This article was originally posted on July 27, 2002. In retrospect, I guess the article makes me look kind of dumb (since I totally trash on the chances of the Sci-Fi Channel following through on reviving Galactica), but there are still a lot of good points made here, and I think it's a good read.


The Galactica Curse


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. -Isaac Asimov, September 17, 1978.

Battlestar Galactica is a black hole of an epic. -Marvin Kitman, The New Leader, May 6, 1979.

It's a seventh-rate Star Wars. -Mick Martin & Marsha Porter Video Movie Guide 1991.



If there ever was a television show cursed by the TV Gods, it must have been Battlestar Galactica.

There's really no other explanation for the bizarre events surrounding this franchise over the past 24 years. From its abrupt cancellation to its abysmal spin-off to one failed revival effort after another, there really has never been a show quite like Battlestar Galactica, nor will there ever be.

The series may have been cursed before it even began production since it had to follow the blockbuster Star Wars movie from only a year earlier. Glen Larson is said to be the best salesman to ever pitch a series, but he may have oversold the idea to ABC because the executives there actually believed had a shot at creating the number one show on TV. But their decision to air the show on Sunday nights made this impossible, for Sunday night then was the most competitive night of the week and guaranteed a split audience between the networks. Thus, from the onset Battlestar Galactica had expectations it could never possibly live up to. And only a week before the season finale aired, fans learned that the season finale would in fact be the series finale as ABC canceled the show.

Many theories have been devised over the years as to why the show was canceled, and there are probably various reasons as to why Galactica's demise came about. But it can all be summed up in a simple way. As painful as it is for me to say this, as much as I love the show, one must come to terms with the truth that no die-hard Galactica fan wants to admit.

Battlestar Galactica was a failure.

The die-hards will scream in dire protest. They'll say Galactica was the highest rated sci-fi show of all time until the X-Files. They'll say it was sabotaged by the network. It was preempted most of the time. The censors constantly screwed with it. The show was rushed into production. The writers didn't have enough time to come up with good scripts. The special effects took too much time to produce. Maren Jensen couldn't act.

Despite all these reasons, despite all these excuses, all that matters to the number-crunching accountants and big-style TV execs is how much money is in the bank at the end of the season. And Battlestar Galactica simply did not pay off.

Sure, it was the highest rated sci-fi series of all time back then, but in 1978 that was almost feint praise. Most of Galactica's sci-fi predecessors had tanked. Even Star Trek had only been a modest ratings success. Being ahead of the pack was a nice accolade, but it wasn't enough. At a million dollars per episode, ABC expected their investment to pay dividends. And finishing the 1978-79 season at number 24 did not.

In the eyes of corporate America, if it doesn't make money, it's a failure. Simple as that.

Even worse, Galactica was not only a numbers failure, but it was also wildly considered a second-rate Star Wars. And, blasphemous as this may sound, it was.

Galactica may have been the highest rated sci-fi series of all time, but Star Wars was the highest grossing movie of all time. Star Wars has been followed by four highly successful movie sequels. Galactica was followed by an atrociously despised TV spin-off that even the most die-hard Galactica fans consider to be the worst sci-fi series ever made. Star Wars was a billion-dollar merchandising phenomenon. Galactica never made a fraction of that.

The comparisons may seem unfair, but they're inevitable thanks to ABC's decision to rush the series onto the air just one year after Star Wars's blockbuster success. They're inevitable thanks to Larson emulating certain aspects of Star Wars that he never should have emulated, like the casino and the big explosion of Carillon at the end of pilot. In reality, who can blame people for comparing the two? Even if George Lucas had never developed his "Only I can do Sci-Fi" attitude and sicced his lawyers on Universal, it was clear to anyone that ABC was looking to create the next Star Wars.

When the pilot aired on September 1978, it may have been a ratings success, but it was a critical failure. Now matter how you cut it, Battlestar Galactica was simply not as good as Star Wars. Despite a fantastic premise, intriguing characters, a beautiful music score, competent actors, and great special effects, Galactica had many poor stories, gaping plot holes, and cringe-inducing moments. Starbuck is framed for murder? Apollo in the Old West? The Borays? Who cares? What's the point? These episodes may have been somewhat saved by the performances and production values, but in the end they were just a waste of time. Even the best episodes had major problems. Cassiopeia knows how to parachute? Women cadets in a modeling show (uh, I mean viper training)?

But perhaps the biggest curse of all was Galactica 1980. ABC eventually came up with a (seemingly) brilliant idea. Someone said, "Hey! The problem with Galactica was that it was too expensive. I know! We'll bring back the show, but we'll cut the budget in half! Even if the ratings aren't as high, we'll still make more money!"

