RETROSPECULATIVE TV: Battlestar Galactica (1978): “Greetings from Earth” (Story 13)

Republibot 3.0
Republibot 3.0's picture

Adama is narrating his journal about how he feels they’re drawing closer to earth. Meanwhile, Starbuck and Apollo are on a long-range patrol, asleep in their cockpits. They wake in time to find a sub-light spacecraft of some sort adrift with what appear to be human life signs aboard. They haul it back to the Galactica.

Before they even return, word has gotten out that it’s probably a ship from earth, despite no real evidence of that. Adama addresses the fleet to warn them about getting their hopes up. Meanwhile, doctors Salik and Wilker start poking around with the non-alien vessel, and eventually go on board with some of the others. They find an RV-sized cabin full of suspended animation tubes holding a man, a woman, two girls, and a boy. Unsure what to do next, the doctors begin tinkering with the equipment to revive them. This goes awry pretty quickly, and Wilker and Salik end up at odds, Wilker concerned seemingly only about the scientific value of the discovery.

In the officer’s club, Boomer, Jolly, Sheeba, Apollo, and Starbuck get into an intense discussion about the situation, what they should be doing, what they shouldn’t be doing. Starbuck takes a surprisingly Apollo-like view, and Apollo is unusually hotheaded. When a security goon named Reece butts into the conversation, it almost ends up in a fight. During all this, Boomer observes that all the humans they’ve met thus far in their exodus - the Equellans, the Proteus Prisoners, the Sectarans, the hot chicks on the medieval planet, and the Arctan clones - have all been descended from people who left the colonies, or descended from stragglers left behind by the original Diaspora from Kobol. This vehicle is the first human thing they’ve encountered that involves technology and terminology that’s completely unknown and new to them.

Salik complain to Adama about Wilker’s willing to play mumbly-peg with the lives of children, and Adama wants to do something about it, but is overruled by the council who want the passengers revived ASAP. This results in a weapons-drawn standoff in the hanger bay when Reese and his goons try to force out Boomer, Starbuck, and Jolly. There’s also scads of civilians coming by to gawk at the supposed earthlings, and all the kids are talking about it in school.

Meanwhile, Johnny Gage from Emergency wakes up in the spacecraft, and goes outside, bewildered by what he sees, and spouting nonsense. Apollo and Reese (Who’s actually pretty compassionate and good at this, unexpectedly) try to explain it to him, but Gage - calling himself “Michael” here - is obviously sick and given the differences in culture and terminology, both sides appear to be spouting gobldygook at each other. Michael gets jittery and shoots Reese, then collapses. The gawkers panic and trample each other trying to get out. Salik and Cassie haul Michael off to the medical center (“Life Station”) and quickly realize the atmospheric pressure on whatever world he came from is about 1/5th that of Caprican norm. Say about 3 PSI.

Apollo: “How can this be? They appear human.”
Salik: “We are adaptable. They could come from a world who’s atmosphere grew thinner over millennia.”
Cassie: “Or ours grew heavier.”

This last seems unlikely, since no one had any problems on Kobol or any of the other worlds they’ve visited, but just the same…

The whole situation is getting out of hand, the council is demanding action, so Starbuck decides they take a very deliberately tendentious interpretation of the situation: Michael shot Reese (Who’s fine, by the way, thanks for asking) which makes it a military situation, though clearly it isn’t. Starbuck, Apollo, Cassie, and Salik conspire to smuggle Michael *back* on to the ship, and cast it adrift. They spin a cock-and-bull story for Reese, saying it’s Council’s orders to prevent any further chance of infection. Reese buys it. Jolly and Boomer quickly join the conspiracy, and manage to frame Reese so that when the ship leaves, the security goon takes the fall for it. The Council is not amused.

END PART 1.
Or at least it would be if this was a two-part episode, but it isn’t. It was aired as a “Two-hour special.” So, moving on:

Adama comments in his journal that he’s facing an inquiry from the council.

Michael and the rest go back to slumberland, and the ship follows its preprogrammed course to planet Paradeen. En rout, they attract the attention of an Eastern Alliance destroyer commanded by Commandant Leiter. The destroyer is interested in the two vipers, and decides to follow them to investigate.

