"The production, writing and performances were worthy of big-screen adventures, and it was just a cool show to watch."
-Tee Morris, co-editor of So Say We All  in his piece Identity Crisis: The Failure Of The Mini-Series, The Success Of The Series on the classic nature of the original Battlestar Galactica-
Finally, my long promised launch into Battlestar Galactica, an American science fiction classic. A wooded, rural road between jobs lured my mind into ruminations on politics, the state of the country, the world, and my insignificance in the far greater universe. Of course such musings are not uncommon for me, and that they meandered into Battlestar Galactica, which captured many of these realities seemed entirely natural. Relax, nothing too personal forthcoming. As nightfall set in I began imagining such a reality and such affairs from the cockpit of a viper through the vastness of deep space. My mind does wander and when it does there is no stopping it from taking flight and going BIG. That simple drive took me back to the BIG Glen A. Larson classic, Battlestar Galactica. Why did we connect with that single season series so profoundly? What was it that drew me to a series that lasted but a mere 24 episodes. In a word: plenty. Escape. A massive Battlestar. Space combat. Aliens. Cylons. A Daggit. Swashbuckling heroes. Laser pistols. You name it and this show delivered to my overactive imagination flawlessly and with big steaming, heaping amounts of science fiction goodness. Star Wars  ignited the passion, but it wasn't enough and Battlestar Galactica  quickly filled the void left by the George Lucas film delivering something special and unforgettable not entirely satisfied since Space:1999 [1975-1977]. Nevertheless, the 1970s was a seemingly endless well of terrifically fascinating science fiction television from The Six Million Dollar Man [1974-1978] to The Bionic Woman [1976-1978] and everything like The Incredible Hulk [1977-1982] and Land Of The Lost [1974-1977] to fill in the in-between. Yes, it was a great time to be alive especially as an innocent fan of science fiction. Battlestar Galactica continued that amazing run.
Delving deeper, there was, of course, what we term the 'buddy formula' featuring two handsome leads that was effortlessly and tirelessly in effect for television. As a child of the 1970s the buddy formula was always a tremendous draw. There was something about the back and forth, the trust, the chemistry that lured me into almost any series taking that approach. It began to a degree with James T. Kirk [William Shatner] and Spock [Leonard Nimoy] on Star Trek: The Original Series [1966-1969] in syndication. Pete Malloy [Martin Milner] and Jim Reed [Kent McCord] plugged it in for the police drama Adam-12 [1968-1975]. And of course, McCord, who played Reed, would one day star in the dreadfully and sadly forgettable [or scarring to a degree] Galactica 1980. The final entry in that short series, featuring Starbuck and a Cylon called Cy, could be viewed as a fairly harmless and rather innocent version of much darker things to come in the hands of Ronald D. Moore one day in his reimagining of the series [2004-2009]. Nevertheless, a fire drama called Emergency! [1972-1978] grabbed my attention featuring a focus on John Gage [Randolph Mantooth] and Roy DeSoto [Kevin Tighe]. Starsky & Hutch [1975-1979] continued my love affair with the tradition of the buddy formula with David Michael Starsky [Paul Michael Glaser] and Kenneth "Hutch" Hutchison [David Don't Give Up On Us Soul]. It only stands to reason why we love these pairings and why we continue to embrace them in film and television like the Lethal Weapon  series featuring Danny Glover and Mel Gibson as Murtaugh and Riggs.
Glen A. Larson took the science fiction fantasy genre and brought with him elements of the buddy formula, a formula he would use to great effect and unconventionally for The Hardy Boys Mysteries , B.J. And The Bear , The Fall Guy  and Knight Rider , infusing his Battlestar Galactica with a real sense of traditional camaraderie and casting two heroic, handsome-faced actors in Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict. As a kid, those two men and the appearance of Vipers and a giant Battlestar Galactica were good enough for me. Add to that Cylons, a robotic dog and my growing affection for the opposite sex and Battlestar Galactica gave us no shortage of some of the most beautiful women to appear in science fiction since Star Trek: The Original Series [trust me I love Barbara Bain, but she's no Maren Jensen], Linda Carter, Lindsay Wagner and Catherine Schell. Laurette Spang, Maren Jensen, Jane Seymour and Anne Lockhart were the ying to Hatch and Benedict's yang. Was this Battlestar Galactica or heaven? Who didn't want to be Hatch and Benedict?