"But wait a minute!" someone else cut in. "If the budget is cut in half, then how can we do all those zippy-dippy special effects?"

"No problem!" was the response. "We won't need any of those zippy-dippy special effects. We'll just have the Galactica discover Earth!"

Brilliant idea.

Except it wasn't Battlestar Galactica. Except it wasn't really science fiction. Except most of the original cast wasn't available. Except it aired at 7pm (deemed children's hour). Except you couldn't have any violence. Except you couldn't have any drama. Except you couldn't have anything worth watching. Except. Except. Except.

Thus born from this brilliant idea was Galactica 1980, a show that made Battlestar Galactica look 1000 times better by comparison. Hated and despised by every Galactica fan, the series was the ultimate joke, the ultimate blasphemy, and perhaps the greatest curse of all.

In the ultimate irony, not only did ABC fail to create a show worth watching, it even failed to create a show that would make money. Even though the budget was cut in half, ABC once again made the mistake of rushing it into production. Universal had to put in overtime to get each episode finished, and this drove the production costs up and ultimately made Galactica 1980 almost as expensive as the original series. Still don't believe in curses?

The show was canceled after only ten episodes. Glen Larson has said he regrets doing Galactica 1980, that he only did it because he had no other way of getting the show on the air. But by signing a deal with the devil (ABC), Larson sold Galactica's soul.

Ironically, it may have been this last-ditch desperate attempt to revive the franchise that put the final nail in Galactica's coffin. Galactica 1980 may be the main reason why so many revival attempts over the years have failed. And yet the revival proposals have never stopped coming.

And when you talk about Galactica revivals, you can't do it without mentioning Richard Hatch.

Hatch's quest to bring back Galactica started after attending a Star Trek seminar as a guest in 1993. He was shocked that so many fans remembered him and at how much they loved the show. Tired of waiting for someone else to revive the show, Richard made the decision to take up the torch himself.

And what an interesting battle it has been.

Hatch has proposed a new series or movie that would occur twenty-some odd years after the original series and feature both the original cast and new characters. But is this the best way to go?

Richard Hatch has a number of reasons as to why he believes his vision of Galactica is the most feasible. Let's look at them one by one.

1. Millions of Galactica fans all around the world want to see the original characters.

Millions of fans? I hate to break this to the die-hards, but the world-wide Galactica fanbase likely is in the neighborhood of the tens of thousands. If you need evidence, look no further than the two recently failed attempts by Maximum Press and Third Realm to do a successful Galactica comic book series. It would have only taken a fraction of Galactica's so-called "millions of fans" to make these comics a success, yet no such luck. Need more? When Hatch rallied his support behind Tom DeSanto's Galactica production, his petition reportedly gathered 14,000 signatures. That's the best that Galactica fandom can do?

It's hard to see where Hatch is getting his numbers from, unless he is counting the millions of twenty-somethings who see a Galactica rerun and nostalgiacally go, "Oh, yeah, I used to watch that." It would be ridiculous to count these people as "fans".

2. In order to increase the odds of ratings success, it's important to have the original characters to keep the old fan base tuned it.

For argument's sake, let's give the benefit of the doubt and say there are a hundred thousand die-hard Galactica fans in this country, and let's say they all stand 100% behind Richard Hatch's version of the series.

It still wouldn't matter.

A hundred thousand fans would make nary a dent in the ratings. For a series to succeed on a major network, it needs to attract millions (actually, tens of millions) of viewers. This should make it clear why any Galactica petition will ultimately be meaningless to those TV execs high up in the ivory tower.

Clearly, Richard Hatch has overestimated the power of nostalgia. But the networks won't. Nostalgia is like visiting grandma's house. You don't mind staying for the weekend, but you don't want to move in. I enjoyed the first Dukes of Hazzard TV reunion movie, but I did not enjoy the second. (By the way, if you've seen the second movie, then you know why there won't be a third.)

This is why Richard Hatch's vision of Galactica would have little chance of success beyond a one-time TV reunion that would give everyone that momentary sense of "Wow, I remember that." And I doubt Hatch would be satisfied with such a short-lived return. And even if the original cast did succeed in making the Galactica fans happy, this would be far offset by the number of people who would be turned off by a show that gave so many prominent roles to forty and fifty-somethings.

