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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Galactica 1980: The Night the Cylons Landed - Review

With apologies to Orson Welles, or they certainly should have apologized, this episode of Galactica 1980 has to do with alien invasions and a radio broadcast on Halloween.  In this two-parter Glen A. Larson pits our heroes against a new breed of human looking Cylons, something that will be greatly expanded in the Ron Moore reboot decades later.

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The episode begins with a recon patrol encountering an advanced Cylon Raider. This new ship is heavily armored, faster and with greater fire power, and with its jamming capabilities it is able to prevent the Viper crew from informing the Galactica. The Colonial fighter flies closer to the advanced Cylon ship so as to get a good scan of it and discovers that some of the crew are humanoid, or at least humanoid shaped.

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Not quite a Series Six model.

Realizing they don’t have the fire power required to destroy this Cylon Raider they go with their only other option, and ram it.  Wait, that is your only option? How is bumping your ship into the enemy better than a laser blast? Well for whatever reason this works, though neither ship is destroyed just crippled. Back on the Galactica they are concerned with their missing recon fighter and when their scanners detect an unpowered ship heading for Earth they assume it's their missing Viper. Commander Adama (Lorne Greene) radios Troy (Kent McCord) and Dillon (Barry Van Dyke) down on Earth to hurry to the East Coast and rescue their comrades before the American military can find them. This means once again ditching the Super Scouts with Jamie (Robyn Douglas).

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“Damn it, I’m a reporter not a galactic babysitter!”

On the plus side this gives us a little break from the Galactican children, but it doesn’t stop the show from aiming a lot of their humor to younger audiences. Jamie warns Troy and Dillon that they can’t fly a Viper to New York because there is a new Air Force officer looking into them by the name of Colonel Briggs Briggs (Peter Mark Richman) the man replacing Colonel Sydell (Allan Miller) who, since being shot by Xaviar in the episode Spaceball, is apparently in a coma. So Troy and Dillon are forced to get tickets for a commercial jet, and it is never explained to us how this is safer than taking a Viper that can turn invisible. This decision is proven to be even more unsafe when it turns out they just so happen to get seats right across from Cuban hijackers.

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In all fairness this is still a better plot than the one we got in Airport ’79: The Concorde.

Or heroes don’t have time to take a side trip to Cuba so they use their blasters to stun the hijackers, but these heroics will force them to be interviewed by the FBI when they land. This is of course worse than going to Cuba so they ask to visit the lavatories first, use their wrist computrons to turn themselves invisible, and sneak off the plane. Meanwhile onboard the Galactica Dr. Zee (James Patrick Stuart) and Adama have located the missing Viper and learned that the ship Troy and Dillon are off to meet is in fact a Cylon craft. One with an advanced humanoid Cylons on board.

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This is either an advanced Cylon or Eros from Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Dr. Zee hopes that Troy and Dillon will be able to intercept it, but Adama notes that they don't even know they're going to rendezvous with the Cylons. Hey guys, do you know why they don’t know that the ship they are about to meet is a Cylon craft? Because you haven’t bloody well told them! Communications between the Galactica and their agents down on Earth have always been plot convenient, but in this episode we clearly see Adama contacting Troy and Dillon to inform them of a ship about to crash land on Earth, so why not call back and say, “FYI it turns out this is a Cylon ship not our missing Viper.” Does the Galactica have a really bad phone plan and they've run out of minutes?

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“We could call and warn them now, but if we wait until after 6:00 it will be cheaper.”

The Cylon ship crashes a few miles north of New York City, but only one advanced Cylon, Andromus (Roger Davis) and one Cylon Centurion named Centuri, have survived. Andromus sets the damaged crash for self-destruct, and retrieves a distress beacon which he will use to broadcast a message to their Cylon brothers.

Note: No one seems to realize that a radio signal to the Cylons would take years to reach them, giving the Galactica plenty of time to get ready for them.

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"I just hope there isn't any of that alien killing common cold bacteria around here."

Troy and Dillon arrive only in time to discover the “dead” crew of the ship, and manage to escape the craft just before it self-destructs. Because Troy is an intuitive genius he figures that a humanoid Cylon had survived the crash, and that they must somehow track him down before he can alert the Cylon Empire to the location of Earth. Unfortunately while dawdling around the crash site this give the local authorities’ time to arrive, and these police immediately assume Troy and Dillon were aboard the exploded craft, and most likely drug runners. Our heroes stun the cops and steal a police car, get in a high speed car chase, and then crash it in the East River. They manage to elude the police again, but with an all-points bulletin out for them they realize they'll  have to ditch their conspicuous damp clothes if they hope to complete their mission.

