Sunday, March 12, 2006


Battlestar GalacticaEdward James Olmos Directed by Michael Rymer
Reviewed by Byron Merritt



BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’S first season on TV is the stuff of legends. And I don’t say this lightly. Built (loosely) upon the 1978 version which suffered from subpar acting, scripts and sets, this new and phenomenally improved series gives science fiction afficionados the guts to stand up and shout, "Science Fiction is a valid TV genre!" Although some SF series’ are pretty darn good (FARSCAPE and FIREFLY fans know what I’m talking about), this smart, sexy and twisted series puts an intellectual face on the genre and dares viewers to keep up.

Set in the distant future in a distant galaxy, season one opens with the Battlestar Galactica being decommissioned in favor of larger, more modern battlestars. Cylons and humans have survived by distancing themselves with no contact taking place for over 40 years. But that’s all about to change. The Cylons attack all the human settlements, planets, and military ships, nearly wiping humanity from the universe. But a rag-tag group of fighters aboard the now decommissioned Battlestar Galactica refuse to give up. The remaining 40,000-plus humans cluster their spaceships around the Galactica and flee into the void. With them comes the Secretary of Education turned President (Mary McDonnell), chief military man Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos), the tough but sexy super-pilot Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff, a woman. More on that in a minute), and maybe even a couple of Cylons who now resemble humans.

One of the things that makes this series so engaging is that it’s sexy; the stunningly beautiful Trisha Helfer plays the first Cylon-turned-human and does so by using every excellent curve she’s got. But the sex is justified as we learn it’s not only a tool that the Cylon’s use to gain access to human secrets, but also to help them understand what humanity’s all about. We also learn that the Cylons believe in God — monotheism — while the humans have reverted to worshiping the "Gods of Kobol" — polytheism. And it is a clash of wills between Trisha Helfer’s character and James Callis' Dr. Gaius Baltar (the local genius who has problems discerning reality from fiction) that keeps this story thread extremely interesting.

Another thing that keeps Galactica moving ahead and each episode watchable is that the plots are completely character driven. That’s not to say there’s no science fiction. There is. But it’s just one of the many layers that makes the series sensational. I can’t picture anyone else in the role of Commander Adama besides Edward James Olmos. I can’t picture anyone in the role of Starbuck other than Katee Sackhoff. The casting and acting and scripts and sets and special effects are pulled off with exceptional care but don’t pander to the viewer; if you don’t understand something, they aren’t going to slow down and explain it to you.

I’m going to have to comment, of course, on the fact that Starbuck is a woman. This caused some untempered comments by fans of the original 70s version. But I found it to be an excellent change. Having several strong female leads (Mary McDonnell, Katee, Sackhoff, Tricia Helfer, and Grace Park) added a sense of futuristic realism that was missing in the original series.

There are almost too many great things about this series to comment on and I’m forced to agree with the critics on this one; it is "The Best New Show on TV." LOST has lost its #1 standing in my view. I’m going to be checking out Battlestar Galactica’s second season very, very soon. I’m hooked.

No movie trailer available. Soooorrrry!


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