Thursday, April 30, 2009

Battlestar Galactica (the original one!)

That's right: a novelization by Glen A. Larson and Robert Thurston from 1978, describing the events of the original Battlestar Galactica. I think this counts as a "movie novelization" because this is the original two-hour "movie" that I vaguely remember actually being in theaters. Anyway, it's hilarious.

Actually, the back cover is even more entertaining than the front:

I love that the only person who gets mentioned by name is John Dykstra. Actors? Writers? Forget 'em, kid; we're here for the special effects from the Star Wars guy! And they were pretty good, but they don't really come across in the book. You'd think they'd play it up in the combat scenes, describing things as exploding in an expensive manner, with a noise that would really impress you if you could hear it, but none of that really happens.

But! I want you to look at Lorne Greene up there. He's the glowering white-haired gentleman in the circle. How would you describe him? If you're Glen A. Larson or Robert Thurston, here's how:

Commander Adama's angular cheekbones seemed the work of skilled diamond cutter. But his cold, penetrating eyes could not have been designed by even the finest of artisans. The members of his crew feared Adama as much as they loved him. There was a popular superstition aboard the Galactica that, when the commander became angry, those powerful eyes retreated into his skull and gave off rays that made him look so inhuman he might have just materialized as a god from some new alien mythology. Although tall and strong, he had none of the muscular man's typical clumsiness in normal movement.His gestures were smoothly graceful, and there was an ease in his bearing that made even his enemies comfortable with him—at least when he was comfortable with them.

That's right; the original Commander Adama had magical retracting laser eyes. Take that, Edward James Olmos!

While we're at it, here's how Starbuck is introduced:

Starbuck didn't have to look over his shoulder to know that a gallery of onlookers had formed behind him. When he had a pair of rubes like these two on the line, word always spread through the ranks of the Galactica, and people came running to the ready room. It was considered a privilege to be in onthe kill. Starbuck's gambling acumen had become so famous that his name was now a part of fighter-pilot slang. To be starbucked meant that you had allowed yourself to be maneuvered into a situation in which your defeat was inevitable. It was in the vocabulary of battle as well as in that of the gambling tables.

Like an actor, the handsome young lieutenant knew how to play to an audience. He let his face, so clean-cut for a man so diabolically shrewd, assume a mask of naiveté, as if he had just boarded the battlestar fresh out of space academy. Awkwardness substituted for the normal grace of his movements, and he leaned into the table like a man who wondered how he had gotten himself into this mess in the first place. All part of the setup. The gallery knew it, just as they knew he was ready to sweep down on his foolish opponents like a Cylon patrol from behind a cloud cover.

I remember this scene from the show. The rubes win the hand, but later on Starbuck is about to win his money back when the alert sounds and everyone has to go get in their Vipers and put John Dykstra to work.

This is not, as the cover claims, The Greatest Space Epic Ever, but if you're old enough to remember the original series, it's an adequate replacement for watching the show. And if you only know the recent series, it's probably a weird, jarring experience as you keep having to remind yourself that these aren't the Boomer and Apollo you remember. Either way, the scene where Adama looks at his daughter Athena and muses on her sensuous curves is really, really strange.


M. Giant said...

Man, this takes me back. You have no idea how many times I read this book when I was a kid. I needed more books.

Deanna said...

I can look at that cover and know exactly what that book smells like. Mmmmmm. Old science fiction!

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