Friday, July 7, 2017

The Origins Of The Cylons


After the cancellation of the original Battlestar Galactica, Universal re-edited the episodes into two-hour movies and offered them to independent stations as a syndication package.

At least one of these, the "Experiment In Terra" telefilm, included a prologue that showed American astronauts discovering the Battlestar Galactica's log book floating in space. Within it, Adama details the origins of the Cylon race as reptilians who were ultimately conquered by their own cybernetic creations.

Since those telefilms were not released on home video, nor aired anywhere that I ever lived, I never saw this footage until today. Check it out!

21 comments:

  1. I remember watching the two hour episode in the early 80's. The Living Legend edit is available from the U.K. on DVD. The Galactica 1980 version was on VHS in the 80's as well. Until DVD, they were my memories of most of the stories. I had some taped off air, but threw all my tapes away years ago. Live and learn.

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  2. I saw this when the telemovie came out. Yes, it was a new piece, which took place in the beginning after the opening credits for the film. Then it went to an edited version of the "Galactica 1980" episode, "The Return of Starbuck “ (showing only Cy's and Starbuck's part, erasing Angela and the baby storyline). As soon as that was done, the "BG" episode "Experiment In Terra" followed.

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  3. Hi, my TV show "Sidewalks Entertainment" did some recent interviews with "Batllestar Galactica" stars: Dirk Benedict, Anne Lockhart, Jack Stauffer and Sarah Rush. I thought you readers would find these interesting.
    http://www.sidewalkstv.com/special-feature-stars-of-battlestar-galactica/

    I couldn't find an email address for you -- here or your profile. I'm glad you are back; I have enjoyed your site. -- Richard

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  4. Wow, what a find! Thanks for sharing!

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  5. I'd heard the Cylons were based on a reptilian race, but never knew there was an actual clip to back it up! And that artwork -- what ever happened to it?

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  6. Was there a comic book or novel that portrayed the Cylon Centurions not as robots but rather as tiny, weak little living creatures in exoskeleton shells? I have a very vague memory of that from when I was a little kid... It's very possible that I'm getting Battlestar Galactica mixed up with some other 70's-early 80's space opera with metallic baddies.

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  7. I find it amusing the artifact was a book, in englsih, with large easy to read letters.
    I recall seeing some of these tele-movies on latenight TV or middays on the weekends now and again.

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  8. I saw one of the BG telefilms while staying over at a friend's house sometime in early 1981. My recollection has always been that what we watched was edited together from the first half of "Saga of a Star World" (up to when the rag tag fleet begins the journey to Earth) and the second half of "Lost Planet of the Gods" (picking up where the colonials arrive at Kobol). I never have been able to confirm the existence of this weird hybrid version, so I've always assumed it was compiled exclusively by the station that aired it.

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  9. Thanks for sharing that rare bit of history. That was painfully bad to watch though. ;)

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  10. reptilian stuff mentioned early i think when colonial fleet off to talk peace - i had heard the reptilian thing before seeing this

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    1. Yeah that's right, the reptilian origin of the Cylons is mentioned in the extended broadcast version of "Saga of a Star World". (Also in the novelization, if I recall).

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  11. I always assumed one of the reasons that the Imperious Leader was kept 'in shadow' in the pilot - and all but dropped in the weekly series - was because having a lizard leader suddenly didn't fit with the idea that they were a race of robots. The explanation given in the series never really made that much sense.

    The switch from mini-series (IE three TV movies with the option of more to follow) to full weekly series also changed the dynamic of the show. I assume Larson and the writers felt that they needed to do more with the Cylons in the new format and decided to retain Baltar and add Lucifer. Giving IL and Gold Commander nothing much to do.

    Of course, the real-world reason for the change was that ABC Standards and Practices suddenly got very nervous about the potential high deathtoll on the show if the Colonials were busy zapping living beings each episode. But no such problems about zapping machines. Hence the last-minute switch.

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    1. I think the Imperious Leader was indeed originally supposed to represent what a true unaltered (non-cybernetically enhanced) Cylon looks like. In Andy Probert's original production drawings, the helmets worn by the Centurions actually concealed lizardlike creatures similar in appearance to the Leader, and that the eye scanner was intended to enhance their poor vision. Of course, the network's decision to pick up the series changed all this, and so the IL ultimately became a cybernetic replica of a (now-extinct) living Cylon.

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    2. I also thought the introduction of Lucifer took all the attention that would otherwise have gone into the IL character. Of course this isn't first time Jonathon Harris took a minor character and made more out it than most thought possible. Pure speculation on my part- but what the heck. I'm a Star Kid.

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  12. If I remember the novel correctly it did refer to the Cylons as cyborgs- the brains of reptilian aliens in robotic bodies.

    There was an old website (no longer around sadly) that claimed Larson's original concept of the Cylons was as a reptilian race that was totally logical- like Trek's Vulcans. They considered humans to be dangerously emotional, violent, and unstable and attacked to bring the Colonies under Cylon control for our own good.

    As Slow Robot above said the network censors when told that the series would feature Cylons getting popped off like Storm Troopers told Larson, nope, no way, no how are we allowing that level of violence (funny since Star Wars was G rated!). So Larson decided to make them cyborgs- organic brains in robotic bodies- the censors still wouldn't allow it so they ended up becoming robots. The Imperious Leader was supposed to be the only Cylon that was built to resemble their creators, the rest designed along human appearance since humanity was a more versatile body design.

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    1. The whole we-made-the-Imperious-Leader-to-look-like-our-long-lost-creators thing really didn't make much sense. Larson could have just said 'there is a secret planet of living Cylons, controlling the robots, out there somewhere and no human has ever seen it' and then pushed it way into the background as part of the mythology of the show. That would have been a better explanation as to why the Leader quite clearly wasn't a robot... and had a pet lizard.

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    2. Or if the show had went past the first season I would have loved to have seen pop up as a surprise plot revelation. That would make an awesome fanfic story!

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  13. My question is, if the Cylons were machines...why did they need padded seats to fly a fighter?

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  14. they seem to have used some of the pre-production art so perhaps that was in fact the original concept.

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  15. TV did that a lot with series. I watched them all for the new footage but I also thought the patch jobs were often made from mismatched episodes. Didn't stop me from enjoying them then and doesn't now. Most of these telefilms were cringeworthy by today's standards but if you need some two hour TV movies to produce cheaply ...
    btw- did anyone ever figure out what that thing on the IL's shoulder in the pilot was? A robotic "miniature" reptilian type cylon is the best I can come up with akin to Jabba's companion or the mechanical bird from "Clash Of The Titans" - a prop for some idea in an early script that was never further devoted in subsequent revisions perhaps?

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  16. The telemovies also had some curious voice-over work to connect the episodes. Particularly Captain Apollo- it was hard to tell if it was a voice-over actor, or a very mellow Richard Hatch.

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