Okay, I’ll admit it, I must be a SF geek. I have found the new Battlestar Galactica series on the SciFi Channel and it is good. The new Galactica is a far cry from the hokey television series starring Lorne Green and Dirk Benedict. I watched the original series when I was a kid, and I thought it was hokey nonsense back then. I particularly hated the ‘crash landing of the week’ mentality, with Apollo and Starbuck alternately crashing down on some remote planet that looked like a backlot in Hollywood, complete with Old West town and a population of Gunsmoke refugees. And I still chuckle when I think about the time they crash landed in Central Park, met Wolfman Jack, and a Cylon ended up at a costume party where he was damaged by a microwave oven. Man, that was just insanely bad. And what was the deal with the little boy and his robot dog? That just sucked.
The new series is grittier, and the characters are fleshed out in more detail. Instead of the standard television model of stand along episodes, Battlestar Galactica follows a long story arc through the course of the season. This is not surprising since the series creator and writers all worked on Deep Space Nine, a Star Trek series that forged a compelling story arc through its final two seasons. In this reimagined series the characters all have their personal demons, crucial flaws and private secrets. Battlestar Galactica features romance, deception, betrayal and a nascent insurrection amongst the refugees, not to mention the implacable Cylons bent on destruction. The plotting is tight, the characters compelling, the special effects shots are brief but quite good, and the camera work full of tight shots and quick cuts creates tension. It makes for a taut hour of television.
Television shows reflect their times, and this Galactica is strongly influenced by the post 9/11 world. The Cylons look like humans now, and sleeper agents are liberally placed amidst the citizens in the rag-tag fleet. They represent an obvious analog with the terrorist sleeper cells thought to infiltrate American society. The president of the Colonies was a former secretary of education, 43rd in line of succession. Is it a coincidence that George W. Bush is the 43rd president of the United States? Battlestar Galactica is retelling our story on the canvas of science fiction.