Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday, Part II: About Frakkin' Time

I'll admit it. I was a little skeptical when I heard that Sci-Fi was doing a re-imagining of the cult favorite "Battlestar Galactica" as a miniseries a couple of years ago.

As an 8-year-old kid, I was thrilled by the original series, although today it comes off as a little cheesy. Still, I thought, are there no new ideas? What's next, a remake of "Jason of Star Command?"

It took all of about 15 minutes to realize how good the new "Battlestar Galactica" really was. The concept itself wasn't too re-imagined, but all of the characters definitely were. What made this series really stand out, however, was the post-9/11 tone of the writing.

"BSG" is simply the smartest show on TV, bar none. Yes, I even include "Lost" when I say that. Whereas "Lost" challenges its viewers by creating puzzles around the events on the island, "BSG" paints all of its characters in shades of gray. The Cylons, the machine villains who blew up the human world of Caprica, are evil from our point of view. But from their perspective, they are doing "God's will." And the humans, who we empathize with because we see ourselves in them, aren't exactly the best of the good guys. There's petty fighting, political intrigue, jealousy, selfishness and lots of other negative feelings as the last 50,000 or so human refugees board a few spaceships and travel toward a mythical planet called Earth.

Unlike the original series, "BSG" gives off a more realistic tone. The characters speak and dress like we might. They use guns that fire bullets, not lasers. There are no goofy looking aliens. It's about as un-sci fi as science fiction can get.

What makes the series so compelling is how well the main characters are portrayed. In my Emmy posting, I said Mary McDonnell should have won Best Actress for her portrayal of President Laura Roslin. It's one of the best characterizations I can ever recall as we see the overwhelmed Roslin, a glorified schoolteacher who is the Secretary of Education, take over the government as its last surviving member. Trying to protect humanities last survivors, she is constantly challenged by her personal beliefs versus what is best for the humans.

A proponent of being pro-choice, for example, Roslin outlaws abortion because she realizes humanity needs babies if it is to survive. She hides the hybrid human/Cylon baby of Galactica officers Helo and Boomer (a Cylon double agent, played by Grace Park), convincing the parents the baby died while secretly hiding it with a human mother.

Challenged by her vice president, Dr. Baltar (James Callis), a traitor who unwittingly helped the Cylons destroy Caprica and continues as their pawn, Roslin even tries to fix the election rather than see Baltar take power and lead humanity on a disastrous path toward a new home on desolate New Caprica.

The Cylons have a number of human-looking agents, most notably Boomer and Number Six (Tricia Helfer). Since Cylons download their memories into duplicate bodies after they die, we see various versions of the different humanoid Cylons running around. Number Six is my favorite; as portrayed by the ridiculously beautiful Helfer, she has had three notable versions: the unit that genuinely loves Baltar, the ruthless version that appears as a vision to manipulate Baltar, and a spiritually broken version that was captured and brutalized by the crew of the Battlestar Pegasus. Helfer brings subtle differences to each version of the character.

Season 3 (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) kicks off tonight with a two-hour episode that picks up from last season's cliffhanger. Baltar has assumed the presidency and relocated humanity to the desolate New Caprica. Chaos has ensued on the planet over the period of a year as the humans starve and exist in the most meager sense as Baltar has degenerated into a Nero-like ruler. With the Colonial fleet, led by Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) and his son, Lee "Apollo" Adama (Jamie Bamber), in a shambles after most of the crew has moved to the planet, humans can barely defend themselves. The two Battlestars are forced to flee after the Cylons appear because they are in no condition to fight.

The Cylons finally do find New Caprica and force Baltar to surrender. Most of the key Galactica crewmen, including Starbuck (Katee Sackoff), Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) and Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan) living on the planet organize an underground resistance to fight the Cylons. You can catch the 10 Webisodes that follow the resistance on to bridge between last season and this one, though it isn't essential.

"BSG" has been called the best show on television by the likes of Time magazine and Rolling Stone. People turned off because they remember the cheesy original should take note that really, both shows are similar in name only.


tadkil said...

So say we all.

tadkil said...

An nice three minute video primer for the BSG impaired.

Hannah M. said...

Frack yeah this is an awesome show. Really, it is real sci-fi because it deals with current issues in a future sense. The first season wasn't that great but second season was amazing.Everyone should watch it, they really should.

Zodin2008 said...

The premier last night was the best premier of the Fall anywhere, and yes, the writing on this show is both brilliant & topical. This was the one show that managed to make "Lost" look weak in comparison and I do love "Lost".

Phillip Ramati said...

It's nice to see that BSG didn't lose any steam after the layoff. The premiere was as provocative as ever. One thing that the writers do very well is get the pacing of the stories right. They didn't try to resolve the New Caprica storyline in one episode, yet they still managed to move the story along quite a bit.