in the planet. They escape. The planet explodes. The Cylon Base-Star blows up with it.
And I have to ask--this is the first storyline?? This is a story that had to be told? No, it wasn't. It was simply a way for the writers and producers to get their series into space so that they can explore, like Star Trek, a new world each week, fly some Vipers and blow up some Cylons. I see that now and I don't care what anybody else says about it. That was the plan.
Episode 4: "Lost Planet of the Gods--Part One"

Apollo is going to marry Serina (played by Jane Seymour), the mother of Boxy. Again--they are worried about marriage on the second storyline, the fourth episode, after the utter annihilation of mankind?
There is a void in space. No light or stars penetrate. I was extremely curious because I remember this from an episode of Star Trek: Voyager and I looked it up. Sure enough, it is a real phenomenon.
Boomer and Jolly, two fighter pilots, contract a disease out on patrol and then skip decontamination to go to the bachelor party! The entire regiment of fighter pilots gets infected. The doctor says they have to go back to the Cylon-infested planet to find out what it is. So they recruit women pilots.
Episode 5: "Lost Planet of the Gods--Part Two"

This episode is amazingly sexist about the fact that women will be flying the Colonial Vipers. Part of the time, I guess.
Starbuck disobeys orders right and left, somewhat like the new Starbuck. Then Starbuck gets captured and brought to Baltar's Base-Star. He has been given one to hunt down the remaining humans. So Starbuck disappears for a while. The rest of Galactica don't know that he is captured. So Apollo and Serina get married in the very next scene! Boy, they sure can put tragedy behind them.

At the end of the void, they find the planet Kobol, the mother world of all humans, where life began, says Adama. And it has pyramids!
They go down to find clues to Earth in the temples. Baltar goes to th temple to try to trap Adama. Fighting happens. Baltar gets trapped in the collapsing temple. The Adamas try to save Baltar but they leave him when it gets really hairy. Serina gets shot by a Cylon and dies! I was actually beginning to wonder why Jane Seymour was only listed as a "special guest star."

I don't know how Baltar escapes but I would think that the Cylons, if they stayed to research this planet, could find out a hell of a lot of stuff about Earth. Also, the bloody planet Kobol wasn't all that fricking far away, now was it????

Episode 6: "The Lost Warrior"

Apollo while out on patrol is attacked and manages to escape to a planet called Equellus. Then it gets strange. It turns into a space-western. Here is where it specifically turns into a "What's on this planet?" type of show.
Uh, first of all, why is there a planet with people here? Is it a colony or not? Is it not part of the Twelve Colonies?

Old Red Eye is a malfunctioning Cylon controlled by Boss Laserta in town, playing an enforcer taking tribute from people. Could TV seriously not get away from the Western concept, complete with gunfights? (Digressing, the TV show for The Planet of the Apes also seemed to do a lot of old-West type of junk.)

Apollo basically sacrifices one man so as not to blow his own cover. There's a classic quick draw gunfight because Apollo as the only laser gun on the planet that can take out Old Red Eye (why, oh friggin why, doesn't Apollo sneak up on the damn thing?). It's honor, I guess.

Interestingly, Apollo at one point talks to a boy about killing, saying, "I pray to God that it's something we won't have to do again." God, not the Lords of Kobol.

And then the fleet moves on, just leaving this planet and its people. I...if the Cylons are exterminating all humans, and they are following the Galactica, wouldn't that leave them in danger? I don't understand...
This was more of a Doctor Who or a Star Trek episode transposed into the BG universe. Substitute any robot for the Cylon and you could literally have any science fiction series.
And I also have to say while watching this episode that I am so glad that the new show doesn't do that CENTONS and YARNS time measurements anymore. That is bloody annoying!
Episode 7: "The Long Patrol"

The Galactica is leaving its galaxy, its star system, they say. I honestly don't think they had any idea what those terms meant! Or the distances involved.

There is still no feeling that the entire human race has been extinguished. That must be the case because they find another planet of humans. Planet Crodin.

