Series: Battlestar Galactica (1978)

aka: Battlestar Galactica Classic

"There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. They may have been the architects of the great pyramids, or the lost civilizations of Lemuria or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive somewhere beyond the heavens..."

(For the rebooted 2000s series, see Battlestar Galactica (2003).)

At the end of a long, genocidal war between the twelve colony worlds of humanity and a race of robots called the Cylons, there finally appears to be a hope for peace. But the supposed end of the war is nothing more than a trap; humanity is almost completely wiped out when Cylon treachery (and a human traitor) catches them almost completely unawares. The survivors gather together to form a "rag-tag fugitive fleet" of refugees under the protection of the last remaining battlestar (the humans' most powerful class of space battleship), and flee Cylon-controlled space. Their goal is a legend — a lost thirteenth colony world, known as "Earth", which they hope can help them stand against the pursuing cybernetic enemy.

Television's supposed first attempt to cash in on the popularity of Star Wars (and hilariously, Lucasfilm tried to sue). Originally called Adam's Ark, this 1978 Glen Larson production fused a Wagon Train to the Stars gimmick to a dose of Von Danikenite "Ancient Astronauts" atmosphere and a dash of Mormon theology. The result was a Space Opera with unsupported pretensions to a Myth Arc that was noteworthy for a number of television firsts: first SF series set in a spacecraft with sets that didn't look like they were built from cardboard and drywall, first TV series to cost a million dollars per episode, and the first primetime series to recycle Stock Footage so much that everyone noticed it.

Although its first few episodes showed a certain amount of promise, the series quickly descended into a series of one Planet of Hats after another, many of them merely recycled plots from popular westerns. Its viewership ratings were high, but the TV network executives of the time had not yet embraced the notion of a million-dollar-an-episode series, so it was cancelled after one season. The fanbase was not amused.

In the face of a massive write-in campaign, the executives decided to Re Tool the series into a less expensive spinoff, and so Galactica was promptly resurrected as Galactica 1980, starring an older Boxey (now "Troy") as a substitute for Apollo.

