23 August 2021

Future War Stories from the East: GALL FORCE: THE ETERNAL STORY (1986)

 













Both sides of the Pacific Ocean often regard the 1980s as the Golden Age of anime, especially, in the genre of military science fiction titles. In 1986, some of the greatest talents in the industry at the time came together to work on this 1986 OVA title. The talent of Gall Force: Eternal Story were themselves, veterans of MOSPEADA and went on to one of my favorite titles of all time: Bubblegum Crisis. In this installment of Future War Stories of the East, we will exploring and hopefully explaining the oddity that is Gall Force: Eternal Story (GFES)!

What is "Gall Force: The Eternal Story"?
This is a 1986 military science fiction OVA released in Japan on Saturday July 26th, 1986 under the name of "Garu Fosa" (ガルフォース). The name has translated from Japanese is "Gulfs" or "Galls" or "Gals" and "Force" Some sites have said that originally the OVA was going to be titled "Girl Force", but it sounded too funny and it was changed. The origin story of Gall Force is very unusual and involves some of the best in the business at the time. Originally, the entire franchise of Gall Force started off as a back-page photo-comic series in Model Grafix magazine called "Star Front Gall Force" that ran monthly from March 1985 to July 1986 (the same month as the OVA was released). Star Force Gall Force told the story of three Solnoids female warriors (Rabbi, Patty and Rumy) of the Star Leaf cruiser/carrier that are separate from their main fleet and forced to use all of their awesome mecha to defend themselves from the Paranoid fleet and Commander Dohn. 
The characters and mecha were garage kits that became packaged model kits of their own during the run with cartoon-like talk balloons in bad English. From the few imagines I've seen, there was a great deal of talent involved in Star Front Gall Force. However, there some conflict between sources about how Star Front Gall Force came to existence. Some sources claim that female space warrior characters were developed by Kenichi Sodona while working at Artmic studios for their client Model Graphix magazine. Other sources stated that noted writer/artist Hideke Kakinuma was inspired by the first Terminator film (seen more in The Earth Chapter) and created the genesis of Gall Force and partnered with Sodona to develop the photo-comic series for Model Grafix. Only after that did Artmic take notice of the concept and hired Kakinuma and Sodona to develop Gall Force has an anime property. Either way, Kakinuma and Sodona were the primary forces behind bring the garage model kits female warriors, mecha, and aliens into a military science fiction anime. The idea was to scratch build figures and mecha for the monthly magazine as part of a photo serials. It's a pretty cool idea. Similar stuff has run in other Japanese hobby magazines like Hobby Japan, but this idea was truly an anime fan garage kit make's dream come true. The Gall Force Star Front feature ran in the magazine on a monthly basis from March 1985 to July 1986 when the feature film came out. 

