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GREETINGS FROM EARTH

Two Hour Movie

Written by Glen A. Larson

Original Airdate: February 25, 1979

Review by Matthew Wharmby - mwharmby@amdragon.com

THE PREMISE:

The Galactica stumbles upon a ship containing the suspended forms of what they think could be the first emissaries from Earth, but ethical considerations as to whether to bring them out of stasis polarise the warriors and the Council. The ship's destination represents an attempt to flee a new and oppressive enemy.

THE STORY:

Commander Adama records in his journal that the fleet is following the heading given by the Beings of Light, and wonders whether they come from Earth. In any case they represent a higher form of technology. Out in space, one of the deep patrols mentioned by Adama is coming out of sleep period as their beacons go off. It's Apollo and Starbuck, and they've sighted a sublight vehicle with six life forms on board - human life forms - but at a minimal life support level. Could they be from Earth? The bridge personnel are all on their feet in expectation, forcing Adama to issue a unicom announcement defusing the rumours and asking the population to be patient as the vehicle is towed in and placed in quarantine.

As the major cast members gather in the landing bay, Apollo is sceptical about whether the orange shuttle is 100% safe but Dr Wilker, who can't wait to get inside, assures him that it's not a bomb. Adama wonders whether they could be contaminating the vehicle given that they can't detect any atmospheric readings, but under Dr Salik's advisement, they board. All are awed and humbled by the sight of the man, woman and four children in suspended animation chambers. Salik believes that getting the humans out of their chambers could kill them because they have no idea how the equipment aboard the shuttle works. Wilker offers to pick one chamber and test that, but Adama and Apollo disagree with him. They leave Salik and Wilker alone, but under Adama's orders to take no chances with their lives.

The landing bay is accosted by members of the Council led by the wonderfully obnoxious Sire Geller, who demands access to the 'Earthlings' at once. Jolly, on guard outside the shuttle, has to hold them off. Inside, Wilker inadvertently shorts out a line, infuriating Salik, who demands they stop before they do any more damage. Apollo enters and, seeing the power loss, orders them to stop what they're doing. In Adama's quarters Wilker explains that they'd managed to determine that the atmosphere on the planet these people came was about 1/6 of that of Caprica, but the mention of another planet known as Terra pricks up Adama's ears, as Terra is the Gemonese word for Earth. Apollo remains angry that they've in effect illegally seized this ship without the proper knowledge of where it was going or where it had come from. Rather than continuing to risk their lives, Apollo suggests simply letting them go, putting them back on the course they were on. Right then, the door opens and Sire Geller barges in, demanding that the people be released forthwith - not only on his advisement, but on that of others in the fleet, who have taken offence at Adama's inaction. What right has he to pass sentence on these children? Adama says angrily. Geller offers to simply lift the burden from Adama by taking a vote of the Council. 'You mean you haven't already decided?' Adama states to the smug Geller, waylaying him a little by getting him to convene the Council.

Athena is teaching some kids, including Boxey, about the ship and why the people are on board are in stasis, but a veritable mob has gathered by the shuttle, hard pressing the warrior guard. Council Security under Reese have also assembled, waiting for the order to come down to break the shuttle occupants' seals and let them out. Bad blood simmers between the Security and the warriors, who debate about whether it's still a military matter if they're guarding civilians. How do they know they're warriors? Starbuck quips, but Reese isn't convinced and orders his men to take up positions. Starbuck and Boomer have to draw their weapons on them to hold them off. Aboard the empty ship, the adult male awakens and frees himself. Using a smart card, he activates the woman's chamber and awakens her. 'Are we there yet?' says Sarah to Michael, who is puzzled that they're not where they're supposed to be.