Battlestar Galactica provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Ace Pilot: Apollo, Starbuck, Boomer, Jolly, Greenbean, Cree, and Sheba. If you aren't a Bridge Bunny, good chance, you're an Ace.
  • Aggressive Negotiations: Count Baltar arranged a peace treaty between the 12 Colonies and the Cylons. The Colonies sent five Battlestars to the conference, leaving the Colonies completely undefended. The Cylons carried out a massive attack on both the Battlestars and the colonies, almost completely wiping out both.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Justified with the Colonial outposts the Rag-tag Fleet encountered earlier; becomes blatant with the Terrans, who were explicitly not Colonial, but whose only problem communicating with the main cast is not understanding what a "centon" is.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Viper pilots are laid low with space flu, and the (all female) barely trained shuttle pilots must step up. Chauvinism is largely averted: Apollo and Starbuck are suspicious of their experience level, not their sex. They are not the elite forces that Amazon Brigades usually are, but they are better than expected for a bunch of brand new pilots. Mysteriously, few of the woman warriors are shown in that role, despite the desperate need for Viper pilots, but they do appear sometimes.
  • Bloodless Carnage: For all the laser fire and explodium, there's hardly a drop of blood or burn mark.
  • Blood Knight: Cain. He is effectively Patton Recycled In Space.
  • Bright Is Not Good:
    • The Cylons wear (or are made of) bright shiny armor.
    • Count Iblis, evil incarnate, wears shining white robes.
  • California Doubling: The opening of the series pilot, showing the Cylons attacking the home world of Caprica, was filmed at the City Hall/Main Public Library complex in Long Beach.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp":
    • They don't have dogs, they have daggits.
    • They don't play poker, they play pyramids. Which is sometimes like poker and sometimes like blackjack.
    • It's not basketball or hockey, it's "Triad." Confusingly, the 2000s version called it "Pyramid," and the card game "Triad."
    • They don't spend dollars or Deutschmarks, they spend cubits. Which are rectangular coins.
    • Inverted in "Greetings from Earth" when the Terrans mention a wolfpack and a bear, and the Colonists have no idea what they are (a lupus pack and ursine, obviously!).
    • Calvinball: the card game Pyramid and the sport Triad.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder:
    • Count Baltar. In "Lost Planet of the Gods", he tries to get into a position to backstab either the Cylons, the Rag-Tag Fleet, or both at once — and not even the audience is sure where he actually wants to aim the knife. It all ends with him pinned under rubble at the bottom of a Space-Egyptian pyramid when both sides refuse to trust him.
    • Commander Cain. In order to have his way, he destroys needed fuel tankers to force Adama to attack a base. Adama calls him on this, everyone expects him to backstab again, and no one is surprised when he disobeys orders again in a later attack.
  • Comic Book Adaptation: Marvel Comics published an adaptation of the original TV movie, and then (unusually for most comics based on TV series) went on to adapt some of the early episodes as well before branching into original stories (the comic ran for nearly two years, outliving the TV series). Dynamite Comics later published comics based on the classic series alongside its adaptations of the remake.
  • Conveniently Close Planet: Planets are usually pretty close together, and the Colonial homeworlds were, apparently, all in one star system.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: to the Nth degree, and amped up even more with the Seraphs, who inhabit a space city of crystal and wear glittering robes.
  • Cyber Cyclops: The Cylons, with their constantly scanning one red eye.
  • Dances and Balls: In one episode the colonists shake their disco funk with hand held cords, in another they have a slightly more formal hand meeting dance.
  • Deadpan Snarker: In one episode when Baltar is attacking Galactica while Pegasus is pulling round, his Cylon pilot says, "I really think you should take a look at the other battlestar."
  • Death Ray: blasters, which shot a quick, invisible beam of energy. Much like real, laser pistol-like devices. As part of the lawsuit settlement with LucasFilm, BG was prohibited from showing hand weapons that shot visible bolts on-screen. The space combat scenes were not so limited, for whatever reason. Thus ironically making BG's hand-lasers more realistic than Lucas's blaster weapons.
  • Demoted to Extra: Athena ends up getting this treatment. She starts out as a Bridge Bunny, but is only sometimes shown on the bridge after the pilot. Then she's used as part of a triangle with Starbuck and Cassiopeia, but that plot is dropped fast. The only time after this she's given any significant screen time is when she's one of the characters trapped in the fire during "Fire In Space." Late season, she spends her time, apparently, as a school teacher. This was reportedly due to the producers lack of interest in coaching Maren Jensen, who was at that time an inexperienced actress. Cassiopeia was developed to take Athena's place as a frontline female character.
  • Depopulation Bomb: The shown fleet population drops quite a lot, especially in the middle of season one.
  • Dirty Coward: Baltar. Commander Cain once altered the course of a battle just by heading the Pegasus in his direction to scare him into pulling back and leaving the other two basestars to protect him.
  • The Dragon: Baltar, to the Cylons' Big Bad; then, later, to Count Iblis.
  • Draw Sword, Draw Blood: The Borellian Nomen had a warrior's code that said that if they drew their long knife, they would prefer suicide to seeing the knife resheathed unbloodied.
  • Driving a Desk: Used for the in-cockpit shots.
  • The End of the World as We Know It - all twelve of them.
  • Everybody is Single: Apollo gets married in the second plot, and still spends most of the season a widower; his father is also a widower (common in the Fleet, one assumes), and every one else is not married.
  • Excessive Steam Syndrome: The pilot does this. Starbuck and Cassiopeia are seen kissing in the hangar bay, while Starbuck's other love interest catches them by surveillance camera. Cue the push of a "Steam Vent" button.
  • Genocide from the Inside: Baltar's goal is to completely destroy humanity.
  • God Test: In "War of the Gods Part 1", Count Iblis claims to have great powers and knowledge. The Council of Twelve gives him three challenges: to deliver their greatest enemy (Baltar) to them, to lead the fleet to Earth, and one more to be named later.
  • Gold-Colored Superiority: Ordinary Cylons were silver/chrome but special commander Cylons were gold.
  • Greater Need Than Mine: Apollo sacrificing himself to Iblis, for Sheba.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: President Adar, with disastrous results. It leads to the basic premise of the show, and also to his...