The Plot and Setting of Gall Force: The Eternal Story
The OVA literally opens up onto a massive space battle between two fleets of warships near a Earth-like world. We soon learn that one side of this fleet engagement is the (assumed) all-female human race called the “Solnoids” and the amorphic “Paranoids” are the other side, who can reorganize their bodies to take other shapes as needed or even inhabit mecha. While the Solenoid use technology that seems familiar to us and design that are also familiar to most Terran sci-fi cultures, the Paranoids seem to use organic technology. During the space battle, the audience learns that the focus of the Solenoid central fleet is to jump to the 9th Star System and protect the newly terraformed world called “Chaos”. This is to be the new homeworld of the Solenoid due to the loss of their own homeworld at the hands of the Paranoid. The audience also then learns the main focus of the anime, is the Star Leaf, an Kularis class cruiser/carrier hybrid 280-meter-long warship. This vessel carries space combat fighters and mecha, along with a massive mobile planetary base module called “Blossom”. Onboard the Star Leaf is 2nd in command Eluza, 3rd in command Rabbi, along the rest of the crew: Rumy, Pony, Catty, and Patty. The captain of the Star Leaf was on the flagship of the Solenoid fleet when the battle goes down and the order comes to jump to lightspeed to the planet Chaos. 
Just before the jump, a damaged space fighter crash-lands illegally onboard bearing an Ace Attacker and the star character of Gall Force: Lufy. From here, the OVA is told via the major issues the crew of the Star Leaf faces on their journey to Chaos and once on Chaos. During a stop to repair the Gravity-Canceller for the light speed drive, the Star Leaf is engaged by the Paranoids and Lufy defends the ship and is marooned with the ship is forced to jump away and she dies in the hands of one of the space combat Bronze-D class mecha. During this part of the OVA, GFTES descents into an ALIEN rip-off due to the joint Solenoid/Paranoid “Species Unification Plan”. 
This is the major focus of the OVA (and the sequels) going forward and this was a solution dreamed up by some elements within the two warring species to stop the death and destruction of the century-long war between them. It was envisioned that a 3rd race born of a combination of the Solenoid/Paranoid DNA would bring lasting peace, and one of the test subjects of the plan was the Star Leaf. When the creature emerged and stalked the crew, two Solenoids were impregnated: Eluza and Patty. Eluza died due to the experiment and Patty was able to carry the male baby to term in an pregnancy that lasted…a day? The baby grows rapidly and from the reaction of the crew, it seems that babies are not really a thing in the Solenoid society has we would learn in Stardust War.   
Due to damage suffered by the Star Leaf, some of the surviving crew abandons the Star Leaf for the Blossom and they land on the terraformed world of Chaos. Once there, the remaining crew members under Rabbi make a beachhead for the rest of the Solnoid fleet and watch the child grow into a teenage boy. After a few days, the Paranoid fleet shows and attempts to reclaim the child along with the elite Central Guard of the Solnoids military. During this, the remains of the Solnoid fleet arrive and a three-way space battle erupts and the Paranoids are defeated save for their planetary landing force that is attempting to gain access to the Blossom. 
When the Solnoid fleet refuses to withdraw and give Chaos to the Central Guard, a civil war breaks out and during this, Rabbi learns the truth. She overloads the terraforming generators and puts the boy and the youngest member of the crew, Rumy into an escape pod and sends them to a world called Terra. Once safety away, Rabbi destroys the aliens, the Central Guard, and themselves. The world of Chaos becomes a lifeless moon orbiting the blue and green world of Terra. We skip forward thousands of years and we seen that the 3rd race is humanity and the 9th system is the Sol System and the world of Chaos is Luna. This makes the baby of Patty and Rumy the mythological Adam and Eve characters from the major monotheistic religions of Terran society. Wonderful. 
Okay, there is elements of the story that I am skipping over and given how underboiled and overboiled some elements of the story are, Gall Force is terribly uneven and the link to the Adam and Eve myth of the Big 3 monotheistic religions is interesting to a point. Some have linked elements of
Gall Force: The Eternal Story OVA to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica story-arch and I can see it. Some have gone has far as saying that BSG for the SciFi Channel was inspired by Gall Force. When it comes to the two spacefaring civilizations that are war, we know very little. The commander of the Paranoid fleet, Dohn, has been part of the Gall Force franchise since Gall Force Star Front, and the design of the Paranoids is…odd and confusing, however, it is original. 
There is nearly nothing on their society or their motivations and the same is true of the Solenoids. We do not know or why the Solenoids are all females and if there are males in their society. We do know, thanks to Gall Force 3: Stardust War, that the entire Solnoid race reproduces via artificial wombs without the need or desire for sexually reproduction. However, the Solnoid bodies still carry the reproductive organs and the Paranoids used that for the plan to create a 3rd race. We also know that, thanks to Stardust War, that the Solnoids did not originate from their homeworld of Marcis, but from somewhere else in the galaxy. 
At some distant point back thousands of years before Gall Force: The Eternal Story, Marcis was colonized and terraformed by survivors of a world that ended in holocaust and the Solnoid civilization rose from those survivors...for this has happened before and it will happen again. 

