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Battlestar Galactica: Revisit the vintage TV series that ran from 1978 to 1979

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Vintage '70s Battlestar Galactica TV series
Considering it spawned two revival series, a movie, books and comic books, it’s hard to believe that Battlestar Galactica had such a humble beginning — it ran for only one season of 24 episodes on ABC, from 1978 to 1979.

While he no doubt hoped for a little more success in the original run, no doubt series creator Glen A Larson — the man behind Magnum, PI and Knight Rider, among others — is happy with the longevity his creation has achieved.

The show tells the story of the last surviving fleet of the Twelve Colonies Of Mankind, wiped out in a thousand-year war with the warrior robot Cylons, and their quest to find the long-lost thirteenth tribe of humanity on a planet thought to exist only in legend — Earth. Despite their near total victory, the Cylons continued to pursue the humans in an attempt to completely eradicate the species.

Starring Lorne Greene as the commander of the Galactica, along with Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict and others, the show was initially a ratings success — so much so that CBS actually countered by rescheduling All in the Family and Alice an hour earlier to compete with the show.

By the end of the first season, the show was canceled by ABC for reasons that were never entirely clear — but not before “frack” and “Cylon” had become household words among its dedicated fan base. – AJW

Vintage Battlestar photo

Battlestar Galactica: A Ponderosa in the sky (1978)

Lorne Greene looked distinguished, and that isn’t easy in a spacesuit. He stood on the bridge of the simulated space ship and surveyed the activity.

Blue laser beams were lobbing across the television screens on the opposite wall. Computers were clicking. Lights were flashing.

We were on the set of ABC’s upcoming television series, “Battlestar Galactica,” at Universal Studios and all that gear looked surprisingly authentic.

The computers are the real thing, executive producer Glen Larson said. The equipment was designed by a California company called Techtronics, and it’s all functional. In fact, the stagehands have discovered they can play games on the computers and have been holding up shooting.

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ALL THAT electronic gear is one reason “Battlestar Galactica” is turning into the most costly television series ever made, $7 million for the three-hour pilot movie. Another reason is the $1 million an hour on special effects.

‘We’re combining special effects as we’re shooting — trying to make people comfortable in space,” Larson said. ‘If you were going out to make the first western, you would have to design the horses.”

The more usual procedure is to add the special effects after a scene is completed, but producer John Dykstra knows what he is doing. Dykstra, who won an Academy Award for the special effects in the movie “Star Wars,” is building up a library of special effects that will cut production costs in future episodes.

Apollo and Starbuck - Battlestar Galactica vintage TV show 1978

TWO giant mechanical warriors, known as Cylons in the series, joined Greene on the bridge of the space ship. Dykstra said the suits are made of lightweight plastic designed to look like heavy metal.

The suits make the actors appear to be about seven feet tall, and although they may be light in weight, they’re hot. So are the space suits, and the soundstage is steaming. Some of the glamour of being a star wears off when you find out air conditioning is too noisy for a soundstage.

Between shots, they turn on huge fans to cool everyone off, and the effect is like a miniature hurricane.

Earlier we had watched a screening of the pilot on a wide movie screen. The space ships streaking across the screen and the silvery contrails had been dramatic, but how will it look on a small screen? Dykstra said the contrast ratios will be smaller when the pilot is edited for television. In other words, the stars will be larger in comparison to the space ships.

Retro seventies Battlestar Galactica cast

Plot of the original Battlestar Galactica TV pilot

IN THE three-hour pilot movie, scheduled for September 17 [1978], a 12-colony peace mission is sabotaged and the home planets of the space ships destroyed. The battle-scarred refugees form a caravan of 220 space vessels and set out to find the distant colony Earth. The fleet is led by the Battlestar Galactica, commanded by Capt. Adama, played by Greene.

Outer space has become our last frontier and space movies have been called the modern western. It seems appropriate to see Greene, who played the patriarchal figure of the Ponderosa Ranch, Ben Cartwright, in the “Bonanza” series from 1959 to 1973, in the role of a space cowboy.

Some wags have called “Battlestar Galactica” a Ponderosa in the sky, but Greene doesn’t agree.

“This is a new concept, a new adventure,” Greene said. “Outer space is bigger than the Ponderosa.”

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Greene said there will be an endless source of stories in the people who have escaped from destruction in the 220 space ships.

‘What are their problems? What are their hopes?” Greene asked. “George Bernard Shaw said, ‘If you can make people think, they will entertain themselves.’ We will make them think.”

The pilot movie of “Battlestar Galactica” was released in Canada as a theatrical movie in July, and reportedly rivaled “Star Wars” as a box-office hit. Subsequently, 20th Century-Fox Studios, where “Star Wars” was made, filed suit against Universal Studios, requesting action be taken to keep “Battlestar Galactica” off the network.

An ABC spokesman said no ruling has been made and the network is proceeding with plans to introduce the series, which is scheduled for 8 p.m. Sundays.

Commander Adama - actor Lorne Greene - vintage '70s Battlestar Galactica

The next hurdle for the series could be the cutback on violence, which has taken its toll among the action shows. Greene said he doesn’t think there will be a problem. Planets are destroyed, but it’s all done on the fantasy level.

“I didn’t think ‘Bonanza’ was a violent show, and I don’t think this is a violent show,” Greene said. “I think Pastore needed a platform, and chose violence on television. Shows like ‘Bonanza‘ became the scapegoat.”

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Greene was referring to John Pastore, senator from Rhode Island from 1950 to 1976, whose inquiry into the possible influence of television violence on violent behavior in the late 1960s led to the $8 million, three-year government study of the subject, and the surgeon general’s report in 1972.

Greene said the thought of a long- term commitment to another series doesn’t bother him in the least. There are similarities between Ben Cartwright and Capt. Adamo, he said. Both are widowers and father figures, but Greene prefers to think of this as a new adventure.

“Ben Cartwright is something that was,” he said. “Capt. Adamo is something that is.”

Battlestar Galactica Revisit the first TV series that ran from 1978 to 1979


Battlestar Galactica vintage TV show opening

Battlestar Galactica intros

There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. That they may have been the architects of the Great Pyramids, or the lost civilizations of Lemuria, or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man, who even now fight to survive somewhere beyond the heavens.

In the seventh millennium of time, a tribe of humanoids engaged in a terrifying conflict against a race of machines. The humans lost. Now, led by their last surviving warship, the mighty Battlestar Galactica, a handful of survivors moves slowly across the heavens in search of their ancestral brothers. A tribe of humans known through ancient records to be located somewhere, on a distant, shining planet — a planet called Earth.


Vintage ’70s Battlestar Galactica ad & promo photos

The last Battlestar Galactica leads a ragtag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest for a shining planet known as… earth. 

Vintage Battlestar Galactica TV ad 1978

Battlestar Galactica: Revisit the vintage TV series that ran from 1978 to 1979

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