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Battlestar Galactica, produced by Universal Pictures, was the target of a copyright infringement lawsuit by George Lucas and 20th Century Fox. Although the three hour pilot was made for TV, Universal planned in the summer of 1978 to release it as a two hour theatrical film in Canada to help defray some of the massive costs incurred (the pilot cost $25 million to make: consider Star Wars was made for a budget of about $20 million1). Lucas was planning to re-release Star Wars that summer. Fur began to fly. The reasons for the lawsuit are something of a mystery, maybe because of the box office threat to the Star Wars release, maybe because Universal managed to raid two of Lucas' top men to work on their space saga: John Dykstra, who did the special effects for Star Wars, and Ralph McQuarrie who did the conceptual art for Star Wars.

Lucas seems to have had a gentleman's agreement with producer Glen A. Larson that Battlestar Galactica was safe as long as it didn't copy certain aspects of Star Wars. One of the odder aspects was that Battlestar Galactica laser guns wouldn't emit a laser beam like Star Wars blasters (an agreement that probably ended up saving Universal on its per episode budget...).

Fox and Lucas' suit claimed some three dozen points of similarity between the two works. In response, Universal went after R2D2. The studio sued Fox and Lucas claiming R2 was a blatant rip off of the Huey, Duey and Louis robots in 1973's Silent Running. R2 was, of course, a rip off of those cute lil devils. Lucas upped the ante by trying to get an injunction to stop Universal from marketing a line of Battlestar Galactic toys2.

A judge eventually threw out all the lawsuit, ruling the films were substantially different, and buying Universal's argument that the suit was akin to the maker of the very first western genre movie successfully suing the maker of the second western genre movie...

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1 SF fans in 1977 could cite by heart Star Wars' budget. Universal, in promoting the theatrical version, made Battlestar Galactica's larger-than-Star-Wars budget a major plank in its ad campaign.

2 If ruled in Fox's favor, it might have saved the life of a four-year-old boy. He picked up a toy Viper, which featured spring loaded missiles that fired, and popped one off into his mouth. He chocked to death on the missile. Then again, the little turd would probably have killed himself eventually by running out into the street between two parked cars or rubbing himself with meat and trying to play Colonial viper commander in the neighbor's pit bull dog house...