REVIEW: BATTLESTAR GALACITCA (1978)

Starring

Richard Hatch (InAlienable)
Dirk Benedict (The A-Team)
Lorne Greene (The Bastard)
John Colicos (Star Trek)
Maren Jensen (Deadly Blessing)
Noah Hathaway (Troll)
Herbert Jefferson Jr. (Black Gunn)
Tony Swartz (Schizoid)
Laurette Spang-McCook (The Secrets of Isis)
Terry Carter (McCloud)
Anne Lockhart (Convoy)
Jonathan Harris (Lost In Space)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Lew Ayres (Holiday)
Jane Seymour (Wedding Crashers)
Ed Begley Jr. (Veronica Mars)
Sarah Rush (Catch Me If You Can)
Carol Baxter (The Incredible Hulk)
Dick Durock (Swamp Thing)
Patrick Macnee (The Howling)
Felix Silla (Spaceballs)
Janet Julian (King of New York)
George Murdock (Star Trek V)
Larry Manetti (Hawaii Five-0)
Lance LeGault (Stripes)
Red West (Road House)
Ian Abercrombie (Army of Darkness)
Christine Belford (Christine)
Richard Lynch (Puppet MAster III)
Britt Ekland (The Wicker Man)
Alex Hyde-White (The Fantastic Four)
Olan Soule (The Towering Inferno)
Rance Howard (Small Soldiers)
Lloyd Bridges (Airplane)
Kirk Alyn (Superman 1948)
Anthony De Longis (Masters of The Universe)
Fred Astaire (Funny Face)
Brock Peters (Soylent Green)
Lloyd Bochner (The Naked Gun 2)
Melody Anderson (Flash Gordon)
John de Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Ana Alicia (Halloween II)

Since the the modern remake of this series rapidly become the next big thing in TV Sci-Fi, many people are going to be tempted to pick up this boxed set to find out how it all began. You can’t go wrong here – this represents astounding value for money, and a great opportunity to discover or rediscover a series that really does deserve its classic status. It even has some decent extras.

Battlestar Galactica was created in 1978 a year after the Star Wars, and was essentially a brazen attempt by ABC television to cash in on the mammoth unexpected success of that film. Under conditions that may never be repeated, it was suddenly considered viable to create a full-blown big-budget epic primetime family-oriented science fiction extravaganza with a budget of $1m per episode (big money in those days). The series ran for a total of 24 episodes before being canned due to its expense and sliding ratings, but it had a huge impact and is remembered with great fondness even by those who aren’t rabid fans.


The story draws inspiration from diverse mythical and religious sources, including Ancient Greek and Egyptian mythology, the book of Exodus, and the Mormon upbringing of its creator Glen A. Larson. When the 12 colonies of man are annihilated by the robotic Cylons, the only surviving Battlestar, Galactica, assembles a small fleet of dilapidated civilian ships and makes a run for it with the survivors, hoping to find the legendary 13th tribe who may have settled on a distant, mythical planet called Earth.


The series is often criticised for endlessly recycling stock footage, especially during the space battles where this reaches almost unreasonable levels, and for its cheesiness (plenty of cute kids and robots in this one), but on the whole it’s much easier to forgive such faults in retrospect. It also benefits enormously from its arresting premise, strong plotting, and above all its nigh-on perfect casting. It’s worth watching the 24 episodes through as well, because it does improve as it goes along, and is serialised to a degree. Considering it ran for such a short time, it does a surprisingly thorough job of exploring its themes, so it’s debatable what its natural life would have been had it been allowed to continue. Towards the end it becomes more cerebral and interesting, as eventually Galactica moves beyond its own space and begins to encounter worlds and cultures that bear an eerie resemblance to modern Earth.

There are several documentaries on the seventh disc featuring interviews with almost all of the surviving cast and crew. These are fairly entertaining and informative, especially the production footage which reveals how hard the back-projection was to pull off (it’s a shame there isn’t more on the effects). It’s clear that Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict are still bitter that the plug was pulled so early, and they express this with some eloquence. Both campaigned vigorously, independently, to bring it back.

REVIEW: THE AVENGERS (1998)

CAST

Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter)
Uma Thurman (Kill Bill)
Sean Connery (Highlander)
Jim Broadbent (The Legend of Tarzan)
Fiona Shaw (Gormenghast)
Eddie Izzard (Powers)
Eileen Atkins (Gosford Park)
Patrick Macnee (The Howling)
Carmen Ejogo (Selma)

The film opens with John Steed (Ralph Fiennes), agent of The Ministry, in a training course which he finishes successfully. Next, we see Dr. Emma Peel (Uma Thurman) at home where she receives a phone call telling her to go to a gentlemen’s club – no women allowed – where she meets Steed for the first time. The two head off to the Ministry to meet Mother (Jim Broadbent), who informs them the Prospero project – an attempt to influence the weather – was sabotaged apparently by Emma Peel. Dr. Peel claims she is innocent, but she is sent to work alongside Steed to find the real culprit. Mother’s off-sider, Father (Fiona Shaw), claims Peel suffers from a mental disease. They go off to visit Sir August De Wynter (Sean Connery), an old ally of The Ministry. He takes an instant liking to Peel, as they both share a love of weather.Steed and Emma follow a lead to Wonderland Weather – a business that artificially creates heat or rain with a special machine – where they discover two dead men in teddy bear suits. The members of a secret organisation — led by De Wynter — all wear teddy bear suits to disguise their identities. One of them, however, is a clone of Emma Peel. Steed arrives in time to save Peel, as the double jumps off a roof and disappears. Steed and Emma go off to visit De Wynter at his mansion but are attacked by mechanical bees. Alice (Eileen Atkins), a Ministry agent, helps them to flee; nevertheless, De Wynter captures Emma who then tries to escape but finds herself trapped due to the mansion’s ever-changing floor plan. She smashes her way through a window, and Steed rescues her. Back at Steed’s apartment, however, Peel is arrested by Father, as Steed visits Invisible Jones (Patrick MacNee), a man inside The Ministry, to investigate the meaning of a map Steed found at Wonderland Weather. After viewing some photos of failed genetic experiments, Steed determines Father is working with De Wynter. Father and Peel’s clone capture Peel but are confronted by Mother, who is then incapacitated. De Wynter, controlling Prospero and the weather, confronts the world’s leaders. He boasts that he controls the weather, and they will buy the weather from him, will pay a lot for it, and will have until midnight to pay.Father and Peel’s clone take Emma to a hot air balloon, where Emma escapes during a snowstorm. Father and the clone perish when the balloon crashes and explodes. Invisible Jones determines De Wynter is using the Prospero instruments on a secret island, and Peel and Steed arrive at the island to stop him. Emma defuses the Prospero device just as a hurricane forms over London. Steed duels De Wynter and eventually gains the upper hand by impaling him with his own cane, causing De Wynter to be struck by a bolt of lightning. Emma and Steed escape just as the base self-destructs, and share champagne on the roof of a building with Mother.

On reflection there’s a lot to like in The Avengers: Uma Thurman in leather: always a plus, Sean Connery hamming it up more than Porky Pig at a bacon factory, and henchmen dressed as multi-coloured teddy bears. Bonkers. Utter bonkers. It has to be seen to be believed.