With remarkably consistent quality, each of these 13 episodes deepens the dynamics of these fascinating characters and suspenseful situations. While BG relies on finely nuanced performances, solid direction, and satisfying personal and political drama to build its strong emotional foundation, the action/adventure elements are equally impressive, especially in "The Hand of God," a pivotal episode in which the show's dazzling visual effects get a particularly impressive showcase. Original BG series star Richard Hatch appears in two politically charged episodes (he's a better actor now, too), and with the threat of civil war among the fleet, season 1 ends with an exceptional cliffhanger that's totally unexpected while connecting the plot threads of all preceding episodes. To the credit of everyone involved, this is really good television.
In this series, with a few nods to the original ideas, there are still humans on twelve planets who have an advanced civilisation, but an aging military fleet. They've been at peace for twenty years, since the Cylons (here the humans' own creation) departed, having never signed a formal peace treaty. There is no peace conference here - rather, the aging battlestar Galactica is about to be decommissioned, when an unexpected attack by dramatically more advanced Cylons takes place, incorporating not only direct military strikes but also computer internet/network hijacking, facilitated by the mentally unbalanced but ingenious Dr. Baltar. Adama takes the Galactica to a safe location while the rest of the colonies fall quickly to the Cylons; various ships in the interstellar routes survive, including one with a cabinet minister elevated to the presidency due to the emergency, Laura Roslin. The ragtag fleet assembles at a forgotten supply depot, and does a sort of light-speed jump to safety after fighting (and essentially losing) against a new Cylon death star.
There are small nods to the old series - on the Galactica preparing for decommissioning, a museum has been set up, which has models of old Cylon death stars (these are models from the original series). The specifications for Cylons show the old metallic storm-trooper, but we are also informed that no one has seen a Cylon in twenty years (they've outgrown their shiny metal armour). In one scene, the museum chatter about the history of the Galactica mentions a Commander Hatch as its first commander, an obvious nod to Richard Hatch, the star of the original series.
The character of Laura Roslin is new, and the figure of Adama is a very different one from the original. Perhaps the most shocking change is that Starbuck here, while still a cigar-chomping, swaggering, swearing, card-playing rogue of an ace pilot, is also a woman.
The pilot shows people to be very human - whereas in the original series, they were almost playing archetypes of hero, villain, father-figure, etc., in this new show the roles are nowhere as distinct. The characters have flaws, and not Persian-carpet flaws, but real, honest-to-goodness problems and personality quirks. Adama is adamant about keeping the Galactica safe but also in engaging the enemy; his clashes with the authority of Laura Roslin, a president essentially without a nation, promises to be an interesting one. Apollo is still the solid captain of the fighter squad, and Starbuck and Boomer his able lieutenants, but there are secrets lurking here, too. And then there is Dr. Baltar, in whom the line between genius and insanity is constantly being redrawn.
The fleet is assembled, and heading off toward Earth. Here, however, Earth is not the ancient migratory memory of Adama as in the original series as much as it a mythical invention to give people hope in the fleet - this could set up a very different character to their run from the Cylons. Also, the fact that the Cylons are ultimately the creation of the humans, and now look like the humans, will factor heavily into a revised story line.
The storylines across the different episodes lead from a desperate attempt to outrun the Cylons into a growing community with its own culture similar to but distinct from that they left behind. The deepening mystery about the Cylons continues enigmatically, and the quest for Earth eventually takes a dramatic turn as the fleet discovers the ancient home world of Kobol. This was the perfect set-up for a new season; the 1970s series never really had the chance, but the characters here will continue to develop across several more seasons.
Forget that. All of it. This is not Star Trek. It's not even close.
This is sci-fi for adults - people who want an intelligent, wide reaching plot; people who realise that in real life, issues don't get wrapped up nicely by the end of the episode. You'll need to engage your brain to get the most out of this series, but if you're willing give it that chance you'll be experiencing something that may go down in history as one of the best shows of it's genre.