Sadly, Hollywood these days has little room for old people. Fair or not, it is the land of the young. I really hate to admit this, but I myself have little interest in seeing a Starbuck/Athena/Casseopeia love triangle or an Apollo/Sheba romance now they are all on the verge of entering the old folks home. Does any Galactica fan really want to see this (or anything even remotely similar)? Bottom line, it's highly unlikely that any network would take a chance on such a show.

3. Star Trek and Lost in Space are examples why it is important to use the original cast.

Yes, the Star Trek movies were successful when the original cast was used. But there were different circumstances at the time. Only ten years or so had passed between the time of the TV show and the movie, so the cast wasn't that much older. It has been 24 years since Galactica first aired. The Lost in Space movie may have been a dud, but does anyone actually believe that featuring the original actors would have made a better movie?

Despite my being critical of his efforts, I do appreciate Richard Hatch's attempt to bring Galactica back. I can't help but feel sorry for the poor guy. He works his heart out to bring back the show and gets crucified by a good number of Galactica fans. There's a distinct difference between being critical and being downright malicious, and Hatch has gotten a lot of the latter from people. Adding insult to injury, the Sci-Fi channel Galactica documentary seemed more interested in making Hatch look bad than anything else, portraying him as being a problem to work with on the set. The documentary seemed to take various interview comments out of context because, hey, it's more fun to hear about people who fight than get along, right?

Richard reportedly even mortgaged his house to fund a Galactica trailer to try and sell the concept. I've seen it and it is a wonderful trailer indeed, and it has gotten standing ovations at various conventions. Unfortunately, it turned out to be all for naught as far as selling his vision to anyone with the power to greenlight it.

Hopefully, this will all work out for the best. Hatch is working on a sci-fi concept of his own called "The Great War of Magellan" so he can avoid much of the red tape that has hampered Galactica's revival. In a way, Richard did get to create his own vision of Galactica through his novels and the three-minute trailer.

For all of Richard Hatch's efforts, it should be noted that he is a latecomer to the Galactica revival. Glen Larson has actually tried longer and harder to bring the show back. Sure, Larson may not be as fan-friendly as Hatch, but you have to give him credit for sticking by a show that has probably been more responsible for giving him the nickname "Glen Larsony" than any other project he's done.

Still, Larson's recent revival efforts seriously make one question whether he is the best choice to spearhead a Galactica revival. Recent evidence that Larson's original Galactica scripts may have been ghostwritten doesn't help matters. His idea was to do a movie featuring the Battlestar Pegasus. If that's the case, then what he is proposing is not really a Galactica revival at all.

Anyway, Larson apparently doesn't own any rights to Galactica, so it seems his concept has no more chance of being done than Hatch's. Just when it seemed that the Galactica revival was at a standstill, a new player emerged.

Enter Bryan Singer.

Beholden for his success producing the X-Men movie, Singer decided to enter TV land and use his newfound Hollywood power to revive the Galactica franchise. In a bombshell, the official announcement was made. Singer sure seemed impressive at first glance. During interviews, he mentioned how much he loved the show as a kid, how he used to draw vipers in school, how this opportunity was a childhood dream come true. Heck, he even made references to Cain, Iblis, and the Enforcers to show fans that he actually knew what Galactica was all about.

Galactica fans could finally celebrate! The curse was over!

Not.

A few months later, Singer announced he was giving up his "childhood dream" in order to work on the X-Men sequel. Why? Why would he do this? Fox likely coaxed him to do it, perhaps offering financial incentives. But there was probably another reason as well. Despite all his fan-boyish dreams of resurrecting his beloved show, Singer probably admitted to himself the reality of the situation. It goes something like this.

Every year, about a hundred TV pilots are made. Roughly twenty are picked up for the season. Out of those twenty, maybe three or four are renewed for a second season. With these odds, Singer must have realized the chances of Galactica becoming a success were not all that strong. When you look at the situation from this perspective, it's hard to blame him.

After all, why waste time on a TV show that will likely flop (and hurt your track record in the process) when you've got a sure thing like the X-Men?

Once Singer left the project, it should hardly have been a surprise that Fox decided to pull the plug on the Galactica series. You can go on and on forever about Galactica's legacy, its heralded fandom, its universal appeal, blah, blah, blah - but it doesn't change the fact that science fiction traditionally doesn't do well on television. Even a mega-hit like the X-Files never would have become a mega-hit if the network hadn't deficit-financed the show for several years until it finally took off.

Today, networks aren't willing to give a show a full season, much less a few years, to develop an audience. Many new series are yanked off the air after three episodes if they don't score big numbers right away. Networks want to make money now, not later.

