Battlestar Galactica is one of the most underrated sci-fi TV shows of our time.
You don’t have to be a sci-fi nerd to watch BSG, but it helps. From the first episode, which aired 10 years ago this last January, you’re hopelessly addicted. The plotline, which brilliantly and intricately unfolds throughout its 4 seasons will have you gasping, laughing, fist-pumping, will leave you perplexed and finally, astounded. It’s funny, because when I double checked the number of seasons — I was in disbelief. A show with so much packed in only has 4 seasons?!
It has been said that the space opera is a checklist of everything you can’t do on Star Trek. I’d be inclined to agree. A show set in space containing sex, booze and “ships that don’t repair themselves after each episode”? Well, now you really have no excuse not to watch it (no really, it’s on Netflix).
The premise of the (multi-award winning) show is a situation not too far off from our own future, some might say. Robots take over the world! No, really. Well, kind of. In the show, the robots are called Cylons, and they look just like you and I. No one knows who the Cylons are, which — as you can imagine — only adds to the show’s complex storyline both at an individual episode and a whole series level. Individual Cylons’ true indentities are revealed (slowly) throughout the entire series. It’s brilliantly done.
In this world, humans live across 12 colonies (planets) and the story begins when the Cylons attack and obliterate all 12. A dishearteningly small number of passenger ships survive — the last of the human race — who are then banded together and travel through a perilous galaxy in a search for the mysterious ‘Earth’, led by the “Battleship Galactica” — the last remaining Battlestar*.
BSG features some kick-ass characters with my personal favourite being Kara Thrace, callname “Starbuck”, played by Katee Sackhoff. Starbuck is one of the most brilliantly complicated and ever-evolving characters I’ve seen in any TV show, sci-fi or otherwise. She is by far the strongest character of the series and her incredible mix of vulnerability, self-torturous nature, disrespect for authority and amazing battle skill make one woman to be reckoned with. In short: woman crush.
There are lots of other excellent characters too — who all work so well together — but I won’t take away the fun by going into much detail about them. BSG, much like all of the best sci-fi shows, contains some of the most intricate character development I’ve ever seen, both subtle (things you might notice the second time around) and clear as day (Saul Tigh, though). They’re all so… how do I put this; human?
Let’s just quickly give credit to the show’s roots, in that it is a re-imagining of the 1970s show (in which Starbuck is interestingly a male character), which only had one series. Much like Firefly, the one-season-show left an enormous cultural footprint in the hearts of many now die-hard fans. So, the re-imagining had some living-up-to to do. The show has also had several spin-off films, one which aired thirteen months before the actual pilot, which, if you’re a mega fan, are excellent to watch to ensure you don’t miss a single detail of the story.
Here are my top frakking 10 moments of BSG. My Gods, it’s so frakking good. Frak.
1 Gaius Baltar… Generally
Gaius is a character who could have his own show — he certainly marches to the beat of his own drum throughout the series. The actor (who you might actually recognise from Bridget Jones, if you’re a geek who loves the occasional rom-com too like me) has excellent comedic ability and is hilariously able to convey this ability through his animated facial features. He delivers food-spittingly good (sorry) one-liners and subtle cracks. Love him or hate him, the show would not be the same without him. Well, I mean — he does have quite a significant part to play in you know, the attempted desctruction of mankind. And yet, he still manages to make us feel sorry for him.
2 The Moments That Should Have Been Edited Out
There were a few of these, er, “mishaps” that should have been edited out.
I’m not sure if the crew left them in for comedic value, or someone just wasn’t doing their job. If you haven’t seen the series, then you’re probably not going to find this funny. But as you can hear by our sniggering, we certainly did. This is Commanding Officer (head of the fleet) William Adama eating his noodles of awkwardness. Just..why??
There is also a moment where his son, Lee Adama, is rather sternly walking along a corridor of the Battleship when he bumps into a wall. I so wish I’d recorded it. Ah, it’s why we love you so, BSG.
3 It’s All of Us
In season 3 there is a change in all of the characters due to a major plotline shift. Lee Adama’s thing? He gets fat. The thing is, though, I loved this because it was real! Lee Adama is, if anyone, the “hunk” of the show, he is the main love interest. In season 3, he gets complacent and has an obvious lacklustre for life, choosing to settle down and “let himself go”.
I find it frustrating when characters never change, or, as can be seen in shows like Friends, (a weird comparison, I know), they seem to become more glamourous and take on an element of their real-life celebrity appearance. I’m not down with that. Give me the nitty gritty, raw, human-element of who we all are, how we all feel sometimes — characters we can relate to, not just aspire to be.