The Historical Context of the Gall Force Franchise
For years, Gall Force: The Eternal Story remained in Japan and was only pirated to the shores of the West. So, I think we should discuss the mid-1980’s Japan anime industry and market at the time of Gall Force’s release. Advances in home media technology exploded faster in Japan than anywhere else and LaserDisc was a common form of home media more than the States and a majority of the OVAs from the 1980’s were in LaserDisc (LD) format. This was also a time in Japan that were Japan was of the key economies in the world and their technologically advancements shaped the world we still live in. This was the time of the “Bubble” as historians have coined it and from 1986-1991, the Japanese extended their economic power around the world with real estate holdings and business ventures. Those business ventures caused Japanese cars, personal electronics, and entertainment to reshape the world and people’s lives. No longer was the label “Made in Japan” to mean junk, but nearly on the level of “Made in West Germany”. I grew up in the 1980’s wearing Casio watches (I still do this every day with my G-Shocks!), riding in Japanese cars (still do as well), and watching anime and buying mecha toys and models. 
To my generation, Japan was not the bombers of Pearl Harbor, but the exports of cool toys, cartoons, and Martial Arts. Kids of my generation were turning Japanese and it was awesome. This was the time in which Gall Force came out. At this time in Japan, the OVA was dominating the anime market since studios and creators could create titles that was not dependent on selling the concept as an entire TV series, which was better for the bottom line due to the difference in the price tag. After all, if an OVA failed, it was one product and not an entire TV series that failed to catch fire. This was also the time when the home console market was strong and some anime titles got a tie-in video game on the Famicom system or gaming computer, like the MSX.   

Gall Force: The Eternal Story in the West
For clarity, there are four waves of Anime/Manga into the West. The 1st Wave came into US shores during he 1960s with Astroboy and Speed Racer and these were the primitive times before the advent of home media as we understand it today. The 2nd Wave of Anime into the West was the one that firmly established the iconic status of Anime/Manga and forged livelong fans like me. Arriving in the late 1970s with titles like Planet of the Battles and Starblazers, but really took to flame with ROBOTECH and Voltron, massive amounts of model kits, manga, and mecha toys. Around this time was advent of home media with formats like LaserDisc, BetaMax, and VHS. 
During this time as well, bootleg titles came from Japan to the west via independent sellers with all manner of quality and translation. These bootlegs and pirated titles were shown at conventions and even on rental tapes at special video rental shops and comic book stores in larger US cities (like Dallas!). The 3rd Wave of Anime into the West came in the 1990s with companies being setup to import titles properly,  cable and regular TV networks airing anime OVAs and series, along with stores carrying anime/manga titles like Suncoast Video in most US Malls. We are presently in the 4th Wave of Anime into the West and this represents the complete and total colonization of Anime/Manga into Western culture. This history of importation of anime directly impacts our discussion of GFTES. In the early days of the 2nd Wave, Gall Force: The Eternal Story was part of those pirated/bootleg titles shown at conventions and sold via back pages in magazines. In the 12th of the American Anime fan-zine called NOVA, there is mention of GFTES from the fan mail section that reads like a printed online discussion. That is only one year from when GFTES was released in Japan! That is most impressive. Around the same time, there was mention of Gall Force: The Eternal Story for sale in the market page in the December 1987 Starlog Magazine. Another pre-US-release example of GFTES came from the program of the 1989 San Diego Comic-Con, where a pirated copy of the OVA was screened for the audience. 
It would be firmly during the 3rd Wave of Anime into the West for Gall Force to be released by the US via Central Park Media's US Manga Corps label on October 20th,1993 on subtitled VHS media for $39 ($97 in today's money) and the much rarer LaserDisc was released on March 12th,1993 for $29 ($57 in today's money). By winter of 1994, US Manga Corps was advertising the coming release of the rest of the Gall Force OVAs in Animerica Magazine, and by the 2000s, the majority of the series was on DVD. The OVA was aired on SciFi Channel on November 9th, 1996 as part of their Saturday lineup. Due to this long history and coming at the right time, GFTES, has enjoyed a following by fans of anime that grew up during mostly the 3rd Wave. For many, it was their first anime and that instilled a certain about of nostalgia associated with the title. Despite this celebration and nostalgia, Gall Force is not currently in print, with the last DVD pressed in 2003 which has driven up the prices. It is uploaded to YouTube if you are interested.  
     
Why is Gall Force: The Eternal Story Considered Military Science Fiction?
In the 1986 OVA, the open scene is a massive space battle between two fleets of warships firing intense volleys of  missiles and DE weapons. Very soon we learn that this battle is between the Solnoids and the Paranoids and there has been an war going on between the two sides for nearly a century and cost has been high. So high, in fact, that both sides will lose their homeworlds and much of their civilization. All but one character in the 1986 OVA is a member of either the Solnoid or Paranoid military and the movie is packed with tons of warships, mecha, planes, vehicles, powered armor, and weapon of expert design. Much of the other titles in the franchise are the same, with military situations and the characters being in the service.  

