Friday, July 22, 2005

TV Review: Battlestar Galactica

This is not your father's Battlestar. Heck, it's not even my Battlestar!

This is one of those series where the remake is much, much better than the original. The story line is the same: humans created "cylons"--robots/cyborgs--who evolved and then came after the humans. Most of the humans on Caprica and the other eleven planets (all with names derived from the zodiac) are killed. Galactica, an old battlestar rescues some and is shepherding a ragtag fleet of ships in search of the mysterious and mythical homeworld, Earth. The series is the story of their journey.

What makes this series unique among science fiction series is that as much--if not more--care has been taken in developing the characters as in the special effects. (George, Steven--are you paying attention?) Much like the Star Trek series, this is ensemble acting. The main characters all have backstories and are complex persons. They have strengths, they have weaknesses, they have blind spots, they are capable of great heroism and abject pettiness and selfishness. Above all, their actions remain true to their character.

Not that there isn't special effects. But for a civilization that can "jump" through space, build cylons, and space fighters, some of their technology is downright primitive. They speak through handsets that have the curly cords of old telephones. They network their computers using thick cables and old-fashioned plugs. There are no teleporters--people travel from base ship to base ship on shuttles. No tricorders, no high tech medicine, no anti-grav boots.

And they have religion. In fact, their religion is the guiding principle of their civilization. The legends of their religion, written in a sacred book, have given them Earth. When people die, they are sent off with dignity and ceremony. Main characters are shown praying and consulting with the high priestess--including the President and the Captain. Their theology is based, loosely, on Greek and Roman mythology (if you couldn't tell from the names of the planets), but snakes and other creatures play an important role.

Hmmm... Where else have we heard about a people forced to wander in the wilderness to find The Promised Land? BTW, the Captain's name is... Adama.

March Hare Rating System: Our DVR is programmed to record this series. Stay home and pass the popcorn, please!

On a side note, three other series "bookend" Battlestar Galactica: Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis before and Andromeda after. Andromeda was conceived by Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame. His widow, Majel Barrett Roddenberry (the voice of the computer and Troi's mother) is the executive producer. These series are good, but pale in comparison to Galactica. All in all, a good reason to stay home and snuggle with Hubs on Friday nights.