Film Rip-Offs - "Star Wars" vs "Battlestar Galactica"

Not a hit film has been made from which a TV series has not been considered. No sooner had the hi-tech helicopter thriller "Blue Thunder" (1983) finished its theatrical run, for instance, than three television series hit the smaller screen - "Blue Thunder", "Airwolf", and to an extent the comedy-drama "Riptide". And the quickest to fail was the official one.

Similarly, "Alias Smith and Jones" is surely an unacknowledged variant of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", while "BJ and the Bear" owes much to "Every Which Way But Loose".

But by far the most notorious case of alleged rip-off is "Battlestar Galactica", which was accused of borrowing a little too much from "Star Wars" and saw its makers taken to court. Both are space operas with dogfights but the similarities were said to be much deeper. For example,the original script drafts of "Galactica" had a character named Skyler, not too far away from Skywalker in "Star Wars". Also the original title for "Battlestar Galactica" was "Star Worlds", with the pilot airing under the episode title of "Saga of a Star World", despite the plot being about 12 planets and one warship.

"Galactica" creator Glen A Larson claimed that his show was in the works long before "Star Wars". Significantly, Larson also says he met up with "Star Wars" producer Gary Kurtz: "I agreed not to use certain effects including laser streaks from our guns... I always consider [the case] very unfair because we had met... and they were in agreement not to take any action."

Fox sued in June 1978, citing 34 similarites between the properties. George Lucas said that he wouldn't take part in the suit. This gave Larson plenty to shout about until Lucas responded in print that he wasn't sueing because he couldn't sue - Fox owned the rights being sued for, not him.

The case was decided in favour of "Battlestar Galactica" on 22 August 1980 - by which time the original "Battlestar Galactica" had been cancelled and cinemas were looking forward to "The Empire Strikes Back".

Read about some more movie rip-offs.

More great "Star Wars" stuff.

Sorry, but we don't have any more great Battlestar Galactica stuff. Which is a shame...


"Skywalking: The Life and Times of George Lucas", Dale Pollock, 1999, ISBN 0-306-80904-4

"Small Screen Star Wars", Bob Rich, Time magazine, 18 September 1978

"Countdown for Rattletrap Galactica", Tom Shales, Washington Post, 8 April 1979

"Galactica Enters Space Derby: Biblical or Space Western, It's Way Out", Jerry Buck, TV Talk, 17 September 1978

Battlestar Galactica FAQ list

"Interview: Glen A Larson", Doug Snauffer, Epi-Log Journal, Spring 1994

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