REVIEW: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA RETRO-STYLE COMMANDER ADAMA
"There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the Universe with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians... or the Toltecs... or the Mayans... that they may have been the architects of the Great Pyramids... or the lost civilizations of Lemuria... or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive--somewhere beyond the heavens!"
With these words, followed by a majestic orchestral score, the TV series BATTLESTAR GALACTICA took to the airwaves in 1978, commencing with a three-hour movie on the ABC Network.
Science-fiction, up until recently, had not had an easy time of it in either the movie theaters or on television. There had been Star Trek, of course, in the 1960's, and the movie theaters had played host to the Planet of the Apes series of movies, which had led to an unfortunately short-lived live-action television series in 1974. There had been Stanley Kubrick's confusing "2001: A Space Odyssey" in 1968, and 1976 had seen a movie called "Logan's Run", which purported a future world governed by a computer system in which everyone had to report for euthanasia at age 30.
But then along came Star Wars in 1977, and everything changed. Suddenly, high-quality science-fiction and space fantasy was seen as an abundantly popular, and certainly profitable and marketable format. And it continues to be so to this day. The list of movies and television programs that have benefited from the ongoing popularity of science-fiction would be preposterously too long to even begin to list here.
One of the first to take advantage of the new popularity of the genre was Battlestar Galactica, and it was no accident that the superb special effects for the time were developed by one John Dykstra, who had worked on Star Wars.
In the series premiere, we were introduced to the twelve colonies, twelve planets inhabited by a human race indistinguishable from our own. They had long developed advanced space travel, and were certainly technologically superior to us. They had also been at war, for centuries, with a race of sentient robots known as Cylons.
Allegedly, a peace had been brokered between the Colonies and the Cylon Empire. On the evening of the signing of that declaration of peace, however, the truth was revealed. It had been a feint, orchestrated by a human traitor named Baltar. The colonies were attacked and devastated, as was the Colonial Fleet, a vast armada of huge spacecraft, essentially spaceborne aircraft carriers called Battlestars, that carried squadrons of fighter craft known as Vipers.
At the end of the assault, the Twelve Colonies were in flames, the human race was nearly extinct, and there was only one surviving Battlestar, the Galactica. Its commanding officer, Commander Adama, made a grave decision. He assembled a fleet of any spaceworthy vessels, populated by the survivors of humanity. They would leave the ruined colonies behind, and set out across space in an effort to find a legendary 13th tribe, a 13th Colony of man, which inhabited a planet known as -- Earth.
The series lasted one season, producing 24 episodes, including a number of two-part adventures. The special effects, despite using a fair amount of stock footage, were top-notch for the time. The stories, with a few exceptions, were superbly written, with an emphasis on the urgency of their mission and no shortage of action.
Unfortunately, the show was just too expensive for the network, and between this and no small amount of mishandling and poor scheduling by the network, the plug was pulled. There were protests outside the network's headquarters, but to no avail.
Battlestar Galactica was briefly revived in a sequel series called "Galactica 1980", in which the Galactica did find Earth, in our present day (at the time), only to discover that Earth was not the shining technological marvel it was hoped it would be. Instead, the Galactica found itself in the unenviable position of having to covertly protect the planet from the Cylons, even as its people did what they could to bring the planet up to speed.
Unfortunately, for the most part, the series was dreadful. It had to be produced on a much cheaper budget, most of the original cast was gone, and for whatever poor reason, the network dictated that the level of "violence" had to be curtailed, and replaced by "educational content". The highlight of the series was the return of the popular character Lt. Starbuck, who would have appeared a second time if the show hadn't been, perhaps mercifully, brought down after a meager ten episodes.
In more recent years, a new Battlestar Galactica cropped up, developed by former Star Trek veteran Ron Moore. Unfortunately, this new Galactica, despite obviously superior special effects, just as a result of advancements in the field, reportedly decided to rely on political intrigue and social commentary over a decent level of action. I heard nothing good about it from anyone who was a fan of the original. I've never seen it, I have no desire to, and it will be ignored here.
