Finding your grail: a personal story of “Battlestar Galactica”

So this word grail is bandied around constantly only to see the thing thrown up on eBay a week later invariably upsetting the seller or a collector who already has three of the same item and wants the piece seen on screen. 

So basically it’s a word I hate. One grail once found is replaced by another watching the forums. What I’m more interested in are those life changing pieces…pieces you looked at the screen and said “I’m going to own that one day” and you somehow are lucky enough or work hard enough and it happens. Those are special things. This piece is one of those…the very first vfx piece I remember from my youth…a little while after Star Wars failed to burn instead into my prop memory instead doing that into my toy box. 

What vfx piece is that? This one!

A combination of music…majesty and just cool design hit me when I saw this at the age of 7-8. I loved it in a way the simple BBC vfx Liberator model from Blake’s 7 trolleyed in front of black curtains could never quite match…even Luke’s X-wing streaking across the Death Star surface. This one was the one that captured my imagination. The launch tubes..the gliding vipers into their bays…the positive shield…sweeping shots of cylinder fighters curving in and then the magical defense turrets that protected the ship when Starbucks and Apollo were not close.

 Those shots…burned into my memory by repetition and weekly episode stock footage. 

BUT I’m not a model guy. I’m a wardrobe collector. Rules meant to be broken I have discovered after years of collecting.

I had been watching the auctions all over the world  for years. I’d seen the various models come and go, mostly sucked up into one big collection (coming up for sale soon at Profiles) but I had never seen the turrets. I really had very little info on them and it seemed other than probably made from “kit bashed parts from tanks and aeroplanes” there wasn’t too much info out there. 

Last year I started talking to a wonderful vfx supervisor called John in LA and apart from having a wonderful career and being super kind he was cleaning out his sheds. This is always a good thing! 

I had bought a number of items that he had thankfully saved over the years when I was slowly coming to the end of his searching and thoroughly grateful that he had the foresight to save the few items he had when out of the blue I received a message asking me if I had any interest in the piece below.

I had no idea what it was and made a low offer. I knew it was but I had no idea it wasn’t some generic B movie junk not worth the trouble. He had told me he had taken it off the shelf whilst they were cleaning out the facility and throwing stuff away and hadn’t worked there on those shows but it might be Rodgers or Galactica or something else.

Well I was flumoxed. I started to pour over bad movies and tv shows and of course as part of those hours and days of checking I went to the YouTube “Galactica” footage and was sad to see this didn’t match at all. Not even close other than the general number of cannons….detailing way off. 

It wasn’t until a few hours into thinking about it after giving up I asked for a shot of the underside which I thought would be undetailed. Wrong!

As you can see this was the part we got to see all the time. The highly detailed underside at top of the page rarely seen. The pin where it was attatched was there…slats matched either side…sitting at the monitor I ranted and raved like a mad man “I can’t believe it…I found it….it’s the turret…the ****** turret from the ******* Galactica.” I think people in the house thought I was having a fit.

It was pure bliss….like finding the most holiest of Indys lost relics. It was so small…how could this thing survive after being taken from the model workshop in 1980 and being in a tote  buried in a shed until 2017. I just couldn’t believe it. I was on cloud 9 for a full half hour.

I should have locked the sale down.

I had let John rumanate on a price. It had sold whilst doing all my hard work and I had putzedaround doing research. “Who dies that…research!” I felt dejected. Every possible theory went thru my brain. Propstore….Profiles…who had come in and scalped this? I kneejerked and offered him more money. Then offered whoever bought it more money. It wasn’t even about the money at this point it was about having found the Ark the Nazi’s had absconded with it. 

The new owner was having none of it. My goose was cooked!

Flash forward weeks later…

I couldn’t get this one out of my head. It was REALLY the fish that got away. So I started thinking and spent days wondering who I could blatantly just ask “Did you get this thing?” truly believing no one could ever work out what it was. 

One of my friends from the prop world who I have a selling relationship with and has always been there in my personal life too has been Mr Bill Qureshi. For some reason these last few years we have been successfully stepping, in a good way, on each other’s toes and like a lightning bolt I thought “Bill!” Could it…no?!???!?

Yep. It was him. What to do. At least I had found it. So….I told him the truth. Even got a lump in my throat. This was important….this meant so much to me….it was truly the first vfx model piece that had stayed in my mind, when so many other memories had left me, thru watching repeats, blu rays, YouTube, conventions, and who can forget the reused footage in movies like Space Mutiny….a film built around Battlestar model footage that was ribbed mercessily on MST3K. It was never the xwings….the hammerhead from “battle beyond the stars”…not even the “innerspace” capsule…it was this stupid turret I remembered vividly.

“So it was you who bid it up!” Lol yeah I thought it was Profiles I sheepishly said. Truth. Sometimes when competition comes reason goes out the window. 

Bill promised that we would work it out. True to his word he did. 

So why write this. Because huge credit to Mr Q. He didn’t have to do that. But he did and that is the kind of guy he is and others should know that. That collectors passion can turn you into a hermit sometimes and not share but here’s a great example where a relationship can make a dream come true and make a moment of disappointment become a moment of triumph. 

So….what’s next. Well I’m building a display diarama for this so when I look at it I can replay that old footage thru my head…revisit that cinema and be 7-8 years old again for a few seconds….relive that moment in front of the monitor of discovery that I had and finally remember my friend who made it possible to clutch my small victory back. 

Thank you Bill. 


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