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THE NIGHT THE CYLONS LANDED

Review by Matthew Wharmby mwharmby@amdragon.com

PREMISE: A new and considerably more powerful Cylon fighter is intercepted by a Galactican patrol, but is forced to crash-land on Earth. Troy and Dillon must stop the Cylon survivors from commandeering radio equipment to contact baseships.

Like most Galactica 1980 episodes, 'The Night The Cylons Landed' starts off with a bang but collapses in the middle, to recover (and that's stretching it) only by the very final scene. Recon Patrol Delta, a two-man viper crewed by Captain Kanon and Lieutenant Britton, is picking up some ominous readings of a size and shape apparently too advanced to be your common-or-garden Cylon fighter. As if out of nowhere, a tremendously powerful new type of Cylon warship jumps them and fountains fire onto their position. Not only is the enemy ship jamming any attempt they are trying to make to contact the Galactica, but, alarmingly, its crew appear to exhibit human outlines. Realising that their single viper is hopelessly outclassed against the A-B craft where firepower is concerned, Kanon decides on a desperate strategy and rams the ship, putting both out of commission. The Cylon gunship tumbles out of the sky, and Britton is injured in the collision.

Wolfman Jack is about to make alien contact!The compilation movie 'Conquest of the Earth', which combines this episode with the first third of 'Galactica Discovers Earth' has considerable additional footage of the A-B craft, which is identified as such in that movie, and which term I'll use to refer to the ship from now on. Without a doubt the best starship design of Galactica 1980 (in fact, the only new model) if not of the entire series, the A-B craft is about twice the size of the usual Cylon raider, with commensurately improved firepower and speed (which certainly have Recon Patrol Delta quaking in their cockpit). It fairly thunders along with the roar of an express train fighting an 80mph crosswind. Crewed by at least five (possibly six, if there is a centurion on each wing), two commanders are now specified to control the standard pilot and gunner. The commanders of this prototype ship (which, to be picky, had already made its combat debut against the Delphi) are humanoid Cylons of a new type of construct - and what fellow Cylons must make of comrades designed after their worst enemy, who can say? Andromus is in command, with sidekick Andromidus, and together they figure out very quickly that the A-B craft has an Achilles heel that the Galactican pilots have well and truly hit, if somewhat by sheer luck. Presumably the signalling equipment is located in the belly, and it's been put out of order, with the A-B ship unable to call for reinforcements or assistance of any kind from their baseship. And, as if that's not enough, the ship is drifting towards an as yet unidentified blue planet. Transmissions emanating from the service indicate that not only is the planet heavily populated (we are, of course, treated to some educational dialogue concerning Earth's precise dimensions), but the sentient (well, just about) population is composed entirely of humans. Andromus's face lights up as he exults that 'we have done what no Cylon before us has been able to do. We have found the lost human civilisation. The planet Earth.' But for some engine trouble, the war could be close to won. Spirits are deflated (if you can apply such an analogy to machine Cylons) when the crew make computations indicating that it's highly unlikely any of them will make it down at all.

And here's where we meet the human stars of this show (come on, you know you preferred the Cylons. Even in the original Battlestar Galactica). Troy and Dillon have taken the kids to watch a movie. They must reckon that sitting the twelve scouts down for a couple of hours in front of a flickering screen would cure them of their irritating propensity to leap fifty feet into the air and throw baseballs from California to New Mexico (this is a good decade before they rolled out Ritalin for mass use against American children), but the choice of film hasn't impressed them. It's a cheesy 1950s B-movie horror flick starring a butt-ugly monster (I forget the precise title, but you can be sure it's A Universal Picture), but the kids are reminded of a life form they ran into on their way to Earth. I would have liked to see the Gorkons, they sounded like a laugh.