There was something truly inspired about the look of these colonial pilots too - the culmination or cross between caped crusaders, swashbuckling pirates and space cowboys. Their fashion motif seemed the perfect amalgamation of western-styled warriors and air pilots, but dropped smack dab into a much more substantive story of survival. It was a truly thrilling show that lifted the imagination and the mind from the doldrums of every day Earthbound existence particularly during a period when creative minds were undeterred from travelling grim roads. The Warriors , Fort Apache: The Bronx , Logan's Run  and the Planet Of The Apes series comes to mind as just a small sample of the mood of the day.
Surely Battlestar Galactica tapped into our sense of adventure and the wide-eyed possibilities of space brought to vivid life by Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek and then expanded upon in Star Wars. Star Wars brought a sense of fantasy adventure to our science fiction and Battlestar Galactica embraced a similar sense of space epic. Star Trek and Space:1999 both stood entirely on their own as unique visions and depictions of space commenting on the political, the social and the behavioral within their respective mythologies. Battlestar Galactica, while inspired by the arrival of Star Wars, began to establish itself and a cannon entirely unique in its own right from those series that came before it. For a science fiction story to arrive so close on the heels of an international success story, Battlestar Galactica weaved a remarkably different road. The inimitable Sarah Rush as Cpl. Rigel.
In fact, by and large critics were unkind to the series savaging it with comparisons at every turn just as those had savaged Space:1999 following Star Trek. Director George Lucas apparently bought into the press even going so far as to sue the series for violation of intellectual property. It was ironic given actor Richard Hatch had auditioned for the role of Luke Skywalker. Nice try George. Twentieth Century lost that fight. Sadly, detractors of the series continued to hammer the show like an embattled Battlestar shy of hyperjump. Eventually, the cost of the series and the endless engagements seemed to take their inevitable toll. Despite a solid showing for a single, first season the fledgling series succumbed to the whims of television executives and it disappeared almost as fast as the hyperjump.
While unable to thoroughly mine or map out the mythology and concepts of the Battlestar Galactica blueprint, the series had established in its single season the ideas for something profoundly epic and universally tied to the idea of human struggle and survival. These powerful ideas were ultimately planted within the booming, hopeful theme and narration that would frame the series as it grew.
The reality is that without the Larson original the reimagined series by Moore would never have come to pass. Without the solid science fiction foundation of strong ideas and concepts first laid out by Larson in the original series, the recreated series would never have been.
Truly, I could never fully comprehend the resistance to the reinvented series. I could understand the difficulty with it for someone like Richard Hatch or for fans truly dedicated to the original, but I always approached the new show as something entirely unique and separate from that one of a kind Larson classic. Should we be so closed as not to explore something new? Would Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or the new Doctor Who be unworthy of their guiding originals? If Richard Hatch could accept it and be involved then why not me? I mean Richard Hatch had been an outspoken champion of the original series from the very beginning.
Star Trek: The Original Series with its grand, ground-breaking arrival lasted a mere three seasons and today remains the standard bearer. Space:1999 arrived and lasted just two years creating a legacy that fans of science fiction still embrace and remain intrigued by also giving the series a lasting place among the best. Battlestar Galactica spawned just one season. Somehow, despite a difficult road of belittlement and disrespect, in some quarters, it has begun to overcome its undeserved reputation. Thanks to its continued inspiration and the memory of fans today Battlestar Galactica continues to grow in stature and status. Much to our pleasure it continues to achieve a kind of late recognition for its short but influential run surpassing the Star Wars clone labelling critics attempted to affix to its existence.
When Space:1999 arrived critics resisted it for its un-Star Trek-like approach to space. Instead of space exploration it was instead measured by survival. When Battestar Galactica arrived critics unfairly frowned upon its very existence as something of a poor man's replacement for Star Wars. To some degree the reimagined Battlestar Galactica had to battle similar resistance when compared to the original. The truth is these smart, adventurous series followed in some very big footsteps, but offered something entirely original only to be overshadowed from making their own paths. It is difficult for some to accept new contenders into the halls of the best. Even Galactica: 1980 would not prevent the reassessment of a classic.
