Thursday, May 21, 2015

Watching the Classic Battlestar Galactica Again

I've had the DVD's sitting on my shelf for ages, but I had not fully watching the series in quite some time. And for full measure, I watched all of it, including the 1980 series. But I finally got around to it and just finished the final episode yesterday.

In many ways, Battlestar Galactica was just another studio's answer to Star Wars. It was originally slated to be a TV movie, but ended up being show theatrically (which is how I first saw it). Then it blazed onto the small screen. But it only lasted a season before it was cancelled. It came back a year later, but with a mostly different cast and just wasn't the same. Fast forward a couple of decades and it was rebooted and came back as a series that was allowed to run its course. I just couldn't get into that one. It lacked the visual style of the original and the story went directions that were too out there for my tastes.

But it was born in 1978. Looking at it today compared to its compatriots, Star Wars, Alien, Battle Beyond the Stars, Star Trek The Motion Picture, and others, the sets and effects hold up very well. They started out with high production values and they kept that up for the first series (to some the only real series - and understandable viewpoint). The stories were well written. When you consider that it came on 10 years after Star Trek's third season, it is frankly an amazing series.

The DVD includes several special features which reveal a lot about the series and probably a bit about why it didn't make it. The series had great production values on screen, but they were rushing things. They had intended to do a TV movie and maybe later a series, but the network wanted a series and they gave them one. With the actors getting scenes minutes before they were to be shot and everything happening at the last minute, some things about the series are less than stellar. Sometimes the acting leaves a bit to be desired, sometimes there are goofs. But when you compare it to other contemporary series, it is very good. Supremely good, but maybe a bit before its time. It arrived in the wake of Star Wars, but it wasn't Star Wars. Glen A. Larson mixed a bunch of his interests together and crafted an idea that was unique and stands up to time. But like many series (dare I bring up Firefly), it didn't find its audience fast enough and it went off the air. The network had them do another series - something more familiar - and Buck Rogers was on the air for 2 years (next up in my viewing schedule). So it wasn't the production, it was the story. I got it, but not enough people did. Plus the little issues that brought the show down a bit.

But 37 years on, it is still outstanding. It can hold its own with Star Trek, Babylon 5, and Firefly. At least that is until you add in the 1980 series.

Many will automatically go "yuch" at the mere mention of Galactica 1980, but it did not turn out to be quite what they had envisioned it to be and had to change course after the pilot story. It was to be a time travel story and it ended up being a Colonial Scouts story. You really can't put it in the same category as the first series. It just isn't up to that standard. Plus it wreck's the continuity. That said, I have seen a lot of bad movies and bad TV series and Galactica 1980 isn't that bad. It is cheesy, but that was not unusual in 1980. It is just so far below the first series that few of the fans could appreciate it. Watching it now, 35 years later, I found that I did appreciate it. At least for what it is. It is flawed, deeply flawed, but the premise has merit and the execution was normal. I find it far more watchable than Knight Rider, though not nearly as good as Airwolf. But it certainly didn't find its audience. 10 episodes in it was cancelled. Probably for the best, though I think the production team was just getting the hang of the new format they had been forced into.

One of the most fun things is the final episode. While it is set in the framing story of Doctor Zee telling Adama about a dream, the episode is about Starbuck. It gives the entire series an end on a high note with one of the best stories of all of them (definitely the best of Galactica 1980). I shouldn't wait so long to watch it again.

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