Who said this show wasn't up to date? A good fifteen years before you wanted to belt the guy whose mobile phone went off in the cinema, Troy's communicator goes and Adama's on the line. Transpires that the Galactica has lost contact with its Recon Patrol Delta, and the last telemetry they were able to decipher placed it on a collision course with Earth. Troy and Dillon are ordered to meet the stricken viper at the point it's likely to come down, which is as yet undetermined, but which is predicted to be in the New York area. Unfortunately, the Air Force have been a little too diligent in picking up vipers on their way to and from Earth, and the lads are instructed to use alternative means of transport if they can possibly help it. Which means taking a plane to New York. The kids are ferried to Griffith Observatory in the Hollywood Hills and dumped on Jamie, who I believe makes herself useful with a spot of abridged astronomy.

These are advanced Cylons? Ha!Brows are furrowed at the Air Force headquarters when they too pick up an 'incoming' of unknown provenance, and worry that it's going to be 'Skylab all over again'. As Troy and Dillon board the flight to New York, they still believe it's the viper on its way. Please note that the pair manage to get through customs without passports, apparently without tickets, and additionally armed with a laser pistol each! Aren't domestic flights great? Every time I fly, the bastards make me take my belt off, turn my pockets out for loose change, paw me with a Geiger counter and mess with my computer! I'm surprised they haven't looked up my arse yet - that's where I keep the drugs! (But you never heard that).

As it happens, they needn't have worried, because someone else has brought artillery. Badly disguised as a female, a suitably shifty Latino stereotype and his 'husband' have also boarded, with a pushchair and (later to be revealed as plastic) infant. Once the plane is airborne, and Troy and Dillon finding out as quickly as any Earthling that flying is a serious bore ('I could have flown to Pluto by now,' Dillon opines), the drag artist unscrews his buggy and assembles a rather intricate 'Day of the Jackal' single-shot rifle (wonder how many kids watched this show and had a try at the very same?). He doesn't get much further than brandishing the weapon around the cabin and ordering the pilot to divert to Cuba before Troy and Dillon drop him with a joint round of stun fire apiece. His partner is brought down on his way to the bogs, which are also used to good effect by the stewardess. She's played by Sheila DeWindt, who played the hard-as-nails female viper pilot Dietra in 'Lost Planet of the Gods', and after Richard Lynch, is the second 'name' cast member to be recycled in Galactica 1980. All the poor girl gets to do however, is be pushed against the wall as the lads activate their invisibility screens in the toilets (do they have the room?!) and hustle off the plane as soon as it lands at JFK.

Troy and Dillon are already on a cab and on their way 'north', Dillon having brandished a big wad of bills at the driver as an incentive. By now it becomes clear that their mission is of greater concern, as Recon Patrol Delta has managed to make its way back to the Galactica. A noticeably injured Kanon, speaking from the Life Center (actually, what appears to be some corridor segments bolted together to form a corner) has delivered the footage of the A-B craft's occupants to Dr Zee, who repeats his infamous 'Since the time of our defeat, the Cylons have not been idle' speech. The expected landing zone of the Cylon gunship is narrowed down to 'sixty miles north of New York City', and the Air Force, now under the command of Colonel Briggs (poor old Sydell presumably having gone Section 8) is also aware. Thus it's a race to the spot between Troy and Dillon and a number of blue-and-whites and ambulances. The A-B craft comes down, but it's a bad landing. Four of the six crew are destroyed and the ship is blown to pieces. Surviving are Andromus, and pilot Centurion 9, who is, from here on, referred to inexplicably as Centuri. The centurion frees Andromus from the wreckage and both exit, activating a self-destruct sequence so as to destroy any remaining evidence. At a safe distance from the impending explosion, the two Cylons confer. Andromus surmises that they have come down 'within a thousand metrons of a primary communication centre', and is additionally confident that he can use his human configuration to pass amongst humans without suspicion, especially since the transmissions indicate that Earthlings do not know there's a war on. Centuri he's not so sure about, but they can worry about that later as they stroll the short distance to Interstate 95. All Centuri is bothered about is to 'destroy all humans', which is quite reasonable, but their priority is to find somewhere from where to signal their baseship.

