Galactica 1980: The Comic Miniseries
Cover: Lucio Parrillo
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Penciller/Inker: Cezar Razek
Genre: SCIENCE FICTION
Publication Date: DECEMBER, 2009
Format: Comic Book
Age range: 16+
We have at last found Earth…
I wasn't even born when Glen Larson created the original Battlestar Galactica – a movie/TV series about the last surviving Battlestar – the Galactica – leading a ragtag fleet of refugees in flight from the evil Cylons. Under the command of the original Adama, the fleet is in search of Earth and the lost Thirteenth Tribe, who may be humanity’s only hope. The series lasted for one season and developed a remarkable fan base, despite poor special effects. It may have been because of the great actors; with a single exception, Glen Larson chose very good people to play their roles.
And then Battlestar Galactica vanished from our screens. This provoked considerable fan protest and demands for a sequel. The network liked the idea of gaining more ratings and hired Glen Larson to produce a second series, on the cheap. Larson – who must have been considerably disappointed – decided to produce a series revolving around Earth, the Earth of 1980. The Battlestar Galactica and its fleet stumbled across the planet, only to discover that Earth was primitive and unprepared for the oncoming enemy. Adama decided to lead the Cylons away from Earth while sending in teams to boost forward Earth’s progress. On the surface, it sounded like a great idea. It had considerable promise.
And then disaster struck.
The Network Executives of that time period were restrictive in ways we can barely imagine today. (They would have had a heart attack at some scenes in Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica.) It rapidly became clear that the Network Executives had no intention of actually allowing Glen Larson to create a great show. They decreed that it had to be non-violent – so no real laser battles – educational – forcing the characters to sprout off dialogue that was meant to be educational and was probably stupid – and include childish interests, forcing the addition of a child genius who led the fleet – yes, really – and a bunch of brats from the starship who somehow developed superpowers under Earth’s gravity field. All in all, ratings dropped so sharply that it was cancelled after a handful of episodes and everyone involved tried to pretend that it had never happened. The Battlestar Galactica Curse – as everyone had come to think of it – had struck again.
It struck time and time again. Richard Hatch’s attempts to create a new series floundered and his first book (I never read the others) was worse than James Doohan/SM Stirling’s Flight Engineer series, a quite considerable achievement. The comics weren’t allowed to use details from the original series from time to time, producing a break between the two canons, and most of the other books just vanished. It wasn't until Ron Moore was allowed to create a new Battlestar Galactica in 2003 that the Curse was seriously challenged, yet even that series started to go downhill in Season 3 and had major problems in Season 4. At least Moore didn’t attempt to redo Galactica 1980.
But Dynamite Entertainment did.
Dynamite is probably my favourite comic book producer, even though they’d not one of the Big Boys. They picked up the rights to The Boys, Jungle Girl, Project Superpowers and several TV franchises, including Battlestar Galactica. I was flabbergasted when they announced that they were going to produce a four-issue limited series based on Galactica 1980, but I decided to give them a chance. It could hardly be worse than the original.
I was wrong.
The basic plot of the four-issue miniseries is so bad as to actually cast the TV series in a good light. Galactica discovers Earth, after encountering the Voyager space probe drifting away from the planet. So far so good. Adama then decides to take Galactica into the planet’s atmosphere (!) and fly directly to the White House. The locals panic and launch nukes at the battlestar, blowing it out of the sky (!). Doctor Zee declares a ‘cerebralcracy’ and takes command, launching Vipers from the other ships (!) to invade Earth, declaring Adama dead. He’s wrong. Adama and a cast of instantly forgettable locals set off to NORAD to prevent all-out war. They succeed, just in time for the Cylons (and Balter, who didn’t actually appear in G1980) to arrive and start laying waste to the planet. With Galactica destroyed, the only option is to use the remaining colonial craft to deliver nukes to the basestars, blowing them all to pieces. The remaining colonials settle on Earth in preparation for the coming Galactica 1981…
The miniseries fails on so many levels that it’s hard to count them all. The Galactica never had the ability to fly within the atmosphere of a planet. It’s hard to imagine Adama, who had a pretty cynical view of the universe, taking the risk even if it were possible. I can’t believe that nukes would be so devastating to either of the space-faring powers. (Nukes are actually common in the new BSG.) No one in their right mind would fire on a massive starship over the nation’s capital. If it was intended to serve as a comment about how suspicious and paranoid eighties humans were, it failed. And then there’s the pitiful attempt at humour that pops up from time to time.
There are some good points. Doctor Zee, who was a super-intelligent brat in the first series, becomes an elderly scientist who transplants his brain into the body of a child. (Child actors, IMHO, are proof of the doctrine of Original Sin.) Balter’s motive for betraying the colonies and then leading the Cylons against Galactica and her fleet is explored and, for once, it is actually realistic. The effects of such a long travel through space are explored, with Adama on the verge of suicide and women in the fleet choosing to sterilise themselves rather than bring more children into the hopeless search. (A theme also explored in the new series.)
The story should have been great. It wasn't. There were so many other possibilities. What if the Colonials took over Earth – for their own good, of course – to build a new society and a defence against the Cylons? What if elements of Colonial tech fell into enemy hands during the Cold War? What if…what if…what if…? I am half-convinced that the writer was drunk and the editor was asleep. This is so much of a letdown that part of me wonders if they intended to lay Galactica 1980 to rest, once and for all.
The artwork is pretty much a mixed bag. The characters are recognisable in their own rights, although honesty compels me to add that I barely remember them from the original, apart from bearded Adama. (Balter has changed into the Phantom of the Opera, complete with cyborg implants.) The battle scenes are pathetic. One is left wondering how the Colonials could be so incompetent as to lose to the Cylons. The covers are actually pretty good, although they don’t quite reflect what goes on within the series. Irritatingly, some of the devices and images reflect the new series, rather than the traditional look. It could have been much better.
Overall, a great opportunity, shamefully squandered. If someone from DE is reading this, I am quite happy to script out far superior stories, for free! Anyone from the actual…you know, FANS, could do it.
One out of Five