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Original 'Battlestar' now available on DVD

Sunday, December 07, 2003

By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Conventional wisdom says the original "Battlestar Galactica," which premiered in 1978, was nothing but a "Star Wars" rip-off. On the surface, there's evidence to support that. Certainly if "Star Wars" hadn't been a hit a year earlier, ABC would not have touted the $14 million it spent on the three-hour "Galactica" pilot.

Yes, the Cylons were like the Storm Troopers and the Vipers looked like X-Wings, but the heart of the story - a ragtag troop of humans fleeing the Cylons, searching for Earth - had nothing to do with "Star Wars."

Add to that "Galactica's" interest in various mythologies (the ancient Egyptians, Mormonism, etc.) and it's clear this series was more than a rip-off - that was obvious even to a 7-year-old who pretended to be Commander Adama (Lorne Greene) while playing "Battlestar Galactica" on the school playground.

Now the entire series is available on DVD in a boxed set ($119.98, Universal Studios Home Video) that comes with the requisite extras. For a series this old, it's not surprising that little behind-the-scenes footage is included. Chances are, it doesn't exist. But the DVD release of "Galactica" does have deleted scenes and optional commentary during the pilot by stars Richard Hatch (Apollo), Dirk Benedict (Starbuck) and Herbert Jefferson Jr. (Boomer).

Sometimes they're a little too generous in their observations (someone comments that scenes of Viper launches were part of "a redundant shot every once in a while," when "constantly" would be more accurate), but they're also not above poking a little fun.

"I always wondered why they needed three Cylons to fly one of those ships," Benedict muses. He also points out a scene where he's looking down - trying to find his mark on the soundstage floor.

The DVD boxed set includes several featurettes. The longest, at about 45 minutes, features most of the cast "Remembering Battlestar Galactica." Shorter features include interviews with creator Glen A. Larson, composer Stu Phillips and a look at working with the Daggit, a robotic dog operated in part by a costumed monkey.

For viewers who grew up in the '70s, the "Galactica" boxed set is a nostalgic look back. If Universal releases a boxed set of "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," this fan's '70s sci-fi collection will be closer to completion.


TV Editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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