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  Battlestar Galactica Sigh Lorne - It's The Cylons
Year: 1978
Director: Richard A. Colla, Alan J. Levi
Stars: Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, Lorne Greene, Herbert Jefferson Jr, Maren Jensen, Tony Swartz, Noah Hathaway, Terry Carter, Lew Ayres, Wilfrid Hyde-White, John Colicos, Laurette Spang, John Fink, Jane Seymour, Ray Milland, Ed Begley Jr, Rick Springfield
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: It appears the Council of Twelve have finally reached a truce with the Cylon Empire, and the President of the Twelve Colonies (Lew Ayres) is most persuasive when he says to his colleagues, including Commander Adama (Lorne Greene), that he has succeeded where centuries of predecessors have failed. With liaison Gaius Baltar (John Colicos) as a go-between, the colonies are confident years of peace lie ahead, and pilots Apollo (Richard Hatch) and Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) are preparing to take it a little easier from now on, based on the starship Battlestar Galactica where they are told to head off on a general reconnaissance mission. Apollo's brother Zac (Rick Springfield) convinces him to take his place - a fateful decision.

Glen A. Larson's television series Battlestar Galactica didn't last very long, and that was down to its relatively huge cost for a primetime show of the late seventies, but there was one reason it had been commissioned, and that wasn't Larson's yearning to make a science fiction story inspired by his Mormon background. No, what really put this into production was a phenomenon called Star Wars, and while there were plenty of movies attempting to cash in, the prohibitive bill which a TV series would run up thanks to the elaborate special effects and production design necessary meant only the most confident networks put them into their schedules. Even with a can't win Star Wars on TV premise this eventually couldn't justify itself.

Star Wars creator George Lucas sued, incidentally, and Larson did have a reputation of being "inspired" by blockbuster movies (though he was hardly alone there), yet seeing as how Lucas essentially lifted his hit from the nineteen-thirties serials of his youth, it was unsurprising a settlement was reached, and all the more fitting that Larson should announce his next project after BSG to be Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Anyway, back at this, the pilot for the '78 show had cost a pretty penny so to make some money back Universal opted to create a movie version for cinemas, which re-edited the source slightly, added a handful of scenes, and most significantly for selected theatres combined the prints with the Sensurround process, a rumbling bass effect guaranteed to loosen fillings and ceilings alike.

All good fun, but was Lucas right to think his territory was being infringed upon, or did Battlestar Galactica stand up on its own? Plenty of audiences may have flocked to see the movie incarnation at a point when all things sci-fi and spectacular were packing them in, but there was something resolutely televisual about this affair, no matter how much fun it is to watch spaceships on the biggest screen around. It wasn't the look of the project so much as the plot, which started out as an inteplanetary war and ended up with soap opera narratives for the characters to play out in hard to get interested in fashion, before the grand finale brought back the space battles we wanted to see in the first place. This sort of low stakes interplay, where everything would be back to normal next episode, just didn't translate to the big screen where you expected more.

Rather than us being expected to be invested in Starbuck's love life between radio operator Maren Jensen as Athena and a prosti- er, socialator called Cassiopeia (Laurette Spang), or Apollo romancing war widow Serina (Jane Seymour), mother to the oddly-named Boxey (Noah Hathaway), when we would prefer to watch the robotic Cylons (with their cool, back and forth red light visor - was K.I.T.T. from Larson's Knight Rider designed by them?) and discover how the goodies were going to outsmart them on a grand scale. At over two hours, what would be fine for three TV episodes dragged, particularly when we got past the initial devastation of the Cylon attack which led the ragtag band of spaceships seeking a certain planet of safety, and into mundanity with the crew of the Galactica distracted by a space casino. OK, there was that bit where the space Supremes (with four eyes and two mouths) break a wineglass with a low note, and the fact Boxey's robot "daggit" was a chimp in costume (yeek!), but you'd have to wait for the reboot craze to see it done properly. Music by Stu Phillips.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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