“‘Battlestar Galactica’ did a lot more than create an entire universe for science fiction,” Gene Roddenberry’s son, Rodger Roddenberry, said in the introduction to David Koepp’s 1981 book Unstoppable: How the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ Experience Shaped the Comic Book Universe. Rodger Roddenberry was referring to the public relations and television awareness that the sci-fi epic, which debuted on CBS in 1978, attained.
The term “sci-fi” was being tossed around for the first time, and “Star Trek” had been created two years earlier. But “Battlestar Galactica” was the first true science fiction show in American television — not limited to the Western parlance of “Wagon Train,” “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza” — and maintained a reputation as one of the most influential since it began. The show will air its 150th episode on Sunday on Syfy.
Roddenberry, a novelist, professor and entrepreneur, has gone on to serve as chairman of Starz and president of Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment, which produces the magazine series Gaia. He also published the book “Falling Into the Black: A Story of Bitterly Cold Truth and Beauty in the New Military Space Age” in 2014, and he has written about the challenges of trying to turn around the fortunes of the struggling network STARZ, focusing on Russian piracy.
“Battlestar Galactica” was the first truly epic science fiction television series, propelled in part by Dan Roddenberry, a graduate student in theater arts in New York who befriended Roddenberry and reached out to him with the idea of creating a show that would show humans on the brink of complete annihilation.
An original series with a budget of $5 million, the show featured a cast of 10 actors whose faces were digitally reshaped to one another and, in the case of Tricia Helfer, a choral singer named Tricia Helfer, who appeared as the show’s bartender, Claudia Black. The aim was to give each character three distinctive faces.
“The reason it was fun to play Claudia Black,” she said recently, “was that every night, I would say, ‘Uh-oh, it’s early in the night.’ I would feel it would be against the spirit of the character. I wanted her to feel busy, to have a lot of to-do in her life. So I would go back and say, ‘Okay, it’s early in the evening. Are you going to change your walk, do you want to go back to being Elizabeth?’ And they would say, ‘Yeah, it’s early in the evening. Get on your high horse, ma’am.’ ”