Battlestar Galactica Ripped Off Fan-Favorite Video Game?

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Since the Battlestar Galactica miniseries debuted back in 2003, a certain segment of the fandom has compared the show’s aesthetic to the Wing Commander movie. It’s something that even showrunner Ronald D. Moore has commented on, but he clarified that he was not personally inspired by that film. In reality, the answer is a little more complex: it was the original Wing Commander game that ripped off much of the original Galactica series, and this led to the rebooted series looking similar to the film adaptation.

A Striking Similarity

Battlestar Galactica

How did these comparisons between Battlestar Galactica and Wing Commander even get started? It mostly began with fans noticing similarities in ship designs. For example, if you squint, the design of Kilrathi starfighters in the film and the Cylon Raiders in the show look very similar. The similarities are strong enough that at one point, a fan wrote to Galactica showrunner Ronald D. Moore asking whether or not these similarities were intentional.

The fan pointed out the similarity in Kilrathi and Cylon designs and also mentioned the production link between Battlestar Galactica and Wing Commander. Specifically, he referenced how Tom DeSanto produced the Wing Commander movie and then tried to create a failed BSG show of his own along with X-Men director Bryan Singer. However, Moore clarified that he had personally never watched the Wing Commander movie, but he acknowledged that some other members of the production crew might have been inspired by the film.

We’ve Got The Order All Wrong

Battlestar Galactica

Given the Battlestar Galactica showrunner’s uncertainty, does that mean Moore’s show might have ripped off either the failed sci-fi movie or the video game that it was based on? While everything is possible through the one true Cylon God, it looks like the truth is much more complex. Specifically, it looks like the original video game ripped off the original Galactica, and the later revival of each franchise made it look like the show was ripping off the film.

The Video Game Came After The Original TV Show

Wing Commander video game

For this to make any sense, we need to take things back to the beginning: the original Battlestar Galactica show came out in 1978, bringing Star Wars-style excitement to the small screen. It helped to inspire entire generations of creators, including Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts. As fans have pointed out, there is strong circumstantial evidence that the beloved Galactica TV show inspired character and ship designs in the 1990 video game.

The Wing Commander Movie Was Based On The Game

Wing Commander movie

The game was very successful, inspiring sequels that eventually featured Star Wars star Mark Hamill in a leading role. In 1999, Chris Roberts personally directed a Wing Commander movie that sleekly updated the ship designs from his video game. Those were the same designs that were arguably inspired by Battlestar Galactica in the first place, so when the show’s reboot miniseries began in 2003, its own updated designs made fans think it drew heavy inspiration from the Wing Commander film.

Battlestar Galactica’s Far-Reaching Influence

Battlestar Galactica

Long story not very short, this is mostly the tale of fans having short memories and very incomplete information. It was relatively easy for those who didn’t know how the original Battlestar Galactica inspired the Wing Commander game to think that the 2003 miniseries was cribbing ideas from the 1999 film instead of the original game copying the original series. In reality, all of this confusion comes down to the flattering fact that Galactica, old and new, is one of the most influential franchises in sci-fi history.