The single most puzzling question no one has answered about Galactica’s triumphant return is why did it come back? When I explain the history to people, it still boggles my mind: it was on for one season thirty years ago. One. On top of that, it was never very popular and no one – not even the fans – regard it as high art. Yet it retained enough of a dedicated, passionate following to insure that one day she would return.
But why? What kept that mediocre one-season-wonder so near and dear to my heart that seeing it come back was literally a dream come true? I think the answer boils down to one word: Cheeseburgers.
Everyone loves a cheeseburger. Not in the same way you love a perfectly cooked Porterhouse steak or a delicately seasoned Ahi tuna, but it’s delicious in it’s own way. Of course, I always look forward to that carefully prepared, five-star meal, but naturally I am more often in the position to grab something a little less ambitious. A cheeseburger is perfect. It’s fast, it’s good and nothing else tastes quite like it. Is it the best money can buy? Of course not. But it’s tasty and there for us when we need it.
And so my mind wandered to food when I asked myself that question: “Why did I still love Battlestar Galactica?” It was a cheap knockoff of Star Wars and I can count the number of really good episodes on one hand. Yet it still held a place in my heart just as special as A New Hope & The Empire Strikes Back.
Why did it endure?
To answer that we have to look at the context. If you were at that ‘magic’ age when Star Wars was released in 1977 (somewhere between 8 and 13), you were totally blown away by it. You were born again. It changed your life. You ate, slept and breathed Star Wars. You bought every magazine that even mentioned it and you played the Story of Star Wars album so many times the phonograph needle was reduced to a molten stump.
But all of that started to get old. With Empire still years away, you needed something to fuel that sci-fi fire in you. Sure, Star Trek was great, but you’d already seen each episode a dozen times. There had to be something more.
Then along came Battlestar Galactica. That three hour premiere was like spraying lighter fluid on a campfire. Finally, we had an outlet for all that pent-up, epic sci-fi-adventure energy. Sure, Star Wars was still king, but Starbuck, Apollo and enemy Cylons gave us something to look forward to, not in two or three years, but every week.
Was Galactica a great show? No. Viewing it as an adult, I think it has its moments and harbored a lot of unfulfilled potential. But as a kid, it provided the cheeseburgers that satisfied my daily hunger. In a great time of need, Galactica regularly fuelled the passion of a sci-fi loving generation and for that reason alone it would always shine.
Of course, thirty years later, fans are still putting up with inane dialog, pathetic robots, dismal characters and a depressing lack of compelling drama, but we love it anyway – after all, it’s still Star Wars!