Looking Back: Mattel’s Battlestar Galactica
March 26, 2011

At the risk of jeopardizing some geek cred I’ll admit that only just now am I watching the ’03-’09 reboot Battlestar Galactica series. Based on all I’d heard I knew it’d be one of those epic television viewing experiences and I did not want to rush into it. I decided to start by rewatching the original series. My other motivation to start in 1978 was that I had been collecting the vintage Battlestar Galactica action figures and knew I wanted to blog about them. I felt compelled to reabsorb the television series from which these figures sprang.

“Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny, the last Battlestar, Galactica, leads a ragtag, fugitive fleet on a lonely quest – a shining planet known as Earth.” – Original Series Closing Narration

Its necessary to ignore the obvious Star Wars influences that creep into the concepts, design, and even dialogue in the first few episodes. Battlestar finds its own voice soon enough and I was sucked into its own unique plot and character development. Neither of which did I have much recollection of from watching these episodes as a kid over 30 years ago. It didn’t take long to realize that the action figure line has some major holes! But I’ll get to the wish list further down. Let’s start with what we did get.

Mattel released two series. The more common first series included six figures:
Commander Adama, Lieutenant Starbuck, Daggit, Imperious Leader, Ovion, and Cylon Centurian.
The less common second series included four figures:
Baltar, Boray, Lucifer, and Cylon Commander.

The figures were packaged on some pretty attractive card art. There are two card backs reflecting the original six figures and then the expanded ten figures.

Commander ADAMA  |  series 1
articulation points = 5 (neck, shoulders, hips)
accessories = soft goods cape, small blaster
notes = Besides color and head the Adama and Starbuck figures are identical.

 

Lt. STARBUCK  |  series 1
articulation points = 5 (neck, shoulders, hips)
accessories = soft goods cape, small blaster
notes = Besides color and head the Starbuck and Adama figures are identical. Lucky Dirk Benedict has another 3 3/4" action figure: Face from the A-Team line (crapola that it was.)

DAGGIT  |  series 1
articulation points = 6ish (neck, front legs, back legs, tail)
accessories = none (Unless your tail broke off. In that case you have a tail accessory.)
notes = There are two versions of Daggit; a light tan and a darker burnt orange. Daggit is the more generic term for dog and Muffit is this particular Daggit’s name. Believe it or not, there was a chimpanzee inside the Muffit suit.

 

IMPERIOUS LEADER  |  series 1
articulation points = 4 (shoulders, hips)
accessories = soft goods cape (Fugly is non-removable.)
notes = I have vivid recollections of this being one of the more epic pegwarmers from my youth.

 

OVION  |  series 1
articulation points = 6 (both sets of shoulders, hips)
accessories = soft goods lace cape
notes = Every time I get annoyed with the shorts Mattel took with this line a figure like Ovion proves they were at least somewhat committed to the property. Because it is one of the more common figures from the line we overlook how cool a figure it is.

 

CYLON CENTURIAN  |  series 1
articulation points = 4 (neck, waist, shoulders)
accessories = rifle
notes = The Cylons were cool. Loved how they looked and how they talked. This figure is not bad but fails pretty hard below the waist! (twss) This would have been so much better without the molded, pre-posed legs. Mad props to SpyMagician for making me a bunch of perfect rifle and blaster repros.

 

CYLON COMMANDER  |  series 2
articulation points = 4 (neck, waist, shoulders)
accessories = rifle
notes = One of the more expensive figures to aquire. Finding a Cylon (either version) in good shape, with clean paint apps (gloves, boot cuffs) with the rifle accessory is challenging. The Commander is the same mold as the Centurian but his metallic components are gold.

 

BALTAR  |  series 2
articulation points = 5 (neck, shoulders, hips)
accessories = small blaster
notes = Baltar shares legs and arms and small blaster with Starbuck and Adama.

 

LUCIFER  |  series 2
articulation points = 3 (neck, shoulders)
accessories = sarcasm
notes = This figure could have been a lot better with some simple paint apps on the head and face.

 

BORAY  |  series 2
articulation points = 4 (neck, waist, shoulders)
accessories = club
notes = Another difficult to find complete figure. I’m embarrassed to think about how much moolah I spent to get that dang club. Lame factor here are the solid molded legs.

 

One thing that impresses me about this vintage line is the amazing likenesses the sculpters achieved with the human head sculpts. Adama and Baltar are particularly well done and rival many modern head sculpts in this scale. Certainly true to the essence of the actors.

