Battlestar Galactica

Season 1 Episode 1

Saga of a Star World (1)

Aired Sunday 7:00 PM Sep 17, 1978 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (2)

Write A Review
out of 10
90 votes
  • After a thousand year war with the Twelve Colonies, the robotic Cylons unexpectedly make an offer for peace. But the offer is a trap that leads to an ambush, and only one surviving ship, the Battlestar Galactica, remains. Nowhere as bad as I had feared...

    This review contains minor spoilers.

    Although I am a fan of 1970s & 1980s action-adventure and sci-fi series, I actually hadn't seen very much of the original 'Battlestar Galactica', not that I could remember anyway. It didn't reach most ITV regions until 1979 – when I was one year old. It was repeated a couple of times by various channels in the mid-1980s, very much due to cash in on the success of Dirk Benedict in 'The A-Team'. However, I never really got into it even then. It was shown by BBC Two in the mid-1990s, and I did watch some episodes, but my work pattern at the time (first ever job!) meant that I didn't get to properly follow it even then.

    In recent years there, of course, has been the successful "reimaging" of the series. However, I have never seen it – it has only been shown on $ky here in the U.K. (which I don't have nor want); sadly it never reached BBC Two, or even Channel 4 or 5, as I had hoped it might. After hearing many recommendations from friends about it, I plan to buy the series on DVD, but felt I wanted to watch this original incarnation first.

    Much of my interest in this original BSG, even beyond being a fan of such vintage shows anyway, is Dirk Benedict. I am a HUGE fan of 'The A-Team' (I even run my own detailed fan website – shameless plug!), and have a passing interest in anything else Benedict has done. Here, as Starbuck, he very much plays a very similar character to his role as The Faceman, to the extent that myself and some fans sometimes dub Starbuck "Face in Space" (in fact, it was Benedict's role here that largely contributed to 'A-Team' creators Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo requesting him for the role of Face, which he finally won after the role was recast after the Pilot).

    I don't know much about the new 'Galactica', other than Starbuck is a woman (something which Dirk Benedict has been openly critical of), and that the role of Adama was taken by Edward James Olmos from 1980s favourite 'Miami Vice'. So on that basis alone, I will take this original incarnation "for what it is" and draw no direct comparisons with the newer take on the series.

    So anyway, here we are, the first instalment of the three-part 'Saga of a Star World' (originally a theatrical movie, re-edited into three parts for TV, you know the story). I have to be honest, for some reason I had expectations for the series to be hard to get into and rather heavy going. On the basis of this first half, it is actually much better than I feared, with some good concepts and ideas, and quickly drew me in far more than I had previously expected it to.

    Of course, this was the late 1970s, so there was no real digital effects as we know today, so things were done in a more "manual" manner (which, when done well, I'm actually more of a fan of, as digital effects just don't work for me on a number of levels, but that's for another debate). I have to say, the model work for the ships, particularly the rag-tag fleet of the survivors of the Cylon ambush. And whether digital effects can indeed capture more scope than their old model counterparts, I really do feel that this old model-work method captured a larger degree of detail to the designs than today's equivalent.

    The whole space designs, from the ships, to the nebula, actually aren't bad at all. It is some of the more immediate "prop" designs that I had a problem with. Many of them looked clunky and ill thought out, and eve for the era, rather "clunky" in places. Also, while the actual space scape is fairly well realised, I found the battles to be rather drawn out, with many suspiciously similar looking shots playing over and over again.

    Of the stars, well, naturally I like Dirk Benedict. Sure, his brash, almost cartoony persona might have lost favour by the bland, dull decade that was the 1990s, but I love it, as Starbuck is such a character to watch. As with The Faceman, it's just so much fun to watch Starbuck up to his various antics – and, like Face, on one side of things he's selfish and a coward, but on the other, brave and noble.
    I seemed to recall Apollo as much more staid. Certainly, he's the more serious of the pair, but Richard Hatch actually plays the part a lot cooler than I had previously given him credit for.

    For the most part, this first part of this three-parter really hooked me. The final sequences of the episode, of the starving and distressed people on board one of the freighters following the Galactica, opens up another side of the series, a political vein that I understand is played up more in the newer version of BSG. Although limited by the TV budget, I found these scenes again very well done.

