Like much of the rest of the U.S., I eagerly anticipated every single last episode of the newer Battlestar Galactica: that remade masterpiece with titans like Edward James Olmos giving off some of the most memorable performances found anywhere on the small screen!
Also like legions of other fans, I was extremely disappointed (and perhaps more than a little pissed-off) with the ending of new BSG, what they did with the whole Final Five storyline, the timing, Baltar, and how the show writers basically shook their collective fingers at today’s burgeoning — if not overflowing — technology industries.
“Look at us and what we became,” they practically cried out of the small screen. “Don’t let your desire for an easy life lead you to making the Cylons!”
Or something like that. And it was such a shame, because the previous season’s buildup to the end of modern BSG was space-opera worthy, like (original: yes I’m a purist) Dune or perhaps Bladerunner. With that in mind, I decided since it’s available on Netflix, to go see what the original Battlestar Galactica from 1978 was really like. Did they really wear those velour capes with no pants? Were the Cylons really nothing but toaster-heads? Come with me for a Fresh-Eyes look at the original Battlestar Galactica!
The first episode certainly has many similarities to new BSG, but the main one that got me was that, yes, Gaius Baltar really did sell out his fellow humans to the Cylons in the very first episode and basically caused the great extermination. The humans of Caprica are actually preparing to welcome a Cylon delegation, to negotiate a lasting peace and prosperity between the two of them, at least that’s what the Council of Caprica thinks. Commander Adama (Lorne Greene) and his ace pilot children Apollo (Richard Hatch) and Athena (Maren Jensen), plus the nutjob pilot Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) and even Colonel Tigh, they all have suspicions otherwise, and are far too soon proven right as explosions begin happening and as many humans as they can help escape have to flee in what’s left of the Colonial Fleet! The last Battlestar, Galactica, is now the flagship of the remaining fleet, and Commander Adama is often heard to lament after that, that he must maintain responsibility for those 220 or so ships left alive. The remnants of the fleet set out to find somewhere to live and thrive in peace, while Adama dreams of finding paradise according to the ancient writings, of a planet called Earth.
Okay so, yes, the costumes are a bit dated. The khaki BSG uniforms are fairly nice, and I do love the dark blue they have Commander Adama and Colonel Tigh in. The dresses given to the female actors to wear, well, they do show a lot of skin, but this is still technically the ’70s. The hair of the male actors is actually treated a lot more than the female actors, though the hair over the collar of the battle uniform was certainly not allowed in new BSG. Despite the fact that it’s a late ’70s show, two of the beloved main characters are played by black men: Terry Carter as Colonel Tigh and Herbert Jefferson Jr. as Starbuck’s wingman Boomer. That was no small accomplishment for back then. There is also a slew of strong female characters, and even a very early echo of characters similar to “Companion” Inara from Firefly, in the likes of Professional Companion Cassiopeia, who also happens to be a med-tech.
The Cylon Toaster Corps do look a bit like life-size toys, yes, but they still work fairly well as scary warriors, especially with that forever-noticeable red eye. Other Cylon-types, like the appropriately named Lucifer valet-bot who aids Baltar, they start getting into a look that belongs more on Mystery Science Theater 3000, but honestly, those were the kinds of robotic-style mindsets people had to work with back then. When original BSG does hop down to a planet, or otherwise engages in drama aboard their various ships, the style is quite similar to Star Trek, and that is in no way a bad thing. The ship combat style in space, on the other hand, is very reminiscent of Star Wars, and rumor has it that was the cause of a great deal of controversy once upon a time.
And that little boy that played Boxey, Noah Hathaway, why the hell does he look so familiar? Because he was Bastian, yes that boy, in The Neverending Story, that’s why! Boxey is in practically every episode, and while it gets a tad annoying to me as not a fan of small children, I think the show was trying to cater to family-style Sci-Fi entertainment, and that’s no small feat in the late 70’s!
So the sets are occasionally laughable, as are the in-space flight scenes, and a fair amount of the supposed BSG technology. The underlying dramatic themes are what we happily take away from this original show: racial equality, not just among differently-colored humans but also among humans and alien races; gender equality, for we need our women to be strong and inspiring and able to lead; and above all, our inalienable right to continue to exist in all of humanities glorious messy splendor!