Sadly, TV today is much different than it was in 1978. There are far more shows competing for viewers, and there's almost zero chance that a new Galactica series could come anywhere close to the ratings the original series had.

Probably the best chance a new Galactica show would have of succeeding is if it was done as a syndicated show, where you can stay on the air with relatively small ratings. Too bad the syndicated market has mostly died out in the past few years ever since WB and UPN, the networks that aired most syndicated shows, developed their own original programming. This forced the syndicated shows into graveyard timeslots where they couldn't get the same ratings that they did in prime-time.

What about a theatrical movie? I would love to see a Galactica movie done completely with computerized CGI effects just like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. You could recreate all the original characters the same way they looked back in 1978. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy bombed big time, so it will probably be awhile before anyone wants to go that route again. Bottom line, it seems unlikely that any studio would want to risk $50 million or more on a "Star Wars wanna-be". All anyone has to do is point out Galactica 1980 and that should put a quick end to any movie thoughts.

A cartoon series could also be a viable way to redo the show. Again, it would allow you to have all the original characters at their original ages, so you could pick up right where the original show left off. Unfortunately, thanks to the Disney mentality that grips this country, most people believe cartoons must be dumbed down to be suitable viewing for the littlest of children. It would be hard to do Galactica justice if, for example, death in any circumstance was forbidden, as well as any other dramatic themes that might make a wrong impression on little Johnny.

So what's left? Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. Now the Sci-Fi channel has jumped on the revival bandwagon (again). They have announced that they will do a Galactica mini-series. Considering that their first Galactica revival effort lasted less than one day (Don't ask), I think I will avoid holding my breath. If history is any indication, it will only be a matter of time before the Sci-Fi channel announces a "delay", a "postponement", or simply drops the idea altogether for reasons that are never revealed.

Come to think of it, does it really matter anymore?

Sci-Fi says their mini-series will be a "re-imagination" of Battlestar Galactica. What's the point? Will anyone be satisfied seeing a show that isn't Battlestar Galactica trying to cash in on the Galactica name?

Bottom line, I'm not sure there is any new Galactica that could satisfy the fans. What I truly want (and I think most fans feel the same) is what can never be. What I truly want is for the original series to have never been canceled.

But, then again, maybe in the end it's all for the best.

At least we're spared a Galactica series that drags on for nine seasons when it should have been canceled after five (a la X-Files). At least we're spared numerous spin-offs that just rehash the franchise to death (a la Star Trek). At least we're spared an overabundance of merchandising designed for no other reason to cash in.

Now for any fan who wants to see a worthy continuation of the Galactica saga, they need look no further than the volumes of fan fiction that have been written over the years, especially the stories from Clean Slate Press (posted on this site!). Sharon Monroe's Pegasus Chronicles are actually a reason to celebrate that the series did not get renewed. Monroe's version of the Pegasus's return is surely better than anything Larson and company could ever have come up with. And "The Race For Earth" delivers a wonderful ending to the Battlestar Galactica saga that any fan will love.

In the end, despite all the network mistakes, all the critical backlashes, all the snubs, all the failed revivals, it doesn't really matter. Despite every negative thing you can think of, Battlestar Galactica, the second-rate Star Wars, sci-fi's most successful failure, lives on.

So maybe the curse is really a blessing.

And maybe being second-rate isn't so bad after all.


December 12, 2002

By now, you may have heard the big surprise that the Starbuck of the Sci-Fi Channel Galactica movie will be a woman!

Of course, Galactica fans (at least those on the internet) have been expressing their outrage. A lot of ugly words have been used to describe Ron Moore lately. You're probably wondering what my own opinion is.

I guess I'm in the minority in that I don't necessarily have a problem with Starbuck being a woman. Dirk Benedict was perfect for the role back in 1978, and I can't imagine any actor successfully replicating the exact character that he played. It's clear now that although the premise will remain the same, the characters (Apollo, Starbuck, Adama, Baltar) are going to be different. They will not be carbon copies of the originals. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. It may turn out to be for the better.

What bothers me more than anything are the rants and temper-tantrums being thrown by so many Galactica fans. All this name-calling against Ron Moore is childish (but I suppose it's to be expected, since the human race as a whole seems to be stuck in kindergarden). This is just a TV show, people. Nothing more. Some of these fans should refocus their energies in life.

Bottom line, there is no way to know how good Moore's approach will be until we see the final product. As I've stated in the past, I'm willing to give Moore the benefit of the doubt. I think all Galactica fans should likewise do the same.

Maybe that Galactica curse is finally over after all!


Enter Sheba's Galaxy