 

 

OK, so let’s move on to t

he wish list. I really do like the tone Mattel set with the two series they did produce. They were not afraid to weight the good guys and bad guys evenly (even a bit heavier on the bad guys side). They were obviously eager to dive right into making some of the kooky aliens. No doubt they had in mind spreading the core characters throughout these and subsequent waves. Of course, that created some problems when the show and toy line ended prematurely!

So, this first wave is just about filling the gaping holes. The most glaring omission is Apollo. It just hurts not to have him. Boomer, Tigh, and Cassie are such stalwarts of the show that even completing this imaginary wave would’ve made the figure line complete in my mind. Tigh (Terry Carter) deserves a figure based solely on the fact that he played Pam Grier’s boyfriend in Foxy Brown.

clockwise from top left:
Captain Apollo  |  Lieutenant Boomer  |  Cassiopeia  |  Colonel Tigh

 

Next up are some recurring characters who would’ve been welcome additions scattered into any wave. Having Muffit without Boxey just feels incomplete. Athena deserves a figure because she is 1) hot, and 2) the daughter of Adama and sister of Apollo. Starbuck eventually chose Cassiopeia over her which kinda blew my mind.

clockwise from top left:
Flight Sergeant Jolly  |  Lieutenant Sheba  |  2nd Lieutenant Athena  |  Boxey

 

I always enjoyed the episodes that included the doctors. George Murdock (Salik) was a great addition to the cast. It was a memorable scene when he was explaining to Apollo that he dare not operate on Adama due to the fact that the power on the Galactica was, at the time, intermittent. If the line had continued we would have most certainly gotten variants of the pilots in their flight suits with their King Tut helmets.

clockwise from top left:
Dr. Wilker  |  Dr. Salik  |  Apollo Pilot  |  Starbuck Pilot

 

Speaking of variants . . . Like the innumerable Lukes and Hans that decorate my Star Wars display cases we could have gotten a nice assortment of Apollos and Starbucks. Here follow my choices.

OK, how about some more bad guys! OK, John wouldn’t really fit into the “bad guy” category, but he did seem kinda sketchy to me. Count Iblis (Patrick Macnee, voice of opening narration), needs a figure since he is the Devil. Yeah, really. And we need the Devil head variant, too. Getting Battlestar’s version of Imperial officers and crewmen would round out the line.

clockwise from top left:
John  |  Count Iblis  |  Eastern Alliance Crewman Krebbs  |  Commander Leiter

 

Battlestar Galactica had its fair share of notable guest stars. Let’s throw a couple into this next wave. Lloyd Bridges played the role of legendary and arrogant Commander Cain in the two part episode “The Living Legend.” Fred Astair played the role of Chameleon who turns out to be  *spoiler alert*  Starbuck’s father. This episode of Battlestar is notable for the fact that it is the last time Fred Astair dances on screen.

clockwise from top left:
Commander Cain  |  Sergeant Omega  |  Chameleon  |  “Saga of a Star World” Dancer

The Lucifer-type Cylon is pretty cool and a few variations showed up along the way. Using the same buck but adding some paint apps Mattel could have produced Lucifer’s close relatives. The Borellian Normen would be my first choice for a multi-pack. These three uglies first appeared in the Chameleon episode and then again in “Baltar’s Escape.” Do not forget to include their laser bolas as an accessory.

clockwise from top left:
Specter  |  IL-series Cylon  |  Borellian Normen

 

And now for some two-packs. The automatons, Hector and Vector, would’ve been a must for the line. I remember these guys showing up in the episode “Greetings from Earth” and thinking: “Wow, Vector reminds me of the Scarecrow from Wizard of Oz.” Sure enough, it was Ray Bolger. Sarah and Michael from the same episode would’ve been another worthy two-pack.

clockwise from top left:
Hector and Vector  |  Sarah and Michael

 

There were a couple episodes in which Apollo and Starbuck were whisked away to the Ship of Lights. Aboard this ship reside angelic “Beings of Light.” John and Count Iblis are among their number, although Count Iblis is kinda like a ‘fallen’ member. “The Gun on Ice Planet Zero” introduced us to the ‘Theta-class lifeforms,’ which are essentially human clones. A male and female two-pack (or 20-pack) would’ve been cool.

clockwise from top left:
Beings of Light  |  Theta-class lifeforms

 

OK, well that’s probably enough of a wish list. If you have some characters from the original series that would’ve been an awesome part of the figure line, let me know in a comment below.

I really enjoyed rewatching Battlestar Galactica. Yeah, some was campy and a few episodes flopped hard but the show succeeded in building a compelling and believable plot, and characters with substantial depth. It only lasted one season but influenced and spawned many future sci-fi movies and television series. Not the least of which is the Battlestar reboot. During the course of preparing this blog I started watching the reboot and am half a dozen episodes in. I’m predictably hooked. It took a couple episodes to adjust to the new Starbuck and Boomer and Balter, etc, but I’m pretty happy with the new takes. Just a few “Frak!”’s and I was sufficiently at home.

