The History Of
written by : Philip Schweier
In the late 1960s, TV writer Glen Larson created a new science fiction show. His résumé included a stint as story editor on It Takes a Thief, which was produced by Gene L. Coon of Star Trek fame, who greatly influenced the young writer.
It was Coon's perception of science fiction that Larson remembered as he developed his own project, entitled Adam's Ark. The idea failed to raise interest among the networks, and Larson filed his idea away for another day. That day came in 1977, when Star Wars hit the big screens, and galvanized the world of science fiction.
Larson had become a successful TV producer, creating such shows as McCloud and Quincy. He was able to sell ABC his concept of a science fiction show that featured a remarkable cast of television veterans and talented newcomers, and special effects that rivaled those of the big screen. And on September 17, 1978, Battlestar Galactica debuted to a very receptive audience.
Battlestar Galactica tells the story of the last battlestar as it leads the remnants of humanity in a quest for the mysterious 13th tribe. As the pilot opens, the citizens of the 12 Colonies (named for signs of the zodiac) have been at war with the robotic army of the Cylon empire for generations. After a thousand years, the Imperious Leader of the Cylons has sued for peace through a human mediator, Lord Baltar. On the eve of the peace agreement, Cylon destroyers ambush the fleet of battlestars.
The only one to survive, the Galactica, returns to the colonies to find the civilian population has been decimated. The Galactica's Commander Adama, with the help of his son, Captain Apollo and his squadron of colonial fighter pilots, gathers the remains of humankind in a fleet of broken down vessels and sets off in search of a thirteenth colony, supposedly on a near-mythical planet known as Earth.
The series drew heavily on the "ancient astronaut" notions common in the 1970s and incorporated bits and pieces of ancient cultures into the production design. Fighter pilots are equipped with helmets reminiscent of the headdress of ancient Egyptians, and names are appropriated from Greek, Roman, and Biblical lore. It is a smorgasbord of forgotten civilizations and mythological people.
Leading the cast as Commander Adama was TV veteran Lorne Greene, who effectively reprised his patriarchal leader role from Bonanza. Richard Hatch, late of The Streets of San Francisco, played Captain Apollo, Adama's dedicated son.
Joining Apollo in his adventures was the brash and cocky Lt. Starbuck, played by Dirk Benedict, who would later go on to star on The A-Team. Together, these three principals form a triad, much as Kirk, Spock, and McCoy had done so a decade earlier.
At first Richard Hatch turned down the role, expecting
a typically cheap made-for-TV imitation of Star Wars. After producers saw
him in a television movie called 'Class of '65' they approached him again.
Glen Larson took him to dinner and they discussed the nature of the show.
Hatch says having read the script and seeing some of the artwork, he made
his decision right then and there on the spot.
|Larson (pictured) also campaigned hard for Hatch's co-star, Dirk Benedict.
Benedict suffered through five or six screen tests, starting in November/December
1977 all the way through to February of 1978. ABC still refused to hire
him. When shooting began that March, Frank Price, then the head of television
for Universal, went to bat for Benedict, and he won the role.
Originally, the show was supposed to about Adama and his son, and Starbuck was just one of the fighter pilots. Sadly, many supporting characters were relegated to take the backseat of the fighter cockpit to the derring-do of Apollo and Starbuck. Benedict has high praise for Herb Jefferson, Jr. who played Lt. Boomer. He feels he didn't get the credit he deserved in anchoring the relationships between Starbuck, Apollo and others characters.
Other roles included Starbuck's long-suffering girlfriends Athena, Apollo's sister (played by Maren Jensen) and Cassiopea (played by Laurette Spang). Jane Seymour, as Serena, shines as Apollo's love interest who survived the destruction of her homeworld. With her son Boxey, played by child actor Noah Hathaway, they represent to Apollo and Adama just what they are struggling to maintain: a family of man, and a future for the coming generations.