Once Apollo et all land on Paradeen, the episode changes pace, and becomes much more laid back. We’re introduced to Hector and Vector, two comedy relief androids, who misidentify Starbuck as a girl, given his long hair, and then take everyone back to Sarah’s Father’s ranch. It quickly turns out that her father died at some point a while back, and the androids have been continuing his plans. Sarah is broken up over this, and displays a significant (And somewhat hypocritical) Ludite streak, lambasting technology as the cause of all suffering in the universe. She’s also got a lot of disdain for Michael, given that he’s a very pro-science technician. It turns out that she and Michael aren’t married, and don’t even like each other all that much. They were thrown together out of adversity, since she needed him to get them out of Lunar 7 in a hurry. The oldest girl is his, the other three are hers.

Back in the house, Hector and Vector, the androids, haul out an old Panasonic Laser Video Disk and want to show a performance from the grand opera hall on Terra. Sarah refuses. Since her kids can never go to Terra because of the atmospheric differences, she sees no need to taunt them with things they can never have. The androids decide to do a little song-and-dance routine from the opera, and everyone feigns amusement.

The next day, Sarah comes on to Apollo heavily, and wants him to stay. He blows her off, and tells Cassie to stick close to Michael - real close - and he’ll explain why later. He never does, though. Despite basically telling her to use all her whore-charms on the guy, nothing even remotely plot related comes of it. We get a scene of her flirting with him, and then it’s completely dropped into dangling thread territory. Odd. Nothing in the deleted scenes to explain it, either. Just really, really sloppy/crappy writing.

Apollo goes to check on the vipers, and finds the Hillbilly Morlelands poking around them. A tense standoff ensues where the hillbillies threaten Apollo. After they leave, Apollo discovers their cockpits have been smashed to bits. Starbuck, meanwhile, is inspecting the ruins of Paradeen City in a really visually stunning, and altogether-too-short sequence amidst what looks to be an honest-to-God abandoned futuristic ghost town with huge buildings fallen to crap. It’s the ultimate Scooby Doo backdrop! And it’s real! More on this below. Meanwhile, Sarah nebulously admits she has *some* feelings, kinda’, sorta’, maybe, for Michael.

Apollo comes back talking about “Dealing with” the Morelands, but Sarah confesses she smashed the vipers so they’d have to stay. Apollo and Michael are understandably furious with her, and she feels bad and stomps off (Honestly, this scene could have stood to be a LOT more dramatic. Some screaming would have helped, or at least a mention of Boxey never seeing his dad again thanks to her). Starbuck, meanwhile, ha gotten himself lost in the catacombs beneath the city where he’s dying from the bad air. Hector went for help, and everyone excepting Sarah and the kids head back to look for him. Will they find him in time? Of course they will, he’s in the opening credits!

Meanwhile, the Eastern Alliance destroyer lands, and Leiter takes Sarah hostage. The kids run away to the hillbilly Morelands, who agree to help them out. Their hired hand, Eb - no, wait, that’s Green Acres, sorry - their hired hand Boyce used to be a caretaker in the catacombs, so he gets everyone out no problem. Starbuck and Apollo and Michael quickly take out the Alliance goons and capture Leiter and his destroyer. Sarah makes a reference to “our” children, which is the first hint that the blended family might be happily ever after. Sarah relents on her technophobia, but only insofar as it relates to jumbo Pioneer Laser Disks.

Starbuck, Cassie, and Apollo leave them to it, and take their prisoners and the destroyer back to the Galactica, while Leiter blathers on propagandistically about how the Alliance is the greatest military force in the galaxy.

Starbuck: “I believe it. That’s why I’m so happy.”

Leiter goes jaw dropped when he sees the Galactica for the first time.

The End.

OBSERVATIONS

Adama’s increasing sense of proximity to earth over the last few episodes is completely at odds with the Seraph’s pronouncement in “War of the Gods” that the Galactica would seed many new civilizations. So why does he and everyone else think they’re getting close? It was setting up for this “Terra” arc that we’ve now entered, but I don’t want to let any more slip than that.

