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.

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.

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.





  • Jeff says:

    What?!?!!? No EASTERN ALLIANCE??? They were the coolest bad guys of the Original Series!!! Would anyone know what the National Emblem / Symbol is for The Eastern Alliance? I wish to combine the Eastern Alliance from BSG with THE TERRAN EMPIRE from Star Trek!!! THAT would be a very formidable force!!!!

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