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Archive for February 12th, 2011

When Glen A. Larson created the original Battlestar Galactica for television in 1978 and was promptly sued for plagiarizing Star Wars, it might have seemed just a little petty on the part of George Lucas, just as it would when Michael Mann brought charges of the same against William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in LA for ripping off his own Miami Vice. On the one hand, it was easy to see flagrant similarities in Larson’s program of a fleet of humanity’s last survivors escaping the threat of the robotic Cylons on a seemingly never-ending quest to find the fabled planet of Earth, in design if not its narrative (like Firefly, a show that lived up to Gene Roddenberry’s elevator pitch of “Wagon Train in space” better than Star Trek ever did). Then again, visual echoes were probably inevitable with Star Wars crewmembers doing so much of the pre-visualization and special-effects work, thus making it doubly inevitable that the lawsuit would find itself dismissed from the courts without so much as a laugh (at least Lucas redeemed himself later by suing the Reagan administration for nicknaming the SDI missile defense system after his movies and using its slogans without his permission, as well as forbidding the 40th President of the United States permission to visit Skywalker Ranch).

Yet while Larson’s show remained on the air and out of trouble with the law, it could never quite escape the shadow of its momentary duel with its big-screen progenitor—Battlestar Galactica may not have owed any residuals to Star Wars, but it almost certainly owed its inspiration to that film, and in the end could only really count itself as a mere footnote to the popular resurgence of science-fiction and space-opera in the wake of the tales of that galaxy far, far away. It didn’t have the contemporary scope or daring of a series like Kenneth Johnson’s V, clumsy as it was, which at least found a way to make an impression of its own on the small screen. As it was, Larson’s creation was destined to enjoy its time on the air and then merely fade away from public memory, with only the occasional nostalgia-fueled marathon to remind us all that it was there in the first place.

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