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Battlestar Galactica 101
In preparation for the new “Battlestar Galactica” series, SciFi Channel this week is airing a marathon of the old episodes from 1978-1980. You can also catch the 2003 miniseries, which started the story arc for the new series. So, if you’re interested in watching but would like to know a few things first, here’s the scoop on the story, the terminology, the main characters and the best and worst episodes you’ll see.
SciFi Channel Airdates are as follows:
Original “BG” episodes will air during daytime hours from Jan. 10-Jan 13 starting at 8 or 9 a.m. ET. “Galactica 1980” will be shown Jan. 13 from noon ET and on Jan. 14 from 8 a.m. ET. The miniseries airs Jan 11, 12 and 13th during prime time; part one on Jan. 11 at 9 p.m. and Jan. 12 at 7 p.m., then part 2 airs Jan. 12 at 9 p.m. The new “BG” debuts at 9 p.m. ET on Friday, Jan. 14—but, if you miss it, you can catch it three more times on Jan. 14 and also 10 more times between then and Jan. 31 (check SciFi listings for more information on airtimes).
Of course, you can skip all that confusion, get the DVD boxed set of the original series and the DVD of the 2003 series. “Galactica 1980,” however, is currently unavailable on DVD (but since it was pretty bad, we don’t care that much—except for that one episode).
“Battlestar Galactica,” the original series, consisted of 24 episodes. “Galactica 1980,” which was picked up a year later and dropped quickly, had just 10.
In the original, the humans of the twelve human colonies (named after star signs, like Capricorn) have been at war with the robotic Cylons for 1000 years. At the time the pilot begins, a human trader named Baltar has come as the Cylon’s ambassador, claiming that the beings are tired of war and want to sue for peace. Only Commander Adama (Lorne Greene), of the battlestar Galactica, thinks Baltar is full of felgercarb (see terminology section). But the Council of Twelve, in the first of many bad decisions, overrules Adama and decides to leave their colonies and ships relatively unprotected. The Cylons attack at this vulnerable moment. Among the first victims is Adama’s youngest son, Zac (Rick Springfield).
A holocaust ensues. Though the Galactica has left its position in a last-ditch attempt try to save the colonies (thus spurring its warriors to erroneously think Adama is a coward), it is too late and most of the population of the twelve worlds has been wiped out. Galactica, out of twelve battlestars, is the last one left. Adama sends out an order that the survivors should leave the planets in whatever ships they can, and they will leave the system to the Cylons.
Thus begins the journey depicted in the only season of “Battlestar Galactica.” Adama’s faith leads him to remember the legend of a 13th colony, “a shining planet called Earth.” This is his goal, and he leads the ragtag army of ships towards a new destiny.
In “Galactica 1980,” set a generation after the series ends, many of the main characters have been killed off or abandoned (only Adama and Boomer remain of the original cast). The Galactica finds Earth, but not the Earth they hoped would be able to stand up to the might of the Cylons.
Commander Adama (Lorne Greene): The military commander of the Galactica. Has two children still alive: Apollo and Athena. He is a religious man, a complex character and a leader with a heavy burden.
Apollo (Richard Hatch): Adama’s son and a fine pilot, who early in the series loses his new wife, sportscaster Serina (Jane Seymour). His grief motivates much of his actions from then on. He becomes the guardian of young Boxey, Serina’s son. He is a serious, upright character.
Starbuck (Dirk Benedict): Apollo’s foil, Lt. Starbuck is a fumarello-smoking gambler and womanizer whose flying style—and lifestyle—is a bit more carefree than Apollo’s. Nevertheless, the two are close friends and comrades. Starbuck has had feelings for Athena, Apollo’s sister; during the series, he develops a serious relationship with socialator Cassiopeia.
Boomer (Herb Jefferson, Jr.): A good friend to both Apollo and Starbuck, Boomer is another pilot who often gets thrown in with them to carry out their missions.
Commander Tigh (Terry Carter): Adama’s friend and consultant on the bridge of the Battlestar Galactica.
Athena (Maren Jensen): Apollo’s sister and Adama’s daughter, who works on the bridge and has a thing for Starbuck. As the series goes on, her part gets less important.