Serena would sadly be killed off in the show's third episode. In a two-part story entitled "The Gods of Kobol," the fleet manages to locate the planet from which the colonies originated. Again, in an ambitious move to raise the quality of the show, a crew was sent to the Egypt to shoot footage at the ruins near the Great Pyramids. Such attention to detail, while dedicated, also added to the overall cost of the production.
Providing the role of the villain of the series was John Colicos as the traitorous Lord Baltar. It is Baltar's expectation that by aiding the Cylons in their destruction the 12 Colonies, he will be named their ruler, a puppet government under Cylon rule.
Originally, Baltar was to be executed, a scene which was shown in the theatrical version of the series pilot. But when the pilot was broadcast on television in its 3-hour debut, Baltar is spared and given a Cylon basestar and the task of pursuing the 120 starships in their flight across the galaxy.
The Cylon Imperious Leader, portrayed vocally by Patrick Macnee, believes that Baltar has the human insight necessary to anticipate the course of the refugees. Baltar's power struggles with his robotic lieutenant, Lucifer - voiced by Jonathan Harris of Lost inn Space fame - were an ongoing feature of the series.
Initially, the production was plagued with spiraling costs, as well as a lawsuit from George Lucas claiming the show resembled his Star Wars saga a bit too closely. True, both stories take place in outer space; both feature the eternal struggle of a handful of believers against an oppressive empire. True, both productions shared the same concept artist in Ralph McQuarry, but he came up with completely different designs for both. To regard one as a duplicate of the other is to indict all Westerns for being carbon copies, all kung fu movies as cheap imitators.
In the end, Battlestar Galactica won what may be its only fight in its efforts to be respected for its individuality in science fiction. Today, the premise of the show is regarded as one of the most original in science fiction programming, and as such lends itself to being taken in a variety of directions, each one as compelling and thought provoking as the next.
A great deal of effort went into creating a believable setting for the series. Soundstages were consumed by the enormous bridge set, complete with $1 million worth of working computers from the Tektronics company. Boeing Aircraft and American Airlines also contributed flight simulators to enhance the flight of the Viper fighter craft.
The series was launched with something of a dark tone. Remember, it BEGINS with the destruction of humanity. In early plotlines the survivors faced issues such as starvation, corruption, class division and religious fanaticism. But beneath the darkness it is an engaging saga about tragedy and survival. A number of episodes were two-part stories, suggesting that there may be more to this series than most of the late-'70s mediocrity.
But with the rush for production, better story ideas were abandoned to accommodate quick-fix episodes which featured either ubiquitous stock footage, or too often involved characters being stranded on backward planets that resembled Earth.
More than a few episodes "borrowed" movie plots from such films as The Guns of Navarone and Shane. Westerns too often served as inspiration to staff writers, as they shared the same concepts of outward exploration.
Special effects, under the direction of veteran John Dykstra, were extensive, though often repetitive. By some reports, the pilot had cost $14 million, and producers were determined to get their money's worth. As the series ran its course, viewers were treated to the same stock footage of Viper fighter craft launching, Cylon raiders attacking, and a limited number of beauty shots of the Galactica as it slowly made its way through space. Amid the recycled dog fights and budget-saving plotlines, there are several excellent episodes that have maintained fan interest to this day.
In "The Living Legend," Lloyd Bridges gave a stellar performance as an old wardog Commander Cain. It is discovered that another battlestar survived the destruction of the colonies. Conflict is built on the two seasoned commanders with opposing yet equally valid agendas. Cain leads the colonial warriors in a raid on a Cylon fuel station, despite Adama's more conservative ways. In the interest of fleet safety, he hopes to slip by undetected.
"The Living Legend" gave Larson a chance to supplement his cast with Cain's daughter, Lt. Sheba. Anne Lockhart, daughter of Lost In Space mom June Lockhart, had been sent an early pilot script for Galactica in the very beginning, but had turned it down. She believed the role for which she was considered was not very strong, and that she would not be happy enough to give the show her best.
