When we hear about Battlestar Galactica, the first thing that springs to mind is the widely-acclaimed reimagined series that launched back in 2003, but before then, there was the original vision that all began with this. Originally intended as the opening 3-parter pilot, they were lumped together into a singular movie and distributed across cinemas with one big change being that the Cylons kill Baltar, whilst he is reprieved in the TV 3-part version to turn up in later episodes. Despite the big change, the rest of the story is intact and while it is mostly solid, considering the time period in which it was made, it is definitely not a smooth ride.
In all honesty, it felt occasionally creaky and hokey. One aspect it fails at is in its editing and pacing, being incredibly slow and ponderous one minute to quick and adventurous the next, making the experience somewhat scattershot as a result. The effects tend to vary, with some looking amazing thanks to John Dykstra’s wonderful model work, yet when the effects are bad, they are laughable. Also, during the space battle sequences, the film reuses way too many that it just becomes distracting. Sure, you could’ve probably got away with it if you’d just reused it once and did some clever editing on it, but to reuse the exact same unedited shot four or five times is going a bit too far.
But, the main problem is that there is an inconsistency in tone, where the plot instantly turns from dark and disturbing one minute to knock-about comedy the next, and it is within the blink of an eye. In this story, there are intergalactic holocausts and humans turned into living hosts by bug-aliens, yet that contrasts heavily with the many comedic sequences with Starbuck (at least Katee Sackhoff’s Starbuck wasn’t like this) and the many annoyingly saccharine scenes, with the irritating Boxey (must be Anakin’s long distant brother) and the robotic ‘Daggit’. Oh, and that robot Daggit outfit is horrendous.
However, what makes the whole thing stand up strong is its core concept, as it tackles the themes of political debacles against an intergalactic war, and the robotic Cylons rebelling against humanity (which is something that became the driving force of Terminator with Skynet). The sequences of emotional distress, and the differences in political ideologies that surrounded the Cylon invasion, are impressively well handled and do a great job of adding more dramatic weight to the overall story, which is helped by mostly strong performances throughout. It’s perhaps thankful that in the revived series, creator Ronald D Moore wanted more focus on the politics of humanity’s plight, and much less on the lighter comedic side of an intergalactic holocaust.
Even though the reimagined series is much stronger in comparison, the original Battlestar Galactica is still groundbreaking in many respects, even with all its faults, bringing a whole new level of production value that science fiction on TV had never previously seen before. The show’s unusual concept and design work still stands as a testament to those who have worked on it, even if some of the other aspects are less worthy of note.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: SAGA OF A STAR WORLD / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: RICHARD A. COLLA / SCREENPLAY: GLEN A. LARSON / STARRING: RICHARD HATCH, LORNE GREENE, DIRK BENEDICT, HERBERT JEFFERSON JR / RELEASE DATE: 28TH MARCH