Battlestar Galactica

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The series opens with Battlestar Galactica, an old and technologically obsolete warship, being decommisioned in a ceremony led by Commander Bill Adama. During the ceremony, a nuclear armageddon is unleashed on all human-inhabited planets by the cylons, robots that had disappeared into deep space after a war with their human creators. During their absence, the cyclons developed 12 new models, robots so life-like that they were impossible to distinguish from humans. Each model has a particular appearance and personality, although these vary according to their ongoing individual experiences. Perhaps most importantly, the new models cannot die. Although their bodies can be destroyed, their consciousness will simply be transferred to a new body on a Resurrection Ship.

Using these new models, the cylons infiltrate the hub of human government on the planet Caprica, ultimating gaining control of all computer systems and destroying human civilisation. Galactica seems to be the only warship left intact due to its lack of digital connection with Caprica. As the full impact of the assault sinks in, the crew of Galactica and remaining government officials gather the few remaining human survivors and set out to find the long-lost planet of their ancestors, Earth. Unfortunately, the cyclons are determined to wipe out all traces of human life and hunt them across the galaxy.

  • Season 1 introduces the main characters as well as most of the cylon models. The vestigial government of the fleet begins to cement itself as a uniting force under the rule of President Roslin. The crew of Galactica take on the role of protectors to the civilians in the rest of the fleet and attempt to evade the pursuing cylons. In the midst of all of this, the survivors realise that there are cylons that have infiltrated the fleet.
  • Season 2 explores the culture of the cylons, as well as the continuing tension among different political and religious factions within the fleet. Some humans return to Caprica and discover survivors and potential clues to Earth's location. A surprise addition to the fleet renews hope in their survival, particularly with the discovery of a habitable planet dubbed New Caprica.
  • Season 3 starts with most of the human survivors living under subjugation on cylon-occupied New Caprica. After a dramatic rescue, the fleet makes a renewed bid to find Earth using the controversial religious visions and intuition of its leaders as a guide.
  • Season 4 reveals the final five cylons as everyone struggles to uncover the mystery of cylon existence and the location of Earth. Both cylons and humans wrestle with civil unrest that is founded on disagreements about relationships between the cylons and humans. The fleet finally reaches its destination, but it is not what anyone expects.

  • Characters:

    COMMANDER WILLIAM ADAMA (EDWARD JAMES OLMOS): Adama is the undisputed military leader of the battlestar and, together with the President, provides the leadership that the fleet relies on to evade the cylons and continute to search for Earth. Honourable almost to a fault, Adama expects unswerving loyalty and honesty from his crew. Although he puts his role as Commander before all else, he has close but often volatile relationships with his son Lee, Starbuck, the President, and Colonel Tigh.

    With the death of almost all government officials after the Cylon attack, Roslin unexpectedly found herself as President of the colonies. Although dying of breast cancer, she is a strong leader who will stop at nothing to ensure that the fleet reaches Earth. Roslin is normally a highly practical leader, but she places a lot of faith in her religion and associated prophecies.

    Lee's skill as a pilot and combat leader allowed him to advance up the military ranks after the cylon attack. His desire to constantly act on his moral compass, even to the detriment of his friends and family, guided him towards a later career in political advice and activism. Lee has a close relationship with his father, Commander Adama, although they don't always agree. He also has an intense love-hate relationship with Kara.

    A highly skilled pilot, Kara is a tough-talking, risk-taking, hard-drinking woman. Her stubborness and volatility are just as likely to get her into trouble as out of it, and she has more than her fair share of adventures and tragedies due to her seemingly impulsive decisions and intense emotions. Kara is destined to play a crucial role in the future of cylons and humans, but this role remains an enigma until the end of the series.

    Baltar is the genius who inadvertently allowed the Cylons to destroy Caprica. He is constantly worried that members of the fleet will uncover his secret and is often overly defensive as a result. Vain and selfish to a fault, Baltar is nonetheless a clever survivor. Since the cylon attack on Caprica, Baltar has been plagued with hallucinations of the cylon model Number 6 who regularly visits him with cryptic instructions about God's plan.

    The eighth Cylon model is arguably the most emotional and human-like of the standard models, perhaps reflecting her status as the 'youngest' addition to the Cylons. There are two main characters based on this model in the series both of whom are called Sharon. The first is nicknamed Boomer, a sleeper Cylon on Galactica who intially has no idea about her origins. The second is nicknamed Athena, a skilled pilot who makes a conscious choice to side with the humans over her own kind despite prejudice, anger, and ill-will from the crew.

    The sixth Cylon model is calculating and manipulative and is particularly skilled at using her sex appeal to get her way. Although quite intelligent and rational, this model is often highly religious and will lose her temper when things don't go according to her plan. There are two main characters based on this model in the series. The first is the model who seduced Baltar in order to obtain his defense codes and destroy Caprica. The second appears solely to Baltar as a supposed hallucination who adeptly manipulates him according to her mysterious plan.

