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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack

Capitalizing on the popularity of its television series “Battlestar Galactica,” ABC, Glen A. Larson Productions and Universal produced a theatrical release entitled: Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack (MGCA, for short). There was no new footage. The film was an edited compilation of three episodes (more on those below). MGCA was a sort of a sequel to the pilot for the TV series, which had a very limited theatrical release.

Quick Plot Synopsis

After a quick recap of the backstory (via voiceover), the story opens with a mystery of why Captain Apollo and Lieutenant Starbuck have not returned from their scouting mission. It turned out that they were ‘captured’ by other Viper pilots from the Battlestar Pegasus. That ship was thought lost in the big Cylon attack that predates the story, but it, and it’s over-confident leader, Commander Cain, somehow survived. Cain is excited to have a second battlestar to attack a Cylon base. Commander Adama of the Galactica only wants fuel. His fleet of civilian ships is nearly out of fuel. Cain only wants to attack. There is much tension between the two commanders and their crews. Via deception and intrigue, Cain maneuvers Adama into helping him attack the base in order to get more fuel. The attack on the base succeeds. The fleet gets its fuel, but the sinister Count Baltar uses Galactia’s preoccupation with the base attack and fuel to press his own attack on Galactica. Suicide Cylon fighters ram Galactica, causing massive damage and out-of-control fires. Meanwhile, Cain uses Baltar’s preoccupation with Galactica to press his own surprise attack. Apparently, this succeeds. Surgery on the wounded Adama is successful and the fires are put out. The fleet has enough fuel to flee the scene. The End.

Why is this movie fun?

Obviously, fans of the original series would enjoy the mashup of several episodes. There is sufficient action and simple drama. Seeing the older, low-tech special effects has a nostalgia quality. Loren Green and Lloyd Bridges give the production some star power. The lovely Laurette Sprang offers fine late-70s eye candy.


Mashup — MGCA was cobbled together, primarily out of the two-part episodes 12 and 13: “The Living Legend”. These aired in late November and early December of 1978. Lloyd Bridges plays the Cain character well, riding the line between devious-treacherous and courageous-brilliant. The third episode in the mashup was #14, “Fire in Space.” This episode had nothing to do with Cain, but was well cut into the final battle sequences of “Living Legend” that it did not seem out of place. Much of episode #14 was omitted as tangental (or distracting) to the “Living Legend” story arc.

Star Boost — Larson was said to have the concept for his Battlestar Galactica story, developed in the late 1960s. It failed to arouse enough interest until after Star Wars blew open the sci-fi / western sub-genre. Borrowing heavily for sets, costumes and action from Star Wars, BG had a ready audience. Many of the visuals, such as the Big Ship Flyby are obviously parroting George Lucas’s work. The dogfights between Cylon fighters and Vipers are obvious copies too. Since Lucas was as successful as he was, Larson’s BG got a chance at life.

Short Life — Larson got his epic produced, but it did not last. Despite being popular and developing a cult following, ABC cancelled the show after it’s first season. Even though BG was lauded as “Best New TV Drama Series” in the People’s Choice Awards (Feb. 1979), ABC cited declining ratings and too-expensive production in their decision to kill the show. Ironically, MGCA was release a month after the last television episode aired. The handwriting was probably on the wall while MGCA was in post-production, but must have been too far along to be practical to scrap it.

Era of the Soft Hair — The late 1970s was an interesting period in personal fashion. Part of that fashion is captured in MGCA. Almost everyone has soft, fluffy hair. The hunky guys have long, fluffy hair. The hottie women have long, fluffy hair. The women’s hairstyles aren’t as flagrant as they would become in the 80s era of Big Hair, but you can see how it was getting started.

Corny Evil — It is interesting to see how obviously director Vince Edwards handled the sinister Count Baltar. In almost every scene with Baltar, he is set in strong up-light and told to wear a sinister grin. It’s the old flashlight-under-the-chin effect. Once or twice might have sufficed to assure the visual signal of Baltar’s evil-ness. But, Edwards does it every time. It’s hammy and amusing, though that’s probably not the effect Edwards was after.

Bottom line — MGCA does not age well, given modern CGI effects. There is much repetition of visuals, such as launching of fighters, and dogfight scenes. This is common enough in television, but in films, it looks more obvious and cheap. However, if the viewer can set aside modern standards for effects, and depth-of-plot, MGCA provides some simple entertainment, with plenty of action. It won’t impress anyone under the age of 30, but folks who lived TV in the 70s may have a more forgiving heart.


Randall Landers said...

I rather liked this compilation. I dont usually like similar approaches (such as the one from UFO)>

Nightowl said...

Hi Randall,

Yes, sometimes the mashups of episodes work, but they usually don't. In MGCA, they did a pretty good job of padding out the Cain two-parter with the Fire in Space episode. It flowed in pretty well. The omission of the Cain / Baltar battle seemed rather glaring, for MGCA continuity, but they had their budget limitations.

Darci said...

I haven't seen this compilation, but IIRC these episodes saw the introduction of Lt. Sheba (a character played by Anne Lockhart). Anne is the daughter of June and the granddaughter of Gene Lockhart.

thingmaker said...

My heart is fairly hard, I fear. I bought a color TV set to see the first episodes of BSG... I had followed the magazine articles and devoured the Ralph Mcquarrie concept art... I had high hopes. They got weaker with each episode of the original miniseries and evaporated with the hourly episodes.
Star Wars got a pass for repeated magnificent images and wonderful, fast paced melodrama. BSG was, amazingly enough, even less like real SF and had very little of the imagery pacing or even solid melodrama. This compilation is probably the best BSG after the original miniseries and surely the best usage of that appallingly stupid "Fire in space" episode.
I swear, the only thing I need from that whole fiasco of a series is the music, which is now well represented on numerous volumes of CDs.

Tommy Luca said...

Where is the button to follow this blog?

Ystafell Gynghori said...

I prefer this to the Ronald D. Moore reboot, which left me stone cold.

Anonymous said...

Keep posting, dude. We miss you!