As I continue down the path of sharing different sci-fi franchises that have inspired my book, Unification: Rise of the Thunderblade, it’s appropriate to go back to the 1970s once again with Battlestar Galactica. No, I’m not talking about the remake, as brilliant as it is. And I’m certainly not talking about Galactica 1980, a series we would all like to forget.
It’s Battlestar Galactica, a TV movie that was released in theaters, about ginormous capital ships, fighters, space battles, and a shit ton of explosions. Glen A. Larson’s incredible story of Cylons, Colonial Warriors, and the end of the human race still resonates with me today.
Like most space opera, Battlestar Galactica was focused on a theme that dealt with a great threat to the human race. This time, the threat was the evil Cylon empire. They were a race of lizard-like aliens that created a robot army that would eventually build itself enough to wipe out all of the twelve human colonies in one fateful night.
It’s a hard thing, starting a series with utter genocide. But it’s what set the story of Galactica from the beginning. Unfortunately, the series never really lived up to the potential of its pilot, but I was not even ten years old at the time, so all I cared about was heroes, villains, and lots of explosions. Did I mention the explosions? Yeah. By the way, there were explosions.
Never mind the fact that those were the exact SAME explosions from one episode to another, and each of the battle scenes were rehashed from the pilot. When you’re eight or nine years old, explosions are explosions. And explosions are awesome. Starbuck and Apollo were awesome.
I think I had a crush on Starbuck.
Now that I think of it, I think I still do.
Yeah, I do. Not gonna lie. But I digress.
Battlestar Galactica: A quest for human survival
But think of it. The entire human race, wiped out except for the people in that “ragtag, fugitive fleet.” The ships were a mishmash array of plastic model parts all thrown together to make them look as messy as possible. But the Galactica… wow. It was big, angry, and it looked like a giant crustacean ready to claw the crap out of whoever dared to cross its path.
And she was the last. Well, at least until the Battlestar Pegasus showed up with Lloyd Bridges at the helm. And John Colicos. Those eyebrows. By the way, Colicos was also Kor, the single most awesome Klingon of all time (and I’ll fight you if you think I’m wrong). Here, in Battlestar Galactica, he’s Baltar, the betrayer, the traitor, the monster. He laughs when humans die… even though he IS human.
Honestly, I think Negan from The Walking Dead has a lot in common with this guy. At least he should, anyway. There are very few examples of actors chewing up every moment of every scene they’re in the way that Colicos and Jeffrey Dean Morgan did as Negan. These are the kinds of of villain that we absolutely love to hate.
They’re not just evil, they’re gloooooooriously evil (as Colicos might say). They’re so evil that they just love to find a way to make you feel as miserable as possible. Right before they bash in your skull.
I didn’t learn a lot of life lessons from Battlestar Galactica, and honestly, I don’t think there are a lot of lessons to learn at all. But like Star Wars, it introduced a certain angelic mystique that gave it a mysterious twist. The remake did the same (although, I want to slap the remake writers for that horrible ending; I think I’ll have to get in line, though).
So what’s worth inspiring?
From a writer’s perspective, I’m fascinated about the original BSG because of the elements that eventually made it what it was. There were several ships that were created for the show, including different fighter concepts. In fact, an early version of the Viper fighter was eventually pressed into service as the starfighter in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (another gem from the late 70s).
Galactica had its awesomeness in another area – the music. Stu Phillip’s score was ALMOST as iconic as the Knight Rider theme he’d write just a few years later. Elements of the Galactica theme would be in the Buck Rogers theme a year later. And that theme was showcased in the remake’s miniseries. But it’s part of what makes space opera what it is — the sweeping orchestral music.
While it doesn’t have the same punch as anything written by the master himself, John Williams, Phillip’s music pulls out all the stops. Trumpets, French horns, flutes, brass, and woodwinds, along with the beauty of strings. It’s all there. There are times when I just want to listen to nothing but this kind of music… wait. That’s all the time. Who am I kidding?
So, yes. Battlestar Galactica is space opera for the ages. Sure it’s silly by today’s standards, but I imagine what it could have been. The pilot was incredible. Three TV hours of pure, thrilling madness (that translates to slightly more than two real hours, by the way). Then there was “The Gun on Ice Planet Zero.” Not so awesome. But hey, they still had lots of explosions. And the gold Cylons were cool.
Inspiration comes from a lot of sources, but I’ll confess that there are a great many dynamics of Unification that have its origins in Galactica. A father, a son, and a best friend. And a villain for the ages. I don’t mind pointing to the sources of inspiration because let’s face it: there’s nothing new under the sun. A good story is worth telling, no matter how many times it’s been done.
George Lucas got his inspiration from the Saturday afternoon serials. And I get a lot of my inspiration from George Lucas. Then there’s Star Trek. And Star Blazers. Finally, there’s Battlestar Galactica. Themes of family, humanity, and strength in unity — these are what gave the people of Galactica the strength to go on.
If there’s one thing I know in the world of writing, it’s the concept that we should always honor what came before us. I don’t know if my story will ever become anywhere near the level of being a worldwide icon like Galactica, Trek, or Star Wars. Hell, it’s beyond arrogant for me to even imagine that it might.
Even if it were to reach that level of notoriety (the Lords of Cobol know how much I’d leap for joy if Unification even gained a tiny fraction of Galactica’s following), I know one thing: Give credit to where credit is due. And a large part of that credit is to that ragtag, fugitive fleet… on a lonely quest… for a shining planet… known as Earth.
And if you read that last sentence with Lorne Green’s voice in your mind, I can call you a friend. And I invite you to step into the world of Unification: Rise of the Thunderblade.