The original Battlestar Galactica did inspire a toy line. Now, in the 1970's, the major player in the action figure world was Mego -- period. Since the early part of the decade, they had produced numerous series of 8", cloth-costumed action figures based on a wide range of concepts. Their basic design was simple, and yet it made perfect sense. They developed a basic body design that could be produced in any color needed. There was a hole in the top of the torso that any head could be easily snapped into, and the final figure could be dressed as needed. Mego had the licenses to DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Wizard of Oz, and a great many other concepts. About the only popular show of the time that they didn't have was The Six Million Dollar Man, which went to Kenner.
But in 1977, Mego missed out on Star Wars, which also went to Kenner. This was, at the very least, part of Mego's eventual downfall.
Another concept they passed on was Battlestar Galactica. It went to Mattel. In the 1970's, Mattel wasn't exactly known for action figures. They'd had exactly two hits in this area -- Major Matt Mason in the 1960's, and Big Jim in the 1970's. Masters of the Universe was still several years away. Their Galactica figures were -- not terribly inspired. Their best one was of Muffit, the robot dog (or "daggit" in Galactica-speak), which in the series was actually a chimpanzee -- one assumes an exceptionally well-trained and tolerant one -- in a robot dog suit. Their Cylons weren't bad, and at least featured a cool chrome finish. Their humans were not terribly well detailed, and certainly not very well painted. No facial features whatsoever were painted onto these 3-3/4" scale figures.
I still have my daggit, and it's about the only Galactica toy of the time that I bought. One sort of wonders what would have happened if Mego had picked up the Galactica license.
Wonder no more! A company with the rather unusual name of "BifBangPow", in conjunction with EmCe Toys, a company dedicated to bring back the Mego-style action figures as precisely as possible (and having done a generally superb job of this with their Star Trek and Planet of the Apes lines), has produced a series of 8" tall, cloth-costumed, Mego-type action figures based on the original Battlestar Galactica!
This review will take a look at the figure of COMMANDER ADAMA. Adama is the commander of the Battlestar Galactica, commander of the refugee fleet, and military commander of the evacuees of the Twelve Colonies. He is also the spiritual leader of the surviving Colonists, leading the quest for Earth. As such, Adama is central to the story arc of the series, and in some ways the saga revolves around him.
He has a daughter Athena and son Apollo who feature in the series. His wife, Ila, and his younger son, Zac, were both killed in the Cylon attack on the Twelve Colonies.
Adama is a native of the planet Caprica, which is where he graduated from the military academy of "The Colonial Service." Early in his career Adama was involved in a parapsychological research project at the Colonial Military Institute. He flew with his executive officer Colonel Tigh in their younger days, and later served with Commander Kronus aboard the Battlestar Rycon.
As well as being a career military officer, Commander Adama is also a member of the Council Of The Twelve, the governing body of the Colonies. He was as much a politician as a military commander; evidently, the Colonial Service Academy offered courses in political science and diplomacy as well as military training.
From the start, Adama was mistrustful of the Cylons at the time of the Peace Conference to end the Thousand Yahren War. He was the only battlestar commander to keep his ship on battle-stations drill, and as a result, the Galactica was the only battlestar to survive the Cylon sneak attack. (Another battlestar, the Pegasus, was later discovered to have survived, and to have raided Cylon outposts for a year after the destruction of the colonies.) Despite the destruction and great personal loss, Adama was able to organize the survivors in an escape from the Cylons and lead them on the search for Earth.
Adama is a fair and beloved leader, with almost unquestioned authority. He is a deeply religious man, and his visit to the planet Kobol and the Fleet's encounter with the Ship of Lights strengthened his belief that someday Earth would be found.
In the episode "War Of The Gods," it is revealed that Adama has been trained in telekinesis as part of a military parapsychology study. In this episode, Count Iblis can read minds, so Adama also mentions that he has received training in clouding his mind with other thoughts, suggesting that he was involved in experiments in telepathic communication. However, there is no further reference to this in the remainder of the series.
Adama was one of the few Galactica crew members to reappear in the sequel series Galactica 1980. His appearance was much the same as in the original miniseries with the addition of a full beard.
Adama was played by actor Lorne Greene, who up until that point was best known for his role as the head of the Cartwright household in the long-running Western TV series "Bonanza".
