This story will try to reconstruct the history of the design of the Ovion Warrior costume. The Ovion was the insect like creature on Battlestar Galactica's "Saga of a Star World" pilot episode. The history based upon many images from my private collection begins with the concept sketches and paintings by Ralph McQuarrie, has the costume fitting of Paula Crist (creation of the costume) and concludes with some rare publicity shots.
In 1977 Star Wars had spiked the interest in science fiction again. Universal/ABC was looking for a way to bring a similar story to television. In the late 1960s Glen Larson had tried to sell a story called Adam's Ark, but it wasn't until 1977 until he got the studios interested in this project again. He had changed the name into Star World and asked Star Wars producer George Lucas if he could borrow his ILM effects team to work on this series of television movies (George Lucas / Gary Kurtz agreed that Glen Larson could use the ILM team since they wanted to keep it together between the first and second Star Wars film). On of the members to first work on this project was concept artist Ralph McQuarrie who made 24 paintings for the initial script, now called Galactica: Saga of a Star World (since Star World was a little too close to Star Wars title wise). Since an important part of the storyline was about the Ovions, insectoid creature that lived on the planet Carillon, Ralph McQuarrie also included them in two of his paintings.
PRalph McQuarrie's paintings containing the Ovions for Battlestar Galactica's
pilot script "Saga of a Star World"
It is not known of the Ralph McQuarrie sketches below were made as concept sketches for the "Saga of a Star World" script paintings or if they were made before the project was already greenlit by the studios, but I believe they are early sketches and one of the first that were made before others got involved.
Ralph McQuarrie's concept sketches for Battlestar Galactica's Ovion creature
Very early on in the process sculptor / artist Ralph Massey was hired to make a small model of what I believe is the Ovion creature (though there a slim chance it's the Imperious Leader). I say early on, because I have the contract he signed which still states "Star World" as name of the project, while by the time the script was written it had been transformed into "Galactica: Saga of a Star World". The images below show his contract and the model he ended up making. It is unknown if he worked on this simultaneously (or even in collaboration) with Ralph McQuarrie, but it might very well be they were both following different (their own) proposals or concepts for the same creature. We do know that Ralph Massey only made this one proposal which wasn't used (Phil Tippett ended up making the model that was used to make the suit) and all other artist continued on the bug-eyed creature with four arms, as first sketched by Ralph McQuarrie. Ralph Massey continued in also making proposals / models for the Cylon Centurion costume (see "The History of the Cylon Centurion Costume") and the robotic Daggit: Muffit II (see "The History of the Daggit Costume").
Ralph Massey's contract for making an Ovion on Star World
Ralph Massey's model for the Ovion on Star World
Concept artist Joe Johnston (also of Star Wars fame) also worked on the design of the Ovion costume as shown in the image below. It's not known if this the only image made by him or if he made more.
Concept art for Battlestar Galactica's Ovion by Joe Johnston
On the Ovion costume a team of three people are said to have worked in collaboration to finally make it: Phill Tippett, Laine Liska and Jon Berg. All were known ILM members that did creature designs on Star Wars as well. According to Phil Tippett (see Phil Tippett GALACTICA.TV interview) the only person he dealt with was Glen Larson. He was asked by him directly to make a clay model (which eventually formed the base to make the full scale costume). The images below show the clay model Phil Tippett made for the Ovion creature. It is at this point unknown what Laine Liska and Jon Berg did on it (other than that it's mentioned they worked on it in Future Magazine #5, October 1978).
Concept model for Battlestar Galactica's Ovion by Phill Tippett
It is not known who made this bigger scale clay model of the Ovion. I suspect this was either made by Laine Liska or Jon Berg, but it could just as well be made by sculptor Ralph Massey (who did similar work for the Cylon Centurion (see "The History of the Cylon Centurion Costume").
Concept model for Battlestar Galactica's Ovion by unknown artist
Next up is the concept art of Dan Goozee for Battlestar Galactica's Ovion costume. Dan Goozee did a lot of art on the ships of the ragtag fleet, as well as storyboards (see "Dan Goozee Battlestar Galactica Concept Art", "Sketched Storyboards of 'Saga of a Star World'" and "Color Storyboards of 'The Gun on Ice Planet Zero'"). If you'd like to read more about Dan Goozee and his work on Battlestar Galactica check out the Dan Goozee GALACTICA.TV interview. Much of the Ovion concept art he did is specifically aimed at their weapon, gun and/or drilling tools. The images below show this collection. Since the Ovion in the image resembles the costume very well, I believe these were made after the actual costume was finished and were specifically made as concept art for an Ovion weapon.
Concept art for Battlestar Galactica's Ovion weapon / drilling tool by Dan Goozee
The images below also show the Ovion and the Ovion carrying a weapon. It's is not known who made this concept art, but since the resembles the actual screen used costume it's obvious this was also made after the costume was already done.
Concept model for Battlestar Galactica's Ovion by unknown artist
Concept model for Battlestar Galactica's Ovion and weapon by unknown artist
Next up is the actual making of the costume. The images below show Paula Crist during the making and fitting of the costume. The Ovions were played by small 5' - 5'1" woman. Paula Crist was a stunt woman on the Battlestar Galactica series that next to fitting the costume also ended up wearing it on screen. You can read her story in the Paula Crist GALACTICA.TV interview.
Paula Crist's costume fittings for Battlestar Galactica's Ovion
Costume fitting for Battlestar Galactica's Ovion
Over the years many parts and even entire costumes of the Battlestar Galactica Ovion have turned up at movie memorabilia auctions. The images below show nice detailing of an (unpainted) Ovion hand that was worn by the actresses as a glove.
Hand detail of the Battlestar Galactica Ovion
The image below shows cinematographer Richard Edlund (see Richard Edlund GALACTICA.TV interview) with one of he Ovions on the Battlestar Galactica set. Notice how small these women wearing the costume were in relationship to normal sized guy.
Cinematographer Richard Edlund with one of the Ovions on the Battlestar Galactica set
I'd like to conclude this article with some rare studio promotional photographs of the Ovion on Batlestar Galactica from my personal collection.
Ovions on Battlestar Galactica's pilot episode "Saga of a Star World"