The Galactican refugee fleet finally reaches Earth in the year 1980 after thirty years of searching. They find the Humans to be technologically inadequate in both helping the fleet fight the Cylons or defending themselves. It becomes their objective to influence the development of Earth in some way. The rogue Commander Xavier works against the wishes of the fleet and chooses to influence the Earth in more destructive means, such as time travelling to the 1930s and providing advanced technology to the Nazis.
Preparing the pilot
When Battlestar Galactica was cancelled in early 1979 following the completion of "The Hand of God", ABC was unprepared for the letter-writing campaign by fans calling for its return, and eventually entered talks with Universal and pressured them into agreeing to make a second series. In reality, however, neither party had faith in the project. Universal had made a loss in the original series due to episodes consistently being over-budget and expected to make a loss once more. ABC, meanwhile, refused to spend as much as it had on the original series and drew up a contract limiting it to $600,000 per episode, with Universal paying the rest. Another condition of their agreement was that the pilot be ready for broadcast in January 1980, which limited pre-production time to mere weeks, and that because it was to be placed on a 7PM slot, FCC regulations required it offer educational value to any children watching.
Universal was beset by problems in the pre-production process. They had already torn up all sets for Battlestar Galactica, though had some props left-over such as two motorcycles prepared for an unfilmed episode. Many of the actors had already moved on to other projects, including Dirk Benedict. Richard Hatch, while available, had no faith in the project and turned down the offer. To save money on casting, other actors still available were not asked, leaving Lorne Green as the only actor to be hired back for the pilot. Furthermore, ABC requested there be no combat with the Cylons as they had deemed it to be excessively violent for that timeslot, and also required a child character to teach the child audience important lessons, believing they would be more likely to listen to their peers than adults.
Searching for a hook that would drive ratings, Larson conceived that the pilot involve the Galactican refugees finally discovering Earth, only to find it to be hopelessly defenceless against an inevitable Cylon strike. Having journeyed for thirty years, the disappearance of prominent series regulars could be implied as character deaths while leaving it open for future reprisals. Through the use of time travel technology, the new cast were to foil the new series' villain, Xavier, a Galactican obsessed with rewriting history to advance Earth's technology. The child was to be "Dr. Zee", a genius that would directly inject educational information into the story, such as effectively halt a seminar by explaining how the internal combustion engine works.
To beat the deadline, Universal was forced to open their lot to weekend shooting which, due to union rules, meant they were paying more. In an attempt to make their money back, Universal included the sets in their weekend tour, which interrupted filming. The deadline by this point, in fact, was so tight that actor Kent McCord had only been hired the night before filming due to ABC not liking the Troy actor they had at the time. Proofreading of the script was being performed just before filming.
Going to series
Against Larson and Universal's hopes, ABC liked the three-hour pilot and sent out an order for a full series. Having already prepared a number of scripts, Galactica 1980 was to work on the premise that the characters Troy and Dillon, with Jamie's help, would go back in time to prevent Xavier's manipulation of history. In a twist on Erich von Däniken's 1968 work, "Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past", which inspired the original Battlestar Galactica, Troy and Dillon would lend their way into history as mythological beings, with scripts written that would introduce them to Cleopatra VII, or inspire Homer's Iliad through their involvement in the sacking of Troy. Among the writers hired onto the project were Allan Cole and Chris Bunch, who commissioned a script called "Earthquake", which would feature Xavier using a machine capable of generating earthquakes. Universal would hire them on as story editors, which their main duty being to edit Larson's scripts to incorporate educational value.
ABC, ultimately, changed their minds on the series and wanted Xavier and the time-travel ideas abandoned to teach children contemporary subjects rather than the historical. Xavier and time-travel were put on the back burner, and it was insisted that there be children in the series to focus on. For unexplained reasons, the role of Dr. Zee was to remain in prominence with a cast change from Robbie Rist to James Patrick Stuart.
Larson responded by writing "The Super Scouts", a two-part story that would introduce two recurring elements to the series. Firstly, it would introduce an attempt by Galactica to covertly introduce the fleet's children to Earth. Secondly, it would introduce Col. Sydell as a recurring villain intent on exposing Troy and Dillon as a perceived alien threat to the United States. The child actors proved to be a handful; child labour laws required only limited filming per day, resulting in them doing more expensive night shoots.
To varying extents, Larson tried to return the series to his original premise while going along with ABC's rulings. "Spaceball", while its plot focused on the Super Scouts participating in a baseball league, reintroduced Xavier - played by a new actor - and saw the apparent death of Sydell. The two-parter, "The Night the Cylons Landed", would quickly leave the children behind to focus on the plot of Troy and Dillon heading out to the crash site of a Cylon Raider carrying the newly developed humanoid variety. Replacing Sydell was Col. Briggs, taking on the same role in hunting down Troy and Dillon. Maintaining a family-friendly aspect in spite of the higher stakes, the story would set its events on Hallowe'en, with the surviving Cylons mistaken for partygoers in costume while they attempt to contact their Basestar. ABC's censor, Susan Futterman, would have multiple issues with this script, leading to disputes with Larson, Bunch and Cole, who had become increasingly hostile to her objections to the show over the weeks. Futterman would criticise the educational value of a scene in the first part with the Super Scouts at a planetarium, believing the facts from the script provided by Encyclopædia Britannica to be fallacious, and would complain to Larson about his use of the word "meatballs", which she mistook for a reference to genitalia. For the second part, Larson deliberately added in multiple uses of the word "meatballs", and withheld the episode until 20 minutes before airing to make it impossible to edit out.
The only episode not written by Larson would be the ninth episode, "The Space Croppers", a freelance episode by Robert L. McCullough which was filmed only because Larson was late to finish his two-parter. Due to his unfamiliarity with the ongoing dispute, his script would move back towards ABC's ideas, with the Super Scouts aiding Troy and Dillon with seeding a field to support the fleet's food supplies. Either after this episode's airing or the week before, the audience share had dropped rapidly, forcing ABC to order the ceasing of further episode production.
As it had already been completed, "The Return of Starbuck" was still put on the air, abandoning the series' premise entirely. Setting itself 15 years before the series' events. Having succeeded in bringing back Dirk Benedict, the story revolved around Starbuck being stranded on a planet and trying to make a life for himself with a malfunctioning Cylon counterpart. Though his fate would remain undisclosed, a mysterious woman - a Seraph - would deliver to the fleet Zee as her child. The eleventh episode, "The Night they Kidnapped Cleopatra" - ironically one of the initial time-travel episodes - was in the process of shooting when the cancellation came, and so was totally abandoned.
- "Galactica Discovers Earth, Part Ⅰ"
- "Galactica Discovers Earth, Part Ⅱ"
- "Galactica Discovers Earth, Part Ⅲ"
- "The Super Scouts"
- "The Super Scouts, Part Ⅱ"
- "The Night the Cylons Landed, Part Ⅰ"
- "The Night the Cylons Landed, Part Ⅱ"
- "Space Croppers"
- "The Return of Starbuck"
- "The Day They Kidnapped Cleopatra" (unaired; unfinished)
- TV.Com - Galactica Discovers Earth (1)
- TV.Com - The Return of Starbuck
- The Unofficial Kent McCord Fan Site. Angelfire. Retrieved on 2018-05-11.
- Starlog Magazine Issue 036 interview with Glen A. Larson.
- Galactica 1980 (1980), episode: "Galactica Discovers Earth, Part Ⅰ".
- Starlog Magazine, Issue #162.
- "The New Faces of Galactica 1980", Starlog Magazine #034.