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And pick up some nice subtle Earth attire.

Yes, Troy and Dillon sneak into a Broadway review, steal white tux and tails, and then somehow get stuck performing “The Good Ship Lollipop” on stage. Undercover geniuses these two are not.  They manage to escape being arrested by once again turning invisible, this time in front of a live audience. Meanwhile we still have the problem of Andromus and Centuri hunting for broadcast equipment so that they can alert their brethren to the fact that they have found the location of the last outpost of humanity. Lucky for them it’s Halloween so they are mistaken for partiers who must have a broken down car somewhere, and are offered a ride.

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“A vampire, a clown and two Cylons walk into a bar.”

The unwitting aids to mankind’s downfall are Norman Blore (William Daniels) and his wife Shirley (Lara Parker) who are on route to a Halloween party being held by co-worker Arnie (Val Bisoglio) who works for Norman at a New York radio station. This is great news for Andromus for this could lead him to equipment needed to amplify his emergency beacon. Unfortunately it also leads to them meeting Wolfman Jack because this is the only celebrity cameo this show could afford.

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“Hey, I was in America Graffiti.”

Andromus smoozes the party guests, pumping Andy and friends for information about the radio station, and what kind of security the building has. When Norman gets suspicious and tells Andy that these two may be dangerous, Centuri the Centurion interrupts in a very threatening manner, but only to be foiled when Andy turns on the microwave which paralyzes the Cylon. So apparently the Cylons have made major leaps in technology in thirty years, but not in the ability to shield circuitry from something as commonplace as microwaves. Norman and Andy assume that Centuri is having some kind of medical emergency, but before anyone can dial 911 Andromus lightning blasts the microwaves with energy blasts from his hand.

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So the Cylons developed Force Lightning?

Troy and Dillon, having tracked the Cylons distress beacon into the heart of New York City, find themselves accosted by a group of thugs in Central Park. The gang demand, “Your money or your life,” but Troy is hesitant to give them the money as they are the funds that they had illegally obtained in the episode Super Scouts, and could implicate these fine youths in the bank robbery. This is a genuinely funny scene, but kind of makes one wonder what kind of society did these guys come from that they don’t understand a mugging or hijacking. In the original series we certainly saw our cast of characters dealing with numerous unsavory characters, so has everyone somehow become monumentally na├»ve over the last thirty years?

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At least they didn’t run into the Baseball Furies.

They escape the street gang by using their super ability to jump really high, and once again I wish the show hadn’t added this element as they keep forgetting to use it. Eventually Troy and Dillon make it to the Halloween party being attended by the Cylons, but they are too late, the Cylons have escaped with a kidnapped Wolfman Jack, and the exploded microwave has caused a raging fire. Dillon rushes off to track them down while Troy stays to rescue a small boy from the fire. This I’m assuming is to remind us that these bumbling idiots are actually the good guys. Andromus forces Wolfman Jack to take him to the roof of the building that houses the radio station so that he can tap into the Emergency Broadcast System, but before he can start sending the signal to the Cylon Fleet Troy and Dillon show up and engage them in a firefight. The Centurion takes a hit, and is...stunned? Andromus orders Centuri to keep the Warriors away from the antenna dish; however the stunned/damaged Centuri reverts to his primary directive to protect Andromus, picks up his master, and jumps from the roof.

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It’s a very touching and romantic moment.

Troy blasts the dish and the day is saved. Colonel Briggs and the police arrive, but are unable to find anyone because Troy and Dillon have once again gone invisible, and the two Cylons fell in a dumpster that was picked up and taken away. Troy tells Dillon it's time to head for home, but Dillon really wants to stay and enjoy some more of this lively and exciting city, despite the “excitable youths” in Central Park, and would really like to see the rest of the entertainment they interrupted.

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And this is the show he really wanted to catch more of. *sigh*

This was not a terrible episode, and William Daniels as the poor put-upon husband really classed up the place, but the whole Halloween convenience that allowed two Cylons to wander around New York was a bit much, and Troy and Dillon bouncing from hi-jackings to park muggings seemed even more forced. There was a whole side-plot of Colonel Briggs trying to convince a New York Police Chief (Bernie Hamilton) that they men they are after are aliens from out space, and it really was just an excuse for more bad comedy.

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“Colonel, please take your illegal alien problems to Donald Trump.”

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