BLUEPRINTS: “Battlestar Galactica” (1978)

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This set is nearly unique in the entire gooney-assed history of Science Fiction blueprints in that they’re *real* blueprints, and not fake deck plans of a nonexistent ship. These are actual set designs from the production of the 1978 series, published in December of that same year.

Frankly, this seems to have indicated a bit of confusion on the part of Universal Studios about just exactly what it was that SF fans wanted at the time. They appear to have known that blueprints were an emerging niche market based on the ‘Trek and Space: 1999 sets, however they don’t appear to have had the slightest clue that these were essentially fantasies that took the seven or eight locations we saw on shows, and fleshed them out into an entire world, so to speak. There’s a degree of unmistakably half-assed ‘70s charm in this: “Let’s do what everyone else is doing, but not bother to figure out what it is they’re doing first!”

The result was pretty cool if you’re interested in set design, but pretty disappointing if you really wanted the equivalent of the TOS or Moonbase Alpha ‘Prints. As it happens, I’m really interested in both, so it was a dream come true for me (“You mean they had two wild sections, and that whole area rolled back?“), but others weren’t so lucky. Most of my little friends at the time were pretty obsessive about the show, and most of them pretty much got rid of these things almost immediately. Several threw theirs out. My mom refused to plunk down the lordly eight dollars they cost, so I got my own set a month or two later second hand from a friend for my lunch money that day. (I believe, though I can’t swear to it, that that kid was the first person ever to tell me to “Go to hell.”)

So what do you get? Well, there are ten sheets, all in the 9” x 30” format inexplicably favored by these things. I guess it’s supposed to look realistic, but in truth it’s just mostly annoying. Each sheet has three folds, and they all fit snugly into a blue envelope/case with a transparent front. There’s a little insert in the front with the title and a picture of the Galactica on it.

Some - but not all - of the sheets are double-sided. You get views of the Landram, the Shuttle, the Gun on Ice Planet Zero control station, the Vipers, the Imperious Leader’s throne room, the Cylon Raider, the Galactica bridge, and a section of the launch bay set.

The sheets themselves are a mixed bag of cool and why bother. For instance, I doubt anyone was laying awake at night thinking “Wow, I just wish I knew the diameter of the gay-looking control columns the cylons were using in the Ravishol pulsar!” Likewise, I think dedicating an *Entire* sheet to detailed front, aft, left and right views of the landing gear on a Colonial Viper was a poor choice. Even still, there’s some neat stuff here. There’s two sheets of extreme detail on the Vipers themselves that were pretty much a must-have if you were a scratch builder in those days.

Some of the plans give a rather interesting glimpse into the production aspects of the show. For instance, the set plan for the landing bay shows how the catapult, launch tube, bulkhead, and that open-car elevator fit together, and it also shows that said elevator car was actually attached to a forklift behind the set wall. Cool! The Cylon Raider cockpit isn’t very interesting in and of itself, but looking at it makes it very clear that they didn’t bother to build a whole fighter, as they did with the Vipers. This is logical, of course, but still interesting just the same, and the wild rear wall goes a long way towards explaining how inexplicably roomy the thing was in “Baltar’s Escape.”

The shuttle plans are among my favorite, in that they’re a very well-designed set that is both visually interesting, roomy, and easy to work within if you’re a film crew. A particular favorite is an entire sheet of the controls for the shuttle, which were *actually* an early control layout for the actual real Space Shuttle! Tektronics and Thikol were providing lots of equipment for the show, and they were also both contractors for NASA in those days, they had an early, rejected design laying around in the warehouse, and - bang - it’s on the show as a budget saving maneuver. (In an unintentional bit of tradition, the scenes in the cockpit of “Colonial One” in the RDM Galactica pilot miniseries were actually filmed in a Shuttle Simulator cockpit). What makes these cooler than cool is that not only are you looking at very specific designs and measurements and other OCD manna like that, but they designs are clearly labeled with things like “Idiot lights go here” and the model numbers used for the CRT displays (A Tektronix 7603, if you’re interested)

For instance, here's the helm of the Galactica itself

galactica_helm.jpggalactica_helm.jpg

There’s a couple oddities, of course. The Imperious Leader’s throne room doesn’t seem to match the one in the show. It’s *almost* the same, but there’s some minor differences in the profile of the walls, and there appears to be a low trough or dry-moat kind of thing surrounding the Leader’s pedestal. It’s possible I’m reading these wrong, of course, but my assumption is that this is an early plan made before the production of “Saga of a Star World,” and that it was not the one they actually used.

Remember the “Landram?” That was the cool-looking armored car they drove around in on the surface of planets, definitely one of the neater bits of hardware on any show ever. I’d love, love, love to have the plans for that, boy! Though the sheet is labeled “Land Ram” in this set, what we actually get is “The Power Sled,” a brutally chopped-down pickup truck/tractor version of the thing, that was used in “The Magnificent Warriors.” Since “Warriors” aired in November of ‘78, and this blueprint set came out in December of ‘78, one gets the feeling that this entire project was slapped together pretty quickly.

For me, however, the absolute total holy grail here is the general overview of the Galactica bridge. I say honestly and without hyperbole that I think the original Galactica bridge was one of the most amazing, complex, beautiful, clever, and *interesting* sets ever on a TV show, and better than nearly all movies as well. It’s very odd semi-elliptical, semi-triangular layout made it really hard to figure out what it looked like, however.

Galactica Plan ViewGalactica Plan View

This lays it all out flat and simple and plain, shows the exact dimensions, the shapes of the recessed lower deck, the size and details of Adama’s raised command pedestal, the location of Athena’s console (On the mid-deck), and that odd room recessed into the wall on one side. Better still, it tells what these things were called, even though they were never referred to by name on the show itself. We also get a plan view of the main Galactica helm/control consol from the bridge. This two-sided sheet is just wonderful. I showed that above.

Basically, if everyone didn’t use virtual sets these days, these things would be a fan filmmaker’s dream.
Galactica Plan ViewGalactica Plan View

This is a mixed bag, of course, but I really love my set, and have for a jillion years now. They go for forty bucks used on Amazon, which also claims to have “New” copies of this set available for between ninety-to-a-hundred dollars, but you can pick up a complete thing for between ten and fifteen bucks in the dealer’s room of any decent SF convention. (An SF convention, *NOT* a Trek convention, as the wares in exclusively Trek cons tends to be less varied), and incomplete sets go for five to ten bucks. If you can’t find a complete set, buy two or three incomplete ones, and you’ll get a complete one by sticking ‘em together.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS?

Well, there’s nothing inherently anti-conservative about it, so, sure, why not? And Morton-Thikol (Now just "Thikol") provided some of the hardware detailed on the plans, that's a Utah-based company, which is a bastion of hard-right conservatism, so: let's pretend 'yes.'

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