Battlestar Galactica (1978 TV series)

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Battlestar Galactica
Battlestar Galactica 1978 - intro.jpg
Battlestar Galactica intro
Created byGlen A. Larson
ComposerStu Phillips
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes24 (list of episodes)
Running time45 minutes per episode
Production companies
DistributorNBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original networkABC
Original releaseSeptember 17, 1978 (1978-09-17) –
April 29, 1979 (1979-04-29)
Followed byGalactica 1980
RelatedBattlestar Galactica (reimagined series)

Battlestar Galactica is an American science fiction television series created by Glen A. Larson and starring Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch, and Dirk Benedict. The series follows the surviving humans as they flee in the fictional spacecraft of the same name in search for a new home while they are being pursued by the Cylons.

The series ran for the 1978–1979 season before being canceled after 24 episodes. It also spawned into a media franchise, which includes a spin-off show, comics, a reimagined miniseries and weekly series, theme park attractions, and games.

Plot summary[edit]

In a distant star system, the Twelve Colonies of Mankind were reaching the end of a thousand-year war with the Cylons, warrior robots created by a reptilian race which expired long ago, presumably destroyed by their own creations. Humanity was ultimately defeated in a sneak attack on their homeworlds by the Cylons, carried out with the help of a human traitor, Baltar (John Colicos). Protected by the last surviving capital warship, a "battlestar" (from "battle starship"), named Galactica, the survivors fled in available ships. The Commander of the Galactica, Adama (Lorne Greene), led this "rag-tag fugitive fleet" of 220 ships in search of a new home. They began a quest to find the long lost thirteenth tribe of humanity that had settled on a legendary planet called Earth. However, the Cylons continued to pursue them relentlessly across the galaxy.

The main characters include Captain Apollo, a serious Viper spacefighter pilot and the son of commander Adama, and his best friend, Lieutenant Starbuck, a gambler and womanizer.

The era in which this exodus took place is never clearly stated in the series itself. At the start of the series, it is mentioned as being "the seventh millennium of time", although it is unknown when this is in relation to Earth's history. The final aired episode, "The Hand of God", indicates that the original series took place after the Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969 as the Galactica receives a television transmission from Earth showing the landing. The later Galactica 1980 series is expressly set in the year 1980 after a 30-year voyage to Earth.

Larson, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, incorporated many themes from Mormon theology into the shows.[1][2]

Pilot and subsequent changes[edit]

The pilot to this series, budgeted at $8 million (one of the most expensive at that time), was released theatrically in Sensurround. A shortened (125-minute), edited version was released on July 8, 1978, in several regions including Canada, Japan, and select Western European countries.[3]

On September 17, 1978, the full 148-minute pilot premiered on ABC to high Nielsen ratings. Two thirds of the way through the broadcast, ABC interrupted with a special report of the signing of the Camp David Accords at the White House by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, witnessed by U.S. President Jimmy Carter. After the ceremony, ABC resumed the broadcast at the point where it was interrupted. This interruption did not occur on the West Coast. After the pilot aired, the 125-minute theatrical version was given a nationwide U.S. cinema release in May 1979.[3]

The pilot had originally been announced as the first of three made for TV movies. After broadcast of the second episode, "Lost Planet of the Gods", however, Glen Larson announced the format change to a weekly series, catching his writing and production staff off guard. This resulted in several 'crash of the week' episodes until other scripts could resume. "Lost Planet of the Gods" also introduced a costume change from the original, in that the warriors' dress uniform featured a gold-trimmed cape falling to upper thigh. Because of the costume change, a portion of the pilot was reshot; this refilmed version was released in cinemas in 1979. The original version of the warriors' dress uniform, a plain, mid-thigh-length cape, is documented in The Official Battlestar Galactica Scrapbook by James Neyland, 1978.