It starts going downhill as the two Cylons find themselves picked up as hitchhikers by a couple dressed for Hallowe'en. Yes, only this far into the episode do we determine that it's October 31st, and William Daniels (of Knight Rider's KITT voiceover fame) can count himself lucky that his face is obscured by half a ton of white greasepaint). Norman and Shirley witter endlessly on their way to New York, casually dropping in that they're on their way to a party where Wolfman Jack will be present. Andromus's ears prick up at the talk of someone with anything to do with radio, and he humours their two hosts. More important for our purposes is that their mutual friend Arnie cooks meatballs that have a higher body count than the two Cylon warriors, who are sat there wishing they could simply tear the heads off these infuriating creatures and bowl them over the horizon. Wolfman Jack is, of course, the legendary American DJ immortalised in (was it American Graffiti?). Even us Brits had heard of him, so there you go. Centuri just sits there, all seven feet of him crammed into the back seat, and looks hard. 'What a great costume!' Shirley enthuses, which is the whole reason she picked them up in the first place. Tell that to Rex Cutter, who must have been busting for a leak inside that suit!

While the tin cans are putting up with this ignominy, Troy and Dillon have reached the crash site just in time to have to run for their lives again as the self-destruct goes off. They do however manage to inspect Andromidus's smashed remains and realise that some of his comrades have got away. Just then, the long arm of the law arrives, and Troy and Dillon look distinctly suspicious sniffing round a crash site and trying to palm it off as their 'plane' crashing. The police frisk them and take their guns (a cheerfully gratuitous shot permits one bemused copper to blast a tree to bits with one shot from what he thinks is 'some kind of cigarette lighter'. Taking advantage of the cops' astonishment, the lads snatch their weapons back, stun their assailants and steal their cruiser! Anyone considered how much crime takes place in this so-called children's show? In only the space of a few hours' air time, Troy and Dillon have stolen cars, clothes and money, broken the speed limit on both land and in the air, abused police officers, and shot security guards, businessmen, nurses, policemen, and members of the United States Air Force!

Tapping into the Cylon frequency on their wrist computrons, the lads discern that the Cylons are moving south, heading for New York City. It's not long, however, before fellow cop cars lay in pursuit to reclaim their stolen vehicle, and after a fairly uninteresting car chase, Troy and Dillon end up putting their cruiser into the East River. In this way they've thrown the fuzz off the trail for a bit, but have irreparably soaked their highly fashionable PVC puffa jackets. After alerting Adama to the situation, another spot of theft is called for as they sneak through the first open doorway they can find. This scene is unbearably chronic, only livened up when Dillon gapes in astonishment at a revue of costumed Universal Studios cartoon characters (the sublimely un-entertaining Woody Woodpecker, for example) cavorting on stage. 'Dancing mammals?!' he manages to gasp, as if Earth wasn't screwed up enough. 'Strange,' Troy concurs as the two of them sneak backstage and grab the first garments they can find off the rack. To be fair, our unloved heroes do look sharp in their dazzling white tuxes (are you sure this isn't a 'gone back in time' sequence?) but they have the grim bad luck to be forced on stage and made to participate in the revue. The only way they can save their faces is to activate their invisibility screens and make a run for it, leaving the rest of the cast apparently suspended in mid-air. As are half the audience, unfortunately. It does pick up - honest it does!

Andromus and Centuri prove to be big draws at the party, but they're not particularly sociable guests until Wolfman Jack shows up, his bulk artfully concealed by a Henry VIII costume. I have a good feeling that the eponymous Wolfman ad-libbed every single line he was given in this episode, and I wouldn't blame him one bit. The Cylons make plans to remove Wolfman Jack from the party, but are thrown for a loop when the infamous Arnie unleashes some of his dreaded meatballs. I was surprised they had microwaves by 1980, but when Arnie turns it on to give his speciality a bit of a final going over, Centuri freezes, short-circuits dramatically and crashes to the ground. Andromus has to waste the microwave with a burst of red energy from his hand, setting the place on fire. This is their cue to spirit Wolfman Jack away from the blazing apartment and to the radio station they'd got him chatting about earlier. On their way through what is presumably Central Park (yep, only tourists brave it by night), the three of them run into some disgracefully stereotyped Italian-American muggers, who posture at them distinctly un-threateningly until Centuri (shot from waist level to accentuate his great height) simply glares at them. Two or three minutes later, if I've got this in the right order (and it probably doesn't matter that much if I haven't, let's face it), Troy and Dillon happen upon these ridiculous rejects from The Warriors, an otherwise excellent cult film of the same era, but simply jump out of their way. They employ the same tactics to rescue a kid who's got himself caught in the burning apartment. You may be interested to note that this kid's dog is the second dog in Galactica 1980 to be called Skippy, or variations thereof. Come on, everyone knows that's a kangaroo's name!

