Battlestar Galactica: An Exciting, Edgy Space Drama

[Originally published on a web magazine in 2005]

I have a confession to make. I was willing to watch a few episodes of the new version of Galactica, but I was positive -- absolutely certain -- that I wouldn't like it. I rarely watched the original; I thought they took a really good dramatic concept and made a kiddie show out of it, and I didn't like it, even when I was a kid. I expected the new version to be spaceships and robots, pretty actors and cookie-cutter stories. Definitely not for me.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I was dead wrong. The new Battlestar Galactica is simply fabulous. This exciting, edgy space drama is quickly becoming a do-not-miss favorite of mine, and here are five reasons why:

1. The Story.

Many producers of space operas make the same mistake: they throw together sci-fi elements, special effects, and good-looking but inexperienced actors, and they forget the most important element: a compelling story. The new Galactica is using the original story, i.e., twelve worlds of humans nearly wiped out by the creatures they invented, with the survivor refugees fleeing on a rag tag fleet of ships, looking for sanctuary. But this time, they're dead serious about it. They're squeezing all the drama they can out of this dark story, and there's quite a lot of drama to be had. Bravo.

2. The Cylons.

The bad guys, the robot Cylons, were a weak point in the original series. Not any more. These new Cylons have "evolved" and look and act human, and there is at least one Cylon sleeper on Galactica, Boomer, who doesn't even realize what she is. Again, the producers have included another good dramatic element, and they're running with it.

3. Edward James Olmos.

Whoever thought of casting veteran character actor Edward James Olmos in the key role of William Adama, commander of the Galactica and leader of the fleet, should get a raise. Olmos is an outstanding actor, and perfect for the part. His presence elevates this production.

4. Mary McDonnell.

See above re: giving someone a raise. Mary McDonnell plays the secretary of education who unexpectedly finds herself president of what's left of the colonies, a role that her character finds particularly difficult in light of the fact that she has just discovered she has terminal cancer. McDonnell's character, President Roslin, creates an essential balance for Olmos' character, and again, the actress herself is so good that she elevates the production. Excellent casting, guys.

5. Katee Sackhoff.

Everyone's favorite character in the original series was Starbuck, the cocky, cigar-smoking, poker-playing ace fighter pilot. I was surprised when they decided to cast a woman as Starbuck; it takes quite an actress to pull off a masculine character like that and retain any semblance of femininity. Well, they did it again with the casting of Sackhoff, who is wonderfully charismatic and manages to steal every scene she is in simply because she's so good. She is quickly becoming one of the main reasons I watch this show.

The care that the producers took with casting extends to the entire cast. I've singled out my three favorites, but all of the actors are very good, particularly James Callis as the possibly villainous genius Baltar, Tricia Helfer as Cylon Number Six, Grace Park as Boomer, and Jamie Bamber as Lee Adama, a.k.a. Apollo.

The effects are seamless, the score is dramatic (I particularly like the drums during the dogfights), and the stories have kept me guessing. If "Galactica" can continue with this level of quality, it may turn into a science fiction classic. And believe me, I don't say that lightly.

That is, if the Sci-Fi Channel continues to support it. They have been known to give us pretty good shows in the past, and have dumped them at the drop of a ratings hat. I'm still pissed about what they did to Farscape. They'd better not get us hooked on Galactica and then just drop it. You hear me, now, Sci-Fi Channel?
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

2 comments:

teresa burnikell said...

I agree. This is an excellent show. The original was dire. After purchasing the complete boxset (including the mini-series) for £29.99 I'm about to re-watch it all and this time have your reviews to complement it. Yay.
I also have a Farscape shaped hole in my heart.
Love all your comments on my favourite shows Billie. Thanx.

Billie Doux said...

You're very welcome, Teresa!