Monday, August 17, 2015

Did "Battlestar Galactica" influence certain elements of "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi"?


The Battle of Galactica at Universal Studios!
Star Wars (1977) was the main influence / inspiration for Battlestar Galactica (1978 - 79) - no doubt about it.  Without Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica would never have seen the light of day.  Star Wars changed the sci-fi genre forever!  Every space-themed sci-fi TV show or movie produced after 1977 was influenced in large and small ways by the epic events of "...a Galaxy far, far away...."  Battlestar Galactica was the first sci-fi TV series produced in the post-Star Wars era.  Love it or loathe it, Battlestar Galactica stepped up to the plate and swung the bat...!  The series aired on ABC-TV on Sunday evenings during the 1978 - 79 season with a total of 24 episodes produced.

Battlestar Galactica very rarely (let's face it - never) gets credit for the numerous times it "scooped" the Star Wars sequels in various plot details.  Disney recently announced that they will feature a Star Wars Land at their various theme parks.  More than 30 years ago, Universal Studios beat them to the punch with their popular "Battle of Galactica" theme park attraction which entertained studio visitors from 1979 to 1992.

A Question for the Ages - Did George Lucas (or anyone at Lucasfilm for that matter) watch Battlestar Galactica back in the day?  Since George Lucas and 20th Century Fox sued Universal Studios over 83(!) perceived points of similarity between Star Wars and the Battlestar Galactica pilot movie "Saga of a Star World", Lucas was certainly aware of Battlestar Galactica - but did he take the time to actually watch all 24 episodes?  Who knows?  Regardless, it's well-worth mentioning that several plot points from various episodes of Battlestar Galactica had counterparts in the Star Wars sequels, notably The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983).

Were these parallel plotlines coincidental or merely a case of great minds thinking alike?  Who knows?

Just for fun, I've made a comparison between all three of these epic sci-fi productions.  Please read and enjoy!  :-)

1).  Ice Planets!
In the 2-part Battlestar Galactica story "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero", the Colonials encountered the ice planet Arcta with freezing temperatures and deadly Cylons.  Two years later, The Empire Strikes Back featured the ice planet Hoth which served as the rebel's hidden base.  In the interest of full disclosure, it's also worth mentioning that ice planets appeared on both Star Trek ("All Our Yesterdays") and Space: 1999 ("Death's Other Dominion") years before the creation of either Battlestar Galactica or The Empire Strikes Back.  Still, "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero" was the most recent instance of an ice planet in the sci-fi genre, prior to The Empire Strikes Back.

Starbuck and Apollo on the ice planet Arcta
 in Battlestar Galactica ("The Gun on Ice Planet Zero", part 1);
aired on Oct. 22, 1978

Han Solo and Luke Skywalker on the ice planet Hoth
in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

2).  Zac = Dak?
In the opening minutes of the Battlestar Galactica premiere episode "Saga of a Starworld", Zac - Apollo's younger brother and wingman - is killed by the Cylons on his first patrol.  Two years later, in The Empire Strikes Back, Dak - Luke's close friend / co-pilot / tailgunner - dies battling the Imperial Walkers.  Both characters are portrayed as being very naive and eager to prove themselves.  Zac is **very** eager to go on his first patrol, ("I've studied the co-ordinates from here to the Cylon capitol - my ship's ready to go!").  Dak is also **very** eager to engage the enemy, ("I feel like I could take on the Empire single-handed!") - Was Dak inspired by Zac?

The doomed Zac in Battlestar Galactica ("Saga of a Star World");
aired on Sept. 17, 1978
The doomed Dak in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)


3).  Rag-Tag Fugitive Space Fleets!
The spaceships of the rag-tag fugitive fleet -
Battlestar Galactica ("Saga of a Star World");
aired on Sept. 17, 1978
The rag-tag fugitive space fleet concept of The Empire Strikes Back is **remarkably** similar to elements from Battlestar Galactica (which premiered two years earlier).  Like Battlestar GalacticaThe Empire Strikes Back also features a rag-tag fugitive space fleet on the run from hostile forces determined to destroy them!  After the events of Star Wars, the rebels flee Yavin's 4th moon and establish a new base on Hoth.  When the Empire invades Hoth, the rebels are forced to flee the planet using whatever spacecrafts they can salvage.  For the rest of the movie (and continuing into Return of the Jedi), the rebel fleet is pursued by the Empire.

The Livestock Ship -
  Battlestar Galactica ("Saga of a Star World");
aired on Sept. 17, 1978
The Colonial Movers -
  Battlestar Galactica ("Saga of a Star World");
aired on Sept. 17, 1978



"...Imperial troops have DRIVEN the Rebel forces from their hidden base and PURSUED them across the galaxy."
- the opening crawl of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

The fugitive space fleet of the Rebel Alliance
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)


4).  Swamp Planets!
In the Battlestar Galactica episode "The Young Lords", Starbuck crash-landed on a swamp-like planet called Attila.  Two years later, Luke Skywalker traveled to the swamp-like planet Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back - and crash-landed in the swamp!  Two swamp planets!  Two crash-landings!

Battlestar Galactica - ("The Young Lords")
 featuring the Cylons on the swamp planet Attila;
aired on Nov. 19, 1978


Yoda teaches Luke Skywalker the ways of The Force
 on the swamp planet Dagobah
 in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)


5).  Infiltration!
In the Battlestar Galactica episode "The Hand of God", Apollo and Starbuck infiltrate a Cylon basestar by piloting a captured Cylon fighter.  Four years later, in Return of the Jedi, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 infiltrate the Imperial base on Endor by piloting one of the Empire's captured command ships.  Both instances of infiltration even feature humorous tag lines - on Battlestar Galactica, the warriors "waggle their wings" and in Return of the Jedi, the rebels "fly casual".

Starbuck and Apollo "waggle their wings" as they pilot
a Cylon fighter on a mission to infiltrate a basestar
 in Battlestar Galactica ("The Hand of God");
aired on April 29, 1979

Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, C-3P0 and R2-D2
"fly casual" as they pilot an Imperial command ship
on a mission to infiltrate the Empire's base on Endor
 in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)


6).  Use the Force!
In the Battlestar Galactica episode "War of the Gods", part 2, Commander Adama is shown using his long dormant telekinetic abilities to move a small metal statue on his desk.  Apollo enters the room and is astonished - he had no idea that his father possessed such an incredible power!  Two years later, telekinesis is introduced into the Star Wars Universe in The Empire Strikes Back when Luke uses Force-driven telekinesis in the Wampa's cave on Hoth in order to retrieve his dropped light saber.  Later in the film, Luke attempts to use The Force to free his x-wing fighter from the swamp - he fails, so Yoda moves it for him effortlessly .  The use of The Force to move small and large objects has since become a crucial element of the Star Wars Universe - but Battlestar Galactica did it first!

Adama uses telekinesis to move a small metal statue on his desk -
Battlestar Galactica ("War of the Gods", part 2);
aired on Jan. 21, 1979

Luke Skywalker uses Force-driven telekinesis to retrieve his light-saber -
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Luke Skywalker tries (but fails!) to use Force-driven telekinesis
to raise his downed x-wing fighter from the swamp on Dagobah -
Star Wars- The Empire Strikes Back (1980)


7).  Space Rockers!
One of the highlights of Battlestar Galactica's premiere movie, "Saga of a Star World", was the musical performance of the alien rock group The Tucana Sisters (a.k.a. The Android Singers) in the casino on Carillon.  Five years later in Return of the Jedi, Jabba the Hutt's palace featured several singing aliens!  In the interest of full disclosure, the alien Mr. Spock sang in an episode of Star Trek ("Plato's Stepchildren") years before Battlestar Galactica or Return of the Jedi.

One of The Tucana Sisters (a.k.a. The Android Singers)
in Battlestar Galactica ("Saga of a Star World");
aired on Sept. 17, 1978

It's "Love, Love, Love!" with The Tucana Sisters (a.k.a. The Android Singers)
in Battlestar Galactica ("Saga of a Star World");
 aired on Sept. 17, 1978

A singing female alien in Jabba's Palace
in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)

The singing alien trio in Jabba's Palace
in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: The Special Edition (1983 / 1997)


8).  Ewoks = the children of "The Young Lords"?
This thought has been bouncing around in the back of my mind for a couple of decades.  In a round-about way, is the Battlestar Galactica episode "The Young Lords" something of a prototype for the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi?  In "The Young Lords", the children of Attila - using only primitive weaponry and ingenuity - manage to run rings around the Cylons!  Later, (with Starbuck's help) they rescue their kidnapped father and destroy the Cylons that have overrun their planet.  At one point, Kyle (the oldest boy) even blows his battle horn, much like the Ewoks do in Return of the Jedi!  In Return of the Jedi, the primitive Ewoks (implausibly) are able to run rings around Imperial Stormtroopers and help the Rebellion defeat the Empire - a scenario not unlike "The Young Lords" which aired five years earlier!  The next time you watch the improbable shenanigans of "The Young Lords", see if thoughts of the Ewoks come to mind...

The primitive children of Attila
who (implausibly!) defeat the Cylons
 and help Starbuck rescue their kidnapped father
in Battlestar Galactica ("The Young Lords");
aired on Nov. 19, 1978 

A primitive Ewok in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)

The primitive Ewoks (implausibly!) defeat Stormtroopers!
- Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
9).  The Art of the Deal!
I think that it's worth mentioning that both Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back feature characters who make "deals" that end up going bad.  In Battlestar Galactica ("Saga of a Star World") Baltar makes a deal with the Cylon Imperious Leader - assuming (wrongly!) that his colony / planet will not be destroyed and he will be allowed to rule the colony.  The Imperious Leader alters the deal and sentences Baltar to death!  His death sentence is commuted and instead he leads the Cylons in pursuit of the Colonial Fleet across the universe.





Battlestar Galactica ("Saga of a Star World"),
aired on Sept. 17, 1978
Two year later, in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Lando Calrissian makes a deal with Darth Vader in order to prevent the Empire from occupying Cloud City.  Lando bargains for Han Solo, Princess Leia and Chewbacca to remain on Cloud City in his custody.  Darth Vader alters the deal and gives Han to Boba Fett.




Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

The motivations of both characters are very different; but I feel the similarity of both productions featuring "deals with the devil" that go bad are worth a mention.

10).  Identical Endings!
Most episodes of Battlestar Galactica end with the clip of the Galactica leading the rag-tag fleet accompanied by the famous "Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny..." voice-over narration by Lorne Greene. This now iconic end clip was shown for the first time at the close of "Saga of a Star World" on Sept. 17, 1978. Two years later, The Empire Strikes Back ended with the Rebel Fleet flying to an unspecified "rendezvous point" (this clip doesn't feature voice over narration, though).

The end clip of most episodes of Battlestar Galactica
feature a clip of the fleet continuing the lonely quest
- ("Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny,
 the last battlestar - Galactica,
leads a rag-tag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest
  - a shining planet known as Earth
")

The Rebel Fleet continues to flee from the Empire - the last scene
 of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)


11).  The Terrible Truth is REVEALED!
Apollo's (losing) mano o mano battle against the supremely powerful Count Iblis in the Battlestar Galactica episode "War of the Gods", part 2, isn't terribly dissimilar to Luke Skywalker's (losing) battle with Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.  Apollo lost his life...Luke lost his hand.  It's also interesting to note that during both of these dramatic confrontations, a terrible "truth" is revealed - in Battlestar Galactica - "War of the Gods", the warriors learn that Count Iblis is the Devil!  In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke learns the terrible "truth" - that Darth Vader is his father!

Apollo loses his life in battle with Count Iblis
 - Battlestar Galactica ("War of the Gods", part 2);
aired on Jan. 21, 1979
Luke Skywalker loses his hand in battle with Darth Vader
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)


The terrible "truth" is revealed - Count Iblis is The Devil! -
Battlestar Galactica ("War of the Gods", part 2)
The terrible "truth" is revealed -
Darth Vader is Luke's father! -
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Are there any other instances of parallel plot points between Battlestar Galactica and the Star Wars sequels (or prequels)?  Waitaminute! - the prequels?!?  I sorry, but I can't...I just can't go there...!  :-)

12). A Boy and his Drone / Droid!

Boxey and Muffet - a boy and his Drone -
in Battlestar Galactica ("Saga of a Star World");
aired on Sept. 17, 1978



Anakin and C-3PO - a boy and his Droid -
in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999)





Battlestar Galactica is copyright (c) NBC / Universal.
Star WarsThe Empire Strikes BackReturn of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace are copyright (c) Lucasfilm.

Battlestar Galactica - created by Glen A. Larson.
Star Wars - created by George Lucas.

Star Wars (1977) - written and directed by George Lucas.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - written by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, story by George Lucas; directed by Irvin Kershner.
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983) - written by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas, story by George Lucas; directed by Richard Marquand.
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999) - written and directed by George Lucas.

All photos are used for illustrative purposes only and are copyright (c) and trademark the respective copyright holders.  Any quoted dialogue is copyright (c) the respective copyright holders.