Is Gall Force: The Eternal Story Worth Watching today?
Until I decided to discuss GFTES, I had only watched Bennett the Sage's review for Anime Abandon...and I wasn't impressed overall. While the OVA is well respected and beloved by Otaku on both shores, I found it quite uneven and disappointing, like a lukewarm Lasagna. The overall mecha design, character design, and some story elements were damn good, but the dialog and potholes are lethal to my sense of enjoyment. And the ever worst, was the technobabble and the names of nearly everything in the OVA. Most of the characters, planets, races, and ship names are the stuff of childish playtime. Seriously, I was naming ships and planets better when I was eight for RPGs than this damn thing made by adults. 
Sadly, the art was there, but the writing was not, and given the art I saw online, I really thought this would be better than it was. In this way, it reminds me of Super Dimensional Century ORGUSS, very cool designs and characters, but bad writing. Given that Gall Force: Eternal Story is the foundation for the rest of the works in the franchise, it doesn't have a good beginning, and the rest of the Gall Force films suffer as a result. However, if you are an Otaku and love 1980's anime military science fiction, give it a watch on YouTube for free and see if your mileage varies from mine. 

The Legacy and Impact of Gall Force
When Gall Force started off, it was a still-photo cartoon in the back pages of an model magazine in Japan in 1985. By the end of 1986, Gall Force was on edge of being a 1980’s franchise with art books, model kits, video games, and an OVA. For ten years, Gall Force was a franchise that was on that edge of greatness, and b 1996 is was over with an attempted remake. Despite the complete unevenness of the franchise, Gall Force: The Eternal Story is well-regarded, loved, and celebrated by people that were induced into anime during the 3rd Wave when Central Park Media released Gall Force OVAs on home media in the 1990’s. While I had missed the boat on Gall Force, there is a generation of anime-lovers that have a strong connection to Gall Force and for some, it was their first anime due to it being aired on Saturdays on the SciFi Channel. Today, there is still a loyal fan base and reviews of the property on YouTube…and there is a disconnect between the two. Many of the anime YouTube reviewers that discuss Gall Force: The Eternal Story praise look, but not the story and this disconnect is very interesting among the American Anime community. At the moment, the Gall Force property is in cold storage and nothing appears to be working on changing that status.  

Wasn't there Sequels?
Gall Force was envisioned as a franchise after the success of
the first OVA and most of the original production team came back to work on the first trilogy. On November 21st, 1987, the next installment of the first trilogy came out: Gall Force 2: Destruction. This centered on the lone survivor of the Star Leaf, Lufy, who was found by another Solnoid warship and revived from being frozen in deep space after 10 years. We see the Solnoids destroy the homeworld of the Paranoids with the new System-Destroyer. With the space weapon of mass destruction possessed by both sides, the future of both sides looks bleak and Lufy goes to defend the 9th Star System and Terra with her new friends. The 3rd and final OVA in the Gall Force: The Eternal Story Trilogy was Stardust War. This is when the final battle between the Paranoids and the Solnoids will be waged and it seems that both civilizations will be lost. Both sides intend on using their "planet-destroyer" weapon ships and end it all with only stardust in its wake. This situation was told to the audience as MAD and it hit the audience with the anti-nuclear weapon message. In this OVA, we learn much of the history of the war and the races involved. With the final battle looming, Lufy and her friends go on a final mission to download the bulk of the Solnoid knowledge and send it to the moon of Chaos. The final ends with a Terran space mission to recover the data. 
Coming in 1989 was the Rhea Gall Force OVA (The word "Rhea" is from Greek mythology and she was the mother of the Titans)  and this told the story of a future Terra that is suffering under a robotic revolution due to the Terrans using the Solnoid knowledge and that technology turning on them. We see a character, named Sandy Newman, that is basically a carbon copy of Rabbi along with others that are designed to look like the ancient Solnoid warriors. All seems lost and the remains of human living in the ruins of the great cities decides to pack up and join the Mars colony and leave Earth to the machines. This story was inspired by Hideke Kakinuma's love of the Terminator film and we can see elements of the Future War of 2029 in these Gall Force OVAs. Rhea Gall Force would give birth to the second Trilogy: The Earth Chapter. This three films were released in the space of one year, ending in December of 1990. 
However, this is not the end of Gall Force. There was yet another installment in the ongoing story and Gall Force: The New Era picks ups after the Earth is liberated from the machines and it enters into the dystopia territory with some health BLADE RUNNER ripping-off with some megacities and cyborgs called "Yumans". Some 200 years after the events of the Earth Chapter, the Earth is rebuilding and recovering from the war against the machines with Mars supporting the reconstruction of the Earth. We see the characters of the original trilogy in a new setting on Mars and on Earth. It seems that a Catty survived and is guiding the new/old members of the Star Leaf to defend the old enemy. There were two episodes of Gall Force: The New Era released in 1991 and 1992. Then there was a four year gap for Gall Force and the intention by AIC with the last installment of the franchise was to reboot the series with Gall Force: The Revolution OVA with four episodes airing from 1996 to 1997. This was a retelling, in part, of the original 1986 story with characters of the same name. 
There were massive changes with the art, story, and the nature of the war. The Solnoids are now locked in a civil war between the "west" and "east" factions. This was never exported to the west, thank the gods, and it can be watched on YouTube with subtitles...which I did for the purposes of this article and I can tell you that while some of the mechanical art is outstanding, the character design is terrible and the cast looks more at home in an episode of My Little Pony: Equestria Girls than a military science fiction anime! It is honestly shit and it killed the Gall Force franchise. 