Let me begin this look back at a classic by saying, Battlestar Galactica, Saga Of A Star World [Part 1]  was an undeniable event back in the day. I hung on every word, on every character, on every scene, on every ship. Battlestar Galactica rivalled Star Wars for me and I must have seen the Lucas film 10-12 times in the theatre. I never tired of that original film. The Empire Strikes Back was a close second. Battlestar had that same appeal to me. I had the soundtrack on vinyl playing in heavy rotation. Lunchboxes and figures littered my bedroom. It was a monumental science fiction epic and it resonates with me to this day. The sheer power of its pilot episode had a profound effect that resonates with me still today. The story. The images. The performances. This was and still is an exceptional creation by producer Glen A. Larson. There wasn't and still isn't a "cheesy" bone in its epic body. I'm tired of hearing that word cast as an aspersion against the original and I'm here to help set the record straight. This is Battlestar Galactica as it was originally intended. All of the founding bones to the new, reimagined Battlestar are here. This is Saga Of A Star World.
Funny enough, I actually watched the new and classic Battlestar just shy of the creation of this blog, Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic, in 2007. It's always fun to revisit the original with new eyes and new information. You can expect the Fanatic to unabashedly contrast positively or negatively both series going forward.
The saga, in summary, like all great space operas, drops us in the middle of Larson's story, a story about the Twelve Colonies of Man who were annihilated by the 1,000 yahren-old enemy, the Cylons. One surviving military starship, the Battlestar Galactica, leads its human survivors in a 220 plus civilian, rag tag starship fleet to the stars fleeing their pursuing enemy. Commander Adama seeks out the lost Thirteenth Tribe and a place called Earth. Adama must go toe to toe with the Cylons led by the mysterious Imperious Leader and the Colonial traitor who orchestrated the human holocaust known as Baltar. It's man versus machine. Viper versus Raider. Battlestar versus Base Star.
From the bold, sweeping opening score composed by Stu Phillips and conducted by The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra we are put on notice that Battlestar Galactica is something big and magnificent. It is a stirring, moving, hopeful opening theme that sets the tone for an adventure to remember. The contrast and juxtaposition to the new series' despairing, mournful tone could not be more stark.
"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." This prophetic, stirring narration by Patrick Macnee [War Of The Gods] opens into a glorious shot of a fleet of Battlestars replete with glorious modelling and miniature details beginning with a shot of the Battlestar Atlantia.
Inside the ship the Quorum of Twelve meet as the leaders of the Twelve Tribes. President Adar heads the group as they prepare to meet the Cylons for a proposed armistice.
Back at the Galactica, we meet the fabulous Dirk Benedict as Starbuck, the equally terrific Richard Hatch as Captain Apollo and for a brief moment in the long history of the franchise, singer/ songwriter and then future heartthrob of General Hospital Rick Springfield as Apollo's kid brother Zac.
On a personal note, as footnotes go, Springfield remains a pleasure in that brief spot as Apollo's hot shot brother. As many remember he would go on to record several hit albums in Working Class Dog , Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet , Living In Oz  and Hard To Hold . Springfield was on a tear for a period making some classic pop rock recordings. Those productions may need to make an appearance in my look back at 80s music in the near future. Apart from classic hits like Jessie's Girl, Don't Talk To Strangers and Human Touch, Springfield will never be forgotten as Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital [1981-1983], a man able to charm the clothes right off women with nothing more than a simple smile. I hated the man. I wished I had that same panty-melting charm so we lived vicariously through Springfield, Benedict and Hatch. For those interested, Rick Springfield's Living In Oz recording, along with any best of, remains the one to own.
With regard to the series in question Springfield brings a genuine enthusiasm to the Zac character and puts a human face on an ephemeral character giving him both weight and emotion. It gives events weight as the episode moves forward.
Writer Bill Gordon purported it exactly right in his article GINO for the book So Say We All. He discusses the importance of Zak to Adama, as his youngest son, and Apollo in the original series versus how he was mishandled in the Ronald D. Moore reboot. Here, there is "at least a minimal emotional investment in the character." Springfield infuses the character with just the right amount of "piss and vinegar" as my grandmother would say. He is a fired-up, gung-ho, Colonial Warrior. His loss is affecting to the audience and the ramifications of his death resonate throughout the pilot with his father and brother. As Gordon writes, the scene underscores "the epic nobility of man and the unmitigated evil of the Cylons."