Sidenote: I’m not saying that being fat is a bad thing, that’s not how we roll at KQ. We don’t condone body-shaming of any kind. What I’m saying is that what we see is Lee’s obvious change from a body he works incredibly hard for, something he’s proud of, to a body that just isn’t him. He’s not comfortable, and it shows.
Here’s Jamie Bamber, who plays Lee, with, can I just say fantasic 80s-George-Michael hair, talking about “Fat Lee” at Dragon*Con 2012.
4 It’s a Bit Eerie, it’s Deep…and You Need to Pay Attention
I love a bit of eeriness — and BSG certainly has that covered. In fact, it can be a bit frightening. The Cylon Raiders, anyone? They’re basically a scorpion pincer, with the face of a skull and the mind of a robot. The stuff of nightmares.
Later in the series, we learn more about how the next generation of Cylons developed when we discover the biological entity that is the hybrid. If you’re a fan of Cyborg-related science fiction like me, you’ll enjoy it. Just makes my spine tingle in the right kinda way. Is that weird? I think that might be weird…
5 The Faith vs Science Thing
There’s a fantastic oldy-worldy (that’s a thing) mythical element to the story for the purposes of human survival. Throughout the show, there’s an ongoing battle between this faith, a practised religion in the series, and athiesm. In fact the show in general has a fantastic ability to interweave epic philosophical and technological ideas and issues into its episodes.
It provides us with a very provocative comparison to our own battle between faith and science. In the series, (some) humans flee from technology in favour of faith — it’s their faith that guides them in the mission for survival. These factors in the storyline come to an intriguing end though. So…much…deep. I’ll say no more.
6 It’s Got (Several) Love Stories
We’re suckers for love, aren’t we? Well, it’s fair to say BSG has it all, now. The ongoing “are they, aren’t they” love story between Kara Thrace and Lee Adama is captivating. It’s lustful, steamy, sad, complex and hateful. The direction it takes speaks volumes about their characters. The attention to detail, the things that don’t need to be said — it’s just great!
Kara’s secondary “love story” with the Cylon Leoben Conoy is an interesting twist, which again gives the show the opportunity to reveal and develop her character further. The best bit is where she murders him (oh, don’t worry, he’s not a nice guy — or is he?), gets up, and finishes her steak. Kick. Ass.
It’s a fair statement to make that Kara and Lee’s is the love strory of the whole series, but there are others too which are equally as enthralling in their own way. Even the ones where nothing really happens. The show is so clever in conveying the multifaceted nature of human relationships — it’s a drama, a comedy and a thriller all in one.
7 The Soundtrack
The OST soundtrack is mega. Just listening to it you can imagine how awe-inspiring and emotional the show is. Plus there’s an epic battle scene to the sound of a cover of All Along the Watchtower. Yes!
8 The Ending
I can’t even tell you how much of a mind-frak the ending to this show is. It will make you question your entire existence. Maybe. If an ending is so good that I don’t want to divulge anything — you know you need to watch it. That is all.
9 Admiral William Adama
This guy. He is a totally ace actor: It’s too bad she won’t live, but then again, who does?” — yes, Edward James Olmos also plays Gaff in Bladerunner, and, for the Selena fans out there (hey, we’re a mixed bunch), he stars alongide Jennifer Lopez as Selena’s father in the film.
Back on track. His character is equally as ace. And true to BSG style, we are shown the many different elements that make up one Bill. At the heart of it, though, he’s just a really kind, fun guy; but he also demands respect. He’s earned his place at the top and he’s a damned good leader! The Bill Adama grimace is something all fans will recognise, and something I bet we all wish we could imitate in everyday life if things are getting a bit tetchy.
10 The Military is both Realistic and Desirable
A lot of work has gone into creating a fictional military in the BSG series that viewers would find realistic based on what we understand about our own military set up in real life. I can’t comment on much about the military — it’s not an area that interests me. You could say that the show could present anything to me and I’d believe it to be realistic — while that may be true, I believe credit should go where credit is due here that the show clearly spent a lot of time creating something we would believe, whatever our interest, knowledge or involvement in the real-life military.
It’s desirable because it displays a clear gender-neutrality that we don’t currently have in arguably any industry, nevermind one with such a traditionally masculine history. The best pilot is a woman. There’s co-ed dorms and both genders of officers are referred to as “Sir”.
This intriguing detail underpinns the story in a crucial way. If the entire military model of the show was both sloppy and sexist, it would lose the respect and attention of many viewers — and would not do justice to other elements of the story. I love watching sci-fi shows with strong leading characters who are women — because as Joss Whedon famously says, we shouldn’t have to point it out as a positive.
Convinced? Go watch it. Go watch it now.
*We know it’s not the last remaining Battlestar. But ssh…spoilers.