Wolfman Jack is herded to WSHIT or whatever call letters denote his radio station, whose remit is grotesque adult contemporary that curdles the blood. You'd think that wall-to-wall automated Dr Hook would make Cylons self-destruct right off, not to mention his incessant blather, which finally irritates the Cylons into threatening him. Centuri simply presses his glove to his chest panel and short-circuits himself, which would presumably be a man-sized deterrent when applied to fat motormouthed humans with no respect. Andromus himself now gets on a tear and can't resist a lecture, to the order of 'Soon, you humans will realise just how unimportant you are to running a truly efficient society,' before finally ordering Wolfman Jack to escort them to the roof, where rests a satellite dish. All this to the strains of 'Daydream Believer', or some nauseating piece of late-1970s dreck that passed for music back then. Troy and Dillon now enter the building and are hot on their tail, but the Cylons have thoughtfully put the lift out of action. Here ensues some tiresome leaping from floor to floor (fifty storeys), but you've got to admire the lads for not putting so much as a speck on their white tuxedos.

No small amount of concern ensues on the Galactica when Dr Zee picks up a weak signal emanating outbound, towards the star Balcon (which I believe actually exists, and is a point at the edge of the galaxy where the Cylons have parked awaiting further instructions). At the same time as ordering massive electronic jamming of everything non-ABC flowing in this direction, Adama (or, to be more accurate, Dr Zee, who is quite obviously running the show here) has a patrol launched, and you'd think this'd be the cue for a proper battle, but no such luck. Andromus and Centuri have barely got the surprisingly titchy satellite dish set up and transmitting when Troy and Dillon bust in. Full marks to Troy for dispatching Wolfman Jack with a bellowed 'Get out of the way!', and he's also on the ball when a moderately interesting firefight ensues. Centuri receives a burst full in the chest, and Andromus's reaction to a similar wound shows that for all their advanced nature, Cylon humanoids do feel pain. He doesn't half scream when a malfunctioning, thoroughly disorientated Centuri tenderly cradles him, and together they stumble off the roof to their doom. One laser blast from Troy takes out the satellite, and the skies are safe once more for soft rock classics. Thank God that up in the Bronx around this time, hip-hop was being invented!

A cheap chuckle ensues when the Cylons land right in a trash compactor, which drives innocently off past Troy and Dillon as they exit the radio station, their work done. I don't know how Lorne Greene could have brought himself to utter Adama's shameful cop-out line 'then they are hardly so advanced that we cannot win', but we can put that out of mind when we are given one last glimpse inside the garbage compactor. There lies Centuri's severed head, still functioning, and repeating the faithful stuck record of his allotted function. 'I will protect you... I will protect you...'

VERDICT: Two stars (Fair). 'Conquest of the Earth' did well to remove the worst parts of both this two-parter and 'Galactica Discovers Earth'.

THOUGHTS:

The Hallowe'en gimmick is too much, but there aren't a lot of other ways they could have done this. Or, on second thought, New York is renowned for its parade of oddballs on any day of the year. Andromus and Centuri would barely have merited a second look, and needn't have had to bother passing themselves off as FBI agents (and where did they get that ruse from? Not from watching awful reruns of 'Robot Monster', I'll be bound).

The Cylon A-B craft only picks up Universal Studios product on its scanner. It also spells 'Centurions' incorrectly, substituting the letter 'O' with 'A'.

I swear the sound used when the Cylon pilots turned round to react to Andromidus's dry 'Centurion survival unlikely' statement is that of a bunch of pots and pans scraping together! Cylons have been called tin cans, but perhaps they really are!


