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Salient. Newspaper of the Victoria University Students' Association. Vol 42 No. 8. April 23 1979

In the Beginning

In the Beginning

And so to George Lucas and Star Wars, from whence springs Battlestar Galactica. Lucas, you'll remember, really made his name with American Graffiti, probably the best film I've mentioned so far. And while everyone else milked the trend and started manufacturing 50's nostalgia. George kept his his mind busy with space fantasy.

The phenomenon of Star Wars really gave the industry a shakedown, and all the studios got imitation space epics under way.

Films so dependent os special effects, however, take time to make. Hence the delay between Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica, the first of this 'second generation' to reach the public.

It was made by an American TV network, ABC, as a series of hour-long episodes with a first instalment of movie length, this 'introductory' episode being released throughout the rest of the world as a feature film.

Let it be said right now that Star Wars is a very good film, a paragon of its type. Sure, George Lucas wanted to turn a profit, but be also wanted to revive some of the legends of his childhood and give the kids of today a film they could enjoy, and a film free of the condescension that characterises so many. He has himself said that he hoped his film would stimulate lots of imitations so that there'd be lots more of this sort of entertainment around.

Call me naive, but I believe him.

The powers behind Battlestar, on the other hand, seem to have been only interested in winning the network ratings war, and making lots of lovely extra moola by international syndication.

And they really thought they had a winner. First and foremost they had John Dykstra, who did the effects for Star Wars (even unto developing the innovatory camera-computer link-up christened the Dykstraflex.) The effects he's done for Battlestar Galactica, the space battles, are good most of the time, but not all. Some (explosions particularly) are unsatisfactory, and there's an overall sense of a job done in a hurry — like to beat everyone else to the market.

The same shots are used repeatedly (something I'd hoped to have seen the last of in Thunderbirds), sometimes with the film reversed, sometimes with a different background matted in. There are two major space battles in Battlestar Galacitica, one at the beginning and one (of course) at the end. But because of the amount of repeated footage, and the use of the same setting and combatants, there is no build-up of excitement such as Lucas achieved in Star Wars.

Rather, the excitement diminishes. I got bored.

The other ploy used by Battlestar's producers to grab the Star Wars audience (hopefully hungry for more of the same) is the copying of most of the elements found in the earlier film: youthful protagonists, wise patriarchal figure, menacing figure of evil served by metallic stormtrooper guards and ensconced in a terrible space fortress capable of destroying whole [unclear: phiets], etc. etc. And most of all, the cute robot. As heir to R2D2, here we have Muffy the mechanical daggit. Say no more.