    Tigh is Executive Officer on the Galactica, second in command only to Adama. He has a long history of friendship with Adama and had an extremely volatile marriage with Ellen, but he does not seem to have many other close relationships. Tigh has a drinking problem and struggles to control his temper, but he seems to have no problem making the tough and unpopular decisions that often need to be made.

    Tyrol is the Chief Engineer on Galactica and is arguably the most genuinely good and moral person among the main characters. Unfortunately, he endures a series of tragedies over the course of the series that gradually wear him down and increase his cynicism and apathy. Although he'll usually go along with the flow, Tyrol proves himself to be incredibly strong-willed during the New Caprican occupation.

    Why It's Good:
    This is one of the grittiest science fiction series around: The spaceships are drab and often falling apart. The uniforms are muted and militaristic without a primary colour in sight. The characters are flawed and often fail. The plot is convoluted, hopeful yet tragic. For a science fiction series based on the common 'robots-destroy-the-world' premise, Battlestar is amazingly realistic.

    The special effects are impressive, yet keep with the realistic theme. There are no traditional aliens, although perhaps the cylon culture could be considered alien. As such, most of the special effects involve the spaceships and shuttles, which are so realistic that they even use thrusters in a way that actually agrees with the laws of physics.

    Despite the great action, solid storyline, and gritty realism, Battlestar is at its heart a story about the characters. There are no clear heroes or villains in this series; most are flawed in some way, and many make poor decisions throughout the series. In fact, I think I hated at least every character at least once in the series, but I also adored them as well. The series involves an impressive number of cast members and doesn't hesitate to spend the bulk of an episode on a so-called minor character. This makes the whole series seem more well-rounded and also allows the writers to really affect the viewers by killing some of these characters off without affecting the main story arc. Unfortunately, the large number of characters means that I didn't list all of them above and had to exclude some important ones for my sanity (e.g. Billy, Anders, Dualla, Gaeta, Ellen, the other standard cylon models).

    The cylons were one of my main enjoyments of the series- learning who was a cylon, discovering their culture and history, comparing them with the human characters. Their technology and culture were great foils to the human fleet, with the lines between them ultimately blurring and dissolving.

    Finally, Battlestar is a treat because it's one of the few science fiction series that had a defined and planned ending. The series didn't end because a network cancelled it after a cliffhanger (ah, my beloved Farscape) or because viewer numbers gradually declined until there was no reason to keep going (poor Enterprise). Battlestar ended for the novel reason that the writers' story arc was finished. They planned a 4-year storyline and had the good sense to finish the series on this timeline despite the good ratings. The ending of the series was unexpected, unsatisfying, amazing, and enigmatic, and all of these conflicting elements have ensured that I've kept thinking about it long after I saw the last episode.

    Why It's Not So Good:
    Some episodes of Battlestar really fall flat, and I think this is due to the writers taking risks to spend an entire episode exploring character development. This works well in some cases, but in others is boring, off-putting or just plain odd (e.g. the boxing metaphor throughout 'Unfinished Business'). The story arc of Battlestar is also inconsistent regarding viewer enjoyment, and I think this has to do somewhat with the balance of action-packed episodes with character development episodes. The first two seasons were highly acclaimed, the third season generally panned, and the fourth season causing confusion and highly polarised reviews.

    Another annoying thing about this series is some of the characters. Yes, I know I already raved about the characterisation, but because the characters are so realistic and flawed, they can be annoying, detestable, selfish and at times even evil. There's only so many times I want to see an angry drunk Saul or a emotional Kara pushing away those closest to her.

    And finally, the aspect of the series that may have annoyed me the most is the ending (and yes, I know I also said I liked the ending in the previous section). The main source of my annoyance is that I still can't figure out if I liked it or hated it! It had a pretty good twist and answered all the questions raised in the series but still managed to raise a lot of questions. I guess that's quite an achievement in itself.

    Point Blank:
    A gritty gritty gritty space opera with enough surprises and action to get you past the boring bumps

    BSG is dark SciFi soap

    BSG is dark SciFi soap in space. Lucas was credited with making an 'old future', with old run down and grubby looking sets, which gave a stark contrast to the 2001 'sterile future' where everything in the future was new. BSG takes the next step and gives characters a grubby, human, feel to them. Although this humanity in the characters makes it easy to relate to and get to know them, you don't necessarily like them all and only briefly miss them if they are killed off. That is until the final season when you quietly hope that they will all be killed off to put them, and you, out of your claustrophobic missery. What happened at the end there? Seriously? The writers seemed to mimic the efforts put into Pirates of the Caribbean 3, that is, they knew they had a core audience that wanted to see things through to the end so they gave up trying to write a good story and threw darts at a board to determine who they would kill next. BSG was a great series, for the first 2 and a bit seasons anyway.