REVIEW: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA RETRO-STYLE CAPTAIN APOLLO
"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 composed by Stu Phillips, the TV series BATTLESTAR GALACTICA arrived in 1978, beginning with a three-hour movie on the ABC Network.
Science-fiction, up until that point, 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 films, which had led to an sadly short-lived live-action television series in 1974. There had been Stanley Kubrick's often bizarre "2001: A Space Odyssey" in 1968, and 1976 had seen a movie titled "Logan's Run", which gave us a look at 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 ridiculously 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 even of the signing of that declaration of peace, however, the truth was revealed. It had been a ploy, 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 over time, 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 awful. It had to be produced on a much cheaper budget, most of the original cast was gone, and for some poor reason, the network dictated that the level of "violence" had to be reduced, 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, I consider it a disgrace, 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), and pet of Boxey, a young boy who was adopted by Captain Apollo, one of the lead characters. Mattel's Cylons weren't bad, and at least featured a cool chrome finish. Their humans were -- meh. 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 CAPTAIN APOLLO. Apollo is a Viper spacefighter pilot of the Battlestar Galactica, and the son of Commander Adama. (A diary entry from Adama in one of the novelizations based on the original television series says that he was named for one of Adama's squadron mates from his time aboard the battlestar Cerberus.) His sister is Lieutenant Athena, and his mother was Ila.
Apollo's history has been marred by tragedy. The loss of the Twelve Colonies deprived him of not only his home, but many of his personal relationships. His brother Zac was shot down by a Cylon ambush. Zac's viper was damaged, and Apollo left him behind in order to warn the Galactica of the ambush. His mother Ila was killed in the subsequent Cylon sneak attack. Later on, Apollo married Serina, a reporter-turned-shuttle-pilot who became a reserve Viper pilot. Shortly after their wedding, she was killed by Cylons on Kobol. Apollo then adopted Serina's son, Boxey and became a single father to him.
Towards the end of the series, Apollo becomes romantically involved with Lieutenant Sheba. His best friend is Lieutenant Starbuck.
Apollo is arguably the central character of Battlestar Galactica, as most of the storylines and character relationships revolve around him.
Captain Apollo is the leader of Blue Squadron, an accomplished group of Viper pilots. Among his accomplishments in the series are leading the mission to destroy the Madagon minefield, leading the assault on the pulsar cannon on Arkta, removing the renegade Cylon known as Red Eye, leading the paratroop assault on the Cylon city on Gamoray, leading the resistance against Count Iblis, helping to save Terra from the Eastern Alliance, and sneaking aboard a Cylon baseship to knock out its sensors so the Galactica could destroy it.
Apollo is notable for having died and then been revived. In the episode War of the Gods, a mysterious being called Count Iblis appears before the Fleet, demonstrates unusual powers, and begins to charm the Fleet into demanding him as their leader. Despite the 'miracles' that Iblis produces, Apollo is suspicious of him and refuses to believe in his good intentions. This disbelief persists even in the face of opposition from most of the Fleet. Apollo seeks Adama's permission to examine the planet where Iblis was found, which Adama reluctantly grants. Apollo intends to go alone, but despite not sharing his disbelief, Starbuck insists on accompanying him. After a violent confrontation on the planet where Sheba's life is threatened, Iblis kills Apollo instead. As Sheba and Starbuck head back to the Galactica, they are intercepted by the Beings of Light, who not only revive Apollo, they provide the trio with coordinates to Earth.
Apollo always flies with Starbuck as his wingman. The exception is in the episode Lost Planet of the Gods, where he flies with Serina in her second and last mission as a Viper pilot. Starbuck and Apollo frequently fly with Lieutenant Boomer as a third wingman.
In the series, Apollo was played by actor Richard Hatch. Hatch began working in television in 1970 when he starred as Philip Brent in the daytime soap opera All My Children, a role he played for two years.
For some years, he then made guest appearances in primetime series such as Cannon, Barnaby Jones, Hawaii Five-O, and The Waltons, as well as appearing in several made-for-TV movies such as The Hatfields and The McCoys with Jack Palance, Addie and the Kings of Hearts with Jason Robards, and others.
In 1976, Hatch gained his first major television role as Inspector Dan Robbins on the detective series The Streets of San Francisco, a replacement for Michael Douglas who had left the series that year. Following this, he had a recurring role on the series Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, also for one season.
Hatch then gained his first starring role in Battlestar Galactica, though this too proved to be for only a single season as the series was cancelled in 1979. Hatch was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for the role.
