When Sci Fi channel announced in early 2003 that they would be releasing a new Battlestar Galactica miniseries later that year, I was at first quite excited by the idea.
The original Battlestar Galactica was based on a fantastic idea but was horribly implemented — a cheesy B series that seemed to desperately and unsuccessfully chase the success of Star Wars. The characters were all a bit too perfect, each series episode contained a lot of rehashed footage from the pilot (how often did we see the same Cylon fighters blowing up in the same way?), and the sets were terrible and cheap.
Despite its shortcomings, however, the premise of the series was a great idea, so I was endeared to it. That made the idea of a reincarnated Galactica series sound wonderful to me. Then I heard some of the changes that were to be made and immediately became suspect that this wasn't such a good idea.
Starbuck was to be female, as was Boomer. Adama and Apollo were not going to have a very good father-son relationship. The Cylons were to be a rebellious creation of man rather than an alien race bent on the destruction of humanity. Cylons now came in multiple flavors, including several models which were as yet indistinguishable from humans. There was a president rather than a council of twelve.
I decided to give it a try anyway since I'm such a sci-fi nut. Besides, to not watch it seemed like a betrayal of my passion for the story itself.
I was not disappointed.
The Battlestar Galactica miniseries was spectacular. The Cylons had evolved and continued to do so. The characters were real. The story was gritty and dark. This was fantastic stuff.
By the end of the miniseries I was hooked and desperately hoping Sci Fi would create a new series (which everyone knew they were eyeballing when creating the miniseries given their unreasonable and inexcusable cancellation of Farscape, quite possibly the best and most enjoyable original program Sci Fi has ever offered). Luckily, with the exceptional ratings the miniseries received, Sci Fi saw an opportunity to capitalize on its success by introducing the new series.
The new Battlestar Galactica series finally debuted in January of 2005.
This is not your daddy's Battlestar Galactica. This is dark, dramatic, gritty, real science fiction programming. Intensely suspenseful, this is a story about a genocidal chase by the Cylons and a journey of survival by the humans.
The miniseries left us with just 50,000 humans in the fleet — that's all that was left of the original twelve colonies and would be the only hope of their survival. By the end of the first episode, we had fallen dramatically below that original 50,000 (by perhaps 3,000 heads) due to constant Cylon attacks. The fleeing human refugees were exhausted and dwindling.
Because the Cylons had evolved and created 12 different Cylon models (some of which look just like humans and as yet can't be differentiated except by their actions), part of the excitement is the impact of knowing what some Cylons look like while not knowing about others. We know Number Six who haunts and excites Baltar. We've seen two male versions of the human model. The new raiders (fighters) appear to be a model unto themselves (there are no pilots, so the ships actually seem to be autonomous robots like the humanoid versions). The original Cylon model (yes, the same as that from the original series) are the precursors to all modern Cylons. The new warrior class (replacing the original model) is deadly and wonderfully designed.
Even more disturbing is that we know one Cylon model, Boomer, is programmed to act just like a human until activated for certain duties (she is otherwise unaware albeit suspicious of her own true nature). How many others are aboard the Galactica, let alone the rest of the fleet? We simply don't know.
Sci Fi has done a fantastic job of creating a very well produced series with exceptional special effects. It's gripping and scary and sexy. There is a sense of fatalism that pervades every story. It's an allegory of our own times by touching on torture, war, genocide and terrorism, all while not losing sight of the humanity in this desperate flight from certain death.
If you haven't already checked this new series out, you should. It's strong stuff, but I believe it's the most provocative sci-fi adventure on television. It's certainly the best thing to come along since Farscape.