Gordon points to the GINO [Galactica In Name Only] death of Zac as "off-screen" and "empty." His death is viewed as "meaningless" and with no "connect" to the audience, not to mention the dysfunctional relationship with his father and the GINO female version of Starbuck who violates all protocol for her fiancee. Gordon sees the handling of this character as an unmitigated disaster whereby here in the original series Zac is an important component of the setup made to have an affecting human connection to the Galactica and the heroic nature of man as Larson envisioned. These are important observations. This small example does speak directly to the substantive difference between the original and the new series.
For those who never celebrated the original series and dismissed it with a quick slight of hand take a look at the complexity of character in this brief scene between Benedict, Hatch and Springfield. Apollo and Starbuck are clearly in bed regarding their Zac plan. It's a delight to watch these guys masterfully perform in a scene that essentially opens the series and sets the tone. These guys were naturals right from the start.
Apollo and Starbuck grant Zac his wish to go on patrol with his brother while Starbuck sits this one out.
Production-wise, a brief glimpse of the bridge of the Battlestar Galactica gives an extraordinary sense of scale and realism as it is adorned with hundreds of computers and light boards. More on that in a moment, but you'll recall Saga Of A Star World was once upon a time, the most expensive pilot ever produced for television to that point at seven million dollars. An edited version of the episode would also make it to cinemas. Still, every penny of the three-part Saga Of A Star World is placed upon that screen for fans of the series. It comes as no surprise it has endured time thanks to remarkably detailed attention reminiscent of quality series like Space:1999 and even the original Star Trek, all of which created memorable set and costume designs. The Colonial jackets and bridge uniforms of Battlestar Galactica are no exception. Those uniforms, complete with their respective capes, exude mythology and legend, unlike, as Bill Gordon posits, those new series outfits that look like "off-the-rack Wal-Mart costumes."
The Viper bay is solid, but the launch tube sequences are sensational in this original. The launches, while repeated often, never grow old and are positively breathtaking in their technical excellence and lighting coupled with the details lovingly applied to the Vipers. Gauges and real-world needles and instruments propel the creations to life complete with astonishing sound effects and a propulsive score by Philips. It is a grand thing to behold and adds to the massive appeal of this saga.
Back to the story, Baltar of Picon is hailed by the President as a figure for the history books instrumental in organizing the armistice with the Cylons. Baltar suspects it is not skill but an act of providence that chose him as the liaison between the Cylons and the Quorum once again highlighting the religious and spiritual tones built into the original series from the very beginning, but mined more intensively in Moore's series.
Adama is suspect of the Cylon intentions. He tells the President of his fears and doubts about the sincerity of that armistice offering a bold, positive view of the human race, anti-thetical to that of Husker Adama's assessment in the new series. While the President declares the Cylons "want peace," Adama does not mince words. "Forgive me Mr. President, but they hate us with every fiber of their existence." You can see the political parallels that were feeding the series in 1978 between the USA and the Soviet Union and how these words could have been approached differently even in a new series in the war against Muslim extremism and global terrorism. Instead, the new series made us, humans the potential bad guys. Some could interpret the new series as Moore's take on American imperialism and one that is not viewed positively. President Barack Obama shares a similar apologetic view of American foreign policy as a means of winning hearts and minds. Whereby, the original series' version of Commander Adama is almost traditional and hawkish in its approach. It is certainly far less vague, ambiguous, prouder and seemingly far more conservative in its almost Reagan-esque approach to interpreting American foreign policy circa the 1970s in the face of a nation a nation led by one unafraid, President Jimmy Carter. This Adama leads unafraid, proud and strong, unlike the new series leadership that is seemingly embattled and questioned by disloyalty and dissension. Adama continues, "We loved freedom. We love independence - to feel, to question, to resist oppression. To them it's an alien way of existing they will never accept." While Baltar is a symbol of the devil himself, making a deal with the Cylons. Baltar is the ultimate Judas here, but in the new series disloyal forces and dissension is much greater, ill-defined and more widespread. The new series tapped into the zeitgeist of today's political and global climate. Who do we trust? Who can we trust? The enemy was much clearer in the 1970s. Today the world has become more opaque and impenetrable with murky internal and external threats more pronounced than ever. Each series was defined by its time. The conflict within the original is well-defined by its essentially black and white era.
