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A Review of the New Battlestar Galactica

(Yes, I actually liked itÖ)

Finally, 25 years later, Battlestar Galactica is back.

And I enjoyed it.

It feels like Iím in the minority, at least from what Iíve seen on the internet. In an article I wrote last year called The Galactica Curse, I mentioned how skeptical I was at the time that the new Galactica would be worth watching. Iím happy to say that I was proven wrong.

Most fans of the original show have slammed the new Galactica pretty hard. Iím going to try to answer as many of their criticisms as I can, as well as mention the areas where I feel the miniseries succeeded and where I feel it faltered.

First, let me make it abundantly clear that I still love the original the most and still think it is the best. But I still think the new Galactica was a success for the most part.

Here are some of the positives:

1. There was more focus on the Destruction itself. Twelve entire planets were destroyed, and yet the original show kinda glossed over this fairly quickly (Of course, ABC wanted a family show, so it probably made sense not to detail the fact that billions of people were killed). A great deal more time is spent on this in the miniseries, and it delivers more of an impact.

2. Strong cast. I thought the casting was pretty good for the most part. Especially for Adama and Apollo. More on Starbuck and Number Six later.

3. Certain familiar elements made it fun for fans of the original show. Thatís my opinion, anyway. It was neat to hear about the death of Zac and see the pyramid card game (Was it actually called pyramid?).

I like that we heard some familiar names of the Colonial battlestars, such as the Columbia, Atlantia, Solaria, and Triton. This, more than probably anything, indicates that Ron Moore did sit down and watch the old series from start to finish. The Columbia was mentioned as having been destroyed at the Armistice in Gun On Ice Planet Zero. The Solaria was the last battlestar to be destroyed in the original novelization. The Triton was believed by some to be a battlestar, but it actually was an escort (a frigate or destroyer type ship) to another battlestar, the Pacifica.

4. The Cylon saying, ďBy your commandĒ at the very end. Love that line, no matter who says it. And, of course, Adama says the famous ďLife here began out thereĒ line.

5. Baltar is a more believable character. Donít get me wrong. I loved John Colicos as Baltar. He played an incredible villain, and I actually still like him more than the new Baltar. Still, the original Baltar was a character that never quite made sense. Why exactly did he want to destroy the Colonies? To rule his home planet? Did he honestly believe the Cylons would honor that agreement? Unfortunately, the character was never fleshed out.

6. Clever twist with Baltar accusing the man of being a Cylon. I honestly thought that Baltar framed the man just so he would have a way to warn the Colonials about the Cylon device on the bridge.

7. The man actually turning out to be a Cylon. Ron Moore uses a trick often done in TV and film, in which the villain is shown near the very beginning in a seemingly insignificant role (as a tour guide on the Galactica). It would also explain why he urged Apollo to not immediately warp the fleet away when the Cylons were about to attack.

8. Boomer is a Cylon. I though it was a nice twist at the end. Too bad someone on the internet spoiled it for me ahead of time.

9. Apollo is forced to leave ships behind to be wiped out by the Cylons. This may have been the most moving scene of the entire mini-series. The original show would have been even better if it had something like this.

10. Tigh sacrificing men to save the ship. Thereís nothing in Fire in Space that can compare to this. It does raise a question, though. Why didnít the Galactica activate its laser turrets?

11. Less gaping plot holes. The surprise Cylon attack was cleverly thought out by Ron Moore. In the original, President Adar was a fool when he saw a thousand Cylon fighters coming towards the fleet and actually believed it was a peace envoy. It also made sense how the ragtag fleet was gathered and was able to find itís way to the Galactica. The ability to hyperwarp (or whatever itís called) made everything work.

12. Good reason to have a prison barge. It was said that the prisoners were being transported when the attack began. In the original show, I always wondered why the Colonials would bother to take criminals with them. At least now Ron Moore can feel free to rehash Gun On Ice Planet Zero. But why did he blow up the Agricultural ship? Shouldnít he have kept it around so the Colonials can eat?

