When a friend suggested I watch Battlestar Galactica, I thought they’d lost their mind. The year was 2008, not 1978. Why on Earth would I want to watch a Star Wars rip off with the dude from the A-Team in it? Turns out, I had the wrong end of the stick. I didn’t have Sky television or the Sci-Fi Channel and was totally unaware of Ronald D Moore & David Eick had re-imagined the promising but flawed 1978 series.
After listening to them wax lyrical about the quality of the writing, the strong characters, amazing effects work and gritty story-lines, I was intrigued. I bought the seasons that were available on DVD (1-3) and proceeded to binge watch them in a little over two weeks. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t watched it before! From the moment I watched as Kara “Starbuck” Thrace take a jog around the corridors of the Galactica, I was hooked. It looked realistic. These looked like real people and real places.
Those places were The Twelve Colonies. A distant star system were human kind have been waging a war with their own creations, The Cylons. 40 Years have past since they agreed an armistice with their sworn robotic enemy and no one has seen or heard from the Cylons since then. We join the story when a Colonial officer boards Armistice Space Station, like they do every year, to await the arrival of a Cylon delegate, who has never shown up. Until now. The officer is shocked to see not only two of the robotic Cylons but a human women too. The Cylons then blow up the station, killing their own people aboard and I was like, what the hell is going on!? They just killed their own guys!? Turns out this was a prelude to a sneak Cylon attack that wipes out the entire Colonial Fleet, the government of the Colonies and all but fifty thousand humans.
Escaping in a rag tag convoy of ships, what’s left of Humanity, accompanied by the last Battlestar, Galactica, set out to find the mythical Thirteenth Colony on a legendary planet called Earth. After navigating my way through the first season which is a relentless pursuit of the fleet by those dastardly Cylons with some revelations that there are now human models (12 of them), some of whom are hiding in the fleet and they have the ability to download into new bodies. I was all in, absolutely obsessed. It was left on a cliffhanger, will Commander Adama, military leader of the fleet, die after being shot by a Cylon sleeper agent. Will Lee Adama ever get a chance to win back his fathers respect after committing mutiny, will Secretary for Education turned President of the Colonies Laura Roslin get out of jail after going against the old man and will Colonel Saul Tigh quit drinking long enough to figure out how to be a leader.
Going into season two, it was to take on a more religious arc with President Roslin, who is dying of cancer, fulfilling the prophecy of a dying leader guiding a caravan of the stars to find Earth. There is also a political slant to this season, questions of Human decency after torture and rape are used as tools to interrogate Cylon prisoners. After the arrival of another Battlestar, The Pegasus, with a more ruthless hardline leadership in the shape of Admiral Helena Cain shakes things up, we are confronted with real world issues like abortion laws and ethics, political elections and is it ever right to rig them. This is what separates BSG from other Sci-Fi for me. They attempted to deal with issues we all encounter on a daily basis in a way that resonated beyond the genre. It was grown up, thought provoking and full of grey areas.
Season three gave rise to new alliances between old enemies and completely shifted your thoughts on some characters you thought you had all figured out. It evolved the idea of right and wrong beyond its usual two dimensional TV show view points and actually made me think “what would I do in their shoes? Would I always do the right thing?”. There were shocking revelations delivered with such surprise and skilled story-telling that I just didn’t see them coming. In an era where shows aren’t afraid to kill off major characters, Battlestar manages to use these deaths in a very skilled way for maximum impact. We also have the religious theme reoccurring, with the shifty, flawed but hugely enjoyable and charismatic Gaius Baltar going from scientist/genius to failed President to traitor on trial to messiah figure.
Season four is the culmination of all the plot threads. The final season deals with the revelations of who the “Final Five” Cylon models are, their backstory and the role they play in either delivering the location of Earth or the total destruction of the Human Race, the Cylons and all that good stuff. It ended in a three part finale, which I’ve heard some mixed responses to over the years but which I absolutely adored and will defend until the last breath I can muster.
The score by Bear McCreary is at times beautiful, suspenseful, powerful and mesmerising. It does that tricky thing of providing atmosphere to the show without leading your emotions or giving away too much by being too in your face. It is a wonderful listen on its own too.
The quality of the core cast in this show is quite astonishing. Stand outs include Edward James Olmos as the wise, honourable but stubborn Admiral Bill Adama, Mary McDonnell as the at first overwhelmed but then strong, iron-willed and stoic President Laura Roslin and Katee Sackhoff as the complex, vulnerable and antagonistic maverick Viper pilot Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, who is capable of bringing a tear to your eye with moments of pure emotion then have you wanting to kick her ass for being such a dick. I often feel that at some point you will either love or hate every character in this show and that’s a good thing because it shows they’re flawed, it shows they’re real. It shows they’re human.
For me, Battlestar Galactica just about perfect. It has one below par episode (Black Market) but I can easily just skip past this and pretend it doesn’t exist. It is my favourite TV Show of all time and had such a profound impact that not only is it still the highest rated Sy-Fy Channel show of all time but some of its cast members were invited to participate in a UN hosted a Battlestar Galactica retrospective including debate on topics such as human rights, terrorism and faiths. Not your average space opera this one.