The saga continues. Zac and Apollo, sporting Colonial pilot helmets alluding to the Egyptians as descendants by design, spot a Cylon tanker on their routine patrol. Vintage Atari-like, high-tech green screens light up and assess the craft serving them database intel on the tanker. Apollo goes in for a closer look and picks up a Cylon freighter. Their instruments are jammed and Apollo correctly suspects the freighter is hiding something from them. Set inside a misty fog, Apollo begins to come out of the cloud spotting a massive Cylon Raider armada. Four raiders pursue. Apollo suspects an ambush with enough Cylon firepower to destroy the entire fleet.
With turbo thrusters unable to evade the pursuing and attacking Raiders Apollo and Zac use reverse thrusters and breaking flaps to fall behind the Cylons and take offense. Commencing targeting Apollo takes one down. Three remain with each Raider always navigated by three Cylons. Finally with one remaining, Zac is tagged and Apollo takes the final Raider. The Cylon armada is on their tails. Apollo knows they must warn the fleet. Zac bravely agrees and urges Apollo to get back to the Galactica. He remains confident in his ability as a pilot to return. Apollo knows what must be done.
Returning to Galactica from Atlantia in a shuttlecraft dubbed the GAL 356, a gloriously detailed vessel that rivals a classic like the Star Trek Galileo, Adama returns to his Battlestar along with his daughter Athena, played by the forever beloved and beautiful Maren Jensen. Jensen remains one of the female highlights of the classic series.
Upon returning, Athena and Adama enter the bridge area and we get our first real glimpse of one of the series' central set pieces. The scale, depth and detail of the bridge for this original series still remains a standard bearer of how to do a series right. It is broad and the elevated central command post or platform overseeing the surrounding area is a detailed design emulated in similar style later by the likes of the Babylon 5 [1993-1998] space station. Bill Gordon accurately reflected on it as "breathtaking in its scope" and even "cavernous." The meticulous attention to detail was given to both this bridge and to the new series bridge, but the new series CIC lacked the sheer size and "grandeur." There is a sense of respect and authority about the post fitting for a Battlestar that matches the best in science fiction bridge design found in both Star Trek: The Original Series and Keith Wilson's Space:1999 production work. While I did enjoy the new series bridge for its claustrophobic approach to match the mood of a tonally different series, Gordon makes some of the best pro-classic observations calling the new CIC bridge a "hastily constructed telethon set" rather than an epic post befitting a military warship assessing life and death decisions for a fleet. Gordon humorously refers to the GINO bridge as a "call center... backed by a Best Buy listening room." Ouch. That is great stuff. He does deliver respect to the new series viper bays, which I do believe Gordon would have edited into this new series if possible. On the whole, this original command post is something truly alive and special. It's a fantastic set.
So the Galactica is placed on alert and Adama contacts the President advising to launch Intercept fighters [as in UFO Interceptors?]. The Vipers would be everything I had hoped the UFO  Interceptors would have been. Baltar, the devil on the President's shoulder, feels it ill-advised due to the delicacy of the armistice. Adama then urges the fleet be placed on alert. Despite Adama's pleas to send interceptors to protect his two Vipers under attack the President requests restraint. Adama, ever the professional must swallow the bitter pill. It becomes even more bitter when Colonel Tigh informs him the two Vipers are headed by Apollo... and his son Zac on first patrol.
As Apollo and Zac make their way back, Tigh urges they launch, but Adama tows the line, following Presidential orders that launching Vipers is expressly forbidden. Adama calls for a battlestations drill to bypass the President.
Meanwhile, Starbuck is having his way with colleagues in the recreation area when the red alert breaks up the party. All of the Colonial pilots are whisked away on something akin to tram cars as they are shot directly to the viper bays. I always found it rather amusing, but it works rather well giving a sense of militaristic size to this great Battlestar. It's an ingenious maneuver by Adama.
