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On Nov. 17, 1978, The Hollywood Reporter appraised a movie version of Glen A. Larson’s Battlestar Galactica. While the franchise would eventually attract an enduring fan base, THR’s critic initially unfavorably compared the theatrical version of Galactica to another sci-fi blockbuster, Star Wars. Read the original review below:
If anyone still thinks that the extraordinary boxoffice success of Star Wars was due solely to its spectacular special effects, Universal’s Battlestar Galactica will probably put that notion to rest for all time. Reduced to 125 minutes from Lord knows how many hours of TV serial, this Glen A. Larson production has already appeared in European and Canadian theatres— enough to encourage a domestic release, augmented by Sensurround. I find it highly unlikely that it will find much favor, even with the least critical audiences.
Granted that once again John Dykstra, who worked on Star Wars, has wrought miracles in his construction of space ships, turbo-thrusters and other hardware of intergalactic space. And Larson, quite rightly, has focused the major part of his movie upon these. But while the Galactica’s frantic search for a new home on a distant planet (named Earth) in a far galaxy is filled with perilous dog-fights and eye-popping explosions, the cliche-riddled story (also credited to Larson) keeps cropping up and, as Shakespeare once put it, there’s the rub. Instead of the mythic quality of Star Wars, it has the Saturday afternoon serial sleaze of Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon. The story neither elevates nor involves; it’s more like a paper clip to hold the action passages together.
It’s also a sort of outer-space Bonanza, with Lorne Greene this time as an intergalactic wagonmaster shepherding a tatterdemalian array of spacecraft past the depredatory Cylons, a race of chrome-encased creatures dedicated to the destruction of all human life. The are abetted by the treacherous Count Baltar (John Colicos), a weak and vacillating President (Lew Ayres) and a sybaritic aristocrat (Ray Milland) who hypocritically urges peace through appeasement to preserve his own wealth. (How he amassed it in a presumably idea, democratic society is never explained.)
Parallels to Star Wars are too numerous to be purely coincidental. Greene has a son, Captain Apollow (Richard Hatch), who flies dangerous missions with the roistering, daredevilish Lt. Starbuck (Dirk Benedict). En route to Earth, the Galactica puts in on the planet Carillion, which sports an underground night club populated by garish characters (although none so amusingly unlikely as those encountered by Luke Skywalker.) There is even a robot “daggit,” a small dog devised to quiet a querulous child (Noah Hathaway). It’s not likely to displace the popularity of those miniaturized R2-D2’s in the toy departments.
In every way, then, Battlestar Galactica is a poor man’s version of Star Wars — poor in every detail, including writing, pacing, characterization and, above all, imagination. Richard A. Colla directed, and Robert L. Kimble led the team of editors faced with the impossible task of carving a masterpiece out of a monstrosity. What they got is a monumental turkey — and just in time for Thanksgiving. — Arthur Knight, originally published Nov. 17, 1978.