  • Heroic BSOD: "Can't you see, I've led the entire human race to ruin; I've..."
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners:
    • Apollo and Starbuck - Not only do they often fly together, but they're also on the same Triad Team.
    • Starbuck and Boomer also make a pretty good team, and the novelisations state that Adama and Tigh were their generation's Starbuck and Boomer, albeit in a somewhat more serious, responsible fashion.
  • Homeworld Evacuation: Somewhat inverted, the twelve colonies of Kobol are being evacuated and searching for Earth, which is the "lost" thirteenth colony.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Cassiopeia, although only one person is ever shown to have an objection to her profession. Later, she's Hello, Nurse!.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy:
    • You'd think intelligent computers would be better shots.
    • Apollo, Starbuck and Boomer aren't much better in Saga of a Star World. They're seen firing at Cylons three yards away on a narrow wooden bridge and nobody goes down.
  • Infinite Supplies
    • Averted in the pilot, when resources were so scarce that the fleet practiced Forced Socialism against Sire Uri, and braved the Nova Matigon so as to make it to Carillon for resupply before they starved.
    • Averted in "Living Legend", when the fleet needs fuel, for plot reasons.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: a full symphonic suite, one of the things inviting comparison to Star Wars. Was recycled as the National Anthem in the revised series.
  • Living Legend: In the episode "The Living Legend", the Galactica encounters the battlestar Pegasus, whose captain is the Colonial military legend Commander Cain.
  • Lost Colony: Earth, specifically; however, several others show up in the course of the series.
  • Loveable Rogue: Starbuck is a pretty likeable guy when you aren't annoyed at one of his irresponsible schemes.
  • Microts: Honed to an art form. They had:
    • "microns" (or "millicentons") for seconds
    • "centons" for minutes (hours in the pilot)
    • "centars" for hours (after the pilot)
    • "sectons" for weeks
    • "yahrens" for years
    • Lampshaded in the episode "Greetings From Earth," where the Terran colonist asked "What is a centon?"
  • Oh Crap!: Baltar's reaction in "The Living Legend" when he's gloating at seeing the Battlestar Galactica about to be defeated, only to see the Battlestar Pegasus on an attack run right at him.
  • Only One Name: Adama, Boxey, Apollo, Boomer, Tigh, Starbuck, Athena, and many more are only known by one name.
  • Planet Terra: Subverted. Despite multiple layers and episodes of teasing ("Terra" being a Geminese term for "Earth", the Terran political situation being based on the Cold War), the planet called Terra turns out to NOT be Earth.
  • Prison Ship: The original series had the Prison Barge, a ship used to hold prisoners of various kinds, including prisoners of war. Baltar organizes an escape from the ship along with various characters arrested or captured in previous episodes.
  • Putting on the Reich: Virtually everything about the Eastern Alliance screams "Nazi Imagery," ranging from their philosophy that some are strong and born to rule, to their costumes, to the fact that the leader of the Alliance Enforcers has the rank of "Commandant."
  • Recycled In SPACE
    • Many episodes were blatant retreads of popular movies, frequently Westerns, right down to their titles.
    • Mormon theology and folklore is so prevalent in the series that fans and detractors alike tend to refer to it as Mormons In Space.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Cylons, of course, but also Count Iblis.
  • Red Shirt Army: Mainly the Cylons, but the Colonial pilots get shot out of space fairly regularly, too.
  • Satanic Archetype: In "War of the Gods", the fleet is tempted by the promises of the mysterious "Count Iblis" (an Islamic name for Satan), who turns out to be a fallen angel from Caprican mythology.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The writers simply didn't understand the difference between a system or a galaxy. Made worse by the fact that only the Galactica has FTL. Even worse, the Galactica only has L, without the FT.
  • Sleeper Starship The fleet comes upon a ship carrying 2 families (a father and his kids, a mother her kids but the adults aren't a couple). The fleet nearly kills the father, by waking him up. The atmosphere on the Galactica is too heavy for him. They are escaping from a colony, where none of the people born can return to their home world which is divided into east (USSR) and west (US) because they can't survive in the atmosphere.
  • Space Clothes: Mostly averted. They're wearing clothing, for the most part not in Earth fashions (except for some disco wear). The main exception to this are the Terran colonists, who do indeed wear shiney space clothes.
  • Space Jews: 12 Tribes, driven from their homeland and searching for the missing, legendary 13th Tribe? How can it not be? (though the allusion to a 13th Tribe is based on Mormon theology, rather than Jewish).
  • Space Mines: In the pilot, they have to go through a Cylon minefield.
  • Space Western: In one episode, Apollo had a walk-down gunfight with a rogue Cylon.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Baltar was Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves in the pilot movie; new scenes were shot for the series to keep him around as a recurring villain.
  • The Starscream: Lucifer is a more subtle variant. As for Baltar, if Classic Galactica had lasted longer he could have been the Trope Namer.
  • Stock Footage:
    • The special effects were based on optically overlaying stock footage (spacecraft, explosions, and so on), and several completed scenes were used more than once.
    • Some of the completed effects from Galactica were used in the B-movie Space Mutiny.
    • The beginning and end of one establishing shot (in a city) became two establishing shots in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
    • Footage of the 'Agro-Ships' was recycled footage of the forest-carrying freighters from Silent Running (which was originally done by a effects man who also worked on this show).
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: The Seraphs are this to the Colonists. Interestingly, the Colonists regard the Seraphs as exactly this - technologically advanced aliens.
  • Tempting Fate: In "Murder on the Rising Star", Cassiopeia mentions during a Triad game that Starbuck and his rival Ortega are gonna kill each other if their fierce rivalry keeps up. Ortega is killed, alright, but it wasn't Starbuck that did it. It was Karybdis, who went by an alias Pallon during his time in the fleet.

"Fleeing the Cylon tyranny, the last battlestar, Galactica, leads a ragtag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest: a shining planet known as Earth."

Alternative Title(s):

Battlestar Galactica Classic