Battlestar Galactica was criticized by Melor Sturua in the Soviet newspaper Izvestia. He saw an analogy between the fictional Colonial/Cylon negotiations and the US/Soviet SALT talks and accused the series of being inspired by anti-Soviet hysteria:[4]

The galactic negotiations between the people and the Cylons really resembled the U.S./Soviet SALT talks - not in their actual form but in the perverted interpretation of the enemies of the treaty from the family of Washington hawks... Their inspiration is the pumping-up of military, anti-Soviet hysteria, which in this case is disguised in the modern costume of socio-scientific fantasy... Anti-Soviet symbolism dressed in a transparent tunic of science fiction.

Isaac Asimov commented: "Star Wars was fun and I enjoyed it. But Battlestar Galactica was Star Wars all over again and I couldn't enjoy it without amnesia."[4]

Legal actions[edit]

In 1978, 20th Century Fox sued Universal Studios (producers of Battlestar Galactica) for plagiarism, copyright infringement, unfair competition, and Lanham Act claims,[5] claiming it had stolen 34 distinct ideas from Star Wars.[6] Universal promptly countersued, claiming Star Wars had stolen ideas from their 1972 film Silent Running,[7] notably the robot "drones", and the Buck Rogers serials of the 1930s.[citation needed] 20th Century Fox's copyright claims were initially dismissed by the trial court in 1980,[8] then the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit remanded the case for trial in 1983.[9] It was later "resolved without trial".[10]

Star Wars director George Lucas also threatened legal action against Apogee, Inc., the visual effects studio formed by John Dykstra and several other former artists from Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic who decided to remain in Van Nuys rather than relocate to San Rafael with the rest of the company. Lucas claimed that Apogee's work on Galactica was being done with equipment that he had left behind, for a project that would be in direct competition against Star Wars. Eventually, Apogee agreed to surrender the equipment to ILM, and several members of Dykstra's team returned to ILM. Afterwards, Universal's newly formed visual effects division, Universal Hartland Visual Effects, took over the show's visual effects for the remainder of its run. Lucas also went after Galactica merchandise, claiming that the Cylon Raider and Colonial Viper toys could be confused with his own Star Wars toys. His major contention was that the Galactica toys featured plastic pellets that could be fired to simulate lasers, and these constituted a choking hazard for children, and he did not want to be blamed for any such accidents, despite none of the Star Wars toys offered by Kenner having anything similar.

Such an accident came to pass on Christmas Day 1978, when a four–year old child accidentally shot one of the pellets from a Cylon Raider toy into his mouth, where it lodged in his larynx and caused his brain to be deprived of oxygen: he was declared dead on New Year's Eve 1978. The following year, Mattel issued an immediate recall of all Galactica toys,[11] and the boy's parents sued Mattel. A second incident involved the Colonial Viper toy which ended in emergency surgery to remove an inhaled pellet from a young boy's lungs. The second incident was not fatal, but Mattel subsequently redesigned all of its Galactica toys so that the pellets no longer left the toy when fired.[11][12]


Battlestar Galactica initially was a ratings success. CBS counter programmed by moving its Sunday block of All in the Family and Alice an hour earlier, to compete with Galactica in the 8:00 timeslot. From October 1978 to March 1979, All in the Family averaged more than 40 percent of the 8:00 audience, against Galactica's 28 percent.[13]

In mid-April 1979, ABC executives canceled the show. An AP article reported "The decision to bump the expensive Battlestar Galactica was not surprising. The series ... had been broadcast irregularly in recent weeks, attracting slightly over a quarter of the audience in its Sunday night time slot."[14] Larson claimed that it was a failed attempt by ABC to reposition its number one program Mork & Mindy into a more lucrative timeslot.[15][verification needed] The cancellation led to viewer outrage and protests outside ABC studios, and it even contributed to the suicide of Edward Seidel, a 15-year-old boy in Saint Paul, Minnesota who was obsessed with the program.[16][17][18]

For the 1978–79 season as a whole, Battlestar Galactica ranked 34th out of 114 shows airing that season, averaging a 19.6 rating and a 30 share.[19]


While primarily English, the Colonial language was written to include several fictional words that differentiated its culture from those of Earth, most notably time units and expletives. The words were roughly equivalent to their English counterparts, and the minor technical differences in meaning were suggestive to the viewer. Colonial distance and time units were incompletely explained and inconsistent in their usage, but appear to have been primarily in a decimal format.