13. Boxeyís role was small. Nothing against Noah Hathaway, but he got way too much screen time on the original show. The new Boxeyís role was so limited that I really canít say he was a plus or a minus. You may have noticed that the man killed on the space station at the very beginning had a photo of Boxey, indicating he was Boxeyís father.

14. No Muffit. After rewatching the DVDs of the original, Iíve grown to like Muffit a lot more than in the past. But thereís no use for him in this new, darker show. Besides, at this point, the Colonials have got to be scared to death of robots of any kind, so I doubt theyíll be constructing any more.

15. The Colonials have last names. I never had a problem with this in the original series, but it certainly didnít make sense that everyone was stuck with only a first name.

16. Earth is just a legend. Or is it? Itís not really believable that Adama would have had the coordinates to Earth, so this was a good move. Earth was considered a legend by most in the original show, yet Adama believed it existed although in the beginning he had no real proof or knowledge of where it was. As for the new Galactica, Iím sure it will be revealed later (if there is a later) that Earth really does exist.

17. No more centons and microns. Was there ever a more confusing element in the original show that the units of time? Centons. Centauries. Microns. Milli-centons. Arrrgh!!! Not only were these never explained, but they kept changing from show to show. Moore wisely realized that since the characters were going to speak English, there was no need to reinvent part of the language.

18. Clever in-jokes about the original show. The museum where we see an original Cylon and a original Cylon basestar was a hoot. It was said that an armistice had happened 40 years earlier, and of course an armistice also took place on the original series. That the Galactica is an old ship from a previous era could be a metaphor for the original show. The retirement ceremony (with the original Galactica theme music) worked on two levels: it referred to the retiring of the Galactica ship as well as the symbolic retiring of the original Galactica series.

19. Parallels with Galactica 1980. In the miniseries, the Cylons have evolved and have created human cyborgs. Well, the same thing happened on Galactica 1980! Am I the only one who remembers this?

20. The ending wasnít a rip-off of Star Wars. To have the entire planet of Carillon explode at the end of the original pilot was completely ridiculous, and it was a clear copy of Star Wars. Iím glad Moore avoided the usual sci-fi clichť of having everything blow up at the end.

Where the new Galactica faltered:

1. Number Six. The actress used was not the best choice for the role. She would have been fine if she had been simply a Cylon spy, but with only one exception she is the sole voice of the Cylons, and that makes her role of critical importance. While not awful, she falters more than she succeeds.

2. All the scenes with Number Six and Baltar. These are among the worst in the entire mini-series. Iím not sure if itís the actress or the dialogue or both, but even though these scenes are important, they arenít very interesting.

3. Too much sex. I donít have a problem with sex on TV per se, but only if it is used in a way that adds to the story (for example, the 6th season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer had a lot of sex, but it worked because it contributed to the stories instead of just being thrown on for the sake of spice). There was nothing necessarily wrong with Baltar and Number Six being lovers, but it would have worked better if their sexual relationship had been implied in a subtle way instead of blatantly shown.

4. Her spine glows during sex. Youíve got to be kidding meÖ Baltarís been banging her for two years and he never noticed this? Anyway, if sheís supposed to pass for human, youíd think the Cylons would have found a way to fix such a major design flaw.

6. Number Six finding Baltar in bed with another woman. Ugh! Can I pick this as the single worst moment of the entire mini-series? It just seemed cheesy, as if lifted from an episode of Dallas or Dynasty. Fortunately, the focus of the scene quickly shifts to the coming Cylon attack.

7. The new Cylon fighters. Am I the only one who thinks these look lame?

8. Nothing but drumbeats during the battle scenes. Was this done to keep the budget low? It seemed a bit of a letdown to not have more music.

9. Never got to see the destruction of the fleet. That wouldíve been cool!

10. No Von Daniken (God is an astronaut) premise. This was one of the most fascinating elements of the original series, but itís been completely removed. Heck, the civilians are dressed as if theyíre from 2003 Earth! Ron Moore said he did this intentionally because he wanted to create a parallel with todayís Earth (unless it was just another budget-cutting move), but I donít think people made the connection he was hoping for.

