There are times when you get disappointed in yourself for not watching a show before. Today’s Throwback Thursday – ScienceFiction.com’s ongoing column dedicated to the great science fiction of the past – is exactly one of those shows.
Throwback Thursday: ‘Battlestar Galactica’ (1978)
Like most of you, I watched the reboot of ‘Battlestar Galactica‘. Who didn’t? It was amazingly good. So good, that it seemed to me that there was no way that the original could ever hold a candle to it. I mean, why would I want to watch awful piratical effects and bad 70sTV acting?
But I was wrong. So, so wrong.
On a whim, I began to watch the old series, and all I can say is “Wow!”. I cannot see how this show was made as beautifully as it was (the special effects were better than ‘Star Wars’), or why it was cancelled.
If you’ve seen the reboot and are wondering what good it would be to watch the original, I’ll give you a few.
As it is with the reboot, ‘Battlestar Galactica’ is about a ragtag fleet of survivors trying to make it to the fabled planet of Earth after the genocide of their people. Like the reboot, the antagonists are robots called Cylons. It has many of the same political problems and the crew surviving on the barest thread from episode to episode.
Essentially, they share the same great qualities that make both shows so enjoyable to watch.
The original, however, deviates in many ways, which creates an entirely different series of events. There are alien races, for example. The Cylons were not created by humans, but rather a different race that did not survive their progeny’s rise of to self-awareness. In fact, the humans were at war with the Cylons because they had intervened to protect another alien race. If that sounds a bit cold war, just remember that this was made in 1978.
So yeah. The Cylons are totally the Soviets and humans are the US just trying to protect the little guys from the fascist juggernauts.
At least, that’s what some say.
The casting, believe it or not, is somewhat more diverse than the reboot, with two main characters who have significant power being played by people of color. However, you may find some of the parallels jarring (the somewhat serious but always reliable Colonel Tigh turning into a boozing old, white man, for example).
In the 1978 show, Starbuck is not only a man, but one who is always trying to weasel out of missions as he doesn’t really like putting his life on the line. Apollo is pretty much the same guy, just with more rock hard abs, and his love for Starbuck now deemed heterosexually okay after changing her into a woman. Athena… yeah… she’s actually the daughter of Adama, not a clone of Boomer… Speaking of Boomer, he is a pilot and Starbuck’s best (long-suffering) friend.
The most notable difference between the two shows is that there is more political intrigue between the humans in the reboot. This is not to say that there isn’t in the original. Hoo-boy, the council is at each other’s throats all the time. But, there is no military versus democracy dynamic introduced with Laura Roslin.
If you watched the original for the religious stuff, don’t worry. There is quite a lot of that in the series for you.
Three is really nothing that should keep you from watching the original ‘Battlestar Galactica’. The acting is far beyond that of any show in the 70s deserves, and if you can watch the unedited ‘Star Wars’ without cringing at the special effects, you will be very surprised to find how much more sophisticated they are in ‘Battlestar Galactica’. Even better, the plot is far more complicated than you would expect from sci-fi in that era.
Is it any wonder I’m disappointed in myself for never watching this series?
Are there pitfalls, though? Yes. Of course, there are. Namely, they added a kid and a robot dog into a serious show to sell toys… and it’s cheerful and silly in all the wrong ways. Every time he runs off, you hope that this will be the time he bites it.
But ignore him, and enjoy!