Science fiction television is an interesting bag; one where all it takes a brief look at the multitude of space-centric serials and films throughout the years to realize that almost any genre of entertainment can be accomplished within the confines of a ship traversing the void of the universe. I'm a huge fan of the latter Treks, Babylon 5, Farscape and even the (original) Star Wars films. Naturally the reimagined Battlestar Galactica has been on my radar for some time now and I actually waited to purchase the complete collection rather than to piecemeal the odd seasonal releases.
Last night represents my completion of the program from miniseries on through to series finale and I have spent the past 24-hours attempting to sort through the experience so as to assemble a review containing (hopefully) not quite as much drama as the series itself.
To begin at the beginning, the 2004 miniseries/ pilot of Battlestar Galactica is one of the finest pieces of science fiction television in recent years. The pacing is spectacular, the acting top notch, the plot epic in scope and it leaves the viewer anticipating, no craving the series that would follow. I was especially impressed with the special effects; as it was extremely difficult to tell if the space scenes/ battles were CGI, miniatures, or some combination of both. Camera work that included wild pans and off-timed zooms added to the realism and unlike so many contemporary space opera pieces, avoided the tendency to show scenes from a perspective that could not be achieved with an actual physical camera.
Couple this to a score that is mournful and haunting and top it all off with some major motion picture acting and what results is the formula for a show Time magazine would hail "the best show on television".
The first season picks things up quite seamlessly and introduces a whole new set of problems for our primary cast of characters to work through. All the while the viewer is treated to a believable and interesting unveiling of the mysterious Cylon attackers who dropped humanity to their proverbial knees in the beginning of the miniseries.
The second season carries on this tradition of excellence but the third takes a slight dip. The fourth and final season starts out nearly as strong as the pilot then fizzles out- horribly. Without giving up spoilers, let me do my best to justify my opinions. The miniseries was solid space opera through and through but as the show gained momentum it took a decided turn for the dramatic. That interesting and purposely-unstable camera work I praised in the miniseries becomes heavily overdone by about the midway point of the show, particularly in moments of close-cropped character interaction.
There is no denying that character development is always in the forefront here but oftentimes to the point where the fact that the show takes place in space with technology that can allow matter to surpass the speed of light are totally irrelevant in favor of political squabbling, odd religious overload and sexual escapades that could make a college frat house jealous! Individuals who fear technobabble need not be afraid to invest in Ronald D Moore's Battlestar Galactica so long as they are willing to accept a whole lot of tragedy-driven prime time television drama.
I mentioned my ranking of the seasons and to that end, by the third season space and technology had all but faded entirely in favor of an Indiana Jones/ Allan Quartermain style adventure of piecing together prophesies from ancient texts and visiting booby-trapped abandoned temples in effort to piece together a map to find the planet earth. What follows is a bit of messiness- again I will avoid direct spoilers in this review but will say that when the show reaches its ultimate conclusion, it does make one wonder what the point to some of this section actually was.
The fourth season starts off with renewed vigor; laying down all sorts of layered mystery and prophecy amidst some pretty intense battle sequences. The problem, in my opinion, is that the show's finale fails to live up to the intrigue presented. There are multiple instances of unsolved mystery, foreshadowing that never pans out and strong evidence that the show's writers did not have an entire story arc mapped out ahead of time.
Especially troubling is that the heavy-handed religious integration that is so overwhelmingly force-fed to us throughout the span of the show ends up fizzling out by the end. Considering its implied importance all along, one really starts to suspect that it will play a crucial role in the conclusion of the series yet its significance is never fully fleshed out.
In all, despite was looks like a laundry list of complaints, BSG is undeniably entertaining television. While many of the writing choices are odd at best, the viewer can consistently count on wonderful acting, amazing visuals and some intense drama from start to finish. When compared to campy and predictable entries to the genre like Stargate Atlantis, Battlestar Galactica does manage to achieve a sense of grandness typically associated with big-budget motion pictures rather than weekly television. The tragedy, as far as I'm concerned anyway, lies in thinking what the show could have been had it not become bogged down with political and religious agendas; a true continuation of the vibe established in the miniseries.
The material certainly does nothing to discredit the original series and in fact adds several welcomed layers of depth to the human versus our artificially intelligent robotic creations (a theme visited in everything from The Terminator to The Matrix to Captain Power). Time magazine wasn't too far off in their assertion but there was still a bit of room for improvement.
A re-imagining of the 1978 series Battlestar Galactica follows a rag tag human fleet as they flee from thier once prosperous homeworlds, after a deadly attack by the Cylons. Protected by the last surviving Battlestar (Galactica) the fleet make thier way t