George Lucas, who’d harbored dreams of making his own Star Wars TV show, saw too many similarities. Not only did Larson, a veteran TV writer, have form for copying the formats of other shows – writer Harlan Ellison called him “Glen Larceny” – he’d also used the same special effects guys Lucas had left unemployed after Star Wars wrapped. When Lucas finally decided to try to get a Star Wars TV show off the ground in the late 2000s, as I reported in How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, he not only hired second Galactica showrunner Ronald D. Moore to pen an episode starring Darth Vader, he also assigned his team of artists to figure out how Moore’s show had made sci-fi TV this damn good on less than $3 million an episode. Larson himself told the story of “a lady from the network who was a coke addict” – hey, it was the late 1970s – who would “Have these hyper ideas.” Her big idea for the show? “Let’s have Galactica discover Earth” – in the third episode! After cancelling the show and then having a sudden, jittery change of heart, ABC suits gave us Galactica 1980, where the ship does find Earth. The pair had three things going for them: the fact that Moore was churning out brilliant scripts with crazy concepts at a rate of knots; the fact that the show was a critical darling, widely seen as expressing and exploring America’s post-9/11 moral crisis; and sheer bullheadedness about making exactly the kind of science fiction they wanted to see. Sure, go ahead and make your argument for Star Trek: the Next Generation or Deep Space Nine or Babylon 5 or The Expanse as the best space show in the history of TV. They’re all good candidates.
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