At the Council meeting Geller proposes that they unload the oldest member of the six travellers first, reckoning that he'll make a better psychological adjustment. Salik stands up for himself, refuses to cooperate on medical and ethical grounds and quits there and then, making Adama proud. Still, the order comes down to break the passengers out and Reese and his boys are now legally bound to enforce it. However, all are stunned when Michael emerges woozily from the ship with a weapon drawn. Reese steps too far forward in his clumsy attempts to help and Michael guns him down, and all hell breaks loose, punctuated by Michael's utter confusion at the whole thing. Finally he starts getting overcome by the atmosphere and sinks to the floor. Salik orders him taken to the Life Center and placed in a support chamber adjusted to the one-sixth atmosphere, while Adama attempts to rescue Sarah, who is also wilting aboard the shuttle. Spirits are low when they get the adults stable, as that's all they can do. Getting them out will kill them, so placing them back on course seems to be the only option left, especially when Apollo says that Wilker discovered that the ship's life support supplies were almost depleted, meaning that they could be close to where they had been headed. Rather than depend on the ailing humans for answers, maybe they should escort them to their intended destination. Breathing gear would address the Colonials' disadvantage on the humans' planet. To get around the political problem, they could re-address it as a military situation. Michael used a weapon on Reese, after all! They could placate the Council by removing the danger and justifying the placement of the ship back into space. Geller makes contact with a shower of complaints, and that's their cue to get things sorted out quickly.

As Starbuck and Apollo explain the conspiracy to Cassiopeia, they manage to persuade her to accompany the shuttle to provide on-site medical assistance. The landing bay is full of Security who have to be avoided as they wheel the adults' chambers to the shuttle. They tell Reese that they're using the chambers to bring the children off. Reese is ever smug and thinks he's won. They put Michael and Sarah back in their alcoves on the ship, by which time Michael has awakened again, in better shape than before. Michael asks who they are and whether they're with the Eastern Alliance, befuddling the Colonials. When asked whether he's from Terra, Michael says that his people are, but he and his family are from Lunar 7, and have indeed escaped from that location. The ship is pre-programmed to head for its destination if put in space, but an increasingly guarded Michael is determined that they not find out the way back to Lunar 7, for fear of the destroyers. It's sensory overload for Michael, who's still confused and exhausted by the whole experience. Outside the warriors make a show of taking the chambers off, even though they're empty. They get Boomer and Jolly to help out and soon explain what they're up to. When the shuttle's engines fire, Reese goes berserk. Boomer tries to explain that they're jettisoning the ship to avoid further contamination, but they're rumbled. Reese pulls the covers off the chambers to find they're empty. 'Jolly, you forgot the kids!' Boomer exclaims in mock horror. Reese makes a ridiculous show of ordering the launching shuttle to stop at gunpoint, but it's away. Apollo and Starbuck launch and are straight behind it. An apoplectic Geller arrives and demands an explanation, and the shoe is on the other foot as it's an embarrassed Reese's turn to explain the decontamination angle, using the same words that Boomer spoke! Geller orders vipers launched to bring the ship back, and that's Apollo and Starbuck legitimised - but then he sees the empty chambers, and once again it falls to Reese to explain himself!

Not knowing how far they'll have to go in escort of the orange shuttle, Apollo and Starbuck put their ships into sleep mode again, as they did at the beginning of the episode. Cassie is also sleeping, head down aboard the shuttle, when she hears automated transmissions go back and forth between the shuttle and their destination, a planet called Paradeen that the vipers and shuttle are now nearing. We discover that the ship is twenty 'hours' (what a strange measurement of time!) behind schedule. Not far after, Michael awakens and gets out to monitor the radio traffic. Now confident rather than confused, it helps that the ship has now adjusted to Paradeen's atmosphere. Michael levels with Apollo that as soon as they're down and safe at the ranch that Sarah's father prepared for them on Paradeen they intend to destroy the homing transmitter so that the Eastern Alliance, who could be following them right now, have more difficulty picking up their trail. And here we are introduced to the second string of baddies (no, I don't count the Ovions) on this show, as a sleek destroyer with an engine note suspiciously like that of a Boeing 747 streaks through the sky. It is skippered by Commandant Leiter, a black-uniformed Teuton with peaked cap and firm jaw. His radio operator, black-helmeted Krebs, indicates that they have picked up the small craft that left Lunar Seven a 'month' ago has been detected, but is being accompanied by two totally unfamiliar ships. Fascinated by the viduals of the vipers, Leiter instructs his pilot Lanceman (Lanzmann?) to divert course from their destination of Lunar 9 to go and investigate. 'Star speed and battle ready'.