But the script for "The Living Legend" turned her around. The character of Lt. Sheba was much stronger. Sheba was accepted and respected for her abilities as a warrior and as a pilot, without losing her femininity. As shooting of the episode progressed, it was obvious that there was good chemistry between Sheba and Apollo, the single-father Viper captain played by Richard Hatch.
By the time the two-parter had finished, her contract was negotiated to allow her to remain as a series regular. There was good chemistry off-screen as well, as the cast and crew established a very warm and open working atmosphere.
Noah Hathaway, who played Apollo's adopted son Boxey, celebrated his seventh birthday on the set. "It was like I was a part of one big happy family," he says. His strongest impression is the chaos on the set, due to the show being behind schedule every week. "Mostly, I just chased the dog the whole damn time."
On the show, Boxey had a mechanical dog, called a daggit. Actually a chimp named Evie inside a robotic suit, the animal had a tendency to bite when the heat from the lights and the daggit costume got be too much. "I was holding her, and I thought she was slipping, when she wanted to get down, so she just kind of turned her head and gave me a little nip and, my God, if you could've seen the look on everyone's face on that set when they heard me scream. They all knew what it was, because they heard a squeal, and they all knew, 'Oh God, Noah got bit,' and five minute later it was nothing. That's how animals let you know sometimes that you aint doing something right."
"The Living Legend" features an open ending, with Commander Cain chasing the Cylons out into the void. It was never made clear whether Cain and the Pegasus were destroyed or had managed to survive, creating dramatic emotional tension for Lt. Sheba. Not knowing the fate of her father becomes her Achilles heel, allowing the charismatic Count Iblis to prey upon those feelings in the episode "War of the Gods."
Portrayed by Patrick MacNee, the seductive Iblis was an alien being with Satanic overtones. Encountering mysterious ships of light, a number of fighter pilots are lost, and the enigmatic Count Iblis seems to be the only one with the answers.
As he fulfills impossible promises, Adama begins to fall out of favor with the ruling Council of 12, and a power struggle ensues. Iblis later reveals himself to be a being of indescribable evil, but is chased off by the angelic ships of light, who pass on to the Galacticans possible coordinates for Earth.
Despite some ambitious episodes, its full potential was never realized. Network television was a self-contained canvas in the late 1970s.
Shows were written to be viewed as a series of stand-alone stories, without overlapping plotlines and multi-episode story arcs. Certainly the scripts were uneven, but that is true of many science fiction and fantasy shows as they struggle to find what works and what doesn't.
Usually a series will not hit its stride until the second season, as actors become more comfortable in their roles, and writers have a better handle on the characters and concepts to be presented on screen.
In an interview with Barbara Lewis of Starlog magazine, Lorne Greene explained, "You must remember that this is a brand new venture on the part of Universal. Nothing like this has ever been done on television before. Things have been written and shot that just didn't work, and the things that didn't work were immediately scrapped, and they would be rewritten and re-shot. I don't know of any other television series that will do that, certainly not these days. We're all learning. The whole series is a learning process."
In any first year series, there are high expectations, with a great deal of money at stake. Often, a network will micro-manage during the show's freshman season, as producers and writers are trying to explore and find the right formula that will be successful.
"Most series are lucky to survive that first year, no matter how good they are," says Richard Hatch. "And if they do survive, it's because somebody believes enough in them, in that second and third year, that's when a series gets to find its course and gets to determine what it is, and find its rhythm.
"The challenges were astronomical," Hatch recently told an audience at an Atlanta science fiction convention. "We would work 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and each episode would take 10 to 12 days. Most episodes take seven days to produce. That meant that the budget was doubled, tripled in golden overtime. People were getting rich sitting in their truck, reading a book, waiting for the actors to finish so they could take them home just because overtime hours were so extraordinarily high."
