Not your father’s Galactica

The brave new series that no one should miss
I just finished watching the season one finale of Battlestar Galactica and I have to say that this is a totally awesome show. Conceptually it starts off in an interesting place—not that robots taking revenge on their creators is a new concept: everything from Frankenstein to 2001: A Space Odyssey to I, Robot has touched on that topic, but the fact that the Cylons have completely destroyed human civilization, forcing the remaining people to begin a quest to find a new home (led by the starship Battlestar Galactica) make the whole premise a bit of a reversal. We are the refugees.

Cylons are people too
Of course the journey alone isn’t what makes the show so good. I also enjoy the characters being multi-layered. Dr. Baltar, the lecherous, selfish coward whose libido caused him to betray humanity, was the first to catch my attention in the mini-series. I wanted to hate him because while everyone is working together for human survival, he continues to hide information and lie about his involvement with his Cylon muse, just to save his own skin, but he also makes me realize that most of us are weak and if we are honest with ourselves we don’t tend to make the heroic choices.President Roslin is another intriguing character: a mid-level politician dying from cancer who is promoted to the presidency when the rest of the government is killed by Cylons. Mary McDonnell is doing a great job playing her as a strong but sensitive leader who fights her own doubts and physical frailty to make the difficult choices.

Starbuck, the hotshot pilot and screw up was the kind of character I usually dislike. I find them too cocky and somehow they always get rewarded for it anyway. Here she is all that as well, but with the guilt over her fiance’s death and her daughterly relationship with Commander Adama, I actually made it passed the initial aversion and began to really root for her character each time.

The only other characters I want to mention are the Cylons. They are a great addition to the drama. The blonde temptress is a really tough one to put my finger on. She’s hard and vicious, but also needy and passionate. Part femme fatale, part rabbit-boiling psycho, the oddest part of her is how spiritual she is, talking to Baltar about prayer and God.

I have to admit that Boomer Sharon was really getting on my nerves. She’s the sweet one, the cute girl pilot, and it makes sense that fellow pilot Helo would fall for her. However, her self-pity when she started to realize that she might be a Cylon, made her a sad character and difficult to sympathize with. Nevertheless, the whole “Cylons can be exactly like humans” angle made for an interesting dramatic device. They represented evil in various forms: for Baltar, she was the constant temptress and bully, but for Boomer her fear of own Cylon nature was like the fear of our darker selves.

The Universe Galactica
The universe of Battlestar Galactica is a rich backdrop for the various stories of the series so far. So many details seem to have been carefully thought out: some for specific reasons and others appear to be just to make them slightly different from our real world. Their human culture seems to have strong echoes to the Greek: they worship a pantheon of gods named the Lords of Kobol, whose individual names (Artemis, Athena, Apollo) are actually names of Greek deities; they drink ambrosia instead of alcohol; and their colonies are named after the 12 signs of the zodiac, which also come from Greek mythos. It’s a fascinating side element that the robotic Cylons worship a more conventional single God while the humans are the polytheists.Despite all these elements that I’ve mentioned, the show is not so complex to be boring—in fact, quite the opposite. Because Galactica and the rest of the fleet represent the entire human civilization, there are so many different aspects to explore. One week the focus is on Galactica and the military tactics required to escape the Cylons; next it’s the President fighting for public legitimacy as she faces political challengers; next it’s Starbuck and Adama struggling with memories of the death of Adama’s son; next it’s Captain Lee Adama handling a riot on a prison ship. It just never gets dull.

There are so many outstanding elements to this show that I could go on for miles, but I’ve probably written too much already. Suffice it to say that it is really well-made television and deserves a huge audience of sci-fi and non-sci-fi viewers alike.


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