GALACTICA 1980

A New Galactica

When Mork and Mindy's ratings in the Sunday night 8pm time-slot plummeted far below what Galactica had been getting, ABC realized they had made a mistake in canceling the show. It was not long before they began talk of reviving it. There were several different possibilities. Doing the show the same way it had been done previously or possibly doing several television movies as Larson had originally proposed. Unfortunately, ABC went with a different option. They decided to revive the show, but to cut the budget in half. Their logic was that, even if the ratings weren't as high, they would still make more money (This shows, more than anything, that ABC did not give a flying fig about Galactica; they just wanted to make a cheap show, slap the Galactica name on it, and hope that people would watch it). As it turns out, the revitalized Galactica was probably doomed from the get-go.

"We Have At Last Found Earth"

The new show was to be called Galactica 1980. The name was a bit strange, since if the show had continued through the years, the name would have had to change to Galactica 1981, Galactica 1982, etc. But this was the least of its problems.

Cutting the budget in half was obviously a mistake. As a result, the stories could no longer be in outer space. This took away everything that Battlestar Galactica had been about. The plot of Galactica 1980 has the Galactica and its fleet finally discovering Earth in the year 1980 A.D., about 30 years after the events of the original series. Most of the characters from the original cast (except for Adama, Boxey and Boomer) are apparently dead. The Colonials have a young boy, Dr. Zee, who is a genius due to a "cerebral mutation" (or something like that). He discovers that the Cylons have been following the fleet just beyond their scanner range waiting for the Colonials to lead them to the planet Earth so they can wipe out every human once and for all. Unfortunately, Earth is far too primitive to fight the Cylons, so Dr. Zee and Adama plan to slowly advance her technology along. Colonial warriors Troy (Boxey grown up) and Dillon are one of the many teams sent down to Earth to introduce new technology. This premise allows the majority of the action to take place on Earth rather than in space.

Larson attempted to bring back the original cast, but most of them had other commitments. Lorne Greene had become a true believer in the show and wanted to return. Herbert Jefferson Jr. reprises his role as Boomer. Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict refused to return because they didn't believe the show would be done with the same enthusiasm and commitment the original had. Boy, were they right...

A Galactic Disaster

Like its predecessor, Galactica 1980 was rushed into production. Again, the lack of time hurt the quality of the scripts. The show was also placed in the Sunday night 7pm time slot against the ratings monster 60 minutes. This time slot, sanctioned as children's programming, was heavily regulated by the networks. Only ten incidents of violence were allowed per episode, which made it almost impossible to have any level of drama (Shooting a tree with a laser was considered a violent act, shouting at kids was considered a violent act, etc.). To make matters worse, the writers were required to insert a certain amount of "educational dialogue" into each episode. The stories in many of the episodes continuously come to a grinding halt just so a character can say something educational. It really gets ludicrous. Even worse, there was an FCC ruling where the 7:00 time slot was given back to the networks if the programming were public affairs, news-related or children's programming. So, by dictate from the FCC, any program going in there had to meet one of those criteria. In that slot, an action-adventure show had to be done with virtually no violence (which is, of course, ludicrous. Everyone knows that "action-adventure" is just a soft synonym for "violent.")

Because of this, Glen Larson was faced with the dilemma of how to do an action-adventure science fiction show that fit within the boundaries of children's programming. There had to be at least one educational message every act, or four times an hour. Every episode had to have a premise that could be exploited from an educational standpoint, which goes a long way towards explaining the ludicrous plots that appeared throughout the series.

Galactica 1980 had an intriguing premise with numerous possibilities. Due to the rigid rules, Larson was forced to abandon the original premise and go off on such a tangent that Galactica fans must have seriously questioned his sanity. When the series was picked up, a group of little kids called the Super Scouts were added to the cast. They followed Troy and Dillon around on their adventures. They had super powers; they could leap high into the air. They were smarter than earth kids and could play baseball better then earth kids, ad nauseum... Needless to say, the Super Scouts turned Galactica 1980 into something worse than a bad joke.

After the pilot scored ratings almost as high as those of the original series' pilot, ABC made the decision to continue the show, but they insisted on a Sunday 7pm timeslot. Larson conceded to their wishes in the hope that he could eventually steer the network in the right direction and do the show the way he wanted. Unfortunately, ABC demanded that Larson be on the air in only 4 weeks (rather than the September 1980 start date that he had originally asked for). The crew was forced to work Sundays, which meant they had to be paid triple time according to union rules. So even though the Earth premise had been created to cut down the costs, the rushed production of Galactica 1980 ultimately made it almost as expensive to make as the original series had been!