There was an American Comic?!
During the 1990's, Central Park Media was attempting to form their own media empire centered around imported anime and manga properties that they owned the license for. One of their ventures was the short-lived CPM Comics with titles based on their properties and one of these was a limited four-part series of Gall Force: The Eternal Story. Fellow Dallas-resident Bruce Lewis worked on this comic along with Starblazers: Magazine for Argo Press and it seems that this Gall Force comic was a very similar style and theme to the Starblazers: Magazine. There is so very little on this 1995 comic series on the internet and I cannot even tell you if the CPM Comic is an comic adaptation of the original anime movie or an original story set in the Gall Force: The Eternal Story universe. From the limited information, it seems there is not an proper Japanese manga in the Gall Force franchise. Given the cover art of the limited series, I am guess that it is a retelling of the OVA story with some fleshing out and improved dialog towards an western audience. The comics are available for just over the original asking price and again, since there is nearly nothing on these Gall Force comics by CPM Press on the internet, this is able all I can tell you. However, another property that CPM Press used was Project A-Ko, and I found a review of it and it seems that the series was an completely American comic and a new storyline and art that attempted to be within the anime style. 

The Gall Force Video Games
On December 10th, 1986, few months after the release of Gall Force: The Eternal Story, a vertical shoot’em up genre video game was released by HAL Laboratory for the Famicon disk system (FDS). Unlike the US NES that took cartridges, the FDS was an add-on to the original Famicon that allowed for more complex video games due to the size increase offered by these disks. Some of the more legendary titles on the NES were originally released on the FDS, like the Legend of Zelda and the Japanese-only sequel to Super Mario Brothers. The Disk System was released in February of 1986 with the Gall Force game being released in December of 1986. While the Famicon lasted for years, the apex of the FDS was a short-term add-on and never came to the States. The original Gall Force game is similar, to me, to Xevious, and you as Rabbi, pilot a space fighter to progress through shooting (space) Paranoids to release the other members of the Star Leaf after the level boss battles. It seems that the game was well enough received for two more games under the Gall Force name.  In 1986 and 1987, two more Gall Force: The Eternal Story tie-in games were released of the Japanese ASCII Corporation MSX line of home computer machines. One was called “Gall Force: Defense of Chaos” and it was another vertical shoot’em up with pilot switching. Then there was a graphic adventure game of the OVA for the MSX2 system in 1987 that looks playing of Stancher. Due to the Gall Force 1986 OVA not being exported to the US and the games themselves being on different media or machine types, none of the Gall Force titles came to our shores.

