With the 12 colonies of man all but destroyed by the evil Cylon Alliance, and the battle fleet in ruins, the sole remaining battlestar, Galactica, leads a ragtag convoy of ships in search of the mythical planet of Earth. The first stop is Carillon, where the Cylons have laid a trap.
Although a pilot for a subsequent American TV series, Battlestar Galactica was released as a full theatrical movie in Britain to cash in on the demand for sci-fi cowboy movies in the mould of George Lucas magnificent Star Wars. Although evidently a rip-off — there were hints of Lucas even taking the matter to the courts — this spacebound wagon train, whose limits are readily apparent, is great fun.
That is down to creator Glen A. Larson’s keen nose for a story, and grasp that what made Lucas’s blockbuster sing was fundamentally a punchy set of memorable characters with really cool names. Larson fully obliges here: Richard Hatch as the noble, straight-faced hero Apollo, the splendid Dirk Benedict as smart-tongued Han Solo clone Starbuck, and leathery Lorne Greene lending his wise basso-tones to their leader Adama. John Ireland’s dialogue even manages a sly reflexive irony: “Ten thousand light years from nowhere, our planet shot to pieces, people starving, and I'm gonna get us in trouble?” smarts the ever-chirpy Starbuck.
Their adventure rattles on at a great pace, dividing its attentions between the initial escape after human betrayal leads the forbidding Cylons, with their oscillating red eye-bulb, warbling computer speak and shiny metal hides, to crash the human party, and a pitstop on decadent planet Carillon. Here, the plot hides a particularly nasty about-face for the do-gooder heroes.
It may just be a launching pad for the popular series that jetted onto BBC2, but there is thoroughness to the script that allows the pilot to stand-alone. The effects too, while never touching Star Wars’ galactic ballet, are vigorous and exciting, the human’s spacecraft designed with natty Aztec motifs. The head-rush whoosh as the fighters launch along glittering tubes into the battle was just ace.
Lots of retro space cowboy fun to be had...