"What made it expensive was they gave that show just a few weeks to get started on the air," says Glen Larson. "I'll tell you a true story. I was dubbing the show on a lot on Sunday afternoon. You don't dub on Saturday and Sunday, that's how expensive it was. I saw a guy walking around in one of the Galactica warrior uniforms. (I have one in my closet, by the way.) I saw this guy walk by and I was furious! I was so mad because the [Universal Studios Battlestar Galactica] tour was using so many of our props and they weren't paying for them, and I thought we were getting victimized. I was ready to call it. "This is exactly what I'm talking about. They're taking our money and they're spending it on the tour, and I'm not getting it on the screen.' I made a phone call. A very impatient voice on the other end of the phone said, 'That's not the tour.' I said, 'What are you talking about?' 'You better check your schedules, I know you're dubbing stages but we're shooting today.' We were actually shooting the show on weekends in order to get it one the air. That's how ridiculous it got. There were guys driving out that gate every weekend in campers...and they were buying their overtime. The show was costing a fortune because the network rushed it. How fast can you get on the air? I was terrible that way. They ring the fire bell and I answer it, figuring I could do almost anything."

"There was a super-rush because it took eight or nine days to make [each episode]...and we couldn't make airdates unless we shot around the clock. One of the things that hurt the show was that I wouldn't allow them to just throw it together...I insisted that we make it look good and try to hold the quality. To do that we had to shoot a lot of overtime, a lot of weekends. The cost ran up there so...that cost our pickups [extra footage to increase coverage for editors]. We virtually couldn't afford to keep shooting them. The network was probably willing to keep it going, but it was costing them so much money."

Amid the chaos, Universal soon realized it wasn't going to make much money on the show, and it demanded more money from the network. ABC, not wanting to shell out more money for a series that was rapidly sinking, canceled Galactica 1980 after just ten episodes. The death of the show was little mourned.

Still, the final episode of Galactica 1980 makes the entire series worthwhile. This is the outstanding classic The Return Of Starbuck which reveals what happened to the warrior. This is better than most of the episodes of Battlestar Galactica and is a nice fond farewell to fans of the series.

Had Galactica 1980 continued, Larson planned to make changes that would have improved the show. A sequel was written to "The Return Of Starbuck" called The Wheel Of Fire. This superb script shows that Galactica 1980 did have potential and could have been a success if not for network meddling.

Critics are all unanimous in their hatred of Galactica 1980. Here are some reviews:

If Galactica fans were expecting the worst when the sequel arrived in 1980, they certainly weren't disappointed. Nearly every episode was written at a dramatic level best suited for children, with the stars spending most of their time explaining all sorts of inane subjects... Overall, Galactica 1980 is a fairly awful series geared only to the most fanatical of Galactica enthusiasts. - William E. Anchors, Jr., Epilog #33: "Galactica 1980," August 1993, page 8.

The stories were a complete waste of time. Battlestar Galactica at least had a few interesting attempts. But what I see in Galactica 1980 is a studio amortizing its set and its name. This is television as a merchandising ploy. - Michael Cassutt, The Best of Science Fiction Television, Harmony Books, 1987.

...an embarrassing, child-oriented mess in which Earth had been found and all semblance of logic and drama abandoned. - Lawrence McIlhoney, TV Zone Special #17: "The Lost Voyagers of Cult TV," June 1995, page 5.

The series was a mess thrown together so haphazardly that it couldn't even attract diehard Battlestar Galactica fans. - John Javna, The Best of Science Fiction Television, Harmony Books, 1987.

...the show was probably better left dead and buried. It's reincarnation, Galactica 1980, promised much but delivered little. Universally hated by everyone, the show was geared toward kiddies, and rather stupid ones at that. Essentially it was impossible to write anything with any level of drama; all storylines had to be geared toward the mentality of little kids, turning the show into something better titled "Cub Scouts In Space." Epilog Journal

Galactica 1980 is a full-scale catastrophe. After so many of us lobbied so furiously to get the show back, how could Larson do this to us! Like the first few episodes of the series, Galactica 1980 is a poorly produced rush job. The new characters are atrocious, and worst of all is the repugnant Dr. Zee. I have always been disturbed by the frequent reliance on "super-geniuses" in too much SF. The implication here is that humans are too stupid to govern themselves. How Glen Larson could create a show with as much promise and potential as Battlestar Galactica and then destroy it is far beyond me. - Susan Paxton, Battlestar Zone website.

Make no mistake, Galactica 1980 is not a "guilty pleasure." There is nothing remotely pleasurable about the series at all. It is like watching a train wreck or a plane crash. With special effects stock footage spliced in seemingly at random, bland performers at center stage and poorly written stories, Galactica 1980 is an excellent candidate for the worst science fiction series of all time. That estimation has not changed since 1980, and the show is as universally despised today as it was two decades ago. - John Kenneth Muir, An Analytical Guide To Television's Battlestar Galactica, McFarland & Company, Inc., 1999.

Perhaps the saddest thing about Galactica 1980 is that its failure is probably why the show has never been brought back. Through the years, Universal has probably made the argument: "It didn't work the first time we revived it, so we're not going to revive it again."

Glen Larson has said that, if the show was ever revived again, Galactica 1980 could be Starbuck's nightmare. In reality, Galactica 1980 turned out to be everybody's nightmare.


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