Anne Lockhart claims rewrites often came the day after the scene had been shot, and that there were times when they delivered dialogue that had just been handed to them. With no time to memorize lines, scripts were glued to the set out of sight of the camera. She remembers watching the show one Sunday night, and previews for the following week's episode were the dailies shot the day before. The pace for the actors was brutal.
On 'The Living Legend' filming went on all day long, into the night. About midnight the crew was sent home and an entirely new crew was brought in to keep on shooting through the night. In some instances, different episodes were shot simultaneously on separate stages. Actors were ushered from scene to scene, with little opportunity for rehearsal.
Unfortunately, the audience at which ABC targeted the show was largely juvenile, so it was only a matter of time before the series chose to focus on lighter material. One episode features Ray Bolger, famous for his role as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. Entitled "Greetings From Earth," Bolger plays a robot who shares a Laurel & Hardy relationship with his mechanical "son."
While shooting the series, the production had to deal with the press, which some contend doomed Galactica. A great deal of media hype resulted in critics sometimes making unfair comparisons to Star Wars.
The time period given by the network also had an impact on the show's success. Battlestar was up against All in the Family, a long-running series that appealed to a different audience. ABC had high hopes their space epic would knock All in the Family out of the number-one time slot, and were disappointed when that failed to happen.
Compounding the competition was the fact that on Sundays during the fall, NFL games often run into early evening hours on the East Coast. This bit into the 8-9 pm "family hour" often enough to diminish what were very respectable ratings. In fact, some claim Battlestar Galactica was the highest rated science fiction series to date, and its ratings have seldom been challenged on network television.
Galactica ranked number 6 for the entire season of shows, in the top ten for half the season. Toys, comic books, novels, and other merchandise strengthened Galactica's presence beyond the small screen. But ABC wasn't merchandise savvy, and the lion's share of revenue was going to Universal.
So while the show's demographic might have indicated a success, the network felt that by producing a cheaper and less successful show, while reaping the financial rewards, was in its best interests. Perhaps had a better deal been struck between ABC and Universal, the show might have survived.
"I believe that had we had more time to develop quality scripts, and had more lead time to do all the things we would have done in the second year, we would have stayed in the top 10," says Hatch. "But we started out with a bang, and then we kind of meandered there in the middle of the season. Then towards the end they started catching up and doing some wonderful shows again, and I think it started getting back to what Battlestar was all about.
"It's unfortunate because Isaac Asimov was coming on board as our head story writer. Imagine had we had that team in place, along with John Dysktra and company, and really had some lead time to prepare all the special effects, to do everything the right way, because never before in history had a theatrical style series been produced for television."
The series eventually was shot down in its infancy by penny pinching on the part of the network, despite the fact that its ratings were healthy. As actors began to settle into their roles, and writers had a better handle on the characters, the show went down due to cost overruns.
Certainly visual effects processes would have eventually been streamlined and made more economical, and episodes could have been written focusing on the survival of humanity, eliminating the need for costly special effects, or tiresome stock footage.
But programming executives just aren't known for their patience, and network brass unceremoniously pulled the plug at the end of the first season.
Lockhart read the news in the paper while on vacationing in Hawaii. The cast and crew had every expectation of being renewed for a second season. Despite an ignoble ending, the show remains close to the hearts of those who genuinely believed in it.
Benedict admits he enjoyed the role of Starbuck very much, and regards him to be the most fun character he has played, and was sad when the show was cancelled. Benedict especially relished the opportunity to work with show business legend Fred Astaire.
In Benedict's favorite episode, The Man With Nine Lives, Astaire made a rare television appearance to play Starbuck's long-lost father.
"Fred and I became very close, we spent hours talking and spent a lot of time away from the set, too," he says in an interview with Starburst magazine. "That was probably the one single highlight, although the whole damn show was kind of a highlight. We worked thirteen months solid and we only took a couple of two-week breaks, but I think the whole thing was like a fantasy from the day I went to work until the last day we shot it. It was like being a sugar junkie in a candy store."