Time units included micron (less than one second),[20] centon (minute),[21] centar (hour), cycle (day), secton (week), sectar (month), quatron (unknown, perhaps a 25 centar day or maybe 1/4 yahren), yahren (Colonial year), and centuron (Colonial century).
Deprecated time units A millicenton[22] was about 10 minutes long and only used in the first few episodes. The microcenton[23] was replaced with the micron after the 2nd episode "Lost Planet of the Gods".[24]
Distance units were metron (meter), maxim,[25] hectar, and a few other rarely used words.
Expletives included "frack", also spelled "frak" (interjection), "felgercarb" (noun), and "golmogging", also spelled "gall-mogging" (adjective). These words avoided US FCC guidelines on the use of profanities and the associated fines.[26]
Other terms included daggit (a canine–like animal indigenous to one of the colonies), ducat (ticket), pyramid (card game), cubit (unit of currency represented by rectangular coins), triad (a full contact ball and goal game similar to basketball), lupus (a wolf-like animal indigenous to another of the colonies), and sociolator (prostitute).
Figures of speech There were a number of these used in the series, such as "daggit dribble", a term used to condemn falsehood, and "daggit-meat", used as an expression of contempt.


The show's original music was composed and conducted by Stu Phillips, with the pilot score performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. It was recorded at 20th Century Fox, which later sued Universal over the series. MCA Records released a soundtrack album on LP and cassette with Phillips as the music producer; the album was later reissued on compact disc by Edel in 1993, and Geffen Records in 2003. For the series, Phillips used a studio orchestra at Universal, although the theme and end credits music as recorded by the LAPO were retained.

In 2011–2012 Intrada Records released four albums featuring Phillips's music for the series, representing the first commercial release of music other than that of the pilot. (Phillips previously produced a four-CD promotional set.) Except the first, all are two-disc sets.

  • 2011: Battlestar Galactica Volume 1: "Saga of a Star World".
  • 2011: Battlestar Galactica Volume 2: "Lost Planet of the Gods" parts 1 and 2, and "Gun on Ice Planet Zero" parts 1 and 2.
  • 2012: Battlestar Galactica Volume 3: "The Long Patrol", "The Lost Warrior", "The Magnificent Warriors", "The Young Lords", "Murder on the Rising Star", "Take the Celestra", "The Hand of God", and Galactica 1980's "The Return of Starbuck".
  • 2012: Battlestar Galactica Volume 4: "The Living Legend" parts 1 and 2, and "War of the Gods" parts 1 and 2, plus music recorded for Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack and Galactica 1980.

"Fire in Space", "The Man with Nine Lives", "Greetings from Earth", "Baltar's Escape", and "Experiment in Terra" were entirely tracked with preexisting material.

Follow-on projects[edit]

In 1999, Richard Hatch (who had played Apollo) released a trailer for a proposed sequel, Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming.[citation needed]

The series was remade with a reimagined three-hour miniseries in 2003 and followed by a weekly series that ran from 2004 to 2009.