The plot outline is this:
Set in the future, humanity is spread over 12 colonies - planets in close proximity. Sometime in the recent past, intelligent robots, called cylons, were designed to help the humans, and basicly do the dirty work. This 'race' of robots rebelled, and there was a war (Matrix fans please note: this plot PREDATES The Matrix by several decades, as the original version of Galactica aired in the 70's and 80's).
Eventually, the cylons left and humanity was free to recover.
Then, out of the blue, the Cylons return. If that isn't bad enough, they have managed to produce a small number of new models - who look, feel and live exactly like humans. A surprise attack is launched, nuking the colonies and wiping out the fleet of military ships that protect them - except for one - the Battlestar class ship Galactica, an old ship past it's service life and about to be retired.
There is a struggle, a brief war, but it is clear from the start that it is already lost. Galactica flees, along with a fleet of civilian ships, in search of a legendary 13th colony - called Earth. The 40,000 or so people in the fleet are all that is left of the human race, and they are being hunted down by the Cylons.
This is where Season 1 begins: with the Galactica and her civilian fleet running from the Cylons, all the time with the knowledge that there may be any number of humanoid Cylonss in the fleet itself.
I said before that this is sci-fi for adults. Well the brilliant acting and superb, arching, constantly developing plot is what makes this show the masterpeice it is.
The crew of Galactica, and those civilians who we see including the President of the colonies, are flawed characters. Gone is the squeeky clean world of Star Trek or even more recent shows like Stargate. Gone is the obvious distinction between right and wrong.
Difficult decisions need to be made, and the consequences of these decisions - or of failing to make the decisions - are often harsh, always enthralling, and have reprecussions for all future episodes. The universe is not somehow magically reset each week, in time for another heroic adventure and the crew to save the day. Often there are failures. People die, and not with clean, clinical phasers - in the Galactica universe, all that's available are conventional projectile weapons. Not only that, but you will feel a sense of loss when such events occur. The story is compelling enough to make you feel for the characters, regardless of their flaws. There are events which will make you raise an eyebrow, and there are events which in all probability shock you. I'm not going to spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that the writers behind Galactica routinely touch on subjects other sci-fi shows don't dare go near.
As for the technology side of things, the use of "future technology" and even space shots is surprisingly minimal. There is one concession to regular sci-fi, and that is that ships are able to make faster than light jumps - but only jumps, not continual faster than light travel - and the risk involved is very high.
Other than that, the show is very restrained. Space scenes, especially any battles, are few and far between. The fighters themselves appear to basicly be more primitive versions of modern fighter jets that have simply been made spaceworthy. Guns and missiles are the order of the day - no tractor beams, and no phase cannons or anything like that. Galactica itself has minimal weaponry and what it has is for defense - basicly flak cannons. The fighters are its offensive weapon.
There are no long range scanners, or magical viewports with the ability to see a car parked on a planet 3 light years away. The only method of detecting other ships is DRADIS (Detection, RAnge, DIStance), a system more familiar to us when known as RADAR. If a contact doesn't carry a transponder identifying it, the only way to see what it is is to dispatch fighters to go and look at it.
Galactica has no omnipresent computer, and no all-knowing database. There are no computer networks, and comunication is by radio or internal telephone.
All of these restrictions give you two things. Firstly, a hightened sense of realism and believability, and secondly a genuine sense of being involved in the struggle, rather than being divorced from the experience as some disembodied computer voice tracks down targets for the crew.
However, for the most part, you won't be concentrating on space or technology.
The show concentrates more on the characters and moral conflicts than it does on the setting in which these events are played out. Much of the time, it's almost more like the West Wing or 24.
It has that quality that scriptwriters dream of - a cast and a script which doesn't rely on fancy gadgets or novel settings to be compelling to the viewers.
Star Trek is an adventure series in space, which is where the attention is focused: fancy graphics and gadgets.
Battlestar Galactica is an intelligent drama which JUST HAPPENS to be in space. It would still work if it wasn't.
That's the difference, and that's what makes it a great show.
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