11. No majestic feeling of the original. The original BSG theme is barely used. If Moore was trying to create a different feel for the new Galactica than your usual sci-fi show, then he succeeded, but it was another case of trying to fix something that wasnít broken.

12. Never explained the function of that Cylon device. Did a scene explaining this get cut?

The Fanís Criticisms

I was always felt that Ron Moore releasing the script early was a pretty dumb thing to do. Of course, most fans went berserk when they heard about the fundamental changes he made. Despite my problems with some of what he changed, I will still dare to say he remained faithful to the core of the original show.

Now Iím going to address a lot of common criticisms that have been made of the new Galactica:

1. Moore should have done a continuation of the original show instead of a remake.

This has been by far the largest objection. I went into detail about this in The Galactica Curse, so Iíll be as brief as possible here. Most people today have either not seen the original show or barely remember it. This would make it very difficult to continue the original story and still hook the general TV audience. And most people would be turned off by having a show that featured a lot of actors in their forties and fifties.

Anyway, the original series will not be damaged by this new Galactica. Just the opposite. It will become much more popular and gain more prestige. More people will check it out after seeing the new miniseries.

2. Starbuck as a woman. Yikes! Nothing has stirred emotions more than this controversial move. Personally, I donít have a problem with it. No one could capture the role like Dirk Benedict did. So why even try? Perhaps it was better to go in a new direction. If Moore had gotten a Dirk Benedict clone for the part (or clones of all the other original actors), I donít think it would have worked at all.

3. Starbuck does not act likable. Well, what most people fail to realize is that the original Starbuck acted like a jerk much of the time. He womanized Cassiopeia and Athena, once carrying on a date with each of them simultaneously. He proposed a sexual bet to Sheba while saying he cared about Cassie (in The Living Legend). And then there was the time he broke off a date with Cassie to go see Aurora. Thankfully, Starbuck performed a lot of heroics to compensate for all these things. It also helped that Dirk Benedict had a very likable persona.

The new Starbuck did act like a jerk towards Tigh at the end when she called him a drunk. Although it was mean, she told him something he needed to hear, and it appears she helped him to finally start to get his problem under control. Ever hear of being cruel to be kind?

4. The Cylons were created by Man. Some people feel this was a betrayal of the original premise in which the original Cylons were lizards who created machines and were overcome by their own technology. There were strong hints that Count Iblis had a hand in the original Cylonsí extinction. It was a fascinating story, but too complex to be effectively done over the course of a four-hour miniseries.

By making humans the creators of the Cylons, the Destruction becomes much more poignant in that the Colonials are the victims of their own sins. When you think about it, the premise isnít all that much different from the original. All Moore did was substitute the lizard Cylons with the Colonials.

5. Cylons as humans. Okay, Iíll admit I miss the original robot Cylons, but I can understand the decision to make the Cylons look human. The original Cylons looked cool, but they had no personality. It was a brilliant move on Glen Larsonís part to have Baltar lead them because he had the necessary charisma that the Cylons lacked.

6. Tigh is a drunk. Apollo hates Adama. Many fans have argued that these changes to the characters added nothing, but I disagree. The best movies are the ones in which the characters change over the course of the story. In the original pilot, the characters were not fleshed out and had no story arc. The story didnít suffer thanks to having such a great cast, but that was an exception rather than the rule. Moore was trying to create more complex characters, and having them change over the course of the movie was better than giving them no story arc at all.

Finally, whatís the point of doing a remake if youíre going to do it exactly the same way it was done before? I wouldnít want to watch something that feels like a rerun.

Upon rewatching the miniseries, I liked it more. It actually gets better with multiple viewings. I especially enjoyed the battle scenes the second time around, which initially seemed like a pretty big letdown compared to what was in the original show.

The story of Battlestar Galactica (specifically, the Destruction itself) is much more poignant today than it was back in 1978. Itís clear that what attracted Moore to Galactica was the chance to do an epic apocalyptic story in a post-September 11th world. So itís not too surprising he would choose to go in this direction.

Overall, I think he made the right decision, and I enjoyed it for what it was.

Please donít flame me.

Enter Sheba's Galaxy