When ABC rushed Battlestar Galactica into production in the wake of the phenomenal success of Star Wars, it was roundly dismissed as a knockoff of George Lucas’ money making machine. Every other film and TV show that dared launch plucky heroes and wise mystics into space was similarly derided as weak imitations by critics and outright heresy by fans. It’s true that many of these films were quickly conceived or contrived to hopefully scrape up a fraction of Star Wars box office take. Producers quickly slapped together whatever space yarn that had elements similar to Star Wars and rushed them onto screens. I remember movies like Message from Space and Starcrash bouncing off of screens and onto retinas at the time. It wasn’t anything new. Jaws, the summer boxoffice blockbuster that started the trend of Summer tentpole pictures, spawned an incredible number of imitations big and small
More important than the box office take was the merchandising bonanza that Star Wars touched off. Jaws had plenty of licensed products (I had a tee-shirt) but nothing like Star Wars which was a phenomena. It had tee-shirts, posters, and most importantly TOYS! I can’t think of a movie that hasn’t had a toy tie-in in the almost four decades since Star Wars’ release. Most of the toy lines have been flops even though the movies may have been successful. I worked in a big box toy store in the early 1980s and there were still E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark toys languishing on shelves unsold.
ABC and the makers of Battlestar Galactica came up with something vaguely similar to Star Wars, but it was going to roll into living rooms every week rather than on screens every few years. Holy smokes! People would forget Star Wars by the time the sequel comes out! They will be too busy following the adventures of that ragtag fleet searching for Earth and playing with the toys! Of course, they were going to have a line of toys! Can’t lose, right?
It didn’t work out that way.
The show did all right, but it didn’t do Star Wars’ numbers, and an impatient network pulled the plug on what was a costly show to produce. It did have a sequel series Galactica 1980 due to demands by fans but it was awful, and it was recently rebooted into a fairly compelling drama on a cable channel. To paraphrase Linus, “It wasn’t such a bad Star Wars ripoff after all.”
It’s interesting to catch up on the old show on Netflix. I watch it as a show on it’s own merits rather than a knockoff of a more successful theatrical movie. The Star Wars prequels had taken the shine off of that series allowing a new and fresh appreciation of the so-called imitations. Given a chance, Battlestar Galactica would have had some real possibilities as a show. It would have been interesting to see where it was going to go after a few years.
The toy ad with the special offer of a golden Cylon Centurian Leader appeared in Marvel Two-in-One No. 56 featuring the Thing battling it out with a lady wrestler. It was published by Marvel comics in 1979.