After the success of Star Wars (1977), TV network ABC responded with Battlestar Galactica, created by Glen A. Larson. The series began with a three-hour (including ads) TV movie, followed by a weekly series. Broadcast of the original three-episode pilot was interrupted for an hour, about 30 minutes before the end, by news of the signing of the Camp David Accords; afterwards, the episode resumed where it left off.
The series was characterized by multi-part episodes. The show’s 24 episodes included the original three-episode opener and five other two-parters.
In April 1979, ABC cancelled the show, citing ratings and cost overruns, after a single season. Just months later, in the fall, ABC met with series creator Glen A. Larson to discuss bringing back the show.
In order to offer a hook for new viewers, Galactica 1980 would feature the Galactica finding Earth and covertly protecting it from the Cylons. This would help keep costs down, because much of the show would be set on then-present-day Earth. That setting didn’t please fans of the original show, however, who preferred outer space.
Fans were also not pleased by Galactica 1980‘s focus on an almost completely different cast of characters than the original series. Adama returned, as did Boomer, although the latter had little screentime. Starbuck returned in the final episode. Otherwise, the entire list of characters had changed.
The series was also hurt by airing on Sunday nights, then reserved for child-safe programming. The show thus was forced to limit its violence and insert educational content. To appeal to this audience, several episodes also focused on children from the Galactica.
The show also wasn’t helped by recycling footage or by poor writing.
Galactica 1980 began in January 1980 as a mid-season replacement. Like the original, the show started with a three-episode TV movie. ABC cancelled the show even faster than the original, after a mere 10 episodes.
Several Battlestar Galactica movies, both for TV and theaters, were created using footage from the two shows. In 1978, even before the show debuted, an edited version of the three-episode pilot was released (as simply Battlestar Galactica) to theaters in Canada, Australia, and continental Europe. In 1979, the film was released in the U.S. and U.K. The film differs from the TV version, most notably by killing off Baltar.
No other films were released theatrically in the U.S. However, a second film, titled Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack was created by editing footage from the two-part “The Living Legend” with “Fire in Space.” In 1979, it was released in continental Europe and Japan; in 1980, it was released in the U.K. A third film, titled Conquest of the Earth, was created by editing footage of the Galactica 1980 three-episode debut with footage from that show’s two-part “The Night the Cylons Landed.” It was released in 1981 in continental Europe and Australia.
In addition, the original 24 episodes were turned into a series of 12 two-hour TV movies for syndication. These included a new edit of the three-episode debut, slightly expanded versions of the five two-parters, five TV movies made by combining two unrelated episodes, and a final TV movie made by combining an expanded version of “Experiment in Terra” with scenes from the final Galactica 1980 episode “The Return of Starbuck” and new footage of an astronaut discovering Commander Adama’s logbook.