Sunday, January 30, 2005

Geek moment

When I heard that a new Battlestar Galactica series was in the works, I was a bit ambivalent. It wasn't because I thought the original show was the greatest thing since Star Trek and shouldn't be messed with. The original show was a product of 70s television, and therein lay many of its flaws. Even so, the original had much to recommend it for Sci Fi fans during the drought of the 70s. Star Wars marked the beginning of a change, but not until Star Trek: The Next Generation proved that there was a large segment of the television audience hungry for Sci Fi did things really begin to change on the small screen. But that's a discussion for another entry.

I was ambivalent because I'd read enough behind-the-scenes buzz about the new Battlestar Galactica miniseries to give me pause. More than just a redo of the original series, the new series changed the genders of certain characters, altered relationships, depicted a military that lacked discipline after four decades of peace, and seemed to have a preoccupation with sex. In fact, in the first hour of the the mini, there's an awful lot of sex.

But then comes the attack by the Cylons, and everything changes. Who's got leisure time for sex and insubordination when the most important drive is survival?

If you don't get the Sci Fi Channel, you're missing out on a great new series. And it's not just a series for Sci Fi fans. It's a series that anyone interested in good drama will appreciate. It's a military drama and a political drama -- it just happens to be set in space. Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell are both fine actors who anchor the rest of the cast. (Mary McDonnell's performance in the miniseries almost sold me on the show by herself.)

Lke the best of current television series, there are continuing plotlines within the self-contained episodes, so it rewards viewers who tune in regularly without alienating newbies.

The series has a definite post-9/11 vibe to it. A surprise attack makes everyone suddenly sit up and notice that humanity faces an enemy that simply wants them dead -- no negotiation possible. There are cylon sleeper agents among humanity's remant, and so there is the associated paranoia. Flawed human beings must rise to meet the challenges that faces them.

And though the show has spaceships, robots, and explosions, the best moments are the small, personal ones.

The show is certain to freak out the overly sensitive, because characters smoke! Including a doctor! But true to the show's setting, characters acknowledge that since known civilization has been destroyed, there won't be many cigarettes left after awhile. Smoke 'em if you've got 'em! There also won't be much alcohol after awhile, which is certain to affect at least one lead character who struggles with alcohol, and marks his ever-dwindling supply on the side of his bottle. Meanwhile, the President marks the population of humanity's remnant on a dry-erase board, subtracting hundreds when a ship in the fleet is destroyed, poignantly adding one when the fleet's first baby is born.

I enjoyed the miniseries that aired last year, and in just four episodes of the new weekly series, I've become hooked. Doug predicted that Battlestar Galactica would end up being the best new series of 2005. It certainly has a good start.

More: One more thing. The show's creator, Ron Moore (who I've been following since his days as one of the producers on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) has a blog where he comments on the show. Very cool.

More: I'm guessing Kathy would disagree with my assessment of the show.


At 9:42 AM, Blogger Kathleen Nelson said...

Honestly, Drew, I haven't watched more than five minutes of it. It just didn't interest me: they keep raping my memories of childhood TV and movies, and the product is never worth it. I get very leery anytime something like this pops up. The minute I saw Starbuck was a chick, well, I just went "pffft!" and shot off into the other room;) The fact that she was a chick who tried to act like an edgy/dark Dirk Benedict was something else!

The husband, however, has his issues with it, yet sits down and watches every week. I'm glad that Mary McDonnell has received some work because of this, because she's just too good to let molder with the over-40 actresses, but still...that's not even incentive for me to watch.


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