Throughout the 1980s, Hatch made guest appearances on various television series such as Hotel, Murder She Wrote, The Love Boat, and Fantasy Island. In 1984, he appeared in several episodes of the prime time soap opera Dynasty, which was at the top of the ratings at the time.
For many years, Hatch, one of the most vocal supporters of Galactica, attempted to revive Battlestar Galactica. In the 1990s, he began writing novels based on the series, and also wrote, co-directed and executive-produced a trailer called The Second Coming in the hopes of enticing Universal Studios into producing a new series that would have been a direct continuation of the original 1978 series, ignoring the events of the failed spin-off Galactica 1980.
Original actors John Colicos (Baltar), Terry Carter (Col. Tigh) and Jack Stauffer (Bojay) appeared in the trailer along with Hatch himself. Hatch also believed that he could persuade Dirk Benedict to return and play Starbuck.
Although the trailer won acclaim at science-fiction conventions, Universal was not interested in Hatch's vision to revive Battlestar Galactica, and instead opted for a remake rather than the sequel for which Hatch had campaigned. Initially, Hatch was bitterly disappointed by this turn of events and was highly critical of the prospective new series on his web site, although he would later accept a recurring role on the reboot series.
My only gripe with Hatch is that in the novels, he promoted his character to Commander after the death of Commander Adama (which one assumes would have been shown in a sequel TV series as actor Lorne Greene, who played Adama, had passed away in 1987), but it still seemed like a bit of excessive ego, and I will question his decision to appear in the reboot series. Still, I can't fault him for his commitment to Battlestar Galactica as a concept.
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, maybe 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.
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. The hair is especially well-detailed. Both Apollo and Starbuck were a little on the shaggy side. It was the 1970's, and apparently the Colonial Fleet didn't have much in the way of hair length regulations. About the only criticism I would have of the Apollo headsculpt is the mouth looks a little small, but that's a negligible point.
Additionally, in general, the heads of the figures in this Galactica line are perhaps a little large for their own good, but not horrifically so. It works, if again, you keep in mind that these figures are supposed to have a sort of retro feel to them.
Captain Apollo is outfitted like all of the Viper pilots in the series were, and there's definitely a sort of "futuristic fighter pilot" feel to his uniform. He is wearing a tan shirt and trousers, with a black belt that includes a holster strapped to the left leg, that includes one of the laser pistols used in the show. I remember at one point I was at Universal Studios, that had a Battlestar Galactica segment as part of its tram tour, and it was noted for including actual lasers.
I was also attacked by a Cylon elsewhere in the park, but that's another story that I think I'll save for when I review the Cylon figure.
Anyway, Captain Apollo's uniform is completed by a brown jacket and black boots. The boots are notable for having a very distinct "Mego standard" look to them. They're identical in appearance to the boots that Mego used on most of its super-hero figures and elsewhere. These are notable for having the initials "DM" on their soles, which stands for "Dr. Mego", a notable Mego fan and collector who has assisted EmCe Toys and others in the development of Mego-type action figure lines. And, the boots work perfectly well here.
The jacket also has a series of plastic clasps (non functioning) down both sides of the front, and the emblem of the Colonial Fleet on the upper right sleeve. Very impressively done, I must say.
Another thing that impressed me was the different fabrics used. The shirt, trousers, and jacket are all different types of fabric. The jacket is especially cool, with a sort of fuzzy finish to it. 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.
Apollo comes with two accessories, assuming you count his laser pistol in the holster on his leg as an accessory. The other accessory is his Viper helmet. I always liked the design of these. They had a very distinct futuristic design to them, but also looked like something derived from an Egyptian pharaoh or sphinx. It was a design at once alien and yet somehow familiar. The figure's helmet is superbly designed.
Of course, Captain Apollo 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. The shoulders feel a little loose, but I don't think this is really anything to worry about (I hope not, anyway!).
Painted detail on Apollo's 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. 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 Captain Apollo, then you definitely need to check out these action figures. You won't be disappointed.
One last thought. There's a lot of potential for this line, and I really hope that BifBangPow isn't going to limit it to just one assortment. The logical candidates were certainly chosen -- Adama, Apollo, Starbuck, and several Cylons (a couple of which I believe were Comic-Con exclusives). But consider what else could be done. A second assortment could readily include Colonel Tigh, Lt. Boomer, Baltar, and -- heck, why not Commander Cain of the Battlestar Pegasus? And although it would take some extra tooling, I'd buy a two-pack featuring Boxey and the robot Daggit, Muffit. And how about the creepy robed Cylon, Lucifer? Or Count Iblis? See what I mean? One can only hope.
In the meantime, the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA figure of CAPTAIN APOLLO from BifBangPow definitely has my highest recommendation!