"In terms of experience, it was just unbelievably rich," he continues.
"It was the show of shows."
|Battlestar Galactica was cancelled by ABC after only one season. Low
ratings were not the problem, however, it was a question of budget overruns.
Production costs had to be reduced for the network to continue to air the
show. The disappointing result was Galactica: 1980, which premiered on
January 27 of that year.
It told the story of the fleet as it finally arrives on Earth, some 20 "yahrens" after the destruction of the colonies. Promotional footage suggested a great deal of excitement, but this was unfortunately misleading. By incorporating Cylon raiders into stock footage from 1974's Earthquake, they created a very effective sequence of an attack on Earth by the Cylons.
This "war of the worlds" premise would have added a great deal of drama to the show, perhaps taking Galactica in a fresh direction altogether. But alas, it turned out to be a mere simulation constructed by the Galactica's war computers to demonstrate the folly of joining the population of Earth. Instead of immediately joining their Terran cousins, the refugees plan to slowly infiltrate Earth's population, subtly raising its technology to a level that will help protect it from the Cylons.
Many of the original cast members had been invited to participate in the new incarnation. Richard Hatch decided to turn it down because he felt the new show had destroyed the premise of the original.
Dirk Benedict felt it was not as good as the first series, based on the scripts he was shown. Out of all the shows he has done, he regards Starbuck as the one time when he did a fully dimensional character who was not only humorous and lighthearted but also, at the other end of the spectrum, had a seriousness and an underlying emotional quality. Being so fond of Starbuck, he couldn't bring himself to do it, equating it to cheating on one's wife.
Lorne Greene on the other hand accepted the offer to reprise his role, as did Herb Jefferson Jr. Now Col. Boomer, he aided Adama while Apollo's adopted son is now grown, going by the name of Troy. Together, he and his buddy Lt. Dillon are sent to the surface to make contact with the civilian population. These roles were played by Kent McCord (of Adam-12 fame) and Barry Van Dyke (who ABC originally wanted as Starbuck in the first series), respectively. On Earth, they win the trust and friendship of news reporter Jamie Hamilton, played by Robyn Douglas.
Kent McCord was attracted by the concepts presented in The Day the Earth Stood Still, a classic science fiction film of the 1950s. However, ABC scheduled the program for Sundays at 7, when typically children's or family shows are aired. Instead of high-minded ideas of man's role in the universe, McCord was relegated to juvenile plot devices such as babysitting a group of Galactican children stranded down on Earth. -
But Benedict did take one last turn as the lovable space rogue. In what would be the last (and best) of the 10 episodes produced, it is revealed that he had crash landed on a distant planet following a tangle with a Cylon raider. After Starbuck repairs and reprograms one of the Cylon centurions, a mysterious woman joins their small encampment, and over time, she and Starbuck fall in love, and a child is born. When a Cylon raider finds them, Starbuck is able to destroy the pilots. The woman is revealed to be of the race from the mysterious Ships of Light from the original show. Starbuck is able to use the Cylon raider to send the woman and child back into space to locate the fleet. Benedict was very happy with the script, and approached Glen Larson about doing a show featuring Starbuck's adventures as he tries to locate the Galactica, sort of a Fugitive in Space.
The Return of Starbuck served to explain the origin of a controversial character of Galactica: 1980, Dr. Zee. Zee is a teenage savant, whom Adama consults on most matters. Gifted with an intellect far above that of other humans, Zee serves as defacto advisor to Adama. Most fans felt this undermined the leadership of Adama, and diminished the character portrayed so well by Lorne Greene on the original show.
The show also suffered as writers tried to demonstrate through very forced humor the interaction between the advanced Galactican population with the "backward" people of Earth. While fans of the original series may not have approved, the new show did have its high points, such as the dramatic footage of the Cylon attack on Earth. Viewers were also given a glimpse of the evolution of the Cylons, as well as the villainous Commander Xavier (played by Richard Lynch).
