on 26 September 2005
...because Battlestar Galactica is like no other show you've seen.
If you're like me and always rather sceptical of sci-fi, I know what you're thinking. You think it's all speciall effects, photon torpedos, people wearing daft spandex uniforms, hammy acting, awful plots that are resolved by the end of the episode, and poorly disguised humans in silly costumes trying to look alien.
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.
on 30 August 2005
This is the "New Battlestar Gallactica" rather than the original 1970's version. The first season follows on from the "mini series" [see below] released a year earlier, and was shown on Sky during 2004.
This really follows the same theme as the mini series, introducing new story lines and interesting twists on the journey to find earth.
Baltar really takes a prominent role in the episodes in the way he is being controlled by the Cylon that exists in his head, and whether he believes in God or not. This is quite a hard thing to grasp, and could either be a interesting thread in the story, or a constant distraction to the action that makes Battlestar so good.
Many of the characters take on more of an active role almost having their own threads. This is well balanced so as not to overcomplicate the story, but creates more rewarding viewing.
I don't watch much TV (watching more DVD's both bought and rented) and so had only seen the first couple of episodes when they were on Sky. I watched most of these back to back either on the same day or within a couple of days of watching the previous one. As a result it's noticeable that there are some significant jumps in time between some of the episodes. Many of the episodes leave bits unfinished and instead of bringing them to completion it just jumps ahead a few weeks / months so that they don't have to finish tying up the loose ends. This is done to keep the next episode focused on the new story, and I'm sure works very well on TV where it's a week before watching the next episode, but is a minor distraction when watching back-to-back.
I really enjoyed this season and can't wait for the next one. Partly because of how entertaining it is, but also because it leaves a major cliff-hanger at then end of the last episode that I want to see how it works out. I strongly hope that there will be a happy conclusion to the cliff-hanger as I'm concerned it may damage the second season if not, but I can't say anymore without spoiling the story.
on 1 April 2005
I must first say I very rarely have motivation to write an online review for anything. Second, as a general rule I don't like sci-fi that much anymore (since my younger days). I must say that this is the only piece of television I have seen which compares favourably to most movies in its genre.
Its just great entertainment and truly addictive, a lot of programs use pretty girls and fancy FX to woo punters, but fail in the basic sense, plot, character depth. What I find most attractive about this program is its sense of sadness, its depth. In fact the weakest episodes in the set (I bought this because I hope my purchase will mean that the stupid US networks will ensure this series survival) are those that try to be a bit lighter, i.e. 'Tigh me up Tigh' me down and 'six degrees of separation'.
These are however counter balanced some of the best episodes of any program I have watched, 'flesh and bone' is gut wrenchingly honest, the torture scenes are very hard and in my opinion maybe rate this box set a higher certificate than a 12. 33 is very dynamic as are the last two episodes Kobols last gleaming parts I and II. My favourites, though are probably 'Act of Contrition', which deals with loss and responsibility, but the story telling is structure in set of layered flashbacks that is really a more challenging narrative than is the norm on television. And the 'Hand of God', which is much more than just a shoot 'em up, in fact this episodes weak points are the action, as the eye candy for the final scene is not quite up there with the high quality CGI, demonstrated in the rest of the series (including the best space explosion ever in a movie or TV, in Kobols Last Gleaming, I think they must have got some stock footage from 60's of high altitude nuclear detonations for that one as it just looks real). I think the real trick here is that the amount of CGI screen time is not huge and so when called for the effects shot have in some sense much more impact, it also means that budgets are directed at short but well executed scenes as opposed to say lots of poor shots that fill time.
To those who think that Galactica should have stayed the way it was with camp clothes and shiny villains, I say that this is TV as its meant to be, challenging, interesting and intelligent, something the original was not, being essentially a Star-Wars for TV. I hope the US networks see fit to grant at least two more seasons to this show. However I think three is enough, as it is difficult to maintain such high quality with so many shows. Even in 13 episodes, brilliantly innovative and imaginative there are a couple of weak points and weak episodes, 'Water' appears to go relatively nowhere, possibly the reveal at the end of the mini series, doesn't do this episode any favours and the same maybe said of 'Colonial Day', which could work if there were a few more than 50,000 people left, I mean my city Cardiff has a population of 300,000 and doesn't have that much press!!
I say weak, but they are still far better than almost anything else on TV and the sense of reality is at times excruciatingly honest. Thank you Ronald Moore for this program.
Having grown up on the old Battlestar Galactica and similar science fiction, I wasn't sure how I would react to this new series.
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.
on 8 February 2006
As a child in the 70's, Battlestar Galactica was a 'must see' program, not for the storylines or characters, but for the chromed up machines, flashy lights and special effects. When I heard a remake was due, I, like many others, expected much of the same. Thankfully I was wrong!
BSG 2004 is not written with a young audience in mind, it's a whole lot grittier with many of the scenes and subject matter aimed squarely at the now adult 70's audience with great characters, a superb script and the same compelling storyline that made the original so popular.
