Thursday, March 3, 2011

Leslie Stevens is The Creator of "Battlestar Galactica"

by languatron » 25 Sep 2010 21:49

The shadows lengthen


By Susan J. Paxton

[ Reprinted with permission from Susan J. Paxton. Originally appeared on ]

quote-"It is my belief that Leslie Stevens, not Glen Larson, is the actual creator of Battlestar Galactica. Why is this important? After all, it's been over 22 years since Battlestar Galactica was canceled. Stevens is dead. The show remains in limbo. I believe it's important for several reasons. One involves simple justice. But another has more immediacy. Over the past several years, there have been movements to revive the series in some form, as a film, TV film, or even as a TV series, probably syndicated. One movement has been led by actor Richard Hatch and has taken the form of novels, a web site, and a professional-quality trailer proposal that has been widely hailed by BG fans wherever it has been shown. Whatever ones' personal views on Richard's novels, his revival plans feature the surviving original actors back in their original roles in a production set after the time of the series and ignoring the events of Galactica 1980 completely. He has backed this effort with his own time and money, showing real courage.

Richard's revival effort has attracted the support of a growing number, perhaps even a majority of BG fans. Executive Producer Glen A. Larson has spearheaded the other, predominantly reactive revival effort, originally in conjunction with Todd Moyer, director of the horrible film based on the game Wing Commander. Several years ago, BG composer Stu Phillips told me that Larson's reason for not producing a BG revival hinged on Larson's lack of ideas on how to handle the Galactica 1980 issue. It's obvious from Larson's proposals that he still lacks ideas. He's suggested basing a new BG production around the battlestar Pegasus and Commander Cain or, more recently, around a battlestar Atlantis, set thousands of years after or before the time of the original series, depending on which version you hear. Larson's claim to primacy in the BG revival stakes revolves around his claim to be the creator of the series. As creator, he believes it is his right to decide what form a revival should take. As creator, many fans would agree with him. But what if he isn't the creator?

When Battlestar Galactica was launched, Larson was the subject of many interviews. Over and over he told the same story of BG's origins. His original idea, he said, was for a series called Adam's Ark. Adam's Ark, Larson said, was "sort of about the origins of mankind in the universe, taking some of the Biblical stories and moving them off into space as if by the time we get to Earth they're really not about things that happened here but things that might have happened somewhere else in space." Note this carefully: "by the time we get to Earth." Larson told this story over and over, how he had approached the networks with this idea and been rejected.

Then, in the summer of 1977, when the success of Star Wars made the words "science fiction" once again safe to utter within network sanctums, Larson claimed he dusted this idea off, took it to Universal and ABC, and Adam's Ark then formed the basis of Battlestar Galactica. After all, Battlestar Galactica did touch on and suggest legends, Biblical and otherwise, and the fleet was indeed heading to Earth. Adam's Ark became part of the legend of BG's beginnings in spite of the fact that Larson never released a script or proposal to public view. More recently, Larson's story has changed, in interviews and most recently on the Sci-Fi Channel's Sciography special on BG. Adam's Ark is now, according to Larson, about a "Howard Hughes-like" character, a billionaire named Adam who believes Earth to be doomed and tricks Earth's best and brightest onto a spaceship and launches them to discover new worlds.

In other words, leaving Earth, not coming to Earth, and suddenly no hint of Biblical legends. Why the change? Did Larson just forget what his proposal was about? Is there a loose copy floating around somewhere he's afraid will get into fandom? Whatever the reason for Larson's sudden reversal on Adam's Ark, one thing is brutally certain. This later concept has absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to Battlestar Galactica. Probably it is Larson's original concept. It's enough of a brainless cartoon to fit with his normal line of programming.

Frankly, it's a really stupid idea. Enter director Alan J. Levi. Levi is known to BG fans as the director of "Gun on Ice Planet Zero," but he also directed half of the premiere after Richard Colla was let go by Larson. Levi was a good friend of the late Leslie Stevens, the producer best known for the famous science fiction series The Outer Limits. Recently I interviewed Alan Levi. I had not planned to ask him any questions about the origins of Battlestar Galactica because he had not been involved early enough in the process to know about it. But, out of the blue, with no prompting from me whatsoever, he said, "Well, Leslie Stevens wrote the original script. Leslie was one of my best friends. I do know that Leslie had told me at one time way before he ever got into the script that he had this great idea for a script that he was going to take to Glen Larson and talk about."

In other words, sometime in 1977, Stevens had told Levi about an idea for a series he was going to discuss with Glen Larson, an idea that recognizably was Battlestar Galactica. Now before people start running around screaming that Larson "stole" BG from Stevens, it's clear that whatever happened, Stevens must have agreed with it, though for what reason we cannot at this time know. Perhaps Larson had more pull at Universal than Stevens did. If Stevens was for some reason out of favor at the time, his idea might have been discarded by Universal while the same idea with Glen Larson's name on it would have been viewed favorably.

Stevens also was working on what became the Buck Rogers TV series at this same time and may not have had enough time to spearhead both efforts. Whatever kind of agreement Larson and Stevens came to, it evidently was amicable. Stevens never publicly said a thing about it. With Leslie Stevens dead, there are only a few people who could confirm, amplify or deny Levi's version of events. The most obvious is, of course, Glen Larson himself. And we can be assured, I believe, that he will never do so. He has little else to his credit of the quality of BG, and he will continue to claim it as his own for that and other reasons. The first three people hired by Larson to work on BG might also know: John Dykstra, Joe Johnston, and Ralph McQuarrie. Two others possibly able to shed light on the situation are Don Bellisario and Michael Sloan. They must be interviewed and asked what they know.

And, of course, there is the matter of Leslie Stevens' papers. Whether these are still held by his family or were donated to a library or university or other institution after his death, they could very well contain the truth and, most precious of all, Stevens' first draft of the BG premiere. More investigation must follow to pin down the elusive truth of the origins of Battlestar Galactica. But for Glen Larson and his claim to be the series' creator, the shadows have begun to lengthen."-unquote

I would like to add additional comments to Susan J. Paxton's article. For starters, both concepts reiterated by Glen A. Larson as supposedly being the genesis for "Battlestar Galactica" ("Adam's Ark", and the "Howard Hughes" story) both have absolutely nothing to do with a Battlestar fleet assembling in deep space for a rendezvous with the Cylon Empire to sign a peace treaty. Both "Adam's Ark" and "Howard Hughes" also have absolutely nothing to do with a Ragtag Fleet of spaceships trailing behind a last surviving Battlestar called Galactica. Both "Adam's Ark" and "Howard Hughes" have absolutely nothing to do with Colonial Warriors, Cylon Centurions, Ovions, Colonial Blasters, Landrams, an Imperious Leader, Colonial Vipers, Cylon Raiders, the 12 Worlds of Mankind (named after the Zodiac signs), a family with the name Adama serving together aboard a Battlestar called Galactica, a Council of 12, and the Nova of Madagon.

Where did all of this outer space stuff come from? It sure as hell didn't come from Glen A. Larson's "Adam's Ark" concept, and it sure as hell didn't come from Glen A. Larson's "Howard Hughes" concept. The only place where all of this outer space stuff could have come from, was a script not written by Glen A. Larson. It could only have come from the Leslie Stevens script that Alan J. Levi confirmed existed before Leslie Stevens ever took it to Glen A. Larson.

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