Many of you will doubtlessly be aware of the famous Battlestar Galactica of 1979, the ostentatious and explosion-consumed space opera (or rock-concert, as the frequency of battles suggests) that gestated not only instantaeneous cult affection but also the subject of a subtantial number of remakes, even before the recent Hollywood necrophilic mania for exhuming dead cinema and television transpired. And, as with many remakes, they were all uniformly dire.
Except for the latest production of Battlestar Galactica - despite my known and oft-exhibited passionate devotion to prolixity, my reaction to it can only be expressed in two words:
The new version of Battlestar Galactica a truly amazing and magnificent specimen of television drama, and along with the superlative Farscape and the tragically short-lived John Doe I think it deserves to be recognised as the best serialised science fiction in the past five years. Indeed, it seems almost completely flawless.
Like any space opera, there are extravagant CGI scenes - but these scenes are rendered with a genuine artisitc beauty and some directorial genius (cameras wobble and zoom as if it’s being handled by somone recording a live newsreel), and special effects are not the order of the day - crucially, Battlestar Galactica is a programme that lets its actors… well, act. It’s also rendered with a refreshing, gritty realism that buffs it with the proud polish of authenticity - you can sense that you are aboard a genuine military vessel with limited resources rather than the tension-suffocating Star Trek passion for just lobbing a few reverse-polarity tetryon neutrinos &c. at a problem.
Like Farscape, Battlestar Galactica has a strong sense of continuity linking episodes, but it honestly doesn’t require too much trouble to consider. This is all you’ll require to establish a foundation for appreciating this excellent programme:
-Humans live in the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, each named after a star sign (Caprica, Sagitarrium, Scorpion, etc.). They created a slave race of robots - the Cylons - to perform menial labour and so forth.
-Forty-two years ago, the Cylons rebelled (as you do) against their human creators, and after a brutal war the two belligerents signed an armistice, and the Cylons left the Twelve Colonies to settle another world.
-Now, the Cylons have returned to eliminate their hated former masters - achieving total surprise, humanity has been all but completely erased from existence as high-yield nuclear strikes inflame every world and defence forces are incapaitated by viruses that wreck their systems (created because their defence network’s designer, Dr. Gaius Baltar, has spent two years sleeping with a Cylon agent disguised as a human).
-The only survivors of the comprehensive massacre are the eponymous battlecruiser (an aged veteran of the first war with the Cylons which was actually being decommissioned and turned into a museum on the day of the attack) and a tattered flotilla of civilian craft. A ramshackle government is precariously stapled together by the cancer-stricken President Roslin - actually the Minister for Education who was only given her new title because the rest of the Colonial Government was wiped out.
-Now, the 48,000 surviving humans are being harried by the Cylons who want to tie up the loose end…
Last week’s episode, “Bastille Day”, where an old revolutionary stages a riot aboard a prison ship in the fleet, was absolutely sublime, excellently-acted and featuring some good expositions of the follies of a terrorist, ending as it does with the revolter being given the most errible fate - damned to liberty.
If you have Sky television, turn it on Sky One tomorrow at eight in the evening (GMT) and watch it. If you don’t have Sky, go to a friend’s house and watch it instead. Once you’re done, go to HMV and purchase a DVD of the pilot miniseries. Battlestar Galactica deserves to have as many people regaling it as possible, because this is one programme that is far too good to be cancelled after a few episodes in the vein of Century City.
And no, I’m not being paid by Rupert Murdoch to post this - although I should be.