In a far off star system the Twelve Colonies from the twelve planets have been at war with the robotic Cylons for a thousand years. Now the Cylons have extended an olive branch and are bidding for peace. Count Baltar (John Colicos) is their emissary. The counsel of twelve, led by president Adar (Lew Ayres) has planned a celebration for the occasion. Commander Adama (Lorne Greene), one of the counsel and the commander of the Battlestar Galactica, is suspicious of the Cylons.
Adama’s sons, Captain Apollo (Richard Hatch) and Lieutenant Zac (Rick Springfield) are on patrol from the Galactica when they find a Cylon armada waiting to attack. When they see the fleet Apollo and Zac head back to warn the Colonies. Zac is killed before he can get back to the Galactica. Apollo warns Adama but the president of the counsel believes they come in peace. Instead the Cylons attack the battlestars and the planets. The only battlestar that survives the attack is Galactica. Survivors from the planets are told to launch whatever space transports have survived and follow them.
Adama, being the only councilman that survived, helps assemble a new counsel of twelve to decide what to do. Adama wants to head for a legendary planet that is said to be the origin of the twelve colonies. The planet Earth. At the moment their priority is to find food and water or the people will not survive. The closest planet is called Carillon. The quickest route is through a Cylon mine field. Captain Apollo and Lieutenants Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) and Boomer (Herbert Jefferson Jr.) lead the way destroying the mines as they go.
Once on the planet Carillon the survivors find a playland with food, entertainment and gambling. The inhabitants of the planet are an insectoid species that welcome the refuges with open arms. On the surface the party planet appears to be a paradise but something about it doesn’t seem right. One of the counsel, Sire Uri (Ray Malland), believes the Cylons are no longer a threat. He wants to disarm and live in peace on Carillon. Adama, on the other hand, thinks that they just may be walking into a Cylon trap.
“Battlestar Galactica: Saga of a Star World” was a science fiction, made for TV pilot/movie released in 1978 that was directed by Richard A. Colla and Alan J. Levi. There were two versions of the movie, one for television release and one for theatrical release. The theatrical release was to recoup some of the high production costs of the series. The pilot cost 8 million dollars. It was one of the most expensive made for television movies at the time. The cinematic version was done using Universal’s Sensurround process. The theatrical version was first released in Canada before the television series aired in the U.S. Later the theatrical version was released in the United States.
The show ended up being a franchise. The original show ran in 1978. It had a short run sequel called “Galactica” that aired in 1980. A re-imagined version also called “Battlestar Galactica” aired as a two-part, three-hour miniseries developed by Ronald D. Moore and David Eick in 2003. That miniseries led to a weekly television series, which aired until 2009. A prequel series called “Caprica” aired in 2010. Then there are the books, comic books, board game and video games.
There are quite a few minor differences between the pilot and the theatrical release. Some of the most notable are: In the film version, Baltar is executed by the Cylons but in the television version he is held for public execution and later shown mercy by the Cylons. He then ends up being a major character on the television series. The Cylons in the movie are creatures in armor but in the series they are robots. In the movie Starbuck and Cassiopia are naked in the launch tube but fully clothed in the series.
In 1978 20th Century Fox sued Universal Studios, the producers of “Battlestar Galactica”, for plagiarism, copyright infringement, unfair competition, and Lanham Act claims. Fox claimed Universal had stolen 34 distinct ideas from their film “Star Wars”. Universal promptly countersued, claiming Fox’s “Star Wars” had stolen ideas from their 1972 film “Silent Running”, most notably the robot "drones" Huey, Dewey, and Louie, as well as ideas from the “Buck Rogers” serials of the 1930s. Fox's copyright claims were initially dismissed by the trial court in 1980. They appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit remanded the case for trial in 1983. It was later resolved out of court.
Muffit, the robotic daggit, or dog, was played by a chimpanzee named Evie. Evie belonged to exotic animal trainer Ralph Helfer. The voice of the Imperious Leader is Patrick Macnee.