Cassiopeia (Laurette Spang): An ex-socialator who catches Starbuck’s eye when touring one of the crowded ships that left Earth. She starts to train as a med-tech and becomes a part of Apollo and Starbuck’s social circle.
Sheba (Anne Lockhart): Partway through the series, Sheba enters as Apollo’s new love interest. She, too, is a pilot, and becomes one of the extended “family” of Adama’s.
Count Baltar (John Colicos): A human who allied himself with the Cylons early on, Baltar continues to chase the Galactica across the solar system, so as to wipe humans from the face of the galaxy. Later, he became a prisoner on board the battlestar.
Occasionally, the terms you hear on “Battlestar Galactica” are not familiar. Here’s a quick little glossary. There are other terms on the show, but you can probably figure them out with a little context (like, “Eat your primaries, Boxey”).
· micron(s) - several seconds
· centon(s) - minute (10 microns in one of these)
· centare, centares* - "hour" - 100 centons; 24 centares in a day
· secton(s) - "week" - 8 days
· sectare, sectares* - "month" - 32 days, 4 sectons
· yahren(s) - year - 391 days** (12 sectares plus seven intercalary days)
Felgercarb and frak mean about the same thing, although I believe that “frak” is stronger language. I’m sure you can figure it out.
Cylon: of a race of beings made of shining metal. Their goal is annihilation of the human race.
Basestar: A Cylon ship of massive size.
Battlestar: A human ship equivalent of the basestar.
Viper: Small, maneuverable ships flown by single pilots and stationed on the Galactica. They can’t fly far by themselves.
Socialator: Cassie is a socialator, which is most easily described as the intergalactic equivalent to a Japanese geisha or a Greek heteira (crudely, a woman who grants sexual favors, but is highly regarded in society and also highly educated).
Cubit: This is the primary monetary unit used in the Colonies. Cubits are small gold rectangles with designs pressed into them.
Ambrosa: the favored form of liquor on the Colonies.
Pyramid: Starbuck’s card game of choice.
Five Best Episodes:
1. The pilot. It’s three hours long, but it’s a pretty epic story of good and evil and survival. The Colonies get ready for peace, but the Cylons launch a devastating attack at their most vulnerable moment. Adama gathers the survivors and heads out into the stars.
2. “War of the Gods.” 2 parts. Another good/evil episode, and just a hint of romance between Apollo and Sheba thrown in. Also introduces the white lights. A strange man found on a planet starts to usurp Adama’s power. Patrick Macnee guests.
3. “The Living Legend.” 2 parts. Introduces Commander Cain, the lost battlestar Pegasus and Sheba, who joins as a primary cast member. With two battlestars, Cain decides that they can win over the Cylons once and for all. Lloyd Bridges guests.
4. “Hand of God.” Tired of running, Adama decides to destroy a basestar rather than hiding from it. Apollo and Starbuck are chosen for the suicide mission. This was the last episode of the series.
5. “The Man with Nine Lives.” Starbuck encounters another con man who may or may not be his long-lost father. Guest stars Fred Astaire.
Three Worst Episodes:
1. Anything from “Galactica 1980.” Though we begin with the premise that anything about “Galactica” is good, this series still fell far short of its potential. Add a whole baseball team’s worth of super-powered children, a ditzy reporter from Earth, a golden-skinned child genius, and bizarrely hilarious dialogue (like when the pilots encounter a scarecrow for the first time) and you have the worst of “Galactica.” The best episode of this series was “The Return of Starbuck,” and it was still baffling and silly.
2. “The Young Lords.” I suppose this one wouldn’t have been so bad except for the really stupid rhyming poem/narrative device they stuck in the middle. Starbuck is marooned on a planet where tribes of children try to survive. To rescue a family’s father, he leads them on a dangerous raid.
3. “The Lost Warrior.” This would be the obligatory scifi show episode set in a Western in order to utilize existing movie sets (actually, "BG" featured two of these). Apollo is marooned in a small town terrorized by “Red Eye,” a malfunctioning Cylon who thinks the town’s head is his Imperious Leader.
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