In 2009, Bryan Singer was tapped to direct a feature film remake with production input from original series creator Glen A. Larson.[27][28] Larson's death in 2014 caused a delay, but in 2016 Lisa Joy was assigned to be the screenwriter and the studio was considering Francis Lawrence to replace Singer as director.[29]

A reboot of the reimagined Galactica was announced in 2020 as a future addition to NBCUniversal's Peacock streaming service. Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail is to serve as the new Galactica's executive producer.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ellen Leventry (May 2005). "The Theology of Sci Fi Channel's 'Battlestar Galactica'". Retrieved November 3, 2011.
  2. ^ Bennett, Jim (2014-11-21). "Mormon creator of 'Battlestar Galactica' dared to produce something profound". Deseret News. Retrieved 2021-10-24.
  3. ^ a b Battlestar Galactica at the American Film Institute Catalog
  4. ^ a b "Critics' reviews of Battlestar Galactica". Archived from the original on October 27, 2013. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  5. ^ Fullen, Andrew. Universal Studios vs. Battlestar Galactica, pp. 10, 171. CreateSpace, November 1, 2007. ISBN 1-4348-1579-X.
  6. ^ Twientieth Century-Fox Film Studios Corp. v. MCA, Inc., 715 F. 2d 1327 (C.A.9, 1983) Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. v. MCA, Inc. p. 1330, fn 1, 5.
  7. ^ Newitz, Annalee (26 November 2007). "Battlestar Galactica Dubbed "Too Expensive" and "Star Wars Ripoff"". io9. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  8. ^ Gallagher, William. "Film Rip-Offs - "Star Wars" vs "Battlestar Galactica"". BBC. Retrieved 2014-11-17.
  9. ^ Twentieth Century-fox Film Corporation, et al., Plaintiffs-appellants, v. Mca, Inc., et al., Defendants-appellees (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit 1983-05-06) ("We therefore reverse and remand for trial").Text
  10. ^ "Firm History". Leopold, Petrich & Smith. Retrieved 2014-11-17.
  11. ^ a b "Mattel Announces Toy Replacement Program".
  12. ^ "Mattel's 'Missile Toy' Recall, 1979". 19 November 2012.
  13. ^ 'Battlestar Show Blasting Nowhere at Light Speed.' The Montreal Gazette - Mar 27, 1979; Wilmington Morning Star Jan 11, 1979.
  14. ^ "Battlestar Galactica, Five others to be Cancelled Next Fall by ABC." The Toledo Blade, April 24, 1979.
  15. ^ Larson confirmed this on the Sci-Fi documentary "Sciography"
  16. ^ Associated Press. "TV Death". AP, August 25, 1979.
  17. ^ Associated Press. "St. Paul's High Bridge: Suicide Hot Spot" Archived June 24, 2009, at the Wayback Machine., February 5, 2008.
  18. ^ Sci-Fi Channel. Sci-fiography: Battlestar Galactica, Sci-Fi Channel Productions, 2000.
  19. ^[bare URL PDF]
  20. ^ "Micron - Battlestar Wiki".
  21. ^ "Centon - Battlestar Wiki".
  22. ^ "Millicenton - Battlestar Wiki".
  23. ^ "List of terms (TOS) - Battlestar Wiki".
  24. ^ "Battlestar Galactica Time Units and Their Earth Equivalents".
  25. ^ "List of terms (TOS) - Battlestar Wiki".
  26. ^ "What the frak? Faux curse sweeps geek nation". Today. AP. September 2, 2008. Retrieved April 6, 2015.
  27. ^ "Bryan Singer onboard Battlestar Galactica film". The Guardian. 14 August 2009. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  28. ^ Bryan Singer to Direct "Battlestar Galactica" Archived August 16, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Variety, August 13, 2009.
  29. ^ Kroll, Justin (9 June 2016). "'Battlestar Galactica' Movie Finds Writer in Lisa Joy, Eyes 'Hunger Games' Director". Variety. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  30. ^ Clarendon, Dan. "What We Know About Peacock's New 'Battlestar Galactica' Series". TV Insider. Retrieved 2021-01-04.

Further reading[edit]

  • Criswell, David and Richie Levine (2006). Somewhere Beyond the Heavens: Battlestar Galactica Unofficial Companion. Imprint Books. ISBN 1591099935.

External links[edit]