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"Battlestar Galactica" Returns with Frakking Strong Episode
April 4, 2008  | By David Bianculli
It's always dangerous, when you're talking about TV, to think in terms of firsts, onlys and absolutes, but Sci Fi Channel's Battlestar Galacticaholds, arguably, a very distinctive place in TV history. It may well be the best series ever made based on one of the worst series ever made.

The original Battlestar Galactica, an ABC attempt to rip off Star Wars, premiered in 1978 and was cancelled in 1980. Even at that, it outlasted its welcome by two years. Lorne Greene, finally off the Ponderosa and out of his Bonanza saddle, played Commander Adama -- and played him with about as much commitment and conviction as Marlon Brando played Jor-El in Superman. And Greene was the best actor in the fleet.

(Trust me on this -- I reviewed it at the time, and remember every painful episode, including the clunky Cylons, who ambled like Swamp Things in robot suits.)

So when Lana Kim at the Sci Fi Channel (bye, Lana! I'll miss you!) told me her network was mounting a remake of Battlestar, I literally laughed in her face. After I saw the pilot, I sheepishly phoned her and apologized. This new version wasn't just updated with new technology. It was wholly reimagined, and was a darker, smarter, more challenging TV drama.


Though Edward James Olmos smolders with righteous hostility and desperation as the new Adama, it's the women who drive this show, though not the ship. Katee Sackhoff, who as a guest star on NBC's Bionic Woman was the only good thing about that recent remake, plays the fighter pilot nicknamed Starbuck (a male role in the original show). Mary McDonnell plays the education secretary thrust into the role of President, as the ragtag fleet tries to evade genocide at the hands of the Cylons they created, and who turned on them and wiped out their world and civilization.

There are Cylons who look like humans -- a dozen "models" in all, and we now know what 11 of them look like. They include Number Six (Tricia Helfer) and D'Anna (recurring guest star Lucy Lawless, who I hope returns this year), who always knew they were Cylons, and "Boomer" (Grace Park), who, like some of the recently unveiled shadow Cylons, did not. Figuring out the identity of the secret Cylons, on this show, is like a Lost fan identifying the Oceanic 6. It's all part of the mystery, and part of the fun.

But there's deeper stuff at work here. The very idea of secret cells and shadow identities plays into our post-9/11 world of global terrorism, and the theme of this final year seems to be seek a definition of humanity, and God, and even the planet Earth. Not bad, for a show so bad in its first incarnation, it was laughed at derisively.

And yeah, that was my laughter then, too. But this time, I'm just smiling -- at how frakking good this series has become.




TC said:

Thanks for mentioning this. BSG is easily one of the best shows on TV, and this premiere has been a long time coming.

The worst part about the show is its name - several people that I told about BSG did exactly what you did. They laughed in my face. Then I told them it was the best show on non-premium-cable-TV, the laughter turned to pity. (I had the same experience for years with "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" -- David B)

Comment posted on April 4, 2008 12:14 PM

angela said:

No need for hope! Lucy Lawless does return, and for four more episodes.

(Great news! Hey, I like this. Reading news is a lot easier, and more fun, than gathering it. -- David B)

Comment posted on April 4, 2008 7:20 PM

Challabuck said:

Just saw the premiere. The show's a gem, to be sure (I'd like to polish it for more than one more year, but I'll take what I can get).


* The SFX are stunning, even on my cruddy little tube. Amazing battle scenes. Television sci-fi has never looked better.

* Baltar as David Koresh -- yet another leap into the geo-political landscape that defines earth-bound humanity. But it feels right.

* Watching Tigh unravel will be a lot of fun this season.

* Where's Bulldog? Guess David Eick didn't write the episode.

Comment posted on April 5, 2008 12:05 AM

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