Apollo approaches the docking bay. Adama speaks with the President who identifies a large approaching fleet. Baltar submits that it may be a Cylon welcoming party. Adama suggests they launch a welcoming party of their own. Baltar plays the President like a fiddle citing the "hostile feelings" of many of the Colonials. Adama is incensed Baltar would suggest the fleet remain defenseless with its hands tied. The President wants to believe this is a "peace mission" the "first peace man has known in a thousand years." Note the President's use of years, not yahrens.
Zac is under heavy attack. The Galactica knows it. The President knows it. The President like a lost school child turns to his consigliere, Baltar, but his advisor has disappeared. The end is near. Zac pleads for help, but the fleet does nothing to defend him and he is destroyed by the Cylons in a startling moment of helplessness. Zac's presence disappears from the view screens. Videoconferenced, the President inquires, "what was that?" The President has contributed to the cost of Adama's son's life. The fleet looks on with a sense of genuine loss under the glare of hot red light. The alert lighting further serves to highlight the sheer anger bubbling under the surface of grief for Adama. "That was my son Mr. President," informs Adama. A tearful Athena captures the mood of a crew as the fleet comes under full Cylon attack.
Shields are activated. Vipers are launched. All batteries fire. The armistice, a complete rouge, is over. "Lord help us," prays Adama sounding monotheistic versus polytheistic in his belief.
Apollo arrives on the bridge and pleads with his father to go back for Zac. He is informed of his loss by Tigh and by the expression on his father's face.
Some spectacular visuals indeed are accompanied by some genuine tensions. Tigh requests the number of base ships and Apollo tells them there are none. At this point, we are merely left to wonder what a base ship even looks like, simply that the Cylons normally operate from a base. That point of presence is yet unknown.
As the battle rages, it's also worth noting, like the Vipers, that the Cylon Raiders are a terrifically designed craft achieving the same iconic status as the Tie Fighter in the annals of enemy spacecraft, as much as the Viper and the X-Wing have secured the same status for the forces of good.
Adama contacts the President to inform him he believes their home planets are facing "imminent attack." Yet, the Atlantia is being hammered hard by the Cylons. The President, shows no fight left, and merely gives up as he says, "I have led the entire human race to ruin." This President is weak, but at least accountable.
As the Atlantia begins to falter a Cylon commences its final descent into the Atlantia's docking bay arm declaring like an unstoppable terrorist force, "Atlantia Death Squadron Attack!."
The Galactica can merely watch as the Atlantia is destroyed and the inside of their Battlestar bridge lights up from the sheer enormity of that Battlestar's destruction.
Tigh reports long-range scanners have picked up Cylon Base Stars near Virgon, Sagittara and Caprica. As the Cylons return to their base following the destruction of the Atlantia we are treated to the first appearance of a Base ship. Like the Star Wars Star Destroyers, they possess an immense presence of their own and are blessed with an entirely unique shape and design despite surface similarities popular during that period of modelling.
The Cylon Centurions report to their Imperious Leader. First, it must be said the Cylons are an immaculate creation, a lasting, shining example of the power of the imagination. They look nothing like Stormtroopers and, dare I say, as equally thrilling to the senses. They stand before the Imperious Leader adorned with a tunic that drapes down the back lower half of their uniforms and also sport a sword. Now they may not actually use the swords, but the very fact someone gave them swords earns points for sheer Samurai-like cool. Along with those unnerving voices they are an impressive, glistening sight of horror complete with that persistent, roving, probing red eye.
Now, the Imperious Leader is another story. As a child, I recall being utterly freaked out by this thing, and it was exactly that - a thing, sitting high above the Cylons dispatching out orders like some hideous overlord. I remember, as the series moved forward, actually missing the great Imperious Leader. I wanted to know more about this creature and where it came from and how it got here, but it remained one of the great mysteries of a series cut ever so short. The closest I ever got to the deformed-like Imperious Leader was that little plastic toy figure. In the show, there was a much darker, creepier detail to my imagination that the little, naked figurine could never capture.
