The 1978 Cylon Raider

Ralph McQuarrie originally imagined the Cylon raider as a flying saucer with embedded cannons.  In its early stage, the fighter retained a fairly Star Wars, human piloted design.  As it progressed, it became a bit more mechanical, gaining its unique cockpit windows and loosing its sleeker “Millennium Falcon” look.  The embedded engine array gave way to two central engine units that mandated changes in the belly of the fighter.

The production model was an outstanding achievement that remains one of the best space fighter designs in the history of science fiction.  Combining the look of a fighter and a small bomber, the Cylon raider was flown by three Cylons, one piloting, one giving orders, and the third operating the weapon systems.

The Cylon raider cockpit set was a two-piece affair, that separated to allow for filming at all angles.  Built primarily of plywood, with plastic interiors covered by dark lighting with a blue wash to cover matte lines in the space scenes.  It did allow for the Cylons to be shown in several “through the cockpit” filming sequences, although the special effects technology of the time didn’t allow for full fighter shots to integrate the live action characters.

Cylon Raider stage set with Phil Broad (photos used with permission of Phil Broad)

A more advanced version of the Cylon Raider was briefly shown in an episode of Galactica 1980.  To the best of our knowledge, this fighter was never released as public or studio copy model.  Nor have we seen any studio photographs of the filming model.

The most advanced raider design was introduced in the 2003 Battlestar Galactica video game.  This game is a hybrid of the original 1978 Battlestar Galactica series and the 2003 miniseries.  This fighter design pays special tribute to the raider of the original series and shows a good representation of what fans would like to see in a continuation production.