The Battle of the Sexes Among the Stars, Adam & Eve, and the Ending 
Two of the most discussed topics of Gall Force: The Eternal Story is that the entire story is framed around a war between an all-female society and an all-male society and how they cannot come to peace and need another race to end the war. To do this, they embarked on the Species Reunification Plan to form a child that could reproduce sexually with the Solenoids and form a 3rd race. Due to the uneven and under baked setting of the Gall Force franchise, we cannot assume that the Battle between the Sexes among the stars is completely accurate. To make things worse, we do not know the origin or source of the century-long war between the two societies. For these races being locked in this titanic death struggle that cost both races their homeworlds by the time of the sequel, there would be a damn good reason for the war at this genocidal level. 
Then there is the end of the story and the impact of that. We know that Gall Force: The Eternal Story was to be a stand-alone OVA that was to be the only entry into Gall Force. However, it made money and thus, the Gall Force franchise was born along with the confusion. Given the story of the 1986 OVA, the sequel was constructed oddly to fit within the events of the first film and the entries that came after were even worse and more stringy with their connection to the original Gall Force concept. Then there is the whole Adam and Eve element that I think this ending is a rather cool twist, but it is not handled well, especially considering the Chaos = Luna concept. Why the Solnoids would terraform a much small world for their new homeworld when Earth was right there? Given that Gall Force: The Eternal Story is liberally mining the mythological story of Adam & Eve, it is assumed that Terra was not populated with humans and this makes the case more compelling to settle on Earth and not the Moon.  

Did the Gall Force Trilogy Inspire the Reimagined Battlestar Galactica?
After watching the original Gall Force trilogy, I am left wondering if some of the concepts of the first Gall Force trilogy influence or directly inspired some of the core concepts in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. Okay, there is no direct evidence or a quote from the showrunners, but there are some damn strong connections, especially in the 3rd and final entry in the original trilogy: Stardust War. To me, lacking a primary source on this, but given the amount of chatter online and my own conclusions, I think that someone involved with the Battlestar Galactica show did indeed watch and absorb some of the concepts from Gall Force. Some have stated that the original 1978 Battlestar Galactica is an influence on the creators of Gall Force as well. 

Next Time on FWS...
It is believed by many of Star Wars fans that the Kenner Star Wars original trilogy toyline was a smash hit on every front and it dominated...however, there are some casualties in the Kenner line that are often forgotten by modern audiences and collectors. The two Kenner lines that died an early death were both oddly sized: the 1978-1980 12inch doll line and the tiny Micro Collection line of 1982. In the next installment of Military Sci-Fi Toys, we will exploring and explaining one of the most interesting and bluffingly Kenner toylines of the Golden Era of Star Wars Toys!

5 comments:

  1. Yep, Nausicaa of the valley of the wind was my first interduction into Anima in the 80s. Fallowed quickly by watchin this, Macross/Robotech, Akira, record of lodoss war, Ninja Scroll, La BLue girl and Iria: Zeiram the Animation as a kid/young teen. Fun shows.

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    1. Mine was starblazers backnin the late 1970s

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  2. BattleStar Galactica OS was inspired largely by Mormon traditions. Regardless, any similarities between it and Gall Force are simply explained by story tropes. Nothin new under the sun.

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    1. You are likely correct...it was just odd watching the trilogy and the new BSG recently

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  3. Ah, yes, I recall watching and even recording this OVA on Sci-Fi's Saturday Anime program. Even gotten around to buying the DVD some years back, though for the life of me I can't recall where I put my VHS copy of the second movie.

    Though I must admit, Gall Force was not my first introduction to Anime. That would be Voltron and Sailor Moon. Pretty sure it was Venus Wars that showed me that Anime could be more mature and detailed, but Gall Force did scratch that space opera, giant robot itch.

    As for the whole twist connection between the OVA series and the Reimagined BSG series, while eerie the trope of "Earth All Along" is pretty old. At least one Twilight Zone episode did such a twist, even going so far as having two of the characters be named "Adam" and "Eve".

    Also, fun fact about the original Battlestar Galactica series for those precious few who didn't know: The Cyclons were originally lizard people ala "V" before it was decided that weekly slayings of living beings via laser pistols might not jive well with TV broadcasts so it was changed to robots.

    Personally, I would love to see a re-reimagining of Battlestar Galactica to feature the original iteration of the Cylons as living beings as opposed to a synthetic race. I think the TV viewing public is more comfortable with the sights of fictional slaughter of aliens.

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