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Review: Battlestar Galactica Season 1

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In terms of sheer science-fiction satisfaction, this has been a most excellent summer. Not only did I discover the estimable Joss Whedon‘s Firefly, but also the latest reimagining of Battlestar Galactica.

In the 2003 mini-series, 40 years have passed since humanity fought against the Cylons they created. There was no clear winner, since midway through the conflict our robotic foes inexplicably took off for the far reaches of space, never to return.

Or so we thought. In truth, they came back wearing our skin. Number Six, above pictured cyber-seductress, gets genius and womanizer Dr. Gaius Baltar to unwittingly assist her (it?) into penetrating our defenses. Soon after, the 12 colonies we’re living on get hit by nukes. All our ships with networked computers get disabled almost like someone just hit the “OFF” switch.

Suddenly, the archaic Battlestar Galactica – a ship with no networked computers to speak of and long considered a relic of the First Cylon War – becomes the only hope for the continued survival of our race.

This background leads to some of the most gripping television I’ve ever seen. Rather than just gush endlessly, I’m going to write about my two favorite episodes and why they work.

The crew of the Galactica has been awake for more than 130 hours. Every 33 minutes, the Cylons catch up with them, and they have to make another FTL (faster-than-light) jump. You’ve watched Star Trek before; you know that Kirk and company never looked anything worse for the wear, no matter what happened. Matters couldn’t be more different on this show. Fatigue and exhaustion abound. Adama, the commander, looks grizzled as hell, with several days’ worth of stubble. I’d say the large portion of what makes this show so interesting is how believable it manages to be – a feat unprecedented by any other SF I’ve seen.

“Flesh and Bone”
As the episode begins, a Cylon agent (who looks human) has been captured aboard a civilian ship. The attitudinal pilot Starbuck is sent in to interrogate the man/machine after being warned that he’ll twist around the truth in order to instill seeds of doubt. This guy doesn’t look like he’s doing so well, judging from his pasty complexion and the amount he’s sweating. He has his face down on the interrogation table and admits to praying. His talk of religion is both fascinating and beguiling. This kind of intellectual nourishment works perfectly within the context of gritty realism, combining to make a transcendent viewing experience.

BOTTOM LINE: If we’re lucky, this show will be around for a good long time.


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