galactica 1980 marathon, part I (caution: new series spoilers)

February 24, 2006

The SciFi Channel ran a Battlestar Galactica 1980 marathon a few days ago. Husband double-dog-dared me to watch the whole thing and post about it. Notice that Husband’s band had a gig and Husband has been conveniently out of the house a lot this week. Before this little experiment goes any further, I’d better check and make sure he hasn’t taken out a big life insurance policy on me or something ’cause I’ve gotta tell you, I’m only 10 minutes into the 1st episode and I’m already fearing spontaneous human combustion. My own.

If you aren’t a product of the 70s, or a big nerd, or possibly both, you may be confused about why there are so damned many shows with the name Battlestar Galactica. There are sites that go into excrutiating detail about the history of said programs. This isn’t one of them.

Essentially, Galactica 1980 was a bit of programming roadkill that aired between the original Battlestar Galactica (1978), wherein Baltar was an ugly little man with the sex appeal of an african wild dog and the groovy new version, wherein Baltar is pretty hot. Crazy as the day is long, but hot nonetheless.

Galactica 1980 seems to be a Baltar-free zone. It also seems to be a budget-free zone, a plot-free zone, and a talent-free zone. The “plot” involves the plucky survivors of a Cylon holocaust finally finding Earth after drifting around in space for a couple of decades. Their annoying pseudo-leader, Dr. Zee (a sort of psychic Cousin Oliver), is afraid that the Cylons may have followed them so that they can destroy Earth. He just thought of that now? They’ve been on the run from the Cylons for 30 years and it just now occurred to their genius leader that maybe the Cylons will follow them all the way to Earth? Whatever. Consequently, the plucky survivors must infiltrate Earth undetected and do something or another.

Galactica 1980 stars the incredibly talented Barry Van Dyke. OK. I can’t even type that sentence with a straight face. Galactica 1980 stars Barry Van Dyke. There. That’s easier.

The ingenious casting doesn’t stop there: Robert Reed (aka Mike Brady), sporting an excellent man-perm and huge black-framed nerd glasses so we know he’s smart, plays the most brilliant atomic scientist on Earth.

Lorne Greene, as one of the few returning cast members, continues to debase himself as Adama, although in Galactica 1980 he’s wearing a bichon frise on his face to ensure that the viewer understands that much story-time has passed since the original series. That’s in case the viewer misses this information in the ponderous narration or awkward dialogue.

Adama and some leftover costumes are just about all that remains of the original series. The creepy robot dog, Muffit, who I have mentioned here before is still around and, alarmingly, has found a way to breed. You’re probably thinking: robot dogs? they’d just build more. I don’t think so. I swear that one of the robot dogs turned and presented itself to the other for mounting. Let’s not think about that anymore.

To ensure that the viewer never, ever loses sight of the fact that this series seriously sucked, there are copious station breaks to plug the new series. Maybe they’re not actually inviting comparison to the current program, maybe they’re trying to appease fans of the new series who are disgruntled by recent plot twists. They should put subtitles on the ads for tonight’s episode: “See, you’re pissed that Billy is dead, but it could be worse. We could just give up and phone in crap like Galactica 1980. So you just accept Billy’s death and move on.”

While we’re on the subject of recent plot developments – can I just ask why it’s suddenly necessary for Apollo to have a death/near-death experience every blessed week? It’s like he’s their Kenny. Shoot him into space and suffocate him; revive him. Shoot him; revive him. I keep waiting for Starbuck to shout, “They killed Apollo! Those bastards!”

Back to Galactica 1980: Troy and Barry Van Dyke travelled to Earth with Casio Invisibility Watchs and really puffy jackets. They need to secretly get the people of Earth ready to battle the Cylons. A la the A Team, they’re wanted by the police so they team up with a hot-mama reporter who helps them surmount various obstacles as they do whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing in between wacky fish out of water experiences. She also may or may not be helping them avoid being shot by the LAPD. Or something. There was a wacky scene wherein Troy and Barry use their Casio-invisibility field watchs to break out of jail while the requisite drunk-tank denizen does a double-take and swears off alcohol. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

Whoops! The “plot” just took a bizarre u-turn into time travel, that desperate plot-device of many a failed sci-fi show. Dude, we’re only 34 minutes into the second episode, it’s much too soon to play the time-travel card. We know they’re time travelling because there were some really cheap lighting effects and now there are Nazis.

Nazis? But of course.

The first rule of sci-fi program time travel is: if you’re going to mess with the space-time continuum you’re going to end up in Germany during World War II. It’s a very simple principle. Low budget programming + existing Hollywood Nazi costume surplus = gratuitous World War II time travel subplots.

The second rule is, of course, don’t interfere with the past or wackiness will ensue. Well, we’re kneedeep in wackiness. And bad fake German accents. And bad fake Germans. Who knew that blowdried, feathered hair was so popular in 1940s Germany?

Barry Van Dyke and his sidekick, Troy, make you long for what passed as sparkle and wit between the original dynamic duo of Apollo and Starbuck. We’re supposed to believe Troy is young Boxey, the annoying little shit with the robodog from the originial series. He’s now all growed up and trained to be a super-duper viper pilot. He’s less annoying now. Dressed as a Nazi…well, he looks like he’s auditioning for the original film version of the Producers. I keep expecting him to feed some pigeons and burst into a chorus of “Springtime for Hitler.” It’s really that bad.

Take heart. There’s a new ep of the new Battlestar Galactica on tonight and in the new Galactica Universe there are no robot dogs, it seems unlikely that the writers would be dumb enough to develop a time-travel fetish even if they do reach Earth, and, most importantly, I’m quite certain that somewhere in outer space there are resurrection ships full of thousands upon thousands of naked Lucy Lawless cylon clones.

…proceed to part 2

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