Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica (2003) – I Believe I’ll Give It Another Shot

I’ll be showing my age here, but the Original Battlestar Galactica was probably my favorite television show ever, short-lived as it was. When the new series was announced I was skeptical. There had been noises made on and off for years about resurrecting the series and nothing had come of it. This time, however, the rumors came to fruition. Ronald Moore, who worked on the more recent incarnations of Star Trek, signed on as Executive Producer.

There were a few problems in the new series which kept me from rejoicing. There were small issues such as everyone having two names now instead of just one. The Cylons were no longer shiny, clunky robotic beings but instead humanoids, which was actually closer to the original intent of creator Glen Larson before ABC decided to air the show at 7 PM on Sunday nights, and therefore the killing of organic beings was a bad thing to show the kids. But the biggest problem I had was this: STARBUCK SHOULD NOT BE A WOMAN!!!!

There, I said it. Oh, and Boomer should be an African-American man, not an Asian woman who’s really a Cylon.

The mini-series relaunching the show was aired in 2003. I felt I honestly gave it a shot and just couldn’t get past a few of these facts. So I walked away from the show, despite hearing the kudos it garnered through the years. However, after reading a number of reviews by writers I greatly admire who sang the praises of the new series, I finally gave in.

The premise is generally the same. Mankind created cybernetic beings called Cylons and then got into a war with them. After many years of battles, a truce was brokered. The difference being that there has been peace for many years, sort of a “you go your way and I’ll go mine” situation. The Cylons used that time of peace to enact a different strategy that is about to come to fruition.

Up in space, the great Battlestar, the Galactica is being decommissioned as a museum piece. The Secretary of Education (portrayed by Mary McDonnell) is there for the ceremony and is on her way back to her planet when all hell breaks loose. For this reason, she is the highest surviving cabinet member and becomes the President.

The Cylons have managed to infiltrate the society of the twelve worlds by disguising themselves as human, and quite effectively. One has a relationship with renown scientist Gaius Baltar (portrayed by James Callis) who inadvertently gives the Cylons many military secrets. Caught off-guard by the massive attack by the Cylons, the military is decimated. Not a single one of the newer Battlestars survives.

Commander Adama (now portrayed by Edward James Olmos) is dealing with demons on many fronts. He has trouble swallowing the Secretary of Education now being the President. He and his son, Lee (portrayed by Jamie Bamber) have a difficult and distant relationship. Adama makes the decision to take what human survivors he can and head out for the “mythical” planet known as Earth.

And then there is Starbuck. I really, really wanted to give the character a fair shot and maybe as the series goes on I will be able to get past my feelings, but I just don’t care for her. Don’t get me wrong, I think Katee Sackoff does a marvelous job as Lt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, but it’s just something I can’t swallow. I don’t for once believe women should be window-dressing the way they were in the original series (Sheba was one of my favorite characters and she was a pilot), but it’s hard for me to like the insubordinate, cigar-smoking, brash, hot-shot pilot. Maybe that was the intention.

The story is good, even with the differences from the original. I really liked the overall tone. The updated version is darker and able to handle the theme in a way that ABC wouldn’t let the family-time show do it back in 1978. The acting is magnificent. Kudos go out to all of the actors because I think they have done a fantastic job in their roles. There is a reason this is such a great mini-series, especially as the launch of the television show, and I give a lot of credit to the actors.

The effects have been updated and it shows. The Battlestar itself looks different than the old one, although I could tell they were one and the same. The viper form has been kept and enhanced a bit. Hey, what we saw back in 1978 was revolutionary, especially as far as battle computers went. The battle scenes are terrific and the Cylons who are still the robotic beings have been updated and enhanced while at the same time still paying homage to the old design (there’s even a scene with a drawing of one of the old chrome-domes).

If the series builds on from here I think I will like it. I like the improvement of the political situation as there is more give and take going on, rather than the new society being a military dictatorship with the elected representatives being portrayed as idiotic and inept. My one major complaint about the old show was that it became too much of the Apollo and Starbuck show. However, that was then and ensemble casts weren’t really being done at that point. Hopefully, this incarnation of Battlestar Galactica doesn’t lose itself in focusing on just two characters because with the cast they have and what I’ve seen so far, that would be a shame.

The extras are good. I had seen the Lowdown special on Sci-Fi before the mini-series launched and it’s a good bridge between the old series and the new one, even bringing in a couple of the original actors to talk about the differences and their feelings.

For people like me, it is still something hard to accept. However, the die-hards are a dying breed and we’ve been replaced by a younger generation who looks at the old series as corny and doesn’t appreciate what it was in its time. For those people, this is an excellent story.


• Feature Commentary with Director Michael Rymer and Executive Producers David Eick and Ronald D. Moore
• Battlestar Galactica: The Lowdown
• Deleted Scenes

6 replies »

  1. From what I understand of the original Battlestar Galactica, its creator intended it to be more grown-up and serious than what we viewers got when ABC and Universal’s TV division turned his concept of occasional TV movies into a more kid-friendly weekly series.

    This compromised Larson’s original premise, but ABC’s insistence (the network, like most other media enterprises, wanted to cash in on “Star Wars” fever) that the series of occasional TV-movies to get kids to watch Battlestar Galactica and sell lucrative advertising revenue doomed BSG to its fate. (It didn’t help matters that the 2-hour series premiere was interrupted by the announcement that Israel and Egypt had signed the Camp David Peace Accords.)

    Considering that the original series was the most expensive TV show in history (at the time) because of the pilot’s expensive visual effects (supervised by John Dykstra, who was one of the wizards at Industrial Light & Magic before striking out on his own after “Star Wars”), it’s no wonder that the series failed on TV. It became formulaic over time; some of its plots were riffs on “Star Wars” and classic war films (“The Gun on Ice Planet Zero” mixes elements of “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Guns of Navarone”), and while they were good episodes, some viewers thought they were TOO derivative.

    Another issue with the series is that since ABC thought it should be kid friendly, BSG had some annoying characters, such as Boxy and Muffit II. Plus…the reused effects shots became so noticeable during space battles…you could tell that Don Bellisario, the showrunner, was doing his best with what he had, but…ugh.

    I loved the show at first, and I wish ABC had had the decency to stick to Larson’s original concept of a serious drama aimed at grownups rather than what we got back then.

    From what I’ve read on IMDb,com and elsewhere, Larson was happier with the Sci-Fi Channel’s version and served as a consultant for it; he even has an “executive producer” credit in addition to the “Based on the television series created by….” tagline.

    • I’m trying to remember (I read it more than 30 years ago, at the very least) but in the novelization of the movie, there were a number of differences. Mostly that the Cylons were organic beings under the armor rather than robots. Boxey was there, but he was some random kid the reporter came across during the destruction, not her kid. It was a lot darker. The time slot killed that.

      Even with that, though, the show was #20 for that season. The problem, as you stated, was how expensive it was. Audiences loved it, though. All of the cast was shocked that it wasn’t renewed.

      • I think I watched almost every episode of BSG when it aired on ABC.

        I have (or had) the novel. It did, indeed, have those elements you mention. The tone of the novel was also more serious than the usual novelization of a TV series pilot.

        ABC should have given the show a better time slot and allowed Larson to tell the story the way he wanted. Alas….