 

TAGS:
Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann
Action figure anthropologist, Professor Cantina Dan Neumann has been a scholastic contributor to the online community studying the complex world of parumplasticus populus {little plastic people} since the turn of this millenium. His primary focus is the visual cataloging of species exhibits through photo-journalism.
Read other articles by Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann.

 

 

 

33 Comments »

  • Johnny says:

    This is a baller blog i am going to find the show on netflix and watch for hours and hours. I can’t wait to find the show. Keep writing your blogs they are really good!!!!!!

  • Great article Dan! I loved BSG, still do, and fondly remember Sunday nights glued to the TV. Amazing to think 65 MILLION people tuned into the 3 hour pilot telefilm. I had most of these figures, and some of the Mattel ships too. And some years ago I acquired a mint copy of one of my BSG prized pieces from childhood, the Genreal Mills cereals promotional ‘Battlestar Galactica Space Mission Kit’ that you had to mail away for. I’d love a current 7″ or 3 3/4″ scaled series of toys for this show!

    • Jeff Cope Jeff Cope says:

      I would love, love, LOVE to see a 3-3/4″ line based on the original Galactica. I loved this show and still prefer it over the recent one. I’ve got most of these figures (missing Baltar). It always baffled me (and frustrated me as a kid) that there was no Apollo figure.

  • Jboypacman says:

    Ah the memories of watching this show as a young kid along with Buck Rogers. Never had toys from either of those lines but the folks next to us had this fighter launcher thing that would “Launch All Fighters” and the fighters themselves i remember were made out of a Nerf like foam.

  • blubeetle3 says:

    Borellian NOMEN!

    For that insult, you must die!
    ;)

  • Chip Cataldo says:

    Killer killer blog, Dan! Great pics as always, too!

  • Skullder says:

    Totally agree with that wishlist!

    I loved watching the show as a kid. I never understood why they never continued making more when I was younger.

    I also wished that Diamond Select had continued the classic BSG minimates line and included these other characters. I guess that’s what customs are for :)

  • JuliusMarx says:

    You left out Bojay from the Pegasus! For shame! :) Actually Bojay was played by the dad of a guy I work with.

    GREAT blog Dan! I wish we could have tracked down one of the Mattel guys that worked on line for this.

    Now I want to go back and rewatch. I started going back and picking up the vintage figures loose when I was watching the new series. I still had the cylon and the dagget from when I was a kid.

    • Danny Cantina-Dan says:

      Oh, geez, don’t show the blog to your workmate! Yeah, Bojay was really close to making the list. Would’ve been in my NEXT wave ;-)

  • Hourman says:

    What a nice article. So much more fun to read people talk about things they like than insult things they don’t like.

  • demoncat says:

    nice article got to agree Mattel left fans of the original short by not continuing the line left a lot of holes in collectors shelves. for remember watching the show when i was little. though i am proably the only one who thought dogget was annoying and too chessy .the figures never bought them.

  • Jakethy says:

    Great, great blog – let us know how you like the Sci-fi channel reboot.
    Ray Bolger and Fred Astaire?!? Wow, I’d forgotten that – what was the BSG synchronicity with old-timey Hollywood musicals anyway? And you were kind not to take a shot at those gladiator-esgue, s&m get-ups Starbuck and Apollo are wearing.

    • Danny Cantina-Dan says:

      Haha, those Triad game uniforms are crazy. Julius Marx keeps bugging me to Cosplay with him in those outfits. :-D

  • Shark says:

    What no jane seymour?

    • Danny Cantina-Dan says:

      Yeah, that was a tough omission. I took it pretty hard when “Serina” died in the third episode! One more wave and she would’ve been in. :)

  • Shellhead says:

    I had a Cyclon spaceship. That thing was all kinds of cool.

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    WOW! This wasn’t just a blog post, it’s a vintage BG collector’s guide! Top-notch writing and pic layout as always, Dan!!! I gotta admit that the shiny Cylon figures always caught my eye as a kid when going shopping with the family. I thought they looked neater than Stormtroopers. Never did ask for any figures from this line, otherwise I would have been miffed at the lack of articulation on some of these guys. Apollo was a must, but I’m sure that a lot of kids tried Hourman’s remedy. The head sculpts were great, all they needed was some nice paint detail, especially on the eyes. Baltar also reminds me of George Murdock AND Claude Akins’ Sheriff Lobo besides the great John Colicos. But boy, did this series have tons to offer which went undone! So many smokin’ babes and zero female figures, no key characters like Boomer and Tigh (he did rock in Foxy Brown) and a wasted opportunity for immortalizing in plastic classic actors such as Fred Astaire, Ray Bolger, Patrick Macnee, Lloyd Bridges, and Edward (pre-Knight Rider’s Devon) Mulhare! This line could have gone on for a good five years or more had the show survived and given Star Wars a nice run for its money. Somebody out there NEEDS to do a toy revival which follows the outline presented here. Excellent work, Dan!!!

