From Glen A. Larson, a veteran TV writer and producer of some ’70s cop shows—and, by the way, who’d go on to create other sci-fi TV shows like
ripoffs projects to come out.
“Saga of a Star World” has several different versions, not least because (since it proved so incredibly expensive, with some reports of its cost being $14 million—$3 million more than
Larson wrote the film himself and came up with the overall premise. A member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Larson wove a fair amount of Mormon mythology and scripture into the story. This was talked about quite a bit when the series was rebooted in 2003 by Ronald D. Moore. That later series functions much more like a traditional space opera, with the day-to-day trials and tribulations of the last surviving humans providing most of the drama. This sort of happened in the ’78 version, too, except it
There are Twelve Colonies of humankind, and a fleet of battlestars and fighters that patrol these planets. The ancient robot race called the Cylons have been the enemies of humans for eons, and the film opens with an armistice about to take place. Only Commander Adama (Lorne Greene) sees the danger inherent in trusting the Cylons. While the humans get ready for this historic treaty, the final fighter patrol heads out, consisting of Captain Apollo (Richard Hatch) and his younger brother Lieutenant Zac (Rick Springfield—yes, of “Jessie’s Girl” fame), both of whom happen to be Adama’s kids. Long story short, the Cylons attack and Zac is killed, along with 90% of all of humanity. Various ships of different classes, including the titular Galactica, make up the fleet that seeks to travel far away to the rumored thirteenth colony: EARTH. Yeah, you know the premise if you know the later show.
If you’ve only seen the reboot, there’s lots in here you’ll recognize, beyond character names and basic concept. Even in the movie cut of the pilot, it deals with the predicament of where the refugees are going to go while on their journey, since there’s far less room in actual quarters than there are people who need them. Apollo and his two wingmen, Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) and Boomer (Herbert Jefferson Jr.), see firsthand just how bad the sick and wounded have it, going days without food and water. This plays into the greater sense of class warfare at work, since the larger luxury cruisers only house those who were wealthy and decadent, personified by the film’s ostensible human villain, Sire Urie (Ray Milland).
The stuff that doesn’t quite line up feels especially goofy by today’s standards. The space battles have excellent effects for the time, naturally in keeping with the caliber of the team employed, but the composite shots of the pilots look very cheesy. The flight helmets do effectively nothing, and the head-on shots of the cockpit are done in front of an immobile star field, making it feel a bit like someone shot it in their garage. So it’s this constant give and take; the space effects and scenes shot on the Galactica looks cinematic, while many of the other locations and cockpit shots do not.
But what has aged the worst has to be the sense of humor, and the aim toward little kids.
There’s also some humor that really hasn’t aged very well. Starbuck in this series is the happy-go-lucky wisecracking womanizer, and though Benedict is very likable, the character spends most of the time trying to keep Apollo’s sister Athena (Maren Jensen) from finding out about his new girlfriend, the “socialator” Cassiopeia (Laurette Spang). Also, there’s this weird pleasure planet the colonists all visit and there’s a trio of disco-performing singers with multiple faces and voices that Starbuck wants to represent…amid his entire species on the brink of extinction. It’s very weird.
That said, and cheesiness firmly understood, I still think