    Then there is that famous theme tune, in all its majestic glory that fits the series perfectly. They just don't make theme tunes like that any more. Heck, they don't even *attempt* them!

    To sum up, to repeat myself again, this first instalment is far better than I had feared. The clunky prop designs hold it back a bit, and some of the scenes are slightly drawn out; maybe the one big problem that – obviously hurried to the screen to cash in on the immense success of 'Star Wars' the previous year, maybe the development of production was too rushed, and had more time been spent, some of these niggles could have been worked out. But for the most part, this opening instalment does very well, and I can immediately see why the vintage BSG has such a cult following. Yes there is a 1970s "kitsch" aspect to things, but what do you expect for something over 30 years old?!
    It does have some faults, but I enjoyed this opening segment enough to rate it a very decent 9/10.

    Review continued in Part 2...
  • I tried to like it, but it just left me cold. SPOILERS!

    I really, truly, wanted to like this show. Being a huge fan of the re-imagined 2004 version I figured the same would be true of Glen A. Larson's 1978 original. However, after watching the first episode I sincerely doubt I'll ever be able to finish the three part pilot let alone the rest of the series.
    I knew coming into the series that it would be a campy, ridiculous, B-movie ride. Which was perfectly okay with me; I enjoy those kinds of things. I wasn't exactly prepared for what I got though.
    The story so far is that the Cylons and humans have come together to form some sort of peace pact to end the war with the Cylons. All is well and peace is supposedly achieved. While on regular patrol, Captain Apollo Adama and younger brother Zak discover a large battalion of Cylons waiting in the clouds. Disturbed by this, the Adamas try to race back to the Battlestar Galactica. However, the Cylons attack the brothers, eventually killing Zak in the process. This sets up a chain of events that ends in the destruction of the twelve colonies, the Quorum of Twelve, the death of the present, and the destruction of all the Battlestars except Galactica. Commander Adama, who was suspicious of the Cylon's intentions, gathers up the survivors of the destruction and begins a journey that they hope will one day lead them to a new home on the lost planet, Earth.
    The story concept is pretty solid, it's the execution that lacks. For example, the colonial destruction and aftermath in the re-imagined miniseries was heart wrenching and honestly left me crying. In the original it just feels...there. They tried to pull at your heartstrings with those scenes here, but in the end they just left me cold. The same thing happened with Zak Adama's death. The most emotion I felt towards that scene was annoyance at Maren Jensen's overacted weeping. The sets and wardrobes are interesting to say the least. The exterior shots of the planets and most of ships are quite nice and highly detailed. Although at the same time, it's very obvious that the ships are models. The interiors seem very plain and nondescript. Bland. The wardrobe is very extravagant, especially for the civilians and higher ranking officials. The pilot uniforms are also nice, but lack a certain something that I can't place.
    The special effects are mediocre. Very good for television at the time, but with Star Wars out the year before it does feel very lacking. Though that can easily be overlooked due to the high cost of producing the stuff Lucas' crew came out with.
    Perhaps the two biggest flaws of the series are the acting and the Cylons. I'm not a total acting perfectionist. I can tolerate much bad acting and over dramatics. But BSG's acting is just annoying. With the exception of Lorne Green and Terry Carter, the acting is wooden and fake. Emotional scenes such as Starbuck and Athena's scene toward the end come out really stiff and cold. Maybe it's the dialogue, which isn't bad or good, sinking it down?
    Finally, I come to the Cylons. I laughed out loud when I first saw them. They honestly do live up to the nickname of toasters. There didn't really seem anything menacing about them. The pulsing, sliding visor light is awesome, but I think I'm registering it more with Larson's other project Knight Rider than the terror of the universe.
    And all of this is just the first episode.
    Maybe I'm just spoiled by the new BSG and the original's colleagues and superiors. Should I stick it out and finish the pilot and the series? I don't think I will. The storyline is never resolved and from what I'm told the cheese gets even worse. Final judgment? It was a good time waster, nothing more. Nothing less. Would I recommend it to anyone? Not really. I do wholeheartedly recommend Battlestar Galactica 2004 though.