  • Danny Cantina-Dan says:

    Thanks for all the kinds words, friends! Yeah, this toy line could’ve been exceptional. The figures we did get obviously spring from the beginning of Battlestar’s one season. I really wanted to interview someone from Mattel who worked on the line to see, amongst other things, what was coming next. Many thanks to Julius for reaching out to his contacts. Unfortunately, just no one surfaced.

  • Jeremy SpyMagician says:

    Dan!

    FANTASTIC post! I’m so glad those repros worked out! I realize I still have your originals, so I’ll ship those back to ya asap!

    I had pitifully few of the BSG figures as a kid (I think Daggit was it, lol) but a good friend had many and I do remember them fondly.

    It still boggles my mind that there was no Apollo!!!

    I recently go hooked on the reboot BSG, and despite early skepticism, I find that I really really enjoyed it. Ironic that both series had a rocky relationship with their toylines that had trouble filling out and finishing the lines.

    Well, at least the new series had a very respectable run of Minimates!

    Spy

  • Imaginexus says:

    Great blog, Dan! I LOVED this series and its toys. Besides the gaps in the figures that you’ve pointed out, the thing that bothered me the most was that none of the ships were scaled for the figures. Imean, c’mon. My brother had the Buck Rogers Starfighter, friends had the X-Wing, I wanted the Viper.

  • Traie says:

    Great piece and as always, awesome pictures!
    Man, that Saga of the Star World Dancer is f*****g weird!

  • lightso says:

    Richard Hatch’s character in the reboot is soooo much better, but yeah Apollo was a blaring omission. The best thing about the show to me was always the Viper and Cylon fighters. Shame Dirk Benedict isn’t around. What’s he do now – sign $10 photos at conventions? Maybe they wanted him to participate but pissed them off so they made his old character a chick?

    • JuliusMarx says:

      It’s weird, cuz Dirk IS still around. On the DVD extras for season 1 he is featured along with Katie Sackoff in a feature called “Starbuck interviewing Starbuck in a Starbuck’s” so I always thought he would show up later, but he never did.

      The other interesting thing about Richard Hatch is that he has was trying to gain the rights to BSG and create his own relaunch around the same time. He was very outspoken against the new BSG as it was coming out. Then the production went to him with the olive branch of the role of Tom… which mirrored his own real life instigating against the new show to anyone that would listen.

  • lightso says:

    Richard Hatch’s character in the reboot is soooo much better, but yeah Apollo was a blaring omission in the toy line. The best thing about the show to me was always the Viper and Cylon fighters. Shame Dirk Benedict isn’t around. What’s he do now – sign $10 photos at conventions? Maybe they wanted him to participate but pissed them off so they made his old character a chick?

  • Bill says:

    Loved this line. I still have my Daggit, and he is in excellent shape. I’d love to hunt down some of these vintage guys, but I spend too much as it is on new figures.

    I would’ve really liked the Eastern Alliance guys. They could have been visiting distant relatives for my Star Wars Imperial troops!

    Great article, man!

  • SilverThunderPowersMan says:

    Haha, not long ago I was with my Dad in his garage, and I saw a dusty carded Dagget figure just sitting there. I yelled at him for disrepectfully keeping a vintage toy in his dirty garage and he grabbed it from me and said I couldn’t have it. Not that I wanted it, but he was so defensive thinking I was going to take it when my concern was really how he was treating it. Anyway, he was so defensive he wouldn’t’ even tell me how he got it. I know it is more recently obtained and I’m pretty sure he has no clue who the character is!

  • JuliusMarx says:

    In case anyone hasn’t seen this BSG toy commercial

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAHNFXXMXSw

  • gl666 says:

    Great read, Dan! I never missed an episode when it was on (even Galactica 1980). Maybe someone should send this to the 4 Horsemen? Look at the great job they did with the Outer Space Men!

  • Laslo Hollyfeld says:

    I attained a full set of these a couple years ago but am still hunting for a club for my Boray figure :)

    I never understood why Mattel didn’t make vehicles scaled to the figures. Even Mego’s Buck Rogers line had vehicles! No vehicles and no Apollo really were baffling decisions.

    A revival/tribute line would be great, here’s hoping it happens!

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