Vipers and shuttle put down on Paradeen and are met by two robots in a hovercar. The football-headed androids introduce themselves as Hector and Vector. In a light moment they confuse Starbuck and Apollo for grown-up versions of the four kids. 'What a great, big, beautiful girl!' they enthuse at the long-haired Starbuck who can't suppress a grin. Paradeen is a Terran colony, but has been subjected to hostilities recently. They head to Sarah's father's ranch but he's nowhere to be found. Vector has to sheepishly reveal that he's dead, showing a stunned Sarah the tombstone of John Russell Fowler in the garden. She runs off crying.

A still grieving Sarah tries to dissuade Hector and Vector from telling the excited kids about Terra. She's distinctively anti-technology, blaming their governments for sending colonists out to far-off planets without realising that the atmospheric differences would make it impossible for subsequent children to return. It transpires that Michael and Sarah aren't married to each other as might have appeared - she's widowed and the three youngest kids are hers. There's a bit of bad blood between them as she spits that she wouldn't have married a technocrat if he was the last person in the world. The tension is defused when Hector and Vector perform a rather sweet musical rendition of one of old Terra's music-hall classics.

Commandant Leiter's destroyer tracks the shuttle to Paradeen but cannot transmit to their higher-ups on Terra due to sabotage of the light-wave relay station. He castigates Destroyer Two for being unable to maintain order on a defunct planet.

Michael thanks Hector and Vector, not only for preparing the home for them, but for destroying the homing beacon, but the robots have completely forgotten to do that owing to the twenty-hour delay they experienced on the Galactica that threw their arrival schedule out of whack. They are still unwilling to allow Apollo the coordinates back to Lunar 7 as they don't understand the dangers posed by the Eastern Alliance. As Michael finally explains the history of Terra, Sarah slips out through a window. Over time the planet Terra polarised from many nations into East and West, with the East going after Terra's satellite planets.

The next day Sarah asks Apollo to stay on with them. He laughs her off but she pleads that she doesn't love Michael and that they were forced together by her father in return for Michael helping her get off Lunar Seven. The rather pretty, sleepy-eyed Sarah has taken a liking to Apollo, and it's somewhat reciprocated, but they've got to leave soon. 'And if you're not able to?' Sarah says, cryptically. Starbuck arrives out of breath, not helped by the thin air. He's seen a city. Hector explains that the city is deserted, but intact because the Eastern Alliance used neutron weapons on it to get rid of the people but leave the resources to pick up at a later date. Perhaps the city has records and maps, Apollo suggests, and since Starbuck's been there already it'd be worth him going again, while Apollo goes back to their vipers and contacts the Galactica to warn them of the Alliance. Vector pulls a pistol on him, but Apollo simply trains his weapon on some distant oil drums and blows them into the sky with one shot. The point made to not get in the way of the Colonials' quest to help their people (and the one use of violence in this whole two-parter), the hovercars get going.

Starbuck and Hector look round the deserted city, taking the time to ponder the meaning of life as they go. There are archives under the city, but Hector warns him off due to the air quality. Starbuck discounts this and they proceed downwards. Meanwhile Apollo reaches the vipers to find locals clambering over them. The two members of the Moreland family and big Doyle aren't particularly friendly towards the 'unwelcome settlers' and advises they go before they bring the Alliance down on them. Then Apollo is shocked to find that the viper cockpits have been smashed up. Welcome to Paradeen.

Back at the ranch Apollo tells Sarah that the Morelands apparently wrecked their ships, and Sarah's convinced they'll stay now. Just then Hector returns alone, without Starbuck. He's come back to warn everybody that Starbuck's still in the archives without sufficient air. Hector went out to get the tanks but got lost so went for help. When it looks like Apollo and company are going to do over the Morelands, Sarah then confesses that she was the one who smashed their ships. Unashamedly but resignedly, she explains that it was the only way she could get Apollo to stay. As night falls, she is left to think about what she's done, sending the children to the barn to feed the animals while the others take off for the city to try and find Starbuck.

Not far away, the destroyer homes in on the ships' position and prepares to land. The kids in the barn hear the enemy craft's jets as it comes down and watch in horror as the Eastern Alliance troops disembark and head straight for their house. Inside, Leiter confronts Sarah and asks her cordially for information, casually threatening her children. She tries to attract attention by chucking a vase through the window, but Leiter restrains her, upping the ante.