Admittedly, it took a while to get used to Starbuck and Boomer being female, but having just started watching Season 2, I'm glad I didn't lose faith.
This is quite possibly the greatest sci-fi series I have ever seen, and I truly hope it keeps going for a while yet.
Yes, this is one of the best science fiction series created to date. It is also, more significantly, one of the best TV series created to date. Ignoring the star-filled backdrop, this series could be set anywhere and with the same writers and cast it would be just as good. The all-action space scenes just add that extra something for sci-fi fans. I strongly recommend this expertly written, compelling series.
on 21 February 2006
This might not be a particularly coherent review as I’ve had about 3 hours sleep. The lack of sleep is entirely down to this compelling, addictive ‘re-imagining’ of Battlestar Galactica. Every time I decided that I was going to watch one last episode, there was a maddening cliffhanger and I needed to see the next episode to resolve. Nightmare!
As other reviewers have pointed out, this is intelligent and well-acted sci-fi which builds on relationships between characters, as opposed to big explosions and special effects (although there are a few of those as well) for its taut drama.
The only flaw for me is the way this supposedly alien civilisation is a carbon copy of American culture and moral assumptions. I liked the way the old Galactica suggested common ancient cultural ties with Earth through religion and myth.
Other than that small quibble, I love the new Galactica and look forward to Series 2 when it eventually appears on these shores.
on 27 May 2006
Not having access to Sky, I had never seen the remake of BG before buying it and had only heard random bits of info. After the months of thinking of buying it one day I decided to take the risk and but both this series and the mini series.
OhMyGod am I glad I did that. What I found was a brilliently crafted series, whilst similar in a number of ways in others a completly different story than the original. I don`t feel I should say to much without giving the any spoliers, the whole thing is a tapestry of sets, acting, story`s The only weakness I found with it is that I`m left waiting for the second series to be published!
If you where like me and unsure whether to take a risk and by this series. Believe me, take a risk and you wll not be disappointed (though by the mini series too. Also breathtaking and a good intro)
on 8 March 2006
Decent science fiction without cheesy makeup and grade school scripts?? Amazing production values? Good characterisation? Good acting? FINALLY!!
this is great stuff, buy it now before some ijit exec cancels it (see Firefly). PS one of the other reviewers sez the mini series is included - it ain't! you do have to buy that seperately. And that too is highly brilliant. better than most recent schlocky features in the cinema. Enjoy. Really. You will.
on 2 March 2005
People shouldn't expect this to be the original series. It isn't, and it isn't supposed to be. Personally, I think it's way better
The original had an awesome premise, but at best it only paid lipservice to it. Beyond that it's a cheesy space opera with little to no depth.
The re-interpretation (I prefer that term to "remake") keeps the basic premise of the destruction of mankind and the groundwork of the characters, but gets rid of things that didn't work or are outdated like tin-can cylons, 2-dimensional heroes, robot dogs or western planets
Instead it's more of a realistic drama that just happens to be set in space, and focuses on things like politics, resource shortages, paranoia or religion.
The religion angle is new and very interesting, in that in contrasts the human polytheism ("Lords of Kobol") with Cylon monotheism (just "God"), and also serves as a parellel to modern day religious extremism.
This time I really got the impression of seeing the show about the survival of the last tiny remants of mankind - a mere 50000 people.
As said the characters are no longer flat archetypes, but complex, fallible people.
Apollo and his father sometimes quarrel over the death of of his brother Zek, whom he plays Cmd. Adama for. Starbuck is also entangled in this. Starbuck in turn has an authority problem, which annoys Col. Tigh, who is potrayed as alcoholic.
But inbetween that there are also many scenes of friendship and loyality.
Speaking of Starbuck as a woman. So what? I don't really care. She is a great character in her on right. Maybe a bit too manly at first, but she settles into the role nicely, and also has her weaknesses.
The acting is top notch, especially by James Olmos as Commander Adama (just watch "Act of Contrition")
Action doesn't come too short either. Rarely has space combat been so visually interesting.
The handheld pseudo-documentary shakeycam from the liveaction scenes, continues here, so rapid camer movements can either overshoot their target or remain out of focus shortly.
Gone are the lasers that just explode in space. Now the spaceships shoot with ballistic projectiles, missiles and nuclear weapons. Science Fiction doesn't need - now sometimes cliched - energy weapons, when the kinetic energy of a fast bullet can also do great damage
Musically the new show boasts of variety. While I like the old orchestral score, it also repetetive and - when looking at other shows - overdone.
Now we have an Enya-like ballad (really a prayer) sung in sanscrit in the haunting opening theme, or African and Japanese drums the space combat scenes.
Between that scores ranging from irish music in "Hands of God" to beautiful classical symphony in "Kobol's Last Gleaming".
Definitely a show to be recommended to both fans of SciFi (if they can be openminded enough), but also straight drama