The last remaining humans battle for survival against a robotic enemy.
75 episodes of 42 minute duration. 2004 - 09
From across the gulf of the decades which span the bright-eyed optimism of the newly arrived Star Wars enthralled late 1970’s to the darker, more uncertain world of the first half decade of the 21st century, comes a radical reinterpretation of a star-spanning series whose original bright and colourful saga of survival has been reborn as a morally uncertain, complexly intelligent examination of the nature of self, identity and philosophical meaning in the face of a desperate flight from certain extermination.
This is the story of the last remnants of a humanity cast without warning into the harsh and unwelcoming coldness of deep space pursued by a remorseless enemy of their own making. This is the dark and decidedly edgy universe of the revived Battlestar Galactica.
Created by the prolific writer/producer, Glen A. Larson in 1978, the original Battlestar Galactica chronicled the story of a band of humans who, fleeing the destruction of their twelve homeworlds by the implacable cybernetic alien race the Cylons, strike out in their rag-tag fleet protected by the last surviving Battlestar, the Galactica, in search of their mythical lost colony. A mysterious planet named Earth.
Although massively expensive by the standards of the television of the day, and with a concept that was informed on a basic level by Larson’s own Mormon beliefs, the original Battlestar Galactica-although spawning a loyal fanbase-never really transcended the simplistic space opera format which was the inevitable result of the all-pervading influence of the newly released first Star Wars film. Although still relatively popular with the viewers, the sheer expense of the production ensured that cancellation came in fairly short order. However, talk of a return of the Galatica in any number of possible incarnations-the most persistent of which was spearheaded by one of the original stars, Richard Hatch, who had played the heroic Captain Apollo-continued to surface from time to time offering a slim but continuing hope to the faithful.
That hope eventually give birth to the hoped for revival when, with the involvement of US cable station Sci-Fi, in partnership with Satellite channel Sky, former Star Trek writer/producer, Ronald D. Moore, developed an ambitious two part mini series that retold Larson’s basic story in a unremittingly harsher and consistently naturalistic fashion, which successfully mirrored the concerns of a world still coming to terms with the radical changes wrought globally by post 9/11 events.
With the mini-series an unqualified success, drawing in record-breaking audience figures for Sci-Fi, the obvious next step was taken and a commission was given to Moore to produce a 13-episode first season, which would continue the Galactica’s story.
Handling their material with a skill, intelligence and sensitivity far removed from the cheerfully simplistic tone of the source material, Moore and his team successfully charted the relaunched Galatica into its new on-going adventures with a grimly gritty and realistic style and verb which struck immediate resonance’s with viewers on a world-wide scale.
This is a dark, dangerous universe populated only by what remains of humanity from the destroyed twelve colonies’, and their ever-present persecutors, the robotic former slave race which they themselves created, the Cylons. But these Cylons are a far cry from their original incarnation. These Cylons have evolved, have in some cases taken on human form, and even more disturbingly, appear to have found both a God and a soul, and it’s this theme of religion, wedded to that of basic survival that is the heart and driving force of the new series. There are now no absolutes in the new Galactica universe, except those of death and survival. No moral certainties remain. Instead, Human and Cylon are presented as direct mirror images of the other’s deeply entrenched moral certitudes and bigotry’s. Both are instead presented as victims of their own beliefs and inescapably intertwined origins. The lines have been blurred in myriad subtle ways and nothing; absolutely nothing remains clear cut.
To go into further specific details of the gradually unfolding and deeply complex tapestry of the plot of season one would be to commit a grave disservice to both the reader and the series itself. For one of the greatest triumphs of Battlestar Galatica is that story is open to as many valid and divergent viewpoints as there are viewers to interpret those viewpoints in a manner which best serves their own expectations. And to serve the intelligence of the series’ scripts to their full justice, Moore has assembled a cast of the highest calibre, which although relatively large, nevertheless function as a finely tuned and perfectly balanced ensemble. Chief amongst them being the impeccable pairing for the equally charismatic and talented Edward James Olmos as the hard-bitten, pragmatic Commander Adama, (a portrayal of fierce intelligence married to complex human strengths and frailty’s which marks Olmos’ Adama as a figure far removed from the semi-religious patriarch depicted in the original by the legendary Lorn Green, while still managing to remain true to the character’s basic concept), and the wonderful Mary McDonnell’s dignified, compassionate, yet deceptively strong and resolute President Laura Roslin.
It is these two characters, pitched in perfect counterpoint, who are the heart and soul of the series. But having noted that, it should be realised that this attention to character on the part of the writers filters down and informs the performances of every member of the cast. From young British actor Jamie Bamber’s heroic yet very humanly flawed Captain Apollo, to Katie Sackoff’s hard-nosed, feisty, yet vulnerable female Starbuck. And from James Callis’ treacherous yet disarmingly likeable Gaius Baltar to the beautiful Tricia Helfer’s ambiguous and enigmatic Cylon agent “Number Six” in all her varied version, and beyond.
Harsh, intelligent, questioning and vastly entertaining, the latest incarnation of Battlestar Galactica is that all too rare commodity in the many and varied televisual science-fictional universe: the remake done stunningly, breathtakingly right.
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