Apollo, Michael, Cassie and the robots search fruitlessly through the archives, but Vector mentions that the former custodian could help. It's Doyle, the big fella who was so unfriendly earlier and now works for the Morelands. As they swallow their pride to enlist him, they hear tapping on metal echoing through the building. It is at this point that the air begins to bother Apollo, so when we cut to Starbuck it becomes clear that he's in big trouble. Barely able to breathe or call out, all he can do is bang on the pipes with a piece of metal.

The kids run to the Morelands' house and plead for help against the Enforcers. Aggie Moreland reverses her position of before and takes the kids in. In the archives, Starbuck's air gives out finally and he collapses. Just in time, his friends find him and that's when Doyle arrives. The kids had told him where they had gone and also that the Alliance soldiers were holding Sarah prisoner. Using his knowledge, Doyle can offer them a quicker way out.

Commandant Leiter continues to taunt Sarah, who attempts to guilt-trip him with tales of the mass murder of the children by the invisible death. Swallowing and replacing his peaked cap, Leiter can only just about maintain his composure, making the justification 'Well, it is war, isn't it.' Unfazed, Sarah looks him in the eye. 'Yes it is. And you will lose.' Outside, Michael ambushes one Enforcer while Apollo and Starbuck slide off the roof and dump two others. They then burst into the house and rescue Sarah from Commandant Leiter and Krebs. 'Our children, are they all right?' Sarah says. 'Our children?' Michael questions, the ice broken.

Farewells are made and new neighbours are introduced as the Colonials tie up Leiter and his bully boys, but the Eastern officer is still cocky. 'We are the most advanced military force in the galaxy,' he blusters. 'Oh, I believe it,' says Starbuck, looking forward to the surprise they'll spring when they get them back to the Galactica, taking their destroyer in place of the shattered vipers. In the back, Krebs's field grey is turning brown as he sights the biggest ship he's ever seen in the form of the Galactica, and Leiter's mouth can only hang open in astonishment.

RATING:

Three and three-quarters out of five (Good).

A lot of people aren't keen on this one, citing the overabundance of cute robots and children, but I think it had a lot going for it, of course more so in the first episode than in the second. Salik in particular plays a blinder with the weighty moral issues of leaving well enough alone. Geller is delightfully infuriating in his opposition to this.

THE USUAL BITS AND PIECES:

Two entertaining time measurement-related quips by Michael. 'What is a centon?' was probably asked by three-quarters of the viewers as well.

You can't dislike the Eastern Alliance, low budget though they are. Aren't Germans great? An endless mine of stereotypes in the last century alone - strutting Prussians, black-clad Nazis and cruel communists!

The destroyer is very cool - bits of an F-15 kit plus the landing struts from Buck Rogers's viper.


John's Review

RATING: Three stars out of five

Greetings From Earth just doesn't measure up with the other two-hour episodes. The story makes for a passable first hour but quickly takes a nosedive in the second. Glen Larson's attempt at comedy falls horribly flat. Hector, Vector and the kids quickly wear out their welcome (A premonition of Galactica 1980?). The Eastern Alliance is an interesting new adversary (too bad they are little more than cardboard Nazis), but their primitive technology takes a lot of steam out of their threat. Unfortunately, the Eastern Alliance is never utilized to the fullest. A space battle between vipers and Eastern Alliance destroyers would have been fantastic, but the time and money needed to do such a complex battle scene made it impossible. Also, Apollo becomes a bit overbearing with his "Do The Right Thing" attitude in the first half. Unlike the other two-parters, this one ends with a whimper instead of a bang as Starbuck and Apollo's capture of the Enforcers is about as anti-climatic as you can get. This script really comes across as being rushed, which was probably the case. Overall, Greetings From Earth is another episode that failed to reach its potential due to the constrainments of a weekly series.

Glen Larson apparently intended Greetings from Earth to be a pilot for a more "family-oriented" series, a spin-off to be broadly based on Galactica. Fortunately, ABC did not follow up on his idea.

What makes the first hour so interesting is that the Colonials are faced with a perplexing moral issue (a rarity, for sure). Do they allow the humans to leave, or force them to remain at least until more information is learned? There are actually opposing opinions within the Colonial military, at least for awhile. Apollo's view quickly wins out, though. The Council of Twelve is portrayed as being incredibly selfish and uncaring, but it could be argued they were right. It was possibly life or death for the Colonials to learn about the human race that awaited them. Certainly the humans could have been revived long enough for the Colonials to get the necessary information out of them. Apollo's plan to let the ship go had a good chance of failing. How could he be certain enough that they wouldn't get lost, or wind up so far away that they'd never be able to make it back to the fleet?

