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The ultimate Battlestar Galactica Viper link

Battlestar Galactica Viper2008 is the 30’th anniversary of the ABC television show Battlestar Galactica which was eventually re-made into an award winning Sci-Fi Channel series. Here is the complete history of the Viper, the iconic fighter ship from my favorite TV series of all time.



One of the design criteria for the Viper would be a "compact" configuration, easy to produce as a full-scale set piece, yet projecting a feeling of power. This was achieved with admirable results, at a diminutive length of 27 feet the Vipers huge intakes and exhaust nozzles left no doubt that this was a high-powered combat vehicle. Sporting stub wings reminiscent of the X-15 or F-104 Starfighter and a long rakish nose, this design also featured simple to build shapes that helped keep construction budgets down. Built as miniatures first, they also presented certain challenges to the studio construction department.

The Colonial Viper underwent numerous changes from its original concept to its final design. Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept was so different from the final Viper that it was reused as the "Thunder Fighter", the Earth Directorate Starfighter used in Glen Larson’s other space series, Buck Rogers.

Original Concept Artwork
This initial concept by McQuarrie is very similar to the Star Wars Y-Wing.

Original Concept Artwork
Thunder Fighter
The full-scale plywood "Thunder Fighter" used for filming the 1979 TV Series Buck Rogers from Cloudster.



With the industry changing success of Star Wars in the mid ’70s Universal was looking to barrow on that success for the small screen. Initial artwork was so similar that George Lucas sued to prevent it’s production claiming that it stolen 34 distinct ideas. Universal countersued claiming that Star Wars had borrowed robots and other themes from it’s 1972 film Silent Running and earlier Buck Rogers serials. After a very long development the series borrowed from the aircraft carrier theme, Star Wars and early ’30s serials for a new "Space Opera’. With a large cast, cutting edge special effects and complicated sets the show was the most expensive television series to produce for it’s time.

Battlestar Galactica
BSG Viper
Original Viper
The basic Viper design was represented both in Ralph McQuarrie artwork and concurrent paintings by Frank Frazetta.



Initially Battlestar Galactica’s creator Glen Larson envisioned Battlestar Galactica as a series of made-for-TV movies (a three-hour pilot and two two-hour episodes) for the ABC television network. On September 17, 1978, the uncut 148-minute pilot premiered on ABC to spectacular Nielsen Ratings. As the series progressed, the ratings began to decline, even though the show still consistently won its coveted Sunday evening time slot. Although each episode had a budget of about $1 million, the show reused so many special effects shots due to budgetary constraints that many critics derided it as "overplayed into tedium."

Battlestar GalacticaViper Small Scale Model
Screen Captures
Battlestar Galactica VipersBattlestar Galactica VipersBattlestar Galactica Vipers



Viper Small Scale Model
BSG Small Scale
Similar to Star Wars plastic models in Battlestar Galactica would be attached to a motion control armature for the filming of multi-pass effects shots. This process was very expensive and to save costs special effects shots were constantly recycle for the TV Series.

Viper Model
Surprisingly, the smallest and least detailed spaceship in the entire series was the one most often on the screen. The Viper model was small (as evidenced by the foam the model is resting on).



Two versions of the full scale Viper mockup were built for filming. The first, was the full scale complete version used for showing launch crews working around the fighter. The second contained only the cockpit and upper details of the fighter. This allowed two actors to be concurrently filmed without requiring two full scale fighters to be built. The full scale mockup, built primarily of plywood, was built on operational wheels that allowed it to be rolled from one location to another with relative ease. When it had to be taken over obstacles, it was lifted with a crane and set in place.
Large Scale Viper
Large Scale Viper
Large Scale Viper
BSG Viper - Plywood Construction
For many years the full scale Viper mockup languished in semi-outdoor storage behind one of the false front buildings on Universals Studios "New York" street back lot. Then came a fire that burned down that portion of the back lot and it is presumed that the Viper went with it. It is also possible that it was scrapped even before the fire, like so many of the other studio "spaceships". See more from Cloudster.



Here is my own version of starship dimensions for the Battlestar Galactica Universe. For more scale mockups like this you can see Starship Dimensions and Dan Carlson’s amazing version that cover major ships from throughout the sci-fi world.

Battlestar Galactica Spaceships
Ships from the original series in 1978 and re-imagined series including it’s multiple vipers. The re-imagined series even included an original series viper located in a museum on the aging and Battlestar Galactica due to be retired from active service. There are several online resources for technical details including: the online Battlestar Galactica Manual and the Battlestar Wiki.



These are the actual blueprints used to create the large-scale Viper from the 1978 Original Battlestar Galactica series.ViperViperViperViperViperViperViper



Despite attempts to revive the series over the years, none came to fruition until it was re imagined in 2003 by Universal Television in association with Sky1 and the Sci-Fi Channel with Ronald D. Moore and David Eick as the creative forces behind it. Edward James Olmos stepped into the role of Commander Adama. A weekly new Galactica series followed, premiering on Sky1 in the UK and Ireland in October 2004, and on Sci-Fi in the U.S. in January 2005.

The Re-Imagined series had two versions of the Viper, including the Viper Mark II (below) and a newer version that replaced it the Mark VII. The new series had pilots with realistic looking pressurized helmets which were scrapped in the original series to film them more easily. In the new series the older Mark II’s although outdated proved less vulnerable to Cylon’s hacking into their systems. Full scale mockups were again built with plywood but tedious stop motion filming of miniatures was replaced with CGI in the new series.

New Series Vipers
A viper Mark II and Viper Mark VII (lower) from the new Battlestar Galactica series.

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Posted By: Jerome Aronson

News Category: Uncategorized


11 Responses to “The ultimate Battlestar Galactica Viper link”

  1. You are my geek hero!

    Michael on 08 Oct 2008 at 5:50 pm
  2. This page rocks. I love the BSG starship dimensions. Good work!

    machina on 16 Oct 2008 at 7:59 am
  3. […] Un repaso a las naves de Battlestar Galactica [ENG] retardzone.com/2008/10/08/the-ultimate-battlestar-galactica-… por nekrodomus hace pocos segundos […]


    asd on 20 Oct 2008 at 4:08 am
  5. Wow, great resources for galactica fans. I think it gets to little respect for how good it is. It is one of the most enthralling sci-fi series with enough action.

    rick on 20 Oct 2008 at 9:29 am
  6. […] finally rolling out, some people have too much time on their hands (and do awesome things with it), Vipers are just awesome (although I beg to differ on the caption of the first picture there, this is clearly an A-Wing […]

    BSG Linkroll Pt. X « Melancholygeek on 08 Nov 2008 at 7:00 am
  7. Wow, this info is truly awesome.
    The original show has been the reason why i truly am a sci-fi geek (haha).
    And now after 34 years later my daughter who’s 14 says mum this is awesome 🙂

    Simone from Zeist, The Netherlands.

    Simone van Schaik on 21 Mar 2011 at 11:25 am
  8. […] 2008 is the 30′th anniversary of the ABC television show Battlestar Galactica which was eventually re-made into an award winning Sci-Fi Channel series. Here is the complete history of the Viper, the iconic fighter ship from my favorite TV series of all time. http://retardzone.com/2008/10/08/the-ultimate-battlestar-galactica-viper-link/ […]

  9. I have studied the mk7 and i’m sure it would fly.

    jeff on 09 Nov 2012 at 9:33 am
  10. Is there any I can get actual blue prints

    Robert geiter on 02 Jan 2016 at 3:25 pm
  11. How come no one has pictures or models of the Viper Mark 1 from the TV Series of the 80s?

    Patto on 20 Feb 2016 at 6:54 am

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