Battlestar: Galactica Vault: The Complete History Of The Series, 1978-2012 by Paul Ruditis (book review).

December 12, 2014 | By | Reply More

In its time, the original ‘Battlestar: Galactica’ was one of the more popular and successful TV Science Fiction shows, earning its place in the hearts of the youngsters who watched it. Some thirty years later, the show was reinvented, firstly as a mini-series and then into a four-season series that finally showed the full story of the rag-tag fugitive fleet from the fall of the Colonies through to its arrival on Earth. The story was then expanded in a new direction, through a short-lived prequel series called ‘Caprica’, as well as a number of television movies that threw sidelights on various aspects of the saga that hadn’t yet been fully fleshed out.

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Indeed, the word ‘saga’ is often used to describe Science Fiction franchises and, arguably, it’s overused in most of those cases but author Paul Ruditis clearly believes that ‘Battlestar: Galactica’ always had a bigger story inside it than was ever properly shown in the television shows. What the ‘Battlestar: Galactica Vault’ attempts to do is reveal a lot more of the background to the shows, not just in the usual behind-the-scenes, making-of sense, but also the mythology upon which the show was based. There’s quite a lot of material in the book that expands on the show’s core myths, explaining where they came from and how they were turned into sets, scenes and dialogue.

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For example, the idea that the Earth was visited by beings from space was a popular one in the late 60s-early 70s, most notably thanks to Erich Von Daniken’s immensely readable, if scientifically debatable, book ‘Chariots Of The Gods?’. The opening credits to the original ‘Battlestar: Galactica’ series couldn’t have been bolder in making the connection thanks to a voiceover (courtesy of Patrick Macnee) that asserted that there are those on Earth who believe that the ancient civilisations of the Egyptians, Toltecs and Mayans were founded by tribes of humans who had come from other worlds.

Ruditis expands on this in the ‘Battlestar: Galactica Vault’, showing the influence of Von Daniken on the development of the original series as well as how producer Glen Larson borrowed ideas and words from his own Mormon faith as well as Judaeo-Christian ideas of God, exodus and deliverance from evil generally. In many ways, this became even more explicit in the re-imagined series. ‘Vault’ reveals how the producer of the news series, Ron Moore, found the lack of religion in the ‘Star Trek’ franchise, where he had worked extensively before, frustrating and limiting. So he worked with designers and writers to create religious buildings, activities and dialogue. Many of the sets used in the series are religious buildings of one sort or another and the set builders drew heavily on familiar buildings such as Greek temples to immediately evoke specific ideas and impressions.

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But ‘Vault’ isn’t all about the background of the shows, far from it in fact. A large part of the book concerns the actual realisation of the show, including the sets and models, the music, the scripts, the costumes and, of course, the cast. The original series was pretty much solidly filmed around sets and models, with only things like laser blasts and explosions created as special effects. This sort of filmmaking is labour intensive and ‘Vault’ lifts the lid on some of the tricks they used to create the required illusions.

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Perhaps the niftiest was the ‘daggit’, the robot dog that featured in many episodes of the original series, which was in fact a chimpanzee inside a costume! But there are lots of other revelations in the book, including some ‘Viper’ space fighter development sketches and lots of information on how designer Andrew Probert came up with the Cylons, originally envisioned as a reptilian, not mechanical, race.

Alongside the text, ‘Battlestar: Galactica Vault’ is richly illustrated with lots of stuff that fans of the show won’t have ever seen before. It’s always debatable how much ‘in universe’ material justifies books of this type given the huge amount of fan-written speculation available for free on the Internet but, for all that, the way this book is presented will make it popular with fans of the show.

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The hardback binding with a magnetic catch is attractive and the portrait page format allows the artwork to spread out more freely, especially where spaceship designs and set photographs are concerned. Pockets in each of the two covers contain various additional documents including Cylon development sketches, Colonial currency replicas, star maps with annotations, and photos of the ‘rag tag fugitive fleet’ miniatures.

At £20 this isn’t a cheap book, but the production standards are high and there’s a lot of very readable material here. The quality of the images shown is also excellent, with a good balance of material taken from the original series and the two re-imagined series, though perhaps understandably, ‘Galactica 1980’ doesn’t make too many appearances in the ‘Vault’, in keeping with the general fan impression that this spin-off series is best forgotten. In short, as a piece of licensed merchandise this book is rich, interesting and recommended.

Neale Monks

December 2014

(pub: Aurum Press. 176 page illustrated hardback. Price £20.oo (UK).  ISBN: 978—1-78131-335-0)

check out website: www.aurumpress.com

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Category: Books, Scifi, TV

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