Battlestar Galactica (2003)
Reviewed by Andy Ling
[Written in December 2003. This is the first in a series of monthly columns by Andy Ling reviewing genre TV shows, movies and DVDs.
[The first Battlestar Galactica series, which ran for one season in 1978, was an SF story in which humankind's "Twelve Colonies" are destroyed after a 1,000-year war with the Cylon Empire. The Cylons also destroy the Colonies' entire fleet except for the Battlestar Galactica, captained by Cmdr. Adama (played by Lorne Greene). Adama gathers up the remaining humans and leads a "rag-tag fleet" on a journey to find Earth, the legendary 13th colony, lost millennia ago when humans left the motherworld, Kobol. (Another Battlestar, the Pegasus, turns up later in the series, but its captain, played by Lloyd Bridges, elects not to accompany Adama's fleet.) The series cast also included Richard Hatch as Capt. Apollo, Adama's son; Dirk Benedict as Lt. Starbuck; Herb Jefferson Jr. as Lt. Boomer; Maren Jensen as Athena, Adama's daughter; Noah Hathaway as Boxey, an orphaned boy whom Apollo adopts; Terry Carter as Col. Tigh; and John Colicos as the evil Count Baltar. The series' successor, Galactica 1980, was set on Earth after the fleet arrived, but many characters were gone, including Apollo, Starbuck and Baltar. It was cancelled after 10 episodes.]
Like the classic VW Beetle and Cooper Mini, Battlestar Galactica (BSG) returns in a new incarnation, with the familiar lines of the original but redesigned for modern sensibilities.
The most important change is that this is no longer a family-rated space opera; it is now a war drama pitched to mature audiences. Except for the basic premise, everything else has been retooled for a much more serious and sobering tone.
The original characters have been rewritten and new ones introduced, each flawed in some way. For example, Cmdr. William Adama and his son Lee "Apollo" Adama have a longstanding feud over the death of other son Zack. Laura Roslin, future president of the Colonies, is diagnosed with cancer. Gaius Baltar learns that his arrogance and naiveté have helped the Cylons. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace is thrown into the brig for striking a superior. The list of sorrows goes on, and the apocalypse hasn't even begun.
When it does, the pressure mounts as the characters are forced into extraordinary circumstances. On one world, passage away from a war zone is decided by lottery as mushroom clouds rising in the background. People on ships with faster-than-light capability must decide whether to abandon slower sublight ships when Cylons discover them. Paranoia sets in when it's discovered that the Cylons can mimic humans, and a suspected enemy agent is found. Finally, there's the ultimate question of whether to run or fight when it sinks in that the human race has been reduced to 50,000 people.
The cast are to be commended for conveying the gravity of the situation and not going over the top. Everyone conveys the confusion, desperation and shock of living through an unprecedented crisis not unlike recent real-world history. Edward James Olmos (Cmdr. Adama) and Mary McDonnell (Laura Roslin) are two of the three emotional centres for this story, and they both turn in compelling performances: Olmos as an experienced military man reconnecting with his estranged son and McDonnell as an inexperienced leader of the refugees whose agenda of humanitarian aid conflicts with Adama's war efforts. In the most off-beat relationship, James Callis (Baltar) and Tricia Helfer (Number Six) turn in scene-stealing, but not scenery-chewing, performances as a pair on the run with a large secret.
Special mentions go to Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck) and Tricia Helfer for tackling controversial characters. The most notorious change in this version of BSG was the conversion of Starbuck from male to female. Sackhoff's Starbuck is very reminiscent of Dirk Benedict's portrayal, as both manage to imbue the character with a natural charisma, touch of wildness and fondness for smoking cigars. Helfer's stunning looks and her character's overt sexuality guarantee her attention, but her portrayal of Number Six as a Harvey-like Devil to Baltar is what makes her character interesting. It will be interesting to see how these two develop should a television series follow.
By this point, the reader may be wondering if there is anything of the original series left. Yes, there is; however, it is very slight. The Vipers, the Galactica and Cylons are recognizable, though heavily redesigned. The Twelve Colonies, Kobol, and the legend of Earth are present too. Even the show's original theme is played. But this is essentially a new story with new characters and a production design that aimed to completely separate it from its original.
Overall, this was a very gripping mini-series, one that certainly forms a solid stepping-stone for a regular TV series.
Interviews, Speeches, Articles | Voyageur Home
Voyageur Fanzine Editor
Upcoming Events & Conventions | Club History Main
Site Editor & Site Problems
Copyright © 2003, Andy Ling.