I was five years old in 1978 when Battlestar Galactica first appeared. The pilot episode was released as a feature film in Europe, and I later saw the rest of the series on TV. I remember my Dad saying at the time that it was “not as good as Star Wars”, which I can understand, but I always thought that it was more than just a cheesy cash-in. The concept, not just of the war between two civilisations, but of the search of the remaining fragments of humanity for the lost, mythical planet of Earth had plenty of potential. I even had a few of the action figures at the time, including Imperious Leader (best villain name ever), Daggit and an Ovion.
And then a few years ago up popped the remake.
We rented the mini-series on DVD, saw the first three full seasons on TV, and bought the boxsets of seasons four and five, and we just finished watching it during the last week of 2010. The remake is surprisingly faithful to the core concept, while unsurprisingly being a very different beast in terms of tone. Usually I’m irritated by films and TV shows which are “gritty” and “edgy” just for the sake of it, but here they also took the subject matter seriously, which justified the stylistic change. The early seasons were very post-9/11, as the storylines dealt with an invisible enemy infiltrating our community, fighting a guerilla war, the ethics of using torture to flush them out, and the moral grey areas explored as we discover that, Hey, Cylons are people too, and they’re not all bad.
Towards the end the religious themes become surprisingly strong, and this aspect of the show may not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly made it a more interesting and sometimes challenging drama. I think the final episode (don’t worry; no spoilers) did a pretty good job of bringing the story to a close, and while it didn’t answer all the questions to my satisfaction (as regards what happened to Starbuck, for example) it did a much better job of tying up a fairly complex piece of storytelling than certain other recent TV shows I could mention (*coughLOSTcough*). On the other hand it had the most over-extended, epilogue-heavy ending since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
It’s often recommended to people who say they don’t like science fiction, and I’d say that’s fair. It’s not a standard drama which happens to be set in space, but the human drama element is strong enough (Mary McDonnell’s character being my favourite) to keep you watching even if you have an aversion to spacechips and robots. Give it a try.