Back to the BeginningJune 12, 2007
Recently, a generous friend gave me a copy of the original Battlestar Galactica movie, starring Lorne Greene. I had a chance to unwind last night and popped it into the VCR. Having been so absorbed in the new series lately, it was interesting to take a look back to where it all began. Just as Star Wars delved into mythology to achieve a more satisfying journey for its hero, the original BSG was steeped in ancient history to give it a sense of dramatic scope. Of course, Greene himself added a great deal of the gravitas just through his performance, but the references to gods and heroes of history and myth were deliberate. The Council of the Twelve wore robes that looked like Roman togas. Apollo, Athena and Cassiopeia had names from Greek mythology. The Colonies were named for the signs of the zodiac. The viper pilot’s helmets echoed the sarcophagi of ancient Egypt.
Yet clearly the show was trying to be as modern as it could be. Centons, microns and cubits gave a futuristic sense to it all. Rather than an occupation, you had a designation and those could include a socialator or a travelator. The atmosphere of the casino on Carillon captured the excess of the real Studio 54, right down to the disco music.
I had forgotten how much humour there was. When Colonel Tigh gets caught going through lockers to grab extra uniforms, his reaction is wonderful.
Obviously, some bits don’t age well. The characterization of Athena doesn’t improve over time and I’m not surprised there wasn’t a place for her in the new version. She had no purpose except to react to events and balance a love triangle. Muffitt II is still a chimp in a suit, but no worse a cuteness infraction than the Ewoks from ROTJ. The repeat of special effects shots within a two hour movie seems an unforgiveable lapse. The shot of a computer screen showing the advancing Cylon fleet at Carillon, still showing the two viper icons fleeing ahead from the opening sequence, seems more an error than a cost-saving.
I had a huge crush on Starbuck when I first saw the show. Now I’m glad they made the character a woman. He’s a relic of the 70s and I can’t see how a modern character with his attitudes could be made either charming or likeable.
Despite all its flaws, I was hooked. I wanted to follow the rag-tag fleet on its quest for Earth. And nearly thirty years later, I’m still watching eagerly.