On this day 40 years ago–September 17, 1978–the original Battlestar Galactica premiered on ABC. To celebrate its release, here are 21 things you might or might not know about the show. (Why 21? Read on…)
1. The pilot, Saga of a Star World, cost $7 million to produce, and was the most expensive pilot in TV history up to that point. By way of comparison, Star Wars cost $11 million. The show would go on to continue to break ABC’s budget, with each episode running $1 million, more than double the typical cost of a network show at the time.
2. The pilot aired for an incredible 3 hours on that Sunday night. It was interrupted at 10:30 for the announcement of the signing of the Camp David Accords, but ABC returned to the program right after the announcement.
3. The show began as a ratings success, and won the People’s Choice Award for Best New TV Drama.
4. Executive Producer Glen Larson originally conceived of the show as a set of three miniseries. Late in production of the pilot, they decided to switch it to a weekly series, leaving the writers to scramble to come up with stories. Hence the reason why the first several episodes follow a “crash of the week” format.
5. Starbuck was not intended to be a regular character, and as such Dirk Benedict was paid around a quarter of what his co-stars made. Starbuck’s cigar habit, which ABC initially tried to curtail, was because of Benedict, who began smoking when he was 10.
6. Computer company Tektronix donated $3 million worth of computers for the set of the bridge, and included video games on them that the cast could play between takes. When the show was cancelled, the company took back the computers.
7. The Cylons were mostly shot on dark sets so that the reflections of the cameras wouldn’t be visible in their armor.
8. ABC forced Larson to change the Cylons to machines to reduce the chance of the show being deemed too violent for Sunday night “family” programming.
9. Muffit, the mechanical dog made for Boxey, was played by a chimpanzee named Evolution, or Eve. Eve apparently didn’t care too much for her human costars and consistently ignored the directions of her trainer on set.
10. Jonathan Harris–Lost in Space’s Dr. Smith–played the voice of Lucifer the Cylon in an uncredited role.
11. Patrick Macnee from the 60’s TV show The Avengers played the voice of the Cylon’s Imperious Leader. He also did the opening narration (“There are those who believe that life here began out there…”)
12. The Colonial Warrior pins worn by Apollo, Starbuck and others are upside-down US Military Intelligence pins.
13. Among the fans of the show were US Air Force pilots, who nicknamed the F-16 fighter “Viper” in honor of the ships in the show.
14. Jane Seymour, who played Apollo’s love interest Serina, left the show after only three episodes. She was offered the role of Admiral Cain in the remake but turned it down.
15. Galactica tried to get in on the success of Star Wars toys, but unfortunately the Cylon and Viper ships shot small red missiles. When a young boy in Georgia died after choking on one, the line was recalled and the missiles permanently secured to the ships. Original versions of the ships with the firing missiles can be found on eBay for upwards of $50 today.
16. Most of the actors in the primary cast are still alive. Lorne Green (Commander Adama), John Colicos (Baltar), Tony Swartz (Jolly) and Richard Hatch (Apollo) are the only ones who have died. Well, and Eve. Series creator Glen Larson died in 2014.
17. Dick Benedict hated the notion of recasting Starbuck as a woman for the reboot, and refused to have anything to do with the show.
18. Hatch, on the other hand, had made a name for himself in the intervening years pushing for a reboot or remake, and was happy to accept a role in the new show.
19. While the main concept of the original was maintained for the reboot, fans of the show know that a lot of other things were different. One key thing that didn’t change, though, were the ships in the fleet: the remake contains only four ships–Colonial One, the Olympic Carrier, Cloud 9, and the ringed passenger liner–that weren’t in the original show. Conversely, however, only the characters of Adama, Apollo, Starbuck, Boomer, Tigh, Baltar, and (briefly) Boxey were carried over to the remake.
20. ABC cancelled the show on April 23, 1979.
21. Hatch would end up appearing as Tom Zarek in the reboot a total of 22 times, which was one more episode than the 21 he appeared in as Apollo. And yes, this surprised me, too: only 21 episodes of the original series were filmed.
Were you a fan of Galatica? Share your memories of the show in the comments below.