TV Overviews: Battlestar Galactica

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Sci Fi Channel has one of the strangest track records for adaptations and re-imaginings of any network on television.  When given the license to adapt the Ursula LeGuin classic "A Wizard of Earthsea" into a miniseries, they butcher it beyond comprehension, and they took a classic like "The Wizard of Oz" and made the baffling "Tin Man" (notable primarily for flying monkeys flying out of the Wicked Witch's breasts…).  They also took one of the cheesiest, and tiredest TV franchises, the 1970's "Star Wars" knock off Battlestar Galactica, and turned it into an edgy, thought provoking example of how to do science fiction right on television. 

In large part, the reason for the success of New Galactica stems from the creative freedom given to executive producer Ron D. Moore.  Moore, a veteran writer from Star Trek, and eventual show runner for Deep Space Nine, created a unique vision for Galactica, and has stuck to it, even when it got controversial. 

The basic premise of Galactica is that roughly 50 to 60 years ago, humans were spread across 12 colonies (the 12 colonies of Kobol), and had built intelligent robots to take care of a number of industrial needs.  Those robots revolted, there was a war that lasted to roughly 30 years ago, and then the robots (called Cylons) negotiated a truce and vanished.  At the start of the current saga, the miniseries Battlestar Galactica, the Cylons have come back – and this time, they have infiltrator androids.  One of them, Number Six (played by Tricia Helfer) is apparently a seduction model – she seduces Dr. Gaius Baltar and gains access to the defense networks over the planet.  Insert creepy Cylon mojo, and fast forward – the Cylon attack is devastating and wipes out most of humanity. 

The last Battlestar, Galactica, is one of the older capital ships in the Colonial Fleet, and under the command of William Adama, it was slated for decommissioning and being turned into a museum.  It now becomes the rallying point for all the civilian ships that it can gather up, and they set off for parts unknown; eventually, they make it back to Kobol, the original home world of humanity, and from there, learn of a thirteenth colony, known as Earth. 

With Cylons that look like humans, and humans who are gritty, unpleasant, and in each other's faces, the show transitions nicely from shoot 'em up space dogfights to gripping character dramas, to intrigue.  Like good science fiction has throughout the ages, it covers important issues – one of the critical decisions is whether or not the President of the 12 colonies should rig an election; her successor, the traitor Baltar, settles humans on a barely habitable planet at the end of Season 2, and the first third of Season 3 covers how the Cylons occupied this last colony of humanity and how they broke free, touching on issues like sympathetic suicide bombings. 

During Season 2, there's an homage to the Pegasus episodes of the original series, and it shows as an incredible contrast with how Galactica acted; every decision the commander of the Pegasus made was justifiable…and each one sent her, and her crew, farther down the path of atrocities. 

Galactica doesn't shy away from hitting the big issues, or making the audience flinch.  The fourth and final season (which got extended to 22 episodes) is filming now, with the first episodes due to air in April on the Sci Fi channel.

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