Tuesday, 25 September 2012

1980: GALACTICA 1980 - ROBYN DOUGLASS INTERVIEW (Starlog Magazine)

It's the show that everyone loves to hate.  As one critic sneered "the show that gave the 1980s a bad name." Battlestar Galactica's bastard child: GALACTICA 1980.  Only eight months (give-or-take) since ABC unexpectedly ended Adama's quest for Earth after a single season... they revived the show.  With a few - ahem - refinements.

It would be lovely to say that ABC listened to Battlestar's loyal fans but the (harsh) reality was that the network's 1979-80 season was tanking fast and they needed some proven (and promotable) hits to bolster the ratings.  Glen Larson's pitch of a final TV movie to end the search for Earth fitted the bill and ABC signed-up.

Unfortunately Larson's script for Galactica Discovers Earth just isn't very good and plays like a sub-par Disney tele-flick.  Earth's found before the show even starts and its downhill from there.  Something might have been salvaged from the mess if he'd have been able to coax back more of his original cast but Hatch and Benedict took one look at the script and declared themselves "busy". 

Some hasty rewriting by Larson moved events forward a generation, allowing him to introduce a new cast (although Lorne Greene, apparently at his own insistence, returned.  Albeit with a ridiculous beard).  The new guys, presumably cast in a hurry (and I can't help wondering if they got the gig simply because they were roughly the same build as their predecessors... allowing cash-conscious Larson to use hand-me-down costumes mothballed from the original series), felt like second-rate substitutes.  An impression not helped by Larson's threadbare script which gives them few - if any - discernible characteristics. 

The other thing that's painfully obvious about G80 is that it was designed to be as cheap as possible.  Plonking the Colonial survivors in contemporary California betrays the complex (albeit occasionally confused) mythology the original story was trying to create.  Now we know that the Galactica and her fleet had no influence on Earth's ancient history.  The excursion to occupied Europe (a time travel plot device quietly abandoned in the short-lived weekly series) feels like blatant padding and an excuse for Universal to raid the costume and props warehouse.

The set-piece effects sequence, the not-what-it-seems Cylon attack on Los Angeles, looks pretty good (except for the all-too-obvious mounting points on the Raider models and a building that's destroyed - and then miraculous undamaged - a few shots later, two pieces of SFX sloppiness fixed for the movie version, CONQUEST OF THE EARTH) but would have been familiar to many viewers: it's lifted from the 1975 Universal disaster flick EARTHQUAKE (yup, the one with Lorne Greene).

As bad as the three-part pilot is... the subsequent weekly series (commissioned in haste by ABC after the pilot bagged better audiences than anticipated) is considerably worse.  With one episodic exception.

This is a STARLOG (Issue 34, May 1980) interview with Robyn Douglass who played Jamie Hamilton, the TV journalist who (rather improbably) befriends the Colonial advanced guard and agrees to help them in their covert operations on Earth (and becomes a glorified babysitter for their space brats in subsequent episodes).  Clearly conducted before the pilot aired, it gives some idea of the time pressures the show was under, as well as the potential for a weekly series version.

- Next on Galactica 1980: Doctor Zee - 

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