So, how's the figure? Spectacular. Wish these had existed in the 1970's. Of course, given how few of my toys from the 1970's have survived to the present day (I still have my Mego Superman, though), perhaps it's just as well.
BifBangPow has licensed the body design of the Mego-type action figures from EmCe Toys. They also made one improvement on it -- they added an upper arm swivel. Beyond this, as far as I can determine, the body design is very nearly identical. And no, I don't intend to undress the figure to find out. There's some things that just don't seem quite right.
The design is certainly closer than Mattel's Retro-Action DC Super-Heroes. I have no argument with that line, and it was certainly cool to finally have figures of quite a few characters that Mego never made, but I do wish the design had been a little closer. BifBangPow got a lot closer, by working with the company that brought back the design.
The headsculpt is an excellent likeness of the character. It can't have been easy to get Lorne Greene's deepset eyes and rather heavy eyebrows onto an action figure, and still have it look as though this could have been a product of the 1970's, but the company did a really good job of it. The heads of the figures in this Galactica line are perhaps a little large for their own good, but not egregiously so. It works, if again, you keep in mind that these figures are supposed to have a sort of retro feel to them.
Commander Adama is elegantly outfitted. As befitting his position, Adama customarily wore a dark blue uniform with a long dark blue coat and a cape. There was no shortage of ornamental silver braid on this uniform, and Adama also had a necklace which included an emblem that was ultimately used to unlock a secret chamber beneath a pyramid on the planet Kobol that offered clues as to the location of Earth.
All of these elements have been produced superbly well on the figure. The entire uniform is some sort of dark blue, velvet-like fabric that definitely gives a commanding, even regal presence to the figure. The basic uniform, the coat, and the cape are all separate components. The cape has a very impressive white liner that almost shimmers. The emblem on the necklace has been reproduced by a small toy gemstone, not a bad choice at all, really, and it looks great on the figure.
The uniform also includes a plastic belt, and plastic boots, with folded down cuffs. The silver braid on the figure is bright and very effective, especially around the edges of the coat and cape. In all honesty, this figure is outfitted much more impressively than I think Mego would have managed in the 1970's, but still has enough of a retro "feel" to it that it could still fit in that era.
Adama doesn't come with much in the way of accessories. In fact, the only thing he does come with is a small silver plastic item that I originally thought was some sort of goblet. Adama was definitely one for hosting the occasional fancy dinner and making toasts. But after further inspection, I believe it is a microphone, of the type that Adama used to record his official journals into his computer in his quarters. He was frequently seen doing this in the series, as well. Really, I'm not sure what other sort of accessory you could have given him. He wasn't in the habit of jumping into a fighter himself.
Of course, the figure is superbly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles, although the ankles are a bit hindered by the boots.
Painted detail on the head is excellent. My one and only criticism, and it barely qualifies as that, is that the skin tone of these figures is a little on the pale side, relative to, say, the Star Trek Megos from EmCe Toys, or even the original Megos as such. But it's still an acceptable skin tone in and of itself. It's just that relative to other Mego-esque figures, it doesn't quite blend.
So, what's my final word? I wish the original Battlestar Galactica had fared better, or been treated better. I have no use for the more recent series. Richard Hatch, the actor who played Captain Apollo, produced a short film some years ago to try to reignite interest, but as a series, it didn't pan out, and he'd written into the story that Adama was dead (perhaps as a result of actor Lorne Greene's passing in 1987), and his character was now in charge. He's written a series of novels from this premise as well. Personally, I'd think Adama would be horribly missed. There's also vague word of a new movie that would somehow work well with either the original Galactica or the modern series. I can't quite see that, myself.
But, there is still the original series, which has been released on DVD, and now, there's some truly awesome action figures based upon it. If you're a fan of the original Battlestar Galactica, and as such, you really need to have Commander Adama, then you definitely need to check out these action figures. You won't be disappointed.
The BATTLESTAR GALACTICA figure of COMMANDER ADAMA from BifBangPow definitely has my highest recommendation!
And I think that somewhere out there, and to quote Commander Adama -- Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny, the last Battlestar, Galactica, leads a rag-tag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest...a shining planet known as Earth!