Monday, March 16, 2009

All Of This Has Happened Before, Crappily, And All Of This Will Happen Again

I think anyone who reads this site (hi mom! Just kidding, she wouldn't even read this stuff) knows that I am smitten with stories of killer robots. Hell, just robots. I grew up with a healthy diet of science fiction television and movies. Sure, it's geeky, but who cares. In the summer of 1997 I happened upon a television program being played on Sci Fi Channel. I didn't know what it was(oh the dark days before digital cable could tell us instantly what we were viewing) but I did know that it had robots. Shiny robots with very familiar red eyes. Of course those eyes were very reminiscent of KITT from one of my favorite television shows Knight Rider. And while KITT isn't exactly a robot, he was damned cool, so I continued to watch.

What I ended up watching was ridiculous by even my standards. Shiny robots on 1980s Earth. Riding in a taxi cab. It was Galactica 1980, the spin off series to the original Battlestar Galactica and it was awful. So awful, in fact that it drove me to avoid anything with the name Battlestar Galactica for many, many years. That includes the new series. I'll explain more about that later this week in my new series retrospective, but first lets take a look back at the series that started it all!

Battlestar Galactica was created by Glen Larson and there is a reason that KITT and the Cylon shared the same eyes, the two series were created by him. I love, love, loved Knight Rider but could not muster the same love for BSG.

Coming a year after Star Wars Battlestar Galactica has a more space age-y feel. The ships all fire lasers, there are alien insects and humans have randomly colonized planets far from the colonies(so that we can randomly happen upon guest stars, you see). You can tell that the creators of the new series must have loved this old series, warts and all, because they kept so much of it. Names, themes, hell even most of the ships(including the Galactica herself) for the most part keep the same basic looks from this series. In particular the Viper ships are almost exactly the same. It's a great design, one of the few that this series had. Considering the horrible clothing that the colonists wore, I'm frankly surprised that the Vipers were as good looking as they ended up being.

As someone coming from the new series to the old series it's an odd viewing experience. The names are all the same and the main plot is essentially the same, but there are some noticeable differences and gender changes. Yes, yes, Starbuck is a dude. When the new series came on the air that was what most people were complaining about. Starbuck was originally a man, played by Dirk Benedict. Benedict you might recall from The A-Team(another 80s fave of mine). Here he is playing almost the exact character he would play in that later show, Starbuck is a ladykilling shyster. He's not the most deep character in this show, but he's practically the only one worth watching.

Richard Hatch, recently seen in the new series as Vice President Tom Zarek, plays Apollo in the original. Apollo is a good son with no unresolved daddy issues, unlike the new Apollo. Apollo does have one other huge difference between him and the new Apollo, original recipe Apollo has an adopted son: Boxy.

You might remember Boxy in the new series as the kid who Boomer befriends in the miniseries. He only appeared in a couple of other episodes and then only in tiny cameo appearances. Thank the Gods. Boxy in the original series is one of the worst aspects(right up there with atrocious costumes, terrible acting and feeling like a Star Trek rip-off). He's the cliche cute kid who shows up at inopportune times to throw the main characters into peril or get into peril himself thus inciting the plot. He's annoying, he's precocious, he's got a Godsdamned robot dog. One that will forever give me nightmares.

In the original BSG dogs(or in Battlestar speak, Daggits) apparently died out during the Cylon attack. Boxy desperately wants a daggit, so Apollo has a robot daggit made for him. Muffit. Yeah. It's stupid looking and makes obnoxious noises. Muffit is the only thing more annoying than Boxy. Why? Well, when boxy isn't running off doing something to incite the plot, Muffit is.

The first episode of the series has the colonials on a casino planet. Starbuck is transfixed by a stripper/singer alien and wonders aloud that they could make a ton of money if they could just get her on the "star circuit." Yes, the entire human race has just been decimated and THIS is what Starbuck is worrying about. Oh Boy. Plus the stripper/singer alien looks like THIS.

A face only a mother could love.

Did I mention that the Cylons were created by humanoid insects? Yeah.

All in all, I can thank Glen Larson for creating this show simply for one reason. It was the spark that led Ron Moore to create the new BSG which I feel is one of the greatest science fiction stories of all time. But the original series? Not worth your time.

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