BY YOUR COMMAND. As the Cylons stand before their leader, it tells them, "Speak Centurions." The Cylons report they and their respective Base ships are within striking distance of the Colonies. The Imperious Leader is pleased. "The final annihilation of the life form known as man - let the attack begin." Like the best villains who are calm, cool and calculating, rather than frothing at the mouth, the Imperious Leader and the Cylons make for a formidable double bill. Of course, leave it to The One To Be Pitied to walk into the room and literally suck the magic out of the air like a flame burns oxygen. She sucks the life out of all things fantastical. "Why didn't the Cylons just call the Imperious Leader rather than fly back to the Base star for orders? That's an awful lot of effort to find out they need to destroy the humans, which they were going to do anyway." Okay killjoy. This is what she does, but to know her is to love her. One evening she single-handedly affected my pedestal-like reverence for Blade Runner. Absolutely diabolical. Is that not just like a non-science fiction fan? Defensively and reflexively I react and indulge her. "Well, in my tiny little mind, you see, it was absolutely essential the Cylon Centurions fly their incredibly cool Cylon Raiders into the Base ship, walk into the room of the Imperious Leader with their super cool swords and their shiny metal suits and speak Cylon and wait for the great John Colicos' devastating narration through the Imperious Leader's sinister presence, turn right around and take care of business! That's why they had to visit in person. WE WOULD HAVE MISSED A WHOLE LOT OF COOL WITH YOUR OPTION babe!" Gosh, it can be so frustrating reaching these rational, sensible, normal people! What is wrong with them!? The image below says it all.
As the battle rages around the fleet, Adama requests withdrawal and return the Battlestar Galactica to Caprica. As the Galactica leaves the area, there's that wonderful shot of the camera slowly zooming into the warship whenever we cut to an interior shot. It's an effective shot and a majestic one that spoke with great power throughout the series even if shots were always reapplied.
Video suggests all is quiet on Caprica despite information suggesting other planets are being attacked. Unfortunately the hope that Jane Seymour as Serina would usher in that new era of peace is quickly terminated by an unyielding and merciless Cylon attack wave. It's pandemonium on Caprica as Boxey and his dog run to his reporting mother. As young boy Boxey's dog dashes through explosions we pray for him as we would for the love of Benji, but his daggit does not make it - crushed under falling debris.
The carnage unleashed on an unsuspecting Caprica can best be compared to the attack of Pearl Harbor whereby the new series is best compared to the drop of a World War II atom bomb. Mind you, Moore was certainly tapping int September 11th. The analogies to these historic events are indeed fitting.
Green writes in his essay The Mirror Frakked from So Say We All, "When Moore began developing the Battlestar mini-series, just months after 9/11, he was struck by how 'evocative and painful' Glen Larson's original concept of the Cylons launching a surprise attack to destroy the humans had become. To an American in 1978, almost forty years removed from Pearl Harbor, the idea of a devastating surprise attack had become largely that - an idea, an abstraction." Still, as much as Moore had tapped into the national fears surrounding post-911, Larson still touched a nerve of a people beaten and under attack perhaps psychologically following Vietnam.
Images of Caprica's fall are horrific as they reach the shell-schocked Galactica. Even Colonel Tigh sheds a tear, a rare moment to be seen by any military leader. Adama looks on stunned as if he too has failed his people. As the emotionally devastated crew of the Galactica reaps the wave of sadness and loss from the destruction of their home, a people and the loss of a brother in Zac, there is a genuine sense of devastating genocide and a people beaten by the onslaught.
A sober Adama insists on going to the planet's surface. Apollo will take him via Viper should the Cylons return. The bridge determines there are 67 Vipers remaining. "How many Battlestars?," inquires Tigh. "None. We're the only surviving Battlestar." The Galactica is all that remains. The good news is there are 68 Vipers as Starbuck rides in his damaged fighter hot with guidance from Athena. Starbuck is alive.
Starbuck spouts off at Athena that her father Adama abandoned him out there in space. Starbuck's base ship, the Galactica, left him high and dry, but it was under the assumption the other Battlestars would still be around. Starbuck is informed of current events.
On Caprica, an emotional Adama clutches an image of his wife and children in the wreckage. Apollo stands by his father, a firm leader with genuine heart clearly overcome. The last remaining survivors of Caprica approach Apollo ready to essentially tar and feather the Colonial Warrior for not being there in their time of need. Both Apollo and Adama give the people the news, but declare their people will fight on. Adama gives an inspired push. "We are going to fight back, but not here, not now, not in the colonies, not even in this star system. Let the word go forth to every man, woman, and child who survived this holocaust. Tell them to set sail at once in every assorted vehicle that will carry them." And so the rag tag human fleet assembled from every outpost comprised of all manner of zodiological myth-based peoples was born. The Scorpios. The Aries.... 220 ships "representing every colony, color and creed in the star system."