John's Review

RATING: 1 star out of 5 (Poor)

The Night The Cylons Landed is the best episode since the pilot (which, let's face it, isn't saying much). The Super Scouts are finally relegated to the background. This expands on the storyline involving the evolution of the Cylons over the 30 years since the destruction of the Colonies. A new, bigger, and more powerful Cylon raider carrying a newly advanced Cylon lifeform crashlands on Earth. Two surviving Cylons attempt to communicate with the Cylon armada to tell them of Earth's location. This is a fantastic plot, but the execution is terrible. One has to seriously question Glen Larson's writing here. It is perhaps understandable that the episodes where he had to feature the Super Scouts were atrocious, but now he finally is able to put them in a minor role, and this is the story he delivers. Surely the network could not have insisted that Troy and Dillon dance on a stage with cartoon characters like Yogi Bear! There are other problems. The more powerful, heavily armored Cylon raider is crippled after the punier viper rams into it??? The viper certainly doesn't hit it very hard. If the Cylons were a joke in the original series, then in Galactica 1980 they are a laughing stock. Andromus, the evolved Cylon clone of a human, certainly doesn't look or act very advanced. Centuri, his Centurion buddy, comes across as being even sillier with his constant banter of "I will protect you. That is my mission." This is the monstrous, all-powerful race which threatens the Earth's destruction and that the Colonials are so concerned about??? The two Cylons provide some funny moments, but it can't make up for the letdown of a plot that had so much potential.

Who would've thought that the secret weapon to defeating the Cylons would be... a microwave!!! Too bad the Colonials didn't have them at the armistice meeting.

What an amazing (and unbelievable) coincidence that the Cylons arrive on Halloween, thus allowing them to walk around without really standing out.

Troy reveals that the Colonials' lasers are made of carbon synthetic - not metals.

Blooper - In part two, there is stock footage of the underside of the Galactica moving through space, and the Galactica is moving backwards.

Ken Lynch (Grover) played Dr. Gordon in the Battlestar Galactica episode Experiment In Terra.

Sheila DeWindt (flight attendant) played Dietra in the Battlestar Galactica episode Lost Planet Of The Gods.

In the movie theater, the film that Troy, Dillon, and the children watch is the Universal picture This Island Earth.

In part one, Troy and Dillon's stroll through the airport and ride on the airliner is pointless and brings the story to a grinding halt. Its only apparent purpose is so that our heroes can blurt out different kinds of educational dialogue required by the network.

Rex Cutter (Centuri) played the Cylon Centurion named Red-Eye in the Battlestar Galactica episode The Lost Warrior. He also played the Cylon Centurion named Cy in the classic Galactica 1980 episode The Return Of Starbuck.

William Daniels (Shirley's husband) is best known for his roles on St. Elsewhere and as the voice of K.I.T.T. in Knight Rider.

The second half of this episode is sometimes called So This Is New York due to an error in an episode guide in Starlog magazine many years ago.

In an interview, Kent McCord (Troy) talked about the production chaos behind the scenes because the show was so rushed: "[It] was the day we were shooting the scene on the Universal 747 stage. The episode was "The Night Cylons Landed," and we had probably 30 or 40 or 50 extras plus a crew. About noon, on this day with all this very difficult stuff, one of the associates producers came down and handed Barry and me eight pages of dialogue and said, 'At 4:00, you have to go to stage 25 and you have to shoot these eight pages. And no matter where you are here, you have to be over there to do this because we need this stuff to finish cutting a show that's being done.' So at 4:00 Barry and I had to go over to a different stage and leave all these extras and the whole crew...on this 747 soundstage and shoot eight pages of dialogue in a Viper. That dialogue had no reference to anything. It was Galactican language written for us. It's not easy stuff to learn. We had eight pages, and we didn't have time to learn it because we were shooting another show in another stage! That pointed out a couple of things. We had that unit shooting on a 747 stage and we had another unit shooting with us on stage 25, and I even think there was another unit out shooting with the kids or something," laughs McCord. "That's the way the show was done--to make airdates. It's very unusual."


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