Sci-fi has a wonderful habit of gathering fans across generations. Doctor Who, Star Trek and Star Wars have been part of many childhoods.
The concept behind Battlestar Galactica (1978) is dark: the Twelve Colonies of Kobol are wiped out by a robotic race called the Cylons, save for the Galactica and a ‘rag-tag fugitive fleet’ of survivors.
Fleeing extermination and under the leadership of Admiral Adama (Lorne Greene), humanity heads into deep space in search of the fabled Thirteenth Colony that settled on Earth. The Cylons give chase, aided by traitorous Count Baltar (John Colicos), and beginning a 24-episode game of cat-and-mouse.
Re-watching the series in HD, its faults are as obvious as its reused effects footage, yet for all the scenery chewing and corny dialogue, it is fun to watch. The straight-laced Captain Apollo (Richard Hatch) and loveable scoundrel Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) make a great team as Galactica’s flying aces, while the Cylons’ eerie voices and pulsing red eyes remain menacing, if a tad dated – these were outfits built to be worn, not realised in CGI.
Opening episode ‘Saga Of A Star World’ is a three-part movie on a grand scale. With concept art by Ralph McQuarrie and special effects by John Dykstra, the Star Wars connection is undeniable, but its buoyant optimism, and kitsch makes it charming in its own right.
The most memorable stories are two-parters, the standouts being ‘The Living Legend’ guest starring Lloyd Bridges (Airplane!) as the Admiral Cain, and ‘War of the Gods’ with Patrick Macnee (The Avengers). But these are top-loaded with action, only to lose steam in the second half, and the series hits a few other brick walls like ‘The Lost Warrior’, and woeful ‘The Young Lords’.
The follow-up, Galactica 1980, is also included in this collection, but it doesn’t quite hit the same notes that Benedict et al managed on a good day.
Battlestar Galactica is high concept but hardly low budget – its budget was the largest of its day and you can see where the money went. The problem was its ambition outstripped what TV was capable of achieving in 1978.