Over the past few days I’ve been watching one of shortest and least highly regarded science fiction series of all time: Galactica 1980.
I think it’s technically a spinoff, but really it’s just the continuation of the original Battlestar Galactica (1) series that ran for one season from 1978-1979. The overall plot for that show is an alien/robot race destroys the twelve planets of man (colonies) and forces them to seek refuge in space as part of a “ragtag fleet” of ships in search of the mythical thirteenth colony (Earth).
The original series was canned at the end of the first season but resurfaced a year later as Galatica 1980, a series based on the fleet finding Earth and comingling with our local population, which was supposed to be cheaper to produce (not having to create sets for spaceships and alien worlds and whatnot).
Anyway, the show was critically panned, shunned by most Battlestar Galatica fans and shut down after only ten episodes.
I’ve been a science fiction fan my whole life and remember watching old VHS tapes of Battlestar Galatica that we had around the house when I was growing up. I loved that series and was always bothered that I never had the chance to see what would happen when they reached Earth. Not having access to IMDb.com(2) at the time (this is 10 years or so after the series aired), I didn’t know anything about Galatica 1980. Now that it has made its way to DVD and therefore Netflix, a mere 29 years later I was able to check it out.
These are my thoughts:
- The three show introduction the tellsthe story of how the Galatica crew contacted Earth and sets up the antagonist was actually pretty good – other than the fact that it involves time travel (the plot device that I hate the most - even in Lost).(3)
- They go back in time to Nazi Germany (weird) in the middle of this story arc. Nazi Germany must have been an interesting time period for series creator Glen Larson since several episodes of the original series dealt with a group of people called “The Eastern Alliance” who were basically other-worldly Nazis.
- The show is set 30 years following the original series, yet, there is no consistency in which characters from the previous show are in this one and which ones are not. Also, other than Starbuck(4), none of these departures are explained which is annoying.
- The protagonist duo ride flying motorcycles in every episode but one. Interestingly, they do observe modern day helmet laws.
- In a mere ten episodes, they actually take on some heady themes(5) such as the aforementioned Nazism, clean nuclear power and the objections to it, environmentalism, family farming, and racism.
- For some reason a gaggle of space kids are involved in almost every episode and they somehow fool the silly Earth people by dressing as Boy Scouts and Little Leaguers. They exhibit super powers, because the Earth’s gravity is less dense than gravity aboard the ships they grew up on. They use this to increase productivity on the farm, hide from the Air Force, and win baseball games.
- The bad robot guys, the Cylons, actually show up in human form in one episode. This is a major part of the reimaged series and I thought they came up with it. Apparently there is value in Galatica 1980 after all.
- Much like the original series, this series’ finally doesn’t wrap anything up (this one doesn’t even involve any of the main show’s characters). This should be required for any show – even if it never airs and it only available online.
- If it’s possible for a ten episode series to “jump the shark” is happens in the episode where they Cyclons go to a Halloween party (see the images below).
- The special effects are at times campy and fun (70’s SciFi kitsch, for sure) and at other times completely horrendous (again, see images below)
- Great group of guest stars in this series, to name a few: Robert Reed (Mike Brady from The Brady Bunch), William Daniels (the voice of KITT from Knight Rider, also Mr. Feeny on Boy Meets World), and Dennis Haysbert (President Palmer from 24, Pedro Cerrano from Major League, the All-State Insurance guy, the main guy on The Unit, and many others).
(1)You’ve probably heard of it from the reimagining of the series that ran on the SciFi channel from 2004-2009 and was pretty awesome. (2)I was not as skilled with the IBM PS2 as Matthew Broderick. (3)Apparently, these shows actually did really well in the Nielsen ratings – the 4th episode and those that followed, not so much.(4) Famous Phi: Dirk Benedict (5)Interweb sources tell me this was broadcast in what the network called an "educational hour" and content had to reflect that.