I will mention that during the initial run of this show, there was a great deal of debate - never really resolved - as to whether it took place in the present, the future, or the antediluvian past. “The Present” was the odds-on favorite, but both of the other possibilities were official at various points in the development of the series. The writers themselves never seem to have made up their minds.

We’ve heard of “Deep patrols” before, we’re told they’re awful, but we’ve never seen a pilot asleep in his cockpit until now.

The full-size Terran shuttle prop used in this episode is the same one from “Buck Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century.” It’s named the “Avion,” in this outing by the way.

Athena is pretty prominent in this episode, the first time she’s really had a large part since “Fire in Space.” Inexplicably she’s teaching grade school. Again: Character erosion. Why is she now a schoolteacher? Apart from the writers not knowing what to do with her, I don’t know, but if you look closely in the bridge scenes, she’s at her normal station there as well. Perhaps she’s working a second job to get extra cash? Maybe there’s just a shortage of teachers and everyone is pitching in? By the way: the school is *on* the Galactica, and there’s at least 16-20 other kids in there with Boxey. This is the first we’ve heard overtly about other dependents living on the ship, though it was kinda‘ sorta‘ not-quite implied in “War of the Gods.” Makes sense, of course. This is the first we’ve seen of Boxey since “War of the Gods,” by the way. Muffet isn’t in this ep at all.

Boxey says “Frack” in class, and Athena just smiles at him. Uhm…old Galactica or new, it’s pretty clear that’s a bad word. It is, by the way, the first time anyone’s said “Frack” in quite a while, at least four or five episodes. I’m assuming the network probably complained about it sounding too much like F-bomb, so they let it slide, and are slipping it back in here with a kid saying it to make it appear more mild. Athena’s got different boots, by the way. Yes, I was looking at her legs. Wouldn’t you?

In the first scene on the Avion, Dr. Salik mispronounces Starbuck’s name as “Strawbuck.”

Jolly is identified as a Lieutenant in this ep. Previously he’s been a mere Flight Sergeant. I don’t think that’s a continuity error, though: They’ve really been burning through the pilots, so it follows he’d get a promotion.

After “Murder on the Rising Star,” it’s nice to see Boomer back in fine form here. He’s smart, resourceful, quick, and he ain’t holding nobody’s coat. Tigh, meanwhile, is a little slow on the draw, and clearly doesn’t understand Starbuck’s scheme until it’s explained to him. Again, I’ve got to praise this show for allowing different black characters to have different personalities and abilities. It seems obvious now, but it was kinda’ new at the time.

The “Also staring” music after the opening credits goes on much longer than usual this time out. There’s also an ironic use of the Cylon theme when the Council tries to throw its weight around.

Is it just me, or is there a serious “Lost in Space” vibe going on here? A ship with two parents and kids frozen in tubes? En rout to a colony world? At sublight speeds? And there’s robots on the other end. And one of the girls looks a lot like Angela Cartwright? All we’re really missing is Major West and Dr. Smith.

Given that we’ve seen voice-activated AI and autopilot technology several times in the series - just last week, in fact - it seems a little odd that Cassie and Apollo are so confused when the Avion’s flight computer starts talking to the Paradine flight computer. Dialog in this scene implies everything from the ship’s interception by Apollo to it’s release took twenty hours. Dialog elsewhere implies it’s been nearly a week since they got off the Galactica again. Wow! They must have a food/water supply and a toilet under the seat in those Vipers!

It’s odd when Starbuck refers to a planet as a “land mass,” but of course he’s been in the saddle for six days at that point, so perhaps he’s just a bit muddled.

Wilker as a jackass is surprising. He’s always been so nice before, going out of his way to help Apollo and Boxey in “Saga of a Star World.” This is his penultimate appearance in the series, and Dr. Salik‘s final appearance as well. had the show made it to a second season, neither of them would have returned. We’ll talk more about that later.

All the concern about decontamination was a nice touch. I also like that Cassie was genuinely rattled by all the drama and skullduggery going on.

