After a year of waiting finally there is new Battlestar Galactica.
If you know me you are either into this show or have probably already heard my speech on why you should be.
Because it is quite simply the best TV show being made right now. And it’s the best science fiction show ever made. By a long long way.
The reason for that, paradoxically enough, is that (imho) it’s not a science fiction show as we have come to now them in the years since Star Trek first came on telly.
There are no aliens or monsters. The show is not about their super fantastic technology, in fact the military hardware used in it is pretty similar to what we see on the news every night. The characters in it are not idealistic moral heroes, but real people. They are mentally ill, they are religious nuts, they are alcoholics and they use drugs. There are no trite lessons to be wrapped up in an episode sized package.
What there is a show that’s fantastically of its time, and says things about our current world, the US military and the war on terror that it would be incredibly difficult to do in a conventional show on US television.
Battlestar is essentially a deeply involved character drama set in a war. It’s closer to Band of Brothers than Deep Space Nine. If you haven’t seen it then I’m telling you, you need this in your life. But don’t start watching it now, because you won’t understand what’s going on. It’s not a show you can drop into for yet another average episode where everything is resolved by the end. You need to go back to the start. Download the miniseries that launched it a couple of years ago, or get the DVD. If you actually watch it I challenge you not to get hooked. On the limited number of sci fi fans that have actually taken me up on this challenge there is a 100% success rate!
The story starts with human colonies in space coming under a devastating nuclear attack from robots that we created, the Cylons. These robots have been away for decades after fighting humans before, and have developed to the point where they are virtually indistinguishable for humans. They also have a powerful religious conviction that there is one God, as opposed to the many Gods that the humans worship.
The parallels are clear from the start, but the show is full of moral ambiguity. It constantly shifts the roles of who we can take as representing good and evil, and asks questions by extension of the bloated US military, and its imperialist wars against the muslim world. In the last season we saw the humans come under military occupation and resort to suicide bombings against the collaborator human police force recruited by the Cylons as part of their resistance movement.
Even within a science fiction context this caused major controversy in the US, with many claiming the show “had gone too far” in basically asking people to put themselves in the place of desperate people resisting an occupation-the parallels were a little too close to home.
Then there’s President, a religious fanatic who fixes elections and believes she is destined to lead the 40,000 odd humans left to a destiny foretold in scripture; the remains of the formerly bloated military who at one point overthrow the civilian government; racial discrimination amongst the different colonies of humans; and an examination of the causes and consequences of the use of torture, all huge issues in US society right now.
Anyway, enough of the pitch. If you aren’t up to date with Battlestar stop reading now.
With two episodes of season 4 out so far my reaction is that it’s been great, although if you didn’t understand what was going on you probably wouldn’t think so.
I thought the brief battle in the first episode was visually stunning, and may well be completely space based battle in the show (it obviously doesn’t eclipse the escape from New Caprica).
A downside was the well over lengthy scene’s of Lee’s retirement from the military. Lee is the worst character, always whining and feeling sorry for himself.
It was good in the second episode to get a peek back in the Cylon camp, and developments there exciting. A cylon civil war seems to have just begun, with the sixes leading a revolution against Brother Cavil and his conservative, obey-the-programming-don’t-ask-questions-kill-all-humans approach. Six and the Boomers have always been the Cylons most interested in trying to reach an accomodation with the humans, and now they want to discover the truth of their origins and find a place for the Cylons in the universe. But Brother Cavil is a nasty bastard, and I can’t see him going down without a big fight.
Something that has fallen by the way side, quite deliberately on the part of the writers, is what is up with Felix Gaeta? It’s not the first time that they’ve introduced something small in the midst of what seem to be other momentous events, and so you forget it, only for it to turn out to be crucial later.
Gaeta tried to kill Baltar in the last series. We don’t know why. But we saw Baltar whisper something in his ear. Baltar then went on to perjure himself at Baltar’s trial, deliberately misrepresenting his role in the Cylon occupation of New Caprica. We don’t know what it is, but Baltar knows something about Felix. I’d say he may be the unexpected candidate for the final Cylon?
The one thing I think it’s key to keep in mind at all times is:the Cylons have a plan. For most of the entire run of the show so far we’ve been told that at the start of every episode, and yet some people seem to have forgotten it. The writers of the show are clever folk, they didn’t put that there for no reason. There’s bigger things going on then any of the individual Cylons know.
How and why did Colonel Tigh, Sam, the Chief and Tory come to be in the fleet? In what way are they different? What will their activation mean?
It’s just too exciting. The week can’t go fast enough.