Starbuck's new patrol ship has a talking computer named C.O.R.A. that has a personality. She can run the ship on her own so I'm wondering what the hell Starbuck has to be there for at all! She is like Knight Rider's K.I.T.T. for a Battlestar Galactica Colonial Viper. I'm also sitting here wondering--just a couple episodes ago, they were worried about women flying the Vipers. If they had even half of the self-operating intelligence of C.O.R.A. anyone could fly the damn things.

Starbuck meets a smuggler and says he is from the "Sirinus Galaxy" but he may have been lying because he called himself a privateer. Long story short--Starbuck ends up at Proteus Prison where the inmates are imprisoned for crimes that their ancestors committed. Apparently, this is a penal asteroid that made ambrosia wine form the Colonies, ostentatiously forgotten about many, many years ago.

The obligatory Cylon attack of like three ships is repulsed. I swear, they just throw in a couple Cylons to blow up, making the Cylons seem really really stupid.

There is a brief mention at the end of the people on the asteroid joining the Galactica. Not much else is made of it.

Episode 8: "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero--Part One"
It's Guns of Navarone in space! The Galactica are being herded into a certain sector of space. On one side are Cylon fighters. On the other side is some big pulsar cannon that shoots ships in space.
Two Vipers get destroyed by the cannon. Another crashes on the surface, a Cadet Cree. It's an ice planet, long before Hoth in Empire Strikes Back.

And I am sitting here thinking that this is space, three-dimensional space! You can go anywhere! You can go around the obstacles. It is not like the idea of the gun in Guns of Navarone. There, it is a sea channel that you can't get around druing World War II. That makes sense. No, here they get together a crack squadron of prisoners and criminals to take out the gun. And I can't help but thinking, "Why don't you fricking go around it??" Even the best gun cannot shoot below the horizon if you come at the planet from the opposite side or something.

Muffet and Boxy stowaway on board the shuttle going down to the planet. After they crash, they find yet another colony of people on the surface, this one some colony of clones that I think we will find out more about in the seond half of the two-parter.

(Digressing, I am watching this on and the commercial is that of a Dove hair care ad. Look, I know Starbuck's hair is feathered and lethal but shouldn't they do a little better with their targeting of ads?)

Episode 9: "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero--Part Two"

I watch the counter at the bottom of the screen--it took 5:45 of a 48:47 episode just to show the opening credits and the recap of the previous episode.
The clones are Theta class lifeforms and the Cylons consider them "subhuman."
Baltar is literally just walking in circles on the BaseStar for no apparent reason. Why do megalomaniacs pace so much? Don't they have anything to do?
Dr. Ravashaw doesn't know his Theta clones are breeding. So he decides to help Apollo blow up the gun (a project of his that was being misused by the Cylons).
It was cool when one of the criminals, Thane, was captured by the Cylons and made them set off a bomb to destroy himself and a couple of Cylons.
All in all though, the criminals were much more of a hindrance than a help. Utterly stupid. They had no serious expertise that was utilized. I can see that they were actually used as cannon fodder by the writers so the big name good guys don't get killed. Quite action packed ending, really.
Episode 10: "The Magnificent Warriors"

As you can tell by the title, this one is the BSG ripoff of the movie The Magnificent Seven (which I guess itself was a ripoff of a Kurosawa movie).
It starts with a pitched space battle with no idea what's going on. Apparently an attack to take out the Agro-ships. Cylons took out 2 of the 3. Now they need new seed to feed the fleet. And they just happend across yet another small human settlement to trade with.

In retrospect, wouldn't these Cylons be destroying all these human settlements after the Galactica leaves? Aren't Adama and company actually doing the work for the Cylons?

In order to get seeds, they need an Energizer to trade with, and only a woman named Bellaby has one. She makes Adama promise to "court her" for the Energizer. Yeah, the entire human race is running from the Cylons and they are worried about dates. Even Adama's reticence to dating her is stupid--do anything you have to, it's not like she was a lizard or something.

See here, this is where I just don't understand this original BSG--the settlement knows about Colonial money. Yet the BSG knows nothing about this settlement. The sheriff's badge that Starbuck is forced to take reads in "the ancient tongue of those who first colonized this planet." What?? Then one of the guys says, "I'm honored to be in the presence of Warriors from the Colonies." How does a backwards settlement know more than the BSG?