I think “Paradeen” is a variation on “Paradigm.” This is consistent with the show’s tradition of deliberately mispronouncing words as place names. “Sector” as “Planet Sek-tar” and “Gamma Ray” as “Planet Gamorray,” and “Artic” for “Planet Arcta” and so on.

Leiter is played by Lloyd Bochner, one of my all-time favorite character actors, with a lot of genre credits including, most notably, the “To Serve Man” episode of the Twilight Zone. He’s German, with a slight accent that makes him interesting or ominous, as the role calls for. The Alliance goons all have German names. Their destroyer is obviously supposed to be the space faring counterpart of a U-Boat, and I think we’re supposed to believe it’s about the same size, though this is never really said.

Hector is played by Bobby Van, an old-timey Broadway song-and-dance man. He died just over two years later. This was his fourth-to-the-last screen appearance. Vector is played by Ray Bolgers, also an old-timey song-and-dance man, best known for playing the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz.” Check out Ray Bolger’s eyes: they’re beet red. Clearly he’s not reacting well to the makeup. Of course you’ve got two musical comedy Broadway hoofers on the show, you can’t let it go without throwing in a musical number, right? Lyrics:

We’re farmland inspectors, we’re homestead protectors
We see that things run here much beterer
If you think he looks punk it’s because he is junk
I made from spare parts and et cetera
He’s old and he’s rusty, his brain has gone crusty
He’s often been caught in the rain
Though my voice is quite squeaky and he calls my joints creaky
I love the dear lad just the same.

Randolph Mantooth, best know from “Emergency” is Michael. He’s pretty uncomfortable and awkward here, both in acting and in body language. I think that space suit was probably a bit tight in the crotch. He looks in pain several times when he has to sit down. One of the little girls is Gillian Greene, Lorne’s daughter.

The “Paradeen City” sequence was filmed in the semi-abandoned ruins of the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal, Canada. It was the first fair built with an eye towards permanent structures for later occupation, and while the amusement park section and the apartment complex have been in constant use, the rest of the area had sat more-or-less idle for eleven years by the time this was filmed. This was an amazingly inspired use of an actual location, and it looks stunning. We’re told in the script that the city had been Neutron-bombed several years before, killing most of the inhabitants of the planet, and since then the ruins had gone to seed. Indeed, as Starbuck and Hector walk around the place, we can see the dilapidated state of these futuristic buildings, trees and weeds growing through the staircases, dust everywhere, endless hallways obviously designed to handle thousands of people going to rust. It’s an eye-popping sequence. My only complaint about it is that it’s too short, and somewhat discrete and disconnected from the rest of the episode. They flew Bobby Van and Dirk Benedict to Canada and hired a second unit team to shoot this sequence, and they just didn’t have time or money to integrate them into the episode better. Stock footage from this sequence will show up later as establishing shots on Terra, and more notably as locations in New Chicago from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Every external shot of Buck’s apartment building came from this sequence.

Just a few months after this was filmed (in the early fall of ‘78), a large portion of the fairgrounds burned down. That winter, Robert Altman was filming his futuristic ice age movie, “Quintet,” and included several scenes of Paul Newman poking around the burned out ruins of a futuristic city in the snow. That was the remains of the park.

The logo Michael et al wear on their space suits is obviously a variation on the UN logo. It’s UN-blue with laurel leaves superimposed against a stylized globe with a white bird in flight over the center of it.

Dialog implies that Terran technology can only travel at the speed of light or slower. If everyone is traveling as fast as they can in this episode, then Paradeen is about one light-month away from Lunar 7, and about two light-months away from Terra. That’s pretty close for stars! It’s implied that FTL communications are available, but require planet-based transmitters.

Some nice ellipsis: It’s never specifically said, but Mrs. Moreland lost her kids in the bombing of the city. Later, when Sarah asks Leiter how many kids died in the bombing, Leiter gets stiff and says “I wasn’t the one who bombed it.” Neat, subtle performance: he probably would have bombed it had he been ordered to, but he’s glad he didn’t.