While some of the new show's ideas failed to measure up to fans expectations, the fact of the matter is that Galactica 1980 was never intended to be a weekly series. It began as an idea to continue the Galactica saga in a limited format, but with the response, ABC ordered more episodes. Knowing the difficulties of getting on the air in the first place, producers rushed into production, with the hopes that the network would lend the new incarnation greater support, and in time, any rough spots would be ironed out.
Ultimately, Galactica: 1980 was the victim of its own inception. Network execs believed that the only audience interested in Battlestar Galactica were preadolescent children (wrong), and by eliminating the action and adventure of the space epic, they could produce a show that was just as successful (also wrong) without the cost. Their only accomplishment was to diminish a promising science fiction program by reducing it to pablum.
If the show is believed a failure, it is through no part of the cast and crew. Much of the fault lies with the network. ABC sought a runaway hit, and because Galactica didn't measure up to their expectations, they applied pressure to the producers to deliver the series while pulling much of their support. What ended up on TV screens across America represents only a fraction of the effort that went into producing the show.
Yet for a TV series that amounts to only 25 hours of programming, Battlestar Galactica has a devoted fanbase, and is a strong presence both online and at science fiction conventions. New fans are discovering it through airings on the Sci-Fi Channel. Some will insist it holds up quite well, with special effects that don't have the dated appearance of most 25 year old science fiction programs.
Naturally, talk of a revival began. Many cast members are very enthusiastic, assuming a network or studio is committed to the idea, and good scripts can be provided. With ancillary markets in Europe and Asia, the actors are often surprised to discover how widespread Galactica fandom is. This enthusiastic following of a 25-year old show is often overlooked by the part of the networks.
Lockhart adds that she would love to revisit the role of Sheba, one of her favorite roles. She tells the worldofltsheba.com website, "The very sudden and surprising cancellation of Galactica left me feeling like, 'Wait a minute, I wasn't done!' I had so much more to explore with her, because she was such an interesting and complex person. I would love to explore where she's been in the ensuing 20 years. I certainly hope she's gotten a promotion past lieutenant."
In the late 1990s, actor Richard Hatch began to see the potential for the old property. A science fiction fan himself, he had attended many science fiction conventions and got to meet many fans, listening to their ideas. Having authored a new series of novels based on the show, his real dream was to revive the series in a format that would do it justice. Since the advent of the Sci Fi Channel, reruns of the original series had spawned a new fan base, making such a project a more viable venture.
The format of network television has changed since 1978. Multi-episode story arcs are common, and more shows center around true-to-life characters rather than eye candy such as special effects. With more cable networks in search of original programming, the time seemed ripe to revive a show long discarded by Universal.
He told a group at a science fiction convention in Atlanta, "When it came to Battlestar, being a little naive, not knowing what it was going to be, I started on the process of trying to find a way to bring the show back. I went to Universal, searched through the archives, talked to all those people up there. Everyone said 'Battlestar? We own Battlestar? What's Battlestar?' It was amazing how few people knew anything about it.
"I went through hall after hall, office after office, meeting after meeting and finally found my way to the USA network office, who actually had control over any new Battlestar Galactica product, and I basically pitched an idea, and they basically they told me, 'Okay, we can see that it was show 25 years ago and it did quite well, but we can't envision what it would look like today.'"
Richard explains that the project grew from there, because so many people in the film industry remembered and loved Battlestar from their younger days.
He threw myself into making Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming trailer. People come from all over the world who wanted to be involved with the production. His passion for the project was such that he levied his home and maxed out all of his credit cards to make the trailer. "There are times in life where you do the most illogical things for something you believe in," he says, "and I still have a great deal of belief in Battlestar Galactica."
