Saturday, January 13, 2007

Review: Battlestar Galactica Mini-Series and Season One

As a note to people who buy DVDs, do not buy the original mini-series DVD. Buy the Season One DVDs because that includes the mini-series in the first disk.

I did originally watch quite a few episodes of the first season (as well as the entire mini-series) last year. However, because of some snafus, I missed the last few episodes until recently, when I managed to borrow them from a friend. So now I can review the entire series with a complete picture.

I can't emphasize how important it is that you watch the mini-series before starting on the series. When I first saw the first episode of the series (the Hugo-award winning 33) out of context, I was impressed mostly by how boring the series was. Watching it in context, after seeing the entire mini-series, on the DVD without ads and with a good sound system, I was blown away. The soundtrack, the tension, and the characters already made sense, and the pacing, which I've already commented on before, was spot on.

I was not a fan of the old Battlestar Galactica show . It was one of those shows that I'd watch as a kid and promptly forgot. This version starts with the Cylons infiltrating the defense systems of the Humans, and then launching an attack by complete surprise on the Human fleet. The only surviving military ship was the Battlestar Galactica, by virtue of its equipment being so old and un-networked that old-style AT&T type phone units were still the major means of communications throughout the ship. The Galactica was about to be mothballed, and the surviving President of the Colonies is the former Minister of Education, who was 33rd in succession to the President.

The remaining civilian fleet, along with Battlestar Galactica head for Earth, a mystical place lost in the past, and concocted up by the heads of state just to keep hopes up amongst the survivors. Unknown to the crew, the Cylons have already infiltrated the Galactica, with human-lookalikes that are programmed as sleeper agents...

As if the plot wasn't complicated enough, the relationships between the characters are also tangled. Captain Lee Adama, the son of the Galactica commander Adama, has a complicated relationship with Starbuck and his father. The second in command of the Galactica is a perpetual drunk, and the civilian and military leaders do not always get along. Laura Roslin, the President of the colonies, has terminal breast cancer, and takes drugs that give her visions that may or may not be true. The casting is excellent: Edward James Olmos as Commander Adama steals every scene he's in. Mary McDonnell plays President Roslin as a serious woman contemplating her fate, but her delight at certain events (such as a baby being born in the fleet) lights up her face in ways words cannot express. Katee Sackhoff plays a very tomboyish Starbuck, whose self-confidence and brashness has you wondering when she's going to be taken down, but in the grand tradition of mavericks, she always gets away with it.

This is a dark show, with serious themes, though not as serious as the ones that will come up in season two . If you look for happy endings all the time and a lot of comedy, this is not the show for you. But for serious drama, intelligent writing, first class acting, and a science fiction show that takes all of science fiction's possibilities and runs with them, this is the show to watch.
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