They have to save Bellaby from the pig-like creatures known as the Borays and somehow fix it so there are no more raids--they make the Boray chief the new constable. After killing and raiding, the humans accept this? Idiotic. Borays didn't even speak English.

Episode 11: "The Young Lords"

While on patrol, Starbuck is shot down. He is forced to land on a strange planet. This is already a pattern on this show and this is only flipping episode 11.

Of course, Cylons are on this planet in full force. After crash landing, Starbuck is captured by the Cylons. A tribe of kids riding unicorns rescue Starbuck--no, I ain't kidding.

Colonel Tigh says, "The Cylons have penetrated more deeply than we imagined." Yet, this colony knows all about the Galactica again! They say they learned it from the Cylons. Starbuck actually mentions taking them back to the Galactica.

The leader of the kids wants to trade Starbuck for their father. The Cylons, of course, renege of the deal, but so do the kids. Starbuck creates a rescue plan by creating and chanting nursery rhymes. The kids free the father in a nice little plan; however, I'm not really sure about only one girl lobbing bombs at the Cylons on the bridge.

Ha! The Cylon leader on the planet named Spectre, an IL-series like Lucifer, reports to Baltar that they are all rusting on this planet. Baltar says they can leave after all the humans are exterminated. Spectre interprets that to mean NOW so he packs everybody up and leaves, without another shot. The humans now have their planet back.

The father says, "Our ancestors originally migrated here from the Colonies." Boomer and Apollo rescue Starbuck and go back to the Galactica without the little family.

Episode 12: "The Living Legend--Part One"

The Battlestar Pegasus! The irascible Commander Cain is played by Lloyd Bridges.

While on patrol, Starbuck and Apollo encounter a patrol from the Pegasus. "That's impossible! We're the only ones left alive in the entire star system!"

Starbuck says the Pegasus was destroyed two years ago in the Battle of Molocade with the Fifth Fleet. Starbuck and Apollo are taken aboard to meet Cain.

Meanwhile, the Galactica and the fleet are running out of fuel. We learn eventually that Cain turned his ship out to deep space after the Battle of Molocade and has been running raids and sorties on Cylon bases. Wouldn't he have to report? Is he renegade like Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now?

The Delphinian Empire?? The Cylons control an old Colonial fuel base, the most remote in the Colonies, named Gamore. Another inconsistency in that they have said before that nobody has been out this far.

Cain wants to attack--Adama wants to escape. Cain is apparently subordinate to Adama in this original series (she's an admiral in the new show).

Cassiopeia, one of Starbuck's girlfriends, finally has a small part to play in the show--she is apparently the old love of Cain. (Digress: That's actually interesting--what does a person do when their love who disappears in war comes back years later?) Cain's daughter Sheba doesn't like her father's cradle-robbing.

Cain leads a couple of squadrons in a raid to take two Cylon tankers. Then he blows up the tankers, saying he was shooting at Cylons. This is so Adama is now forced to attack the Cylon base like Cain wants.

(Sidebar: They are always talking about "getting out of the quadrant." Aren't there only four quadrants? Quadrant of what?)

Adama decides to distribute the fuel from Pegasus to escape the quadrant. Cain vehemently objects and Adama relieves him, putting Tigh in command of the Pegasus. This can't bode well...

Baltar is prepping another strike on the Galactica at Gamore. He is overconfident yet again. You'd think after previous defeats, he would use everything at his disposal, more Cylons than are necessary, just to crush them. But no, like a classic two-dimensional bad guy, he doesn't. And we all know he is going to get surprised by the new Battlestar. This is Baltar from "Living Legend":

The Pegasus crew sort of mutiny from Adama's orders to support Cain. Guns are drawn but luckily the impending Cylon force makes them fast friends again.
How the hell does the Pegasus "go around" without being detected by the Cylons? Throughout this show, we are constantly shown a graphic of incoming ships, all clearly marked, and I know Cylon tech is good. Yet, the Pegasus can "go around" in this episode when back in "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero" going around wasn't an option. I tell ya...

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