When the trailer began production, a call went out over the network of fans of the original series. Craftsmen willing to donate their time were enlisted, soundstages were made available through various connections and friends of friends. "We didn't have a costume budget, so we ended up saying yes to all these people that wanted to drive in, fly in, that wanted to be in our presentation, because they had made costumes, which by the way were much better than the ones we had on the show." In the television industry, costumes are often fabricated in a "one size fits all" fashion, to accommodate a wide variety of extras.
Hatch built his vision with the help of dedicated fans and a few members of the original cast. Returning are Terry Carter as Col. Tigh, Jack Stauffer as Bojay, and George Murdock as Dr. Salick. Even Adama was resurrected using footage available only on the laserdisc release back in the late '70s.
John Colicos reprised his role as Baltar, but sadly it represents the final performance of the actor, who passed away a few months later. "We didn't even have a script written, and it was at the 20th anniversary celebration at the Universal Hilton Hotel," explains Hatch. "Late at night, after we'd finished the convention, we set a green screen, and I wrote a quick scene and we got one take that worked because there was a wedding going on next door with a hot trumpet player."
Disregarding Galactica: 1980, the story takes place 24 years after the destruction of the Colonies. Commander Apollo is now the military leader of the fleet, with a new generation born in space. But the Cylons are relentless, and they also have evolved a new generation of machine, still determined to wipe out the human race. Eventually, Apollo is forced to battle the politicians and bureaucrats who lead his people, as well as the new Cylons.
Produced on a shoestring budget, with a host of volunteers, the trailer is a sleek, professional-looking presentation with incredible CGI. Richard Hatch then schlepped the trailer around to producers, networks, and production companies. He also took his case to the public, showing the trailer at science fiction conventions around the country. Audiences stood and cheered madly each time it was shown.
Everyone, from original actors to new fans, and all the crew in between came together to produce a trailer that promises so much, if only given the opportunity. "We were so pleased," Hatch says proudly, "because the one thing we did do is we took time to ask questions and travel around the country to decide what people actually wanted."
"When somebody says 'Only I know the way,' no matter how talented you are, that's the way to alienate people, not build rapport. I've always said, with a classic when you bring it back, don't take the good things away, add to them, add elements, update things, bring new things into it, but don't lose the heart and spirit of what made the original so special."
Although public showing at sci-fi conventions is allowed, licensing restrictions prevent this short from being televised or made available over the Internet. If The Second Coming has one accomplishment it is to prove that nothing is impossible for the dream makers. For people who believe in something to the degree that they are willing to give of themselves so much, the returns are well worth the effort.
"In many ways, I would like Battlestar Galactica to come back so that Richard could realize some of the dreams he had for the show," says co-star Benedict in an interview in Starlog magazine. "I don't have any regrets or unfulfilled dreams about the series but Richard, more mature than I at the time, saw what Battlestar Galactica could and should have been. If the show was revived and they used the original cast, although chances are they wouldn't, one of the big reasons I would do it would be to get together with the entire cast again." Dirk Benedict shrugs, hinting that Starbuck is ready to roll, "I can still fit into my Battlestar Galactica costume!"
"Battlestar has tons of mistakes and errors," says Richard Hatch. "But somehow it managed to reach out and communicate to people and I think that people have never forgotten that feeling they got, that epic journey into the unknown, which is very much like Gene Roddenberry's epic Star Trek, except that we had no homeland to return to. Essentially we were out in space, and we were having to survive against incredible odds, with everything that could go wrong going wrong, and I think it's the journey of the hero. Battlestar was the journey of the hero in everyone of us, when we have to call forth that part of us that we maybe never discover until we are up against life and death situations. I think Battlestar really captured that along with a great deal of humor and a wonderful sense of family, and Battlestar was about family, three generations pulling together to survive against incredible odds and I think that heroic quality is what really touched the fans."