The traitorous Baltar looks over the destruction of the Twelve Colonies from Caprica satiated in the bargain he made for himself with the Cylons, a dangerous gambit indeed. The Cylons will continue their pursuit.
Now, here is the inspired speech of a leader from the original Battlestar Galactica one that, as Bill Gordon wrote for his essay GINO in So Say We All, believed in the "nobility of man."
Commander Adama [classic Battlestar Galactica]: “Forgive me, Mr. President, but the Cylons hate us with every fiber of their existence. We love freedom. We love independence... to feel, to question, to resist oppression. To them, it’s an alien way of existing they will never accept.” Larson's words could fit the post-911 world.
Yes, Larson believed in the power of man, truth and leadership and the belief that spirit would move a people. Ronald D. Moore had other plans. His reimagined series took a far more pessimistic and skeptical approach toward the nature of man.
Husker Adama [new Battlestar Galactica]: “Why are we as a people worth saving? We still commit murder because of greed, spite, and jealousy. And we will visit all of our sins upon our children. We refuse to accept the responsibility for anything that we’ve done. Like we did with the Cylons, we decided to play God, create life. When that life turned against us, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it really wasn’t our fault, not really. You cannot play God then wash your hands of the things that you’ve created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can’t hide from the things that you’ve done anymore.”
It's clear one incarnation is filled with hope and faith, while the other is merely faithless concerning humanity. As Bill Gordon wrote regarding classic Battlestar Galactica, “These were people to admire and to emulate; characters playing out tales of good versus evil as old as time, itself.”
Now, finally, for more important matters of the flesh. Can anyone blame singer/songwriter Don Henley for spending a sizable portion of his life with Maren Jensen? As Battlestar ladies go, Athena was always my personal favorite. I remember as a child wishing and willing from the confines of my living room through a conclaved tube that Dirk Benedict, the swashbuckling rogue that is Starbuck, would bed Athena and not Cassiopeia. Both, looking back, were beautiful women, but somehow the brunette that was Athena, the virgin goddess of many things in Greek mythology, had won my heart. Bless her. As for Starbuck, as Gordon wrote, we always knew despite his shortcomings with respect to the opposite sex that he would "always do the right thing and recognize that nobility" in himself. This is a wonderful sequence and one I recollect strongly. There were wonderfully genuine emotional currents throughout Battlestar Galactica that have helped it endure.
[Biting my hand.]. Gosh Athena, we loved you. I'm sorry but that was hot in 1978 and still is! All that stood between my little eyes and naked wonderment was a bunk. There indeed was a God or two behind her making in the world of Battlestar Galactica. And note the loss of Zac and how it continues to inform relationships within Saga Of A Star World. There were a good deal of well-played , honest moments throughout the series.
As openers go, the sensational Saga Of A Star World [Part 1] is still a spectacular saga today. Sure, their are some poor edits, the special effects need some remastering attention, but the heart of what made such a lasting impression is still very much intact. The series premiere is filled with all the right ingredients: heart, compelling human drama, action heroes, real characters with sex appeal, good and bad guy archetypes, cool ships and solid special effects. It's easy to see why this was much more than a passing science fiction event. This is the stuff of heaven. Thanks the gods for those inspired car rides and for the likes of inspired works like Glen A. Larson's original Battlestar Galactica.
Saga Of A Star World [Part 1]: A.
Writer: Glen A. Larson. Director: Richard A. Colla.
Richard Hatch [Captain Apollo]
Dirk Benedict [Lt. Starbuck]
Lorne Greene [Commander Adama]
Maren Jensen [Lt. Athena]
Laurette Spang [Medtech Cassiopeia]
Anne Lockhart [Lt. Sheba]
Jane Seymour [Serina]
John Colicos [Count Baltar]
Herbert Jefferson, Jr. [Lt. Boomer]
Terry Carter [Colonel Tigh]
Noah Hathaway [Boxey]Sarah Rush [Flight Cpl. Rigel]
Ed Begley, Jr. [Greenbean]
Rick Springfield [Lt. Zac]
Lloyd Bridges [Commander Cain]Muffitt II/ Daggit