Friday, January 14, 2005

Battlestar Kickassica

I've just watched both the 2003 miniseries and the premiere of the new Battlestar Galactica miniseries, and I can not emphasize enough how incredibly good they are. Even as a wee lad of the '70s, the first series was just plain not that good. The characters were underdeveloped, at best, and the stories were lame. What saved the original Galactica was not so much any inherent qualities it posessed (save perhaps the visual effects, which were first-class for the time), but the possibilities it suggested. It was so almost-great, that the actors were able to barely carry off what could so easily have been pure drek.

This new series, on the other hand, excels in every category. It's so hard to pick a single element that singles out what makes this series great, but if I had to pick, I'd say it's the art direction. This show succeeds, in a way no tv series save Babylon 5 has, in creating a "used world", a world that feels not only real, but old. The ships, the uniforms, even the civilians, everything seems... ordinary. Fantastic, excellent, amazing, but it's all remarkably unremarkable.

The acting is similarly impressive-- Edward James Olmos' Commander Adama is more military and less avuncular than Lorne Greene. Greene's Adama was more presidential; Olmos' is a career military man that wasn't looking for any of this, and in fact wanted to leave the civilians behind so that he could retaliate for the Cylon attack. It's not that he didn't want to save them, but he was so focused on a military approach that he had to be talked into saving the human race. This was a lovely touch of realism.

Katee Sackhoff's Starbuck was the most surprising character. At first, I wasn't entirely sure about a female Starbuck, but she's sold me several times over-- I doubt she'll be Dirk Benedict's ladykiller (I suppose it's possible, but I think she may have a thing for Apollo), but she's at least as arrogant as Tom Cruise in Top Gun, and probably twice as good.

I could go on, but time constraints force me to move on to the cinematography. The show's documentary-style filming adds to the realism of the show, makes it seem more like a film crew happened to be stranded on the Galactica and are filming the struggle for humanity's survival for posterity. The camera is unsteady, but not shaky-- I'm sure it's a steadicam, but it gives the impression of a handheld camera, and adds strongly to the realism.

Finally, the stories. Unlike the original series, the new BSG respects the military aspect of the Galactica and her crew. The first Galactica was more like the Love Boat than a military vessel, crewed by soldiers fighting for the very survival of the human race. In fact, sometimes, it was easy to forget that we weren't watching a relatively well-done Lost In Space. These guys, on the other hand, are continually aware of that very thing-- the President even keeps a running tally of the number of humans left alive. So far, we haven't seen many civilians, but that's going to come up soon, and I have no doubt they'll be handled as well as the military has been.

I'm running long, so I'll try to continue and expand on this later. Bottom line: fantastic show. Watch it. (Then again, if you're reading this, you are most likely to have already seen it-- Hi, Sam!)

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