Early versions of the ship designs for Battlestar Galactica have been revealed in a book that walks through the complex process of coming up with spaceship concepts, Battlestar Galactica: Designing Starships. The book examines original concept sketches for the Battlestar Galactica from Eric Chu and the trial and error that it took to find the right approach. While the ships in Battlestar Galactica have become iconic, the road to the final designs was clearly a difficult one.
The Battlestar Galactica franchise originated with the 1978 TV series that ran for only 24 episodes. While the show was short-lived, it had a cult following and multiple attempts were made to try and revive the series that had become an important part of sci-fi TV history. In 2003, the Sci-Fi Channel commissioned a rebooted miniseries that spawned the 2004 TV series. While the 2003 Battlestar Galactica series is a reboot of the original, it maintains connections to the 1978 series through certain aesthetic choices.
The concept art shown for Galactica in Battlestar Galactica: Designing Starships demonstrates some of the progression that Eric Chu went through but also shows the things that remained consistent in many of his designs. Throughout the majority of his sketches, Galactica keeps the distinctive curved yet angular nose of the ship, the basic shape of which is the biggest element that ties the 1978 ship to the ones that appeared n the 2004 Battlestar Galactica. Many of Chu’s designs for Galactica also maintain the side appendages that appeared on the original Galactica but in more tucked-in and streamlined fashions. One of the biggest changes that can be seen through this progression is the move from a large bulky thruster at the back of the ship, as in Battlestar Galactica 1978 to twin thrusters that sit atop the ship as would appear in the eventual reboot and, coupled with other streamlined appendages, gave the ship a more sleek and up-to-date look.
With designing the new Galactica for Battlestar Galactica, Eric Chu faced a difficult challenge. The original 1978 Battlestar Galactica TV series had a devoted fanbase, so the new starships needed to be able to honor the originals; however, they also had to be original in their own way and bring something new to the show without being carbon copies. After many attempts that he says didn’t feel right, he eventually drew inspiration from an industrial design book that included ribbed metal vases by Andrea Branzi. This inspiration can be seen in many of his newer designs and the final Galactica that appeared in the 2003 Battlestar Galactica miniseries as a key change from the 1978 ship where large portions of the ship are structured with a similar ribbed design.
Eric Chu’s job was made more difficult by the Sci-Fi Channel’s own ideas about what the Battlestar Galactica series should be. He notes that they wanted the reboot to avoid resembling the original series in any way, while not being able to present a clear different direction. Some of the rejected sketches in Battlestar Galactica: Designing Starships show just how far Eric Chu tried to move from the original TV series to satisfy the Sci-Fi Channel, but those radically different designs would clearly have failed to satisfy longtime fans of the show. While Eric Chu produced many rejected designs for the Battlestar Galactica, not all designs were entirely wasted as at least one went on to be used as the inspiration for another Battlestar, Pegasus, that appeared in the TV movies Razor. These original sketches give a great insight into the trial and error that went into successfully rebooting Battlestar Galactica after so many years, but they also help to identify one of the key problems that the streaming service Peacock will face with their plans to revisit the franchise for another new series.