Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Galactica 1980: Space Croppers

The great blog Heckler and Kochk, our home for these many weeks. We have endured the wilderness of space. And now we are nearing the end of our journey. We have at last a review of some genuinely bad sci-fi.

Galactica 1980, originally a spin-off, later rolled into the main Battlestar Galactica syndication package follows the exploits of Troy (Apollo's son played by Kent McCord) and Dillon (Troy's sidekick played by Barry van Dyke) 30 years after the original series. The Galactica has found Earth, but the earthlings are too primitive to defend themselves against the Cylons, so the Galactica and it's fleet draw off the Cylons in another direction while various teams of agents try to help earth advance. Their methods of doing this involve hassling nuclear scientists, flirting with TV News reporters, travelling back in time to fight the Nazis[1], getting stranded on Earth with a bunch of kids from the fleet and using their flying motorbikes.

As well as flying motorbikes they turn out to be stronger than earth humans (due to a difference in gravity), and have invisibility bracelets and a lang-u-tron which translates English to whatever-they-speak in such a way as to create comic effect. Most of the jokes involve cultural misunderstandings between Dillon and Troy and the various Americans they meet.

Do I need to note that the main title sequence is from the original series with no footage from the 1980 series?

So much for the background, as Sun Tzu might say. Last week we watched the penultimate episode Space Croppers. Some of the plot and some of the footage is recycled from the original BSG episode The Magnificent Warriors. The Cylons, who it seems have been following the fleet to discover the whereabouts of Earth - and I'll come back to that point - get bored waiting and attack the one remaining agro ship. Troy and Dillon go to California, or possibly Texas, or conceivably New Mexico or Arizona, take a half share in a farm that's failing due to drought and unfair water allocation (due to prejudice against the farm's Hispanic inhabitants), grow a crop and seedlings to save the fleet from starvation and defeat the greedy, racist villains. The leader of the villains sees the ship that comes to water and supergrow the crops, as well as plant a colony on Earth and presumably recognises it from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Knowing that accusing them of being aliens would make him look nuts, he accuses them of being illegal aliens. He ignores the fact that the superscouts who've turned up to get the harvest in in time are almost certainly working in violation of child labour laws as well as being illegal aliens; since he's blatantly abusing water use law and regulations[2] maybe he's willing to spot them one labour law violation. Anyway everything turns out for the best.

Back on the movie night whiteboard notes post[3] there's a couple of quotes that illustrate some of the flaws. To repeat:

If I wanted crude artistic expression I'd watch your acting [Barry] Van Dyke

Troy and Dillon come across a scarecrow and attempt to work out it's use. The scene is not very funny, or well acted, and is over long. Dillon's final suggestion is that it's a form of crude artistic expression. Hence our-associate-who-I'm-calling-LeMat's outburst.

Are you suggesting some sort of Michael Bolton - Barry Van Dyke hair off?!
Adama is trapped in a 70s disco and can't get out!

By setting it on Earth, it looks very dated, which means when they create a funky control room lit by red strip lights it looks like a disco.

But this is all a natural consequence of what this series is: an attempt to continue the success of Battlestar Galactica on a smaller budget. What makes this episode really bad is the throw away line of the Imperious Leader which I'll quote here:

I'm growing impatient waiting for the Galactican fleet to lead us to the last outpost of humanity. Launch a full-scale attack on their agricultural ships. We must destroy their food supply, thereby forcing them to lead us to Earth.
What this does is convert the original BSG, all of it, all 24 episodes, into the Escape from the Death Star sequence. All of the struggles and sacrifices of the characters which we've been following are meaningless. They've not survived due to their own skill, daring and luck; the Cyclons let them escape to follow them to Earth, pressing them hard so they don't try and stop along the way, but not so hard as to make them turn and fight a final apocalyptic battle rather than be picked off one by one.

I'm really unhappy with that reinterpretation, but I can't see what other conclusion I can come to given what the Imperious Leader says. Still, at least it explains how they managed to fight off the Cylons by the skin of their teeth every episode.

Final thought goes to LeMat, who recorded this on the Whiteboard:
We nearly came a cropper with that one

My rating: Zero Rounds (for destroying my childhood memories of Apollo and Starbuck's heroism, it's a knife fight)

[1] If we believe Wikipedia, Donald Bellisario, then working with Glen A Larson, took the time-travel-of-the-week idea and turned it into Quantum Leap.
[2] Unless this is Texas, and water law hasn't moved on since it was used to drive conflict in one of many Westerns.
[3] Need a snappier name for that.

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