Last Saturday night the Aero Theater in Santa Monica was packed with hardcore original-series Battlestar fans, ready to take in all three feature length movies (two of which had never been screened in the US). Not only was the lobby was packed with jaw-dropping models (sadly, not the bikini-clad type), a rare treat was in store and several special guests were in the house…
First of all, it was great to see so many people turn up. While I think all of us should be thrilled that Ron Moore’s BSG has done well and brought a lot of attention to all things Galactica, there is sometimes the feeling that the classic series just don’t get no respect. Well, you’d never know the new series even existed as fans gathered to watch six hours of non-stop vintage Battlestar. A few people were dressed as Colonial Warriors, a plethora of classic BSG T-shirts could be seen and one crazed nutter was carrying around a toy Daggit!
I was in my element to be sure.
The excitement began before we even walked into the theater, as the lobby was packed with original series goodies. Visual Effects Society (VES) member Gene Kozicki(who put the whole screening together) had two of his models on display – a vintage Colonial Viper and Cylon Raider. “I built the Viper and Raider myself,” he explained. “The Viper is based on castings off of the original and the Raider is from a kit that recreated the original down to the same model kit parts.” Hardcore VFX nerds should note that the model mounts you see holding the models here and at the top of the post are the original mounts used in the series!
Also on display were picture-perfect replicas of the Galactica shuttlecraft and the Rising Star, also made from original castings by prop & model maker Ed Miarecki.
This final model is the original miniature used on the series, which was degined and built by none other than Andy Probert (better known to BSG fans as the designer of the Cylons):
After we were all done salivating over these little beauties (that’s the real reason they were encased in plastic), my posse and I took our seats in the auditorium for the main event (joining me were Jon “Trek-Or-Die” Lane, Daren “Imperious Leader” Dochterman, Kevin “Han Solo” Rubio and Rob “I just can’t sit through Galactica 1980” Klein).
Most of us have seen the original movie in a theater recently, so it didn’t hold too many surprises (although the audience found some unintentional humor in Adama and Tigh’s “secret rendezvous” in the launch bay). After the first film, Gene introduced himself and talked a little about the VES. The real treat came next when he screened some of FX veteran Richard Edlund’s home movies from Apogee while they were working on “Gun On Ice Planet Zero.” Most of the footage showed the crew working on models and actually doing shots; most notable were a behind the scenes look at filming the crash-landing of Cree’s Viper and the destruction of the mountain. The audience “ooohed and ahhhhed” most when we got a sneak peak at shooting the Viper’s thruster effect – a large canister of liquid nitrogen pumped through hoses directly into the back of a Viper model. Very neat stuff!
Gene then introduced a surprise guest, original series story editor Terrence McDonnell. He spoke a little bit about the incredibly tight schedules they had to deal with (apparently the script for “Murder On The Rising Star” was commissioned on a Wednesday and had to be in mimeo on Friday). Sadly, time was short and the Q&A had to be brought to and end far too soon. I’ll see if I can track down Mr. McDonnell for a more complete interview!
Next up was “Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack,” which is essentially the two-part Living Legend and Fire In Space episodes cut together. I don’t know how they did it, but through the miracle of editing, they managed to make Living Legendsuck. Right from the start, the changes made for the “movie” left us scratching our heads; instead of discovering the existence of the Pegasus as a surprise though the eyes of Starbuck and Apollo, we see the Pegasus in the movie’s opening shot, followed by a clumsy launch sequence for Sheba and Bojay. Huh? Why the hell are we starting with them?
The entire love triangle among Cain, Starbuck and Cassiopea is gone, and only a fleeting affair between Cassie and Cain remains (dialog about Starbuck was simply cut out, sometimes quite obviously with an actor in mid-sentence). The only “new” footage was in the guise of two visual effects shots – overly long takes of the fleet and of a Baseship. Clearly the visual effects team created long establishing shots with the intention of them being sliced up and edited into shows as either a distant or close-up shot. In “Mission Galactica,” someone must have found the entire original motion control passes and just stuck them into the film, since the Baseship shot lasted nearly thirty seconds! The audience began to laugh at the languid pace and someone commented – and rightly so – that it was like watching the opening shot of “Spaceballs.” Still, it would be worth tracking down a DVD of the film, just to grab the only appearence of these “extra’ effects shots.
The most interesting change between the original episode and movie came at the end, when Adama wakes up in the medical bay after being operated on (remember, the end of Fire In Space served as the end of the movie). Through the use of obviously overdubbed new dialog, Adama asks what happened to Cain after his fight with the Baseships; Starbuck answers “he just headed off into deep space, the way he did the last time,” to which Adama responds, “well, wherever he is, I’m damn sure he’s exactly where he wants to be.” So, while the series left Cain’s fate as a mystery, “Mission Galactica” clearly states that he survived and is still out there, somewhere.
“Conquest of the Earth,” the theatrical version of Galactica 1980, was just as bad (and also as much fun) as we were expecting. It was essentially a union of the pilot and The Night The Cylons Landed, with a healthy helping of freshly-dubbed – and totally out of place – dialog. The highlight was the forced “love story” between Robyn Douglass’ reporter character and Dillon; as soon as one of them turned their back to the camera, what was obviously another actor’s voice would come on and say something like “you know I’m falling in love with you,” etc. At the very end, they both proclaim their love for each other at the precise moment they put on Viper helmets and you couldn’t see their lips move anymore. Hysterical!
But the funniest part of the evening came from a new line of Cylon dialog – at a Halloween party where the baddies are trying to get Wolfman Jack to lead them to a transmitter, the Centurion proclaims, “Wolfman Jack, you will help us or I will disintegrate you.” Wait, I take that back – the visual effect shot of the Centurion leaping off the building at the end was so bad it elicited howls of laughter from the crowd. Well, what was left of them anyway; I’d say a good half of them split before the final notes of Stu Philips’ theme echoed through through the theater. Can you blame them?
All in all, it was a fun evening and a real treat to pay tribute to the original series with such an enthusiastic crowd. Here’s hoping they find some more “lost” BSG movies in a dungeon one day!
Click here to see more (and better) photos of the models and to read Gene’s account of the event!