A new universe filled with exciting battles and daring escapes hit television in 1978 when Battlestar Galactica first aired. After the success of Star Wars, most companies dreamed of creating the next property that would enjoy the same level of success. This was no different at Universal Studios and ABC. Thus, they greenlit the series with a budget that most shows would only dream of.
Despite their high hopes, they did not rush straight into a weekly series. Instead, audiences met the crew of the Battlestar Galactica as they fled from the destruction of their old homes. While humanity had once lived prosperously in twelve colonies, their homes were destroyed by the Cylon forces after one of their own, Baltar, betrayed them. Led by Commander Adama, the survivors sought out the legendary thirteenth colony, Earth, in hopes of a better future.
As the original movie proved successful, the production moved on to create two more made-for-tv movies. However, both the audience and Universal wanted to see more Battlestar Galactica. To meet this demand, the production changed gears and ramped up to create weekly television episodes instead. This change forced them to rush past certain plot points as the production became chaotic. With the high cost and unstable production, the series only lasted 17 episodes before it was canceled completely.
At the height of the original run, the merchandise for the show was everywhere. There even was a Marvel comic book series that lasted 23 issues from 1978 to 1980. However, it all paled in comparison to the notorious toy line that Mattel produced in 1978.
Mattel created two series of toys for the show in 1979, both featuring 3 ¾” scale action figures. For the first series, there were six action figures. Meanwhile, the second series had only four. There was also a complete 5 figure gift set with the action figures of the main cast. Filling out the toy line were 2 12” action figures, a talking Daggit, a Lasermatic Pistol, and an I.D. Set.
Mattel also produced four vehicles for this toy line that featured firing missiles. Despite following all the safety regulations at the time, Mattel quickly ran into problems with these vehicles. The first signs of issues came when the Consumer Products Safety Commission relayed reports of children inhaling or swallowing these projectiles. Mattel responded by slapping a warning sticker on their remaining stock. However, that did not save them from what happened next.
After a child died by choking on one of these missiles, Mattel was forced to issue a recall. To compensate customers for the loss of play value, they offered free Hot Wheels cars. Mattel had even more problems to deal with as they faced a lawsuit from the death. This event affected multiple toy lines for years to come, including Star Wars.
While both Universal and Mattel witnessed moderate success from Battlestar Galactica, they also faced several legal setbacks. Their desire to create the next hit science fiction property was quickly noticed by 20th Century Fox and George Lucas. For several years, the two companies duked it out with various lawsuits, including ones over Mattel’s toy line.
Not long after Battlestar Galactica stopped airing, its fans began to demand the return of the series. The series had successfully become a beloved part of pop culture. In response to the outcry, Universal greenlit a follow-up 2-hour-long tv movie, Galactica 1980, which transformed into a 10-episode series. With only two actors returning and a plot that was set 30 years after the original, the follow-up quickly failed. Moreover, this series did not receive any new toys.
Despite the failure of the follow-up series, Battlestar Galactica retained enough popularity throughout the decades to warrant new merchandise years after its cancelation. The franchise returned with new stories with the comic books published by Maximum Press in 1995. These comic books also inspired a brand-new toy line.
Trendmasters introduced their take on Battlestar Galactica in 1996. These toys were not based on the original series, but instead used designs from the comics, specifically Richard Hatch’s Apollo’s Journey arc. Trendmasters produced 5 6” action figures, with three of them being Cylons that used the same mold. They also produced two vehicles.
The franchise got a brand new wave of popularity after USA Cable Entertainment aired a reimagining of the series. This new take began with a mini-series that loosely retold the events of the first tv movie from 1978 with some changes. This time, Baltar unintentionally helped the Cylons, who were now robots that were once created by humans, wipe out Kobal’s 12 colonies. The survivors escaped on a fleet of ships to seek out the legendary 13th colony, Earth. The success of this mini-series led to a full series with 4 seasons. It also generated two made-for-tv movies, Razor and The Plan. With the reimagined series producing a brand new wave of popularity, many companies began to produce new merchandise.
In 2005, Konami created a series of blind box figures to collect. These boxes contained the chance to find either 2 Cylon warriors or 4 ships. Each of these figures was around 2” to 5” long.
Then, there was Joyride Studios who also introduced a new round of action figures. These 6” action figures were released in two series. While Joyride had planned on a third series, the toy line was canceled before it could come out.
Majestic Studios also produced new Battlestar Galactica toys in 2005. Unlike the other lines, they focused on creating detailed 12” action figures. There were 5 different stand-alone figures and a 2-pack with both Apollo and Starbuck created for this line.
After the proven success of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, Diamond Selects signed on to create toys for the series in 2007. These new toys were created around the 7” scale size with detailed paint jobs and articulation. There were 4 series planned for the line, Diamond Selects only created 3 before canceling the line. They also produced 5 waves of toys that only appeared on the shelves of Toys “R” Us.
Even though the reimagined series officially ended in 2009, its legacy lived on. The franchise gained its first spin-off series in 2010 when Caprica aired on Syfy. There was also a brand-new web series produced in 2012, Blood & Chrome. NBC announced plans for another new series in 2019; however, it has had a rocky production with its writer and producer leaving the project in 2021.
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