Despite the tireless work of Richard Hatch, the collective voice of fandom had fallen on deaf ears, and Universal was content to sit on the rights to Galactica. There were a few false starts, most notably when X-Men director Bryan Singer and his producing partner Tom DeSanto expressed an interest. "I'm really close with Tom DeSanto, who produced X-Men," says Noah Hathway, who played Boxey on the show. "He's the biggest Battlestar fan I've ever met in my life. The first time I went into his office - wall, ceiling, all Battlestar stuff."
Singer and DeSanto supposedly wanted to do a theatrical version of the original show, going so far as to spend $3 million dollars on pre-production, but when the second X-Men film conflicted with their plans for Galactica, Singer left the project. According to Hathaway, DeSanto set up a meeting with executives at Fox, which included Glen Larson, to pitch a new Battlestar feature, which would tell the story of Commander Cain and the Pegasus.
In the end, it was announced in the industry trade newspapers that Star Trek veteran Ron Moore would produce a new Galactica for The Sci-Fi Channel. For the fans and for Richard Hatch, it was a bittersweet victory. Yes, the "ragtag fugitive fleet" would fly again, but original cast members were not included. Unlike Star Trek: The Next Generation, it would not be a latter day continuation of the original saga, but a "re-imagining" of the original show. Roles were recast, characters were rewritten (Starbuck and Boomer are now female!), and much of the original sets, costumes and prop designs were discarded.
"The thought was that if you brought Battlestar back, and you took all those things out and you came up with a new theme, new music, new this new that, it's a new show," says Hatch. "My thought is that if you want to change it, if you want to do what you want to do, you own it, do it. Then go write your own series, don't enter into someone else's universe, someone else's vision, and violate 25 years of creating a timeline, creating a history."
Despite such a slap in the face to fans of the original show, Richard Hatch was able to organize the 25th anniversary Battlestar Galactica convention, the single largest gathering of Battlestar actors, writers, producers, directors, memorabilia at the Universal Sheraton at Studio City, Ca. October 24, 2003. More information is available at battlestargalactica.com or galacticonevent.com.
The Galacticon event coincides with the release of the DVDs, which were remastered from original source material in 5.1 Dolby digital sound. Adding to all 24 hours of programming are scenes not seen in 25 years. When the film was released on video in the 1980s, it was the version released to theaters in 1978, rather than the original pilot.
There is also a Sony Playstation 2 game due to be released in the fall of 2003, produced by Vivendi Universal. Featuring the voices of both Benedict and Hatch in their original characters, Hatch also provides the voice of Captain Paulus, the captain of Blue Squadron, under whose command are the young pilots Adama and Cain in a 40-year prequel setting. "I actually think the guy (James Swallow) who did the writing of the game really gets Battlestar," says Hatch. "The dialogue and the heart of the game is really original Battlestar."
Also slated for release is a new set of trading cards and a book that outlines the 25 year history of Battlestar Galactica, featuring interviews and a foreword by Richard Hatch and Glen Larson.
Diehard fans of the 1978 series were quick to condemn the new version. Even actor Edward James Olmos, who took over the role of Commander Adama, warned longtime fans. "Please don't watch this program," Olmos told the press. "Buy yourself the new DVDs that they're putting out of the old episodes, and whenever we come on, just put that one in. ...Trust me. Don't watch it. If you're a real, real staunch Battlestar Galactica person, please don't watch it."
Perhaps Olmos' statements are indicative of the differences between the original show and the remake. Until it airs (scheduled for December, 2003 on the Sci-Fi Channel), it would be unfair to make disparaging comments. There is not enough quality science fiction programming available on television today, and a new version may bring viewers back to the original.
Original or new, the overall concept offers hope to the indomitable spirit of mankind's perseverance and will to survive in the face of catastrophe.
"Battlestar is to me is about putting human beings, everyday human beings into extraordinary circumstances that will bring out the best and the worst in us," says Hatch. "That creates great drama, great humor, and that's what great theatrical drama is all about, and to me Battlestar really epitomized that."