Monday, December 26, 2011
Revisit This Show - Battlestar Galactica (2004)
I have to confess, it took me a long time to give this show a chance. When it was first announced that an updated remake/revisioning of Battlestar Galactica was being done and that it was going to be a much different show, I didn't know how to feel. Sure, they were keeping most of the character names and the look of the ship was going to be similar, but just how different was it going to be? I was a huge fan of the original - still am - so I wasn't sure how I felt.
What eventually made me literally boycott the new series at the time it premiered was all the trashing of the original 1978 series that followed. I mean, you'd have the thought the old series was pure crap, had absolutely no merit and should be utterly dismissed in lieu of the new.
The original, for me, was thrilling, had great characters, told a terrific story and I loved it. Was it ground-breaking, critically acclaimed TV? No. But that didn't mean it wasn't a good, fun show. Many say it was a direct rip-off of Star Wars, which had come to theaters just the year before. For me - also a huge fan of the Wars - aside from the fact that both had individually piloted ships (X-Wings for SW, Vipers for BSG) and a couple of hot heroes, I see very little direct similarity. Of course, this point can be debated extensively, I'm sure ... let's not do that here.
Suffice to say, when the new series premiered, with all the bad-mouthing about my Galactica that had taken place, I had a hard time giving it a chance. But, as a dedicated TV watcher, I committed to watching the pilot miniseries. I did had a hard time with it, particularly with the way it was filmed (that flash-zoom, docu-cam style is not a favorite of mine) ... and the fact that Starbuck, my favorite character (still crush on Dirk Benedict to this day) was turned into a woman! (though I cared less about the same thing being done to the character of Boomer ... go figure). So I didn't watch beyond that.
Recently, having had enough distance in addition to having heard so many incredible things about the revamped series - and the fact that the entire series is available through Netflix streaming - I was able to go back to it with a new perspective, and I am so glad I did. Having just finished the last episode, I can say now with hearty confidence and no malice, it is a truly outstanding piece of cinematic work and I am a bonified fan.
BSG has some of the richest, meatiest, fully-rounded characters and were portrayed by a cast of extraordinary actors, not just the main stars but down to ones who were only in a few episodes, and that's saying something. Plus the fact that many of those smaller, less assuming characters - Cally, Dualla, Gaeta - later became such pivotal players in the overall story is a testament to the writers, the actors and the show itself.
I can't even begin to go into detail about the overall story and all its intricacies - how could I with so much that happened over the four (was that it?) seasons - and I don't want to. Unfortunately, due to my withholding watching for so long, I happened to accidentally learn of certain plot elements over the course of the original airing and since then (big reveals, character deaths, etc.), which didn't ruin the overall viewing for me but did disappointment a little, and I wouldn't dare do that to those of you who haven't seen it but plan to (In case I haven't made it clear, PLEASE DO!) Believe me, there were more than enough other "OMG!" shocking moments and developments to go around.
The show's premise is this: The world ended with no warning, and all that was left … was hope. Cylons were created by the humans of the Twelve Colonies. Intelligent robots, they were used as slaves and soldiers to fight humanity's wars. But the Cylons became sentient and they rebelled. Man and machine fought to a bloody stalemate, then the Cylons withdrew to a remote region of space.
A tense, quiet truce between the two races lasted 40 years until the Cylons launched a genocidal attack on the colonies, all but eradicating the human race and leaving to 50,000 odd survivors to abandon their homes and flee into deep space aboard a rag-tag fleet of ships led by the lone surviving Colonial warship, the battlestar Galactic. Driven by the prophetic visions of the Colonial president and in desperate need of a new home, the fleet sets upon a quest that will take it into the farthest reaches of unexplored space … in search of the mythical, lost "13th colony" — Earth.
There were some standout performances that I do have to note. James Callis is perfection as the tortured, sorely misguided Gaius Baltar. Played with menacing delight by the late John Colicos in the original series, this new Baltar was disturbingly, hopelessly flawed, often hateful but at times sympathetic. His journey is an incredible study in human behavior when one makes the wrong choices and doesn't know how to reconcile them. There should have benn some Emmy love for this guy.
Katee Sackhoff is a fully-cocked pistol as Kara "Starbuck" Thrace. Remember, I myself had to come to terms that my beloved handsome rogue was now an oft-cursing, angry, self-destructive bitch, but hers is also an amazing journey to watch. You want to both clock her and root for her, often multiple times within a single episode, and Sackhoff's commitment to the role and all the levels it tasked her to play is magnificent to watch.
It was fun to see actors that I have watched in other programs show up here (though for many, they appeared in BSG first), particularly Grace Park (Sharon "Boomer" Valerii), who I currently enjoy as Kono on Hawaii Five-0 (funny thing, Park again plays a character who was originally male). I had seen Tahmoh Penikett (Karl "Helo" Agathon) on Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, Michael Trucco (Sam Anders) on USA's Fairly Legal and Mark Sheppard (Romo Lampkin) on, oh take your pick - X-Files, Firefly, Supernatural.
In fact, a great many people who were on BSG have since been on Supernatural - Sheppard, Samantha Ferris, Rheka Sharma, Michael Hogan. Not surprising since both are genre shows that were/are shot in Vancouver, which uses many of the same actors. I don't doubt that fans of one show are fans of the other. On a side note, Supernatural being my favorite show, I have to give a hearty "WATCH IT!"
While I did love Lorne Greene as the original Commander Adama, Edward James Olmos brought much to his Adama, a man dealing with so many ongoing crises and tragedies, you wonder how he doesn't just blow himself out the nearest air duct. But he deals, and watching Olmos do it with all his power and presence is masterful.
Having been a big Xena fan, it was nice to see Lucy Lawless again, this time as a completely different kind of character. Sometimes it's hard for me to follow an actor who has played such a distinctive character for so long to another role, but Lawless made it easy, and she got to use her real accent to boot! (Another case in point, albeit unrelated: see Michael C. Hall as both David Fisher on Six Feet Under and as Dexter Morgan on Dexter).
I was pleased to have this new series give frequent nods to the original, sometimes using the original, iconic theme music, sometimes onscreen appearances by the original Cylon centurians. Guess the old show couldn't have been that bad, huh? And kudos for giving a juicy role to the original Apollo, Richard Hatch (Tom Zarek).
About BSG, there is so much more to say but I don't quite know how to without giving anything away, so I'll leave it at this: this is a terrific, engaging saga with outstanding characters, intellectual themes, extraordinary writing, compelling storytelling and is racked with emotion, power and heart. It was great to be able to watch the whole series start to finish in a short time frame - helped keep the flow of the story. And don't discount the original 1978 series - it really was pretty darn cool!
Both the 1978 and 2004 versions of Battlestar Galactica are available on DVD and are currently streaming on Netflix.