This week’s installment of my look back at Battlestar Galactica features the two-parter, The Gun On Ice Planet Zero written by Bellisario, Michael Sloan and Leslie Stevens, from a story idea by John Ireland, Jr. The first episode aired on October 22, 1978, with its conclusion airing the following week on the 29th.
The fleet appears to be in trouble as Baltar’s (John Colicos) cylon forces are driving the Galactica and its followers towards a cylon-controlled planet. A planet that is armed with a devastating pulse weapon. Two vipers are blasted out of the sky, a third is forced to land, its pilot captured, and a rescue and assault team is formed with Apollo (Richard Hatch), Starbuck (Dirk Benedict), Boomer (Herbert Jefferson, Jr.), and a bunch of convicts.
We see that the cylon outpost is manned entirely by cylons, no Lucifer-types, but there is a cylon of a different color. This is the first appearance of the gold, command cylons.
As the fleet is herded by Baltar’s pursuit, the Galactica launches a probe, with Starbuck, Boomer and a bunch of rookie pilots. As they draw nearer the planet, the gun blasts two of the pilots out of the air, which must have been the real reason they were on the mission. Just a couple of red shirts. And the third Cree (Alan Stock) is forced to crash, and despite trying to elude the cylons, is captured.
Starbuck feels responsible for the loss of the pilots, and Cree’s capture. But is unsure what to do
At this point in the episode, I noticed some nice new model work by John Dykstra and his fellow (the viper landing in the snow) which is intercut with the constantly recurring stock footage. It’s not a surprise of course, the series was incredibly expensive to produce in the late 70s, and the effects were ahead of their time, though now they seem a little common place.
Back at the fleet, Adama (Lorne Greene) decides that the weapon is too dangerous to approach from the air and so in Guns of Navarone-style a specialized team is selected, that’s where the convicts come in (each one has specialized training in subzero environments as well as explosives and weapons) to go down to the surface, infiltrate the cylon outpost and take out the weapon.
Starbuck, despite not being qualified for the mission is determined to go, he has to get Cree out if he can. So he sneaks in and reprogams the computer running the selection process, a computer overseen by Bellisario regular Jeff MacKay as tech specialist Komma.
While all this is going on, I noticed two things, Larry Manetti reappears as Giles and more glaringly, Starbuck’s hair changes length a couple of times during the course of the episode.
Preparations begin to leave, and surprise, surprise, Boxey (Noah Hathaway) and the robotic Muffit sneak about the shuttle, while tensions between the colonials and the cons are running high. This is gonna be a fun flight.
It was at this point, as the shuttle is making for the planet with a viper escort, that I felt I finally had to make note of the fact that the phrases on the viper’s hand sticks keep changing from ‘fire’ to ‘stores’ and back again. But no one notices things like that do they?
En route to the planet, a raider tags the shuttle forcing Starbuck to conduct a controlled crash!
While the cylons send out a patrol to hunt the downed shuttle, Cree is tortured via brain probe! This did not sound fun or safe!
Muffit, who is unaffected by the cold, finds a hunting party of humans on the surface who recover the colonials and bring them to their underground hideaway. We learn that they aren’t human… they’re clones. And one series of them looks exactly like Britt Ekland.
Part one ends with Muffit making noise, robotic growling, as a cylon patrol passes by, and Baltar is ordering more basestars to trap the fleet between them and the deadly weapon!
Part two picks up exactly where we left off with the cylon patrol pausing just long enough to give us a moment of worry, but then they move on, and our heroes sneak into the clone encampment with the help of some who had escape from the cylons. It seems these clones are bred merely for slave labor, and despite being designed not to be able to breed, life somehow finds a way. They were designed by the same being who designed the pulsar weapon, an ex-colonial named Ravashol (The Last Starfighter’s Dan O’Herlihy).
When Apollo and the doctor meet they argue about the use of his creations as weapon, though the fact that the clones are used as slaves doesn’t really seem to come up. Priorities I guess.
Meanwhile, in the stars above, Baltar presses his position, driving the fleet onwards towards the planet, and the weapon that will destroy the colonials once and for all!
This seem to be going from bad to worse, when one of the cons, Thane (James Olson) is captured by the cylons, but instead of giving away any information, he uses a hand mine from his coat, and ends up killing himself and his captors.
During the planned attack on the pulsar weapon, the cons plan to escape from the colonials and steal a raider. When Apollo thwarts it, one con, Wolfe (Richard Lynch) flees into a raging snowstorm to disappear from the episode. While the attack progresses, Starbuck ditches his duty, leaving it in Boomer’s hands, while he goes after Cree, which ends up being a fairly easy rescue.
As the fleet is forced closer and closer to the firing corridor of the pulsar, with the basestars closing in, Apollo leads his assault on the weapon, and Starbuck and Ravashol convince the clones that they must destroy the weapon – they had planned to keep it operational for their own protection after the Galactica is away.They decide to help their brothers in the skies above, and the weapon is destroyed at the last possible moment, allowing the Galactica and his wards to escape!
But what about the clones…?
Apollo and the rest rejoin the fleet, and they resume their hunt for the mythical planet Earth.
Next time, I take a look at The Magnificent Warriors and The Young Lords.