Battlestar Galactica

DVD Review – Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.0 – I’m Finally Hooked

Spoilers for Season One included – you have been warned!!!!

In the continuing trend many television shows are gravitating to, the second season of the television show Battlestar Galactica, which aired on the Sci-Fi Channel, was divided up into two distinct seasons. This had both good and bad points. It allowed for a more condensed story arc as well as a second cliffhanger at the end of the fall season.

Season 2.0 of Battlestar Galactica picks up right at the end of the previous season, with Commander Adama bleeding out all over the bridge after an attempted assassination. President Laura Roslin is in the brig, along with Adama’s son, Lee. The Raptor containing Vice-President Gaius Baltar, among others, has crashed on the planet Kobol.

Meanwhile, Lt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace and Helo are down on Caprica, one of the planets devastated by Cylons in the pilot. They run into other survivors in hiding and trying to strike back at the Cylons.

I was a huge fan of the original series aired back in 1978, and it hasn’t been easy to make the jump to the new version. For one, there are the changes in some of the characters. For another, the show is much darker. The main thought running through my mind as I watched these three DVDs was that there was no way you could have even gotten a show like this on the air back in 1978, much less during the “family hour” of Sunday nights at 7 PM. I think about some of the fans of that original series who were offended by the characterizations Richard Hatch (the original Apollo) made in books he wrote based on the original series; people who found a character distasteful who was mild in temperament compared to this new Starbuck. There’s no way these old fans are watching this show. They are still waiting for “clean” shows to come back to television.

If that’s your thinking, then this show is definitely not for you. Since those things don’t bother me, by the end of this half of the second season I could honestly declare myself “hooked”.

The premise of the series is pretty interesting in itself. Far away in space are twelve colonies of humans; brothers and sisters of us humans here on Earth. They invented a robot race known as the Cylons, who rebelled and began a war with those Colonials. After decades of peace, the Cylons were back and had evolved into beings that could look, act, and believe that they were humans as well. They then unleashed a terrible nuclear devastation on the Colonies. The lone surviving “Battlestar”, a ship designed for space battle, which was due to be decommissioned, took as many survivors as they could on board as many ships as they could find and headed away from the Colonies, searching for the mythical Earth.

There are plenty of differences between the old series and the new one. At the same time, Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore has managed to embrace some of the themes and ideas which were executed in that original series nearly thirty years ago.

I found it interesting to see the background of Commander Adama (portrayed by Edward James Olmos). I had my preconceived notions from the original series where he was from a long, noble lineage. During the ten episodes on these three discs, it’s shown that he worked his way up through the military. It makes it harder for him to stage a military coup against the government as the old way of doing things seemed to put a great value on one’s lineage. I always thought one of the shortcomings of the original series was that Adama was almost God-like while the governing body, known as The Council of Twelve was shown to be quite inept. Here, he makes mistakes and must make amends for them. His mistakes nearly end up splitting the fleet apart at a time when they need to be together and he must find a way to heal his people.

The President of the Colonies is Laura Roslin (portrayed by Mary McDonnell). She was the Secretary of Education until the Cylons attacked and was the last to survive. She also is dying from terminal breast cancer and must try to maintain a strong presence as she leads the Fleet. It’s interesting to see that it is she who brings the religion and prophecy to the table in that she seems to be fulfilling the role of the one who is dying that will lead them.

The acting by both of these wonderful actors is stellar. I’m amazed that over the last twenty years, there seems to be better, stronger roles for actors on television than there have been in many movies of late. The supporting cast, many of whom you won’t recognize outside of the series, is terrific as well. Katee Sackoff, who portrays Lt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace is probably the most notable as she is all over the place with the character, but keeps her so grounded and real that she’s amazing. I still have trouble with “Starbuck” being a woman, but I love the character immensely.

Grace Park, who portrays one of the Cylons, is excellent although her dual role disappears early on in this season. Still, since “there are many copies” she is shown more than once often although the duplicates don’t get the depth she had with the two characters she originally portrayed. Likewise, Tricia Helfer, as the Cylon in Baltar’s conscience as well as appearing in other places is incredible. Part of it is her height – she just seems to dominate any scene she is in and is incredibly sexy to watch as well.

Michael Hogan as Colonel Tigh was also more fleshed out this season as he botched his attempt to command following the incapacitation of Adama. With his wife acting as she does and what he faces in the pressure of his position, it’s no wonder he has a drinking problem. The writers build nicely on what we know as the series goes along and give the characters a good deal of depth – he was one who really came to life during these discs.

There are some terrific guest stars as well, and ongoing characters who turn up over and over again. Richard Hatch is back as Tom Zarek, a terrorist turned member of The Council, which is part of the Governing Body of their society. Lucy Lawless appears as a reporter, D’Anna Biers, who puts together an in-depth piece on the military that evolves throughout her episode, as does she. The final episode of this half-season brings on Michelle Forbes as Admiral Cain, commanding the Battlestar Pegasus which turns up after everyone thought it was lost in the Cylon attack with the other ships. She is excellent in a role that normally would have been automatically delegated to a man, and it’s a nice homage to this storyline from the original series.

There are some great episodes this season, as they propel the story that’s being told as well as having moments where they stand on their own. A great episode was where the Cylons board the Galactica, which seemed to be over with but then had repercussions down the road. Topics such as the dwindling supply of fighters and pilots are also touched on more deeply than that idea was ever developed before. Showing the resistance fighters back on Caprica was also brilliant, and then there was the introduction of the Pegasus and quite a different way of doing things than what the fleet has been doing. It’s an episode that will likely make many people uncomfortable, especially in lieu of some of the torture scandals our own government and military have been involved in.

One thing I really enjoyed was the inclusion of Moore’s podcasts which accompanied the episodes. I listened to all of them and it was fascinating to hear the motivation and ideas which accompanied incidents that happened and storylines. I don’t know if it was just the discs I viewed, but I was greatly disappointed that the final two episodes of this half-season didn’t have podcasts. Either it was a mistake in production, or someone made a bad decision not to have that commentary included on these discs.

I can hardly wait for the rest of the second season to arrive so I can watch it. Watching the show in order is really necessary. I tried to jump into this in the middle when it aired on the Sci-Fi Channel and I was a bit lost. It is most definitely worth it if you can embrace a darker vision for a science fiction show than what many of us were used to.

Disc One

• Scattered
• Valley of Darkness
• Fragged
• Resistance

Bonus Material: Deleted Scenes from all of the episodes, Episode Commentary by Producer Ronald D. Moore on Scattered, Valley of Darkness, and Resistance

Disc Two

• The Farm
• Home (Part 1)
• Home (Part 2)
• Final Cut

Bonus Material: Deleted Scenes from all of the episodes, Episode Commentary by Producer Ronald D. Moore on all of the episodes

Disc Three

• Flight of the Phoenix
• Pegasus

Bonus Material: Deleted Scenes from Flight of the Phoenix

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