Battlestar Galactica: The Re-imagined Series
All this has happened before; all this will happen again – A fitting introduction to the world of Battlestar Galactica. If you imagined a world of gaudy sets, beige Lycra and far too much hairspray, when you read ‘Battlestar Galactica’ in the title, it means two things:
1) you've not, yet, been lucky enough to see the ‘sexy for the naughties’ 2004 re-imagined series; and
2) you are old enough to have had some very embarrassing hairdos.
Hopefully this article will help persuade you that the former is a situation which really needs rectifying. The hairdo's – well, until Dr. Sheldon Cooper invents time travel, you could always just burn the photographic evidence.
In terms of essential plot, the show parallels the original series pretty closely; both see humanity at war against a race of robotic creations called the Cylons. In the re-imagined series, however, gone are the clunky, turkey-in-tinfoil looking Cylons, these Cylons are über-sleek, utilitarian-chic beauties that one might believe were the result of a mistimed fumble between a Honda Civic and a Philippe Starck Lemon Squeezer.
The Miniseries that aired in 2003 served as a pilot for the re-imagined series and sets up the story nicely. The Human-Cylon war is on a 40 year hiatus after the Cylons mysteriously upped and left leaving no explanation. Then BOOM! The Cylons return and essentially kick the collective bottoms of the twelve colony planets of the human race. The straggling survivors band together and flee the Cylons who are in hot pursuit, forming a colonial fleet headed by the last serving elected official – the former secretary of education. The fleet's protection falls to the only surviving military force, the outmoded museum-ship, Battlestar Galactica. As if humanity wasn’t in enough trouble, we also discover that Cylon spies are in our midst. Oh, I forgot to mention, the Cylons can also look like humans now. Rather hot humans too, which is nice.
Essentially, Humanity is frakked. As in the 70's original the re-imagined series centres on the same three main characters. Captain William Adama is the head honcho of the Galactica and is made of so much awesome that I defy the straightest of heterosexual men not to develop some sort of Gene Hunt-esque man-crush. Not that he's not flawed; like most of the characters in the show, he fraks up on occasion and sometimes spectacularly, but because he is acted so wonderfully by Edward James Olmos and because he is written so perfectly, Adama always remains the backbone of the franchise.
Lee ‘Apollo’ Adama is Captain Adama’s son and is played by the lovely Jamie Bamber who UK viewers may recognise from Law & Order UK. Lee is the character who is the most difficult to write about because, despite appearances, he’s a rather complex chap. On first meeting Lee, he is a bit angsty and has more than a few unresolved daddy-issues. Despite this, Lee can be so brain-numbingly perfect he’ll make your teeth itch. Complex see, let’s explain: It is clear from the start that Lee is supposed to be the hero of the piece but – like his mythological namesake – he often suffers from divided loyalties and moral and physical trials dilemmas. Like any brave, handsome hero-type, his moral compass always points true north. He’s probably the character you’d most want to go to the pub with but you might end up falling asleep in a quiet corner or slipping him or yourself something to make him a bit more interesting.
The same cannot be said for his best mate and ace pilot, Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace. You really wouldn’t fancy going to the pub with Starbuck as you would probably end up in the brig after getting into a drunken brawl with a superior officer over a gambling debt. But she – yes, you read that right, Starbuck is a girl – is brilliant! The relationship between Starbuck and Apollo is one of the things that make you want to keep watching the show. There’s a ‘will-they-won’t-they’ thing going on that you never know whether to root for or to be horrified about (even more so than the original Starbuck and Apollo).
President of the Colonial Fleet, Laura Roslin is played by Mary McDowell. And, like Martin Sheen’s Jed Bartlett, she is the kind of tough, intelligent and thoughtful leader we’d all love the opportunity to vote for in real life. The day of the Cylon attacks, Roslin was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer adding further layers to her character –There’s the political vultures waiting to supersede her and the social and religious implications her illness brings to the story.
Gaius Baltar is the last character of note to be mentioned here and he’s an odd one alright. First things first, Baltar is a celebrity scientist (think Brian Cox meets Russell Brand) and one of the sharpest minds humanity has to offer. Before the Cylon attacks he was working with the government and unwittingly allowed his humanoid-Cylon girlfriend access to government security systems allowing her to wipe out most of humanity. He also has an imaginary friend, taking the shape of said Cylon ex-girlfriend, ‘Six’. An imaginary friend who, if we were honest, most viewers wouldn’t mind having. Is she, perhaps, the hallucination of a mad man, a guilt-induced projection, a ghost, a sacred vision from the one true God or the side-effect of a Cylon brain implant? The mystery will keep you guessing and watching. Religion is a key theme.
Most of the Humans in the show believe in a Greek style pantheon of gods and the Cylons believe in a monotheistic God – This cheeky upstart ‘God’s commandments and requirements apparently justify the genocidal attacks on the Cylon’s human creators. This was obviously supposed to strike a chord with the post 9/11 west when the series first aired in 2004. 5 years on, the shows impact is still as profound. An interesting development of the religious theme is that, at times, it helps the humans in the show identify and even bond with the humanoid Cylons – this can be seen primarily in the relationship between Gaius and Six and also between Starbuck and Cylon model 2. The Cylon’s faith humanises the inhuman; the fact that a robotic creation is able to have religious faith, until now, such a human ability creates feeling of empathy not only between characters in the show but it also allows the viewer greater insight and depth to characters, who, in lesser sci-fi ‘verses (*cough*StarWars*cough*) would just be the villainous ‘baddies’. The show leads viewers to some deep questions that will have the most un-nerdy of us arguing ad infinitum in internet fora up and down the land – Terrorism versus Freedom-fighting, what policies are acceptable in war, the treatment of prisoners, the treatment of a civilian population, Democracy versus marshal law and also asks the fundamental question of what it is to be human. These themes are bring to mind Alan Moore’s ‘V for Vendetta and Roy Batty in Blade Runner. The themes are not thrust in the faces of the viewer as political commentary. They are not ‘issues’ but just threads weaving through the story adding depth and backbone.
The style of the show is hard-hitting and honest and sometimes brutal. This no-airbrushing approach was and still is refreshing. The show continues to shock and delight and surprise audiences as word of mouth recommendations and reviews gather pace. To coin a phrase, if “All this has happened before; all this will happen again”. I can’t wait for next time.