Why was Cassie assigned to Michael? If I had to guess, I’d assume it was just to keep her involved in the script. She’s a fifth wheel when she gets there, and even says it. Beyond that, I think Apollo was maybe trying to make Sarah jealous. It seems unlikely he wanted her to pump (eh-hem) him for information since they’d already reached an understanding by that point.

“Congratulations, you’ve just traded six lives for six thousand!” Huh? What? There’s only six thousand people in the fleet? That comes out to less than thirty people per ship! That’s ludicrous! And never mentioned again. Earlier in the series, it was implied that there were hundreds of thousands of refugees, maybe more. They were clearly overcrowded.

Two vipers abandoned in this ep. No point in keeping count anymore, but these are the first ones we’ve lost since “The Living Legend.”

The bar scene is interesting in that Apollo and Starbuck kind of change personality. I’m told that Richard Hatch felt marginalized by all the attention Dirk was getting at this point in the show’s run, so Dirk decided to just trade some of his lines with him. There was a quick rewrite and there you go.

The History of Terra: There were many nations, but it came down to just two: The Western Nationalists and the Eastern Alliance, who are obviously Germano/Soviet. They’re at war, with the Alliance picking off the Nationalists’ colonies one-by-one to starve the enemy out. Interestingly, though the Nationalists are the good guys, they’re not portrayed as golden. They’re actually described as “Very oppressive.”

Of course this episode serves to introduce the Terra Arc that will run through the next couple episodes, but there’s a less obvious purpose: this was a backdoor pilot. Glenn Larson was trying to pitch a frontier-on-an-alien-world show, but there wasn’t much interest. He decided to use an episode of Galactica as a pilot episode, just as proof of concept, sure that the networks would snatch it up. They didn’t. Presumably the whole “Terra” thing was more world building for this series. Once you realize it was a backdoor pilot, it’s pretty apparent. The Paradeen sets are pretty massive and lavish. The backstory is way more intense than you’d expect.

I don’t know too much about the prospective series beyond that, not even the title. I call it “Little House on the Planet.”

COLONIALISMS:

- “Terra” is Gemonese for Earth. A lot of people have claimed this means they spoke Latin on Geminon, but that’s actually the only other language we’ve heard spoken in the series (Back in “Saga of a Star World”) and it clearly wasn’t even close (“Inkay Minkay Nomu Pomu” etc)

- It’s hard to tell if Boomer says “Gaul-monging snit rag” or “Gaul monging snit-rat,” but I think it’s the former. Either way, from context, it’s a hell of a personal insult. I’ll give you one guess what “Snit” means.

- “Bureauitician” - Politician, said derisively. Actually, it’s a pretty clever portmanteau of “Bureaucrat” and “Politician.” I think I’ll steal it. This is actually the second time we’ve heard it. The first was way back in “Saga of a Star World” when a guy on the Gemini Freighter was complaining to Apollo about the rich people on the Rising Star.

- “Meal Period” - Lunch

SPECIAL BONUS TERRANISMS

- “Technocrat” - technician
- “Javan” - Coffee

DELETED SCENES:

- A slightly longer scene of Adama telling the fleet not to get their hopes up

- A scene where Adama, Apollo, and Starbuck discuss the eastern alliance on a shuttle after the capture. No idea where this would’ve gone in the episode, it just doesn’t fit.

- A slightly extended scene where Starbuck and Apollo first discover the Avion and debate if it’s gonna’ shoot at ‘em.

- Tigh warning Adama that setting the Avion free means “The council will boil you alive.” Adama says that the ship may have been in flight for a thousand years for all they know. He’s sending his own son on a mission he may never return from. Compared to that, who cares what the council does? Tigh affectionately shows support. It’s a good scene.

- An extended, rambly, awful info-dump sequence where Adama explains way more than he could possibly know about Terra’s history and agrinomics to Boxey. They were wise to cut this one.

- A scene where Michael explains Hector and Vector are not robots, but used for construction before planets become habitable.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Yeah, I think so. All this retro-future cold war posturing is nostalgic, and the story’s pretty fun.

Tags: