Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Universal Studios' Successful Marketing of Classic "Battlestar Galactica" (1978)

The cast of "Battlestar Galactica" (1978 - 79)
It's a sad fact that the vast majority of television series that last for only one season disappear without a trace, never to be seen again.  The television landscape is littered with "one season wonders" that have not been seen since their original network airings.  One TV series that bucked this trend was Battlestar Galactica (1978 - 79).  This reviewer considers Battlestar Galactica to be the best science fiction TV series of the 1970's by a wide margin.

In recent years, a number of diehard BSG fans have been very vocal with their dissatisfaction with Universal Studios' (alleged) mishandling of the Battlestar Galactica franchise.  Since 2001, Universal Studios has made numerous announcements that a Battlestar Galactica movie is in the works - yet after 15 years (and multiple announcements) a BSG film still has not been made.  Some fans have claimed that this is proof that Universal Studios actually hates (yes - hates!) Battlestar Galactica with an all consuming passion.  A BSG movie announcement from 2011 can be viewed on YouTube HERE:

Despite the (thus far) - and admittedly - complete lack of progress on a BSG feature film, let's look at the cold, hard facts - in reality, Universal Studios has been aggressively marketing Battlestar Galactica since Day One - with no end in sight!  It's no secret that Universal Studios spent a vast amount of money producing the series for the 1978 - 79 television season.  Each episode cost a reported $1,000,000 to produce - an unheard television budget at the time.  As a comparison - in a 1993 Sci-Fi Channel interview, television writer / producer Bruce Lansbury stated that his 1977 science fiction series The Fantastic Journey had a budget of $300,000 per episode.  So Battlestar Galactica cost roughly THREE AND 1/4 TIMES more per episode than The Fantastic Journey from only one year earlier!  With that context in mind, Universal Studios had no choice but to market Battlestar Galactica in every conceivable way in order to recoup the enormous production costs - an all but unprecedented marketing effort that continues to this day.

Universal Studios owns a number of classic science fiction properties - Quantum LeapSeaQuest DSV, Earth 2, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Knight Rider, Voyagers! - and quite a few others.  NONE of these other properties have been extensively marketed as Battlestar Galactica! Let's break it down...

1).  Universal Studios released the epic TV pilot "Saga of a Star World" as a theatrical film that played in Canada and parts of the United States about 6 months prior to the series premiere in the Fall of 1978.  The movie did very well at the box office, considering its "TV origins" and earned about $9,000,000 (roughly $33,000,000 in 2015 dollars, adjusted for inflation).

2).  Toys and Merchandise - a HUGE amount of Battlestar Galactica toys and merchandise appeared on the market from 1978 thru the mid-1980's.  Everything from trading cards, action figures, video games and even bedsheets featured the Battlestar Galactica Logo and characters!  New toys and action figures appeared on store shelves in the mid-1990's and again in the early 2000's.  Even the famous Battlestar Galactica lunchbox was re-issued in 2013!  :-)

The Battlestar Galactica pillowcase!  :-)
The 2013 retro re-issue of the famous
Battlestar Galactica lunchbox!  :-)

3).  The Battle of Galactica at Universal Studios!  In 1979 (while the series was still in production), Universal Studios opened its popular theme park attraction, The Battle of Galactica.  Theme park visitors were entertained by an elaborate attraction featuring actors dressed as Colonial Warriors battling an army of animatronic Cylons!  The Battle of Galactica was hugely popular and lasted for 13 years (1979 to 1992). View footage from The Battle of Galactica on YouTube HERE:

4).  The Syndicated Battlestar Galactica Compilation TV Movies!  When Battlestar Galactica entered syndication in the Fall of 1981, all 24 episodes (plus bits and pieces of the sequel series Galactica: 1980) were re-edited into 14 Compilation Movies that were syndicated worldwide and also shown theatrically in many foreign markets.  Most of these movies (often unfairly maligned) feature a vast number of expanded and never-before-seen scenes as well as many alternate Special F/X shots.

5).  Syndication (in episodic form).  Toward the late '80's the Battlestar Galactica Compilation Movies were removed from syndication and the series was once again shown in its original one hour format (usually once a week) on TV stations across the U.S.  In some markets, Battlestar Galactica was often paired with Buck Rogers in the 25th Century with both series airing five days a week in a continuous rotation.  The series was then shown **exclusively** on the Sci-Fi Channel - literally from Day One in the Fall of 1992 airing in a coveted prime time slot.  Sci-Fi aired the series on and off (as well as the spin-off series Galactica: 1980) for about ten years.  I have no idea if Sci-Fi - now SyFy -  has aired the series in recent years.

6).  VHS and LaserDisc releases!  The Battlestar Galactica pilot movie as well as the Compilation movie Mission: Galactica - The Cylon Attack were released on both VHS tape and Laserdisc in the early 1980's.  Circa 1985, Universal Studios Home Video released a number of the one-hour episodes on VHS tape (with one episode per tape!) and sold for approximately $14.99.  In the mid-1990's several of the two-part episodes were released on VHS tape as well.  All of these tapes are long since sold out / out of print.

Several of the Battlestar Galactica VHS tapes
released by MCA / Universal circa 1985.
7).  DVD and Blu-Ray!  Universal Studios Home Entertainment released Battlestar Galactica on DVD in 2003 (on double-sided discs) and re-issued the series again in 2014 (on single-sided discs).  In 2015 the series was released on Blu-Ray in both the original Full Screen Format and a remastered Widescreen Format (take your choice).  Both the DVD and the Blu-Ray are loaded with special features; including Deleted Scenes for virtually every episode.  The 2003 two-sided DVD release with the 3-D Cylon packaging did (unfortunately) suffer from production defects - several of the discs would occasionially "freeze" or "skip" at random.  These defects were corrected for the 2014 single-sided DVD release.

The 2014 DVD, 10 disc re-release of
Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Epic Series
8).  Novels!  Fourteen Battlestar Galactica novels were published from 1978 to 1988 - the first eleven novels adapted most of the episodes, while the last three were original adventures.  These novels were published around the world in many languages!  In the 1990's, series star Richard Hatch (Captain Apollo) co-wrote several original BSG novels.

Battlestar Galactica: #14 - "Surrender the Galactica!"
written by Robert Thurston

9).  Comic Books!  There have been nearly one hundred Battlestar Galactica comic books over the decades published by several different publishers.  Most of these comic book adventures were later collected into graphic novel paperback compilations that were sold in book stores world wide.

Marvel Comics published 23 issues of
Battlestar Galactica from 1979 to 1981.

Many more BSG comics would follow!
10).  The 2003 - 2010 SyFi Channel Re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica!  I have to admit that my knowledge about the "re-imagined" BSG is limited.  I watched the initial 2003 mini-series and a few episodes from the first season - I bailed out when it was revealed that the Cylon Fighter Ships were living beings...a plot device ripped off either from the alien Chigs from Space: Above and Beyond (1995 - 96) or the Doctor Who story "The Claws of Axos" (1971).  I was also completely turned off (totally weirded-out being a more accurate description) by the "gender-bending" of most of the main characters - Starbuck, Boomer, Cain - and heaven knows who else - "re-imagined" as women.  I have no idea where the "re-imagined" BSG series went after I called it quits.

The above list are just 10 examples of Universal Studios' ongoing commitment to continuing the Battlestar Galactica franchise.  Would they go to so much trouble (and expense!) promoting a TV series that they "hated"?  I'm sorry, but I just don't see it.  If anything, they have maintained an **extreme interest** in marketing the property worldwide over the past 37 years - whether that continuing interest will eventually become the long-promised BSG feature film is anyone's guess.

I would love to see a well-made Battlestar Galactica feature film as much as anyone, but if it never happens, I'm content watching (and re-watching) those magical 24 episodes of the Original Battlestar Galactica (plus "The Return of Starbuck" episode from the otherwise forgettable Galactica: 1980).

Universal Studios' most recent Battlestar Galactica promotion is the "Science Fiction Day" Promo from January of this year that was produced for the NBC Classics YouTube Channel.  This is absolutely superb!  View this **instant classic** promo on YouTube HERE:

Battlestar Galactica is copyright (c) NBC / Universal; created by Glen A. Larson.  All photos are used for illustrative purposes only.

The 100th Planet blogspot is copyright (c) by Fred deBoom; please do not quote or reproduce this copyrighted work without my permission.