This episode aired an hour earlier, thus many viewers missed the first (and more watchable) half. The episode was never repeated, so fans had to wait until the series went to syndication before seeing it again.

The script of this episode has missing scenes left out of the final cut. Click here to see them.

Athena is revealed to also be a school teacher in this episode. Apparently, teaching, nursing and sitting behind a computer console are the primary occupations for Colonial women. Anyway, the classroom scene looks to have been inserted just to give her and Boxey something to do.

Athena, Boxey, and Dr. Salik appear for the last time in part one. It's sad to see Athena go without her being featured in at least one episode. Can't say the same for Boxey.

Many fans have wondered why Maren Jensen does not appear in any more episodes. There is a rumour that she quit the series after this episode to pursue an offer for a modeling gig. Anne Lockhart has told me this is not true, and the main reason Maren's role on the series was so small was because of her inexperience as an actress. According to story editor Terrence McDonnell, there was actually some talk about killing Athena off and bringing her spirit back in the body of a man!

Apollo states there are six thousand people in the fleet. Many fans have debated this. If you divide 6,000 people by 220 ships, you average only 27 people per ship!

The city that Starbuck and Hector visit is Montreal, Canada. Some of the scenes were shot on the Ile Notre Dame, site of Expo 67.

One of the buildings of the abandoned city was later used as the exterior of the Defense Directorate in Buck Rogers. The actual building is in Montreal, Canada.

Michael's confused question "What is a centon?" has been debated by nearly every fan of Battlestar Galactica. Unfortunately, we don't get to hear Apollo's answer. For the record, the writers had originally decided that a centon was supposed to be an hour, but this rule was often either forgotten or ignored. In many episodes (including this one), a centon is considerably less than an hour, closer to a minute. The script of this episode has a key which states that a centon is a minute, a centar is an hour, a secton is a week, and a yahren is a year.

Hector and Vector are hands down the worst looking, most annoying robots to ever appear on Battlestar Galactica.

The model and full-size mockup of Michaelís shuttle were redressed props from the Buck Rogers pilot.

Donald Mantooth, the at-the-time boyfriend of Laurette Spang, appears in this episode as a medtech.

Some of Apollo's dialogue in the first half is badly redubbed.

G. Eric Larson and Michelle Carol Larson later appeared on Galactica 1980 as two of the Super Scouts.

When Sarah wrecks the controls of the vipers, why doesn't she also wreck the controls of the shuttle they flew in on? And why don't Apollo and the others ever consider the possibility of taking that shuttle back to the fleet?

It is never made clear why Apollo asks Cassiopea to get to know Michael.

When you think about it, why don't Starbuck, Apollo and Cassiopea have super powers when they are in Paradeen's weaker gravity just as the Super Scouts do when they are in Earth's weaker gravity on Galactica 1980? Wouldn't it have been fun to see Starbuck, Apollo, and Cassiopea bouncing up and down and jumping into trees?

Lloyd Bochner (Leiter) is best known to most science fiction fans as cryptographer Michael Chambers in the famous 1962 Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man.

Anne Lockhart does a good job showing, in an extremely subtle way, Sheba's emerging feelings for Apollo.


Regular Cast

Capt. Apollo		Richard Hatch

Lt. Starbuck Dirk Benedict

Commander Adama Lorne Greene

Lt. Boomer Herbert Jefferson, Jr.

Athena Maren Jensen

Cassiopea Laurette Spang

Col. Tigh Terry Carter

Baltar John Colicos

Boxey Noah Hathaway

Flt. Sgt. Jolly Tony Swartz

Rigel Sarah Rush

Omega David Greenham

Dr. Salik George Murdock

Dr. Wilker John Dullagham

Brie Janet Louise Johnson

Ensign Greenbean Ed Begley, Jr.

Giles Larry Manetti

Cpl. Komma Jeff MacKay

Imperious Leader Dick Durock

Patrick Macnee (voice)

Lucifer Felix Silla

Jonathon Harris (voice)

Guest Cast

Lloyd Bochner		Leiter

Randy Mantooth Michael

Kelly Harmon Sarah


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