Monday, January 12, 2009

[rev.] Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica is beyond awesome. The casting is good. FX are good enough. Plot is good enough to keep me interested, even if it gets flat occasionally and loses me occasionally with such a large cast. The show has a much more political edge to it, and is - thanks to cable TV - far, far, far more gritty than 1978 ABC.

Cylons (human-created robots who became self-aware and self-directing) are out for vengeance to eliminate mankind; and humans are fleeing to the mythical Earth where the 13th tribe left eons ago, which many don't even believe exists. There is a heavily Hellenistic flavor to the culture - the names of the 12 planets (Capricorn, Gemini, ... ), the gods (Apollo, Hera, ...) etc. Particularly amusing is the polytheistic humans being the heroes, while the Cylons are a monotheistic One True Loving God group.

If you've seen the original: the basic plot line is the same. Cylons attack, mankind is on the brink of extinction, valiant warriors shepherd the remaining stragglers onto a perilous journey searching for the lost tribe, who went off and founded another human colony, Earth, we hope our distant relatives will like us.

The Cylon Model 2.0 looks just like us. You can't tell them apart. At all. This isn't Terminator, where faithful Fido can smell the robots. This one is "no make up needed". No more of the silver radiator moving laser pointer eye bad guys ("walking chrome toasters"). Well, they do exist, but the model 1.0 is just the functional servants/soldiers of the advanced model. (An opportunity I thought intriguing: will the cylons be betrayed in turn by their own creations?)

The incorporation of technology beyond "they're robots; they're evil" is well done. At the very beginning, the Galactica, the last of the 'battlestar' war ships is being decommissioned. The crotchy old captain (Edward James Olmos) has refused to slack off on the Rules. E.g., networking of communications and computers was prohibited, due to the Cylons infiltrating them with computer viruses(and such). So, the bridge of the Galactica looks much like a 1960s submarine with those black Bakelite phone receivers. Little tech bits are elegantly woven into the story.

One point I like (as a modern American woman) is that the fighter pilots are also women. And that whole Starbuck/Apollo/goofy-name thing? Call signs, not their real names. And, like fighter pilots today, they tend to get used like a nick name. Several of the other names from the TV show are in, but not necessarily with the same sex organs. Starbuck is still the card-dealing, cigar-smoking pain-in-the-ass hotshot pilot, it's just that this one has tits. Again, if you've seen the original, you will be pleasantly surprised at how they've adapted it for a more modern audience.

I only saw the first 2-1/2 seasons. They were totally awesome. I highly recommend them. I don't currently have a TV. Don't write and tell me how fraking wonderful the next 2 are.

This incorporates all the stuff one would want - sci fi, romance, blowing shit up, politics, blowing cylons up, religion, getting blown up by cylons, dysfunctional families, blowing up even more shit ...

one of the earlier ads:

Elizabeth's rating:

go buy it on DVD


ccyager said...

Wow. Now I AM thinking of buying it on DVD. I saw the original series and I think it'd be pretty campy now. But I'd read off and on about the most recent incarnation and have always been intrigued by it. I don't have cable, so I was thinking of renting the DVDs, if available. Now I may look for them for sale. Thanks for this review!

Actually, the Cylons sound like the replicants in "Blade Runner" and a similar theme of humanity vs. technology. That was also the theme of the Borg episodes and movie for "Star Trek: The Next Generation." It's interesting to see how many variations of one theme there can be....

Gopher MPH said...

I had heard about this right at the end of the first season. Oh, well ... I thought. Then, after hearing the SciFi Channel would renew the series, it was also going to repeat all of the first series as a lead-up to the second one. So, I plopped down, and basically watched two whole seasons in a row. SciFi also ran some of the episodes of the original show. Wow - talk about a face-lift! Man, I thought Dirk Benedict was so hot when I was 12.

Humanity v. technology - with this show, I found it interesting to contemplate the Cylon 2.0 v. Cylon 1.0. It's rather like evolution, which they - obviously - embrace.

Religion is a purely human experience/creation. Yet the Cylons are portrayed as very devout in their beliefs of God. The Cylons are a monotheistic, "one true loving God" group. They don’t need to believe in Intelligent Design: they’re doing it to themselves. In this sense, they should appeal to Evangelical Christians. Yet they're the Bad Guys. [Are the screenwriters making a veiled social statement? If so, it’s elegant.]

In addition, there is a parallel between the humans/Cylons and the Cylon Model 2 vs. Model 1. Somehow, there had to be a progression between the "toasters" and the human-looking ones, right? (The derogatory term 'toaster' is applied to the obviously robotic as well as the human-esque ones.) Yet those interim models aren't seen. They have created their superiors. The superiors simply use the earlier models for ‘labor’ while working on next year’s model. Sure, it's not the Toasters’ fault that they are limited to a hunter-warrior existence. But they are very much treated by the advanced Cylons the way they were by the humans. We become what we despise?

The Cylons want what the humans had (independence and free will) - but in achieving it, do they become what they abhor?

Well, if you do watch it, we could discuss it in greater detail. I wouldn’t want to spoil the drama for you by letting you know what happens. I was talking to our neighbor’s daughter. She recently read Fellowship of the Ring, mentioning something about the end of the book, when Boromir becomes evil. I said, well at the end of the movie, when he dies ... She looked odd, and said, ‘he dies?’. Ooops. I thought he died in the first book; I know he dies. So, I didn’t want to spoil the Two Towers for her, and just said ‘well, the movies aren’t quite like the books all the time.’

ccyager said...

Boromir does die in the beginning of "The Two Towers" I think. The movie actually used the beginning of the second book for the ending.

I'll be interested to see BG now that I've read your thoughts on it, especially the Cylons. Data, the AI in "Star Trek: theNext Generation," also approached questions about religion, free will, his own "birth," and emotions. He became a much beloved character, like Mr. Spock in the original, because of his explorations of humanity in his quest to become more human.

Gopher MPH said...

Spock & Data are an interesting comparison. Data was struggling to see what it would be like to be human; Spock was trying to avoid the part of him which was human. Yet they both had the advantage of the dispassion (one inherent, the other practiced) in analyzing humanity.

I am actually interested in seeing the next few seasons. Maybe after I graduate? [grin]

There has been much literature about 'being human'. In the 20th Century, it seems to revolve around what is alien/machine vs. human. Some authors have provided a very interesting platform for that question. One of my favorite, C.J. Cherryh - originally an anthropologist - has always had an astute eye for designing an 'alien' which is truly different than us, for one reason or another. Especially the Foreigner series, I think the most developed concept of an alien race that she's used, although the last few of the series have gotten a bit dry. In these books, it is the aliens' inability to emotionally relate to humans: they simply do not have the hard-wiring to understand human emotions - but rather than present them as handicapped by this, the humans are equally painted as being completely incapable of understanding the aliens' emotions. How much does emotion play a role in biological destiny?

I'm curious about the Cylons, in this respect. I'm not sure if they understand human emotion, and shrug it off as unnecessary or undesired (like Mr. Spock), or if they simply see it as something incomprehensible. Yet, is there something the humans don't understand about the Cylons? Perhaps if they did, it would be easier to escape/destroy them?

It's an interesting puzzle - looking at something or someone, knowing there is some gap, some disconnect between you, and yet being incapable of surmounting it - or perhaps incapable of even knowing it's there. And if so, is it just you, or is it your entire species which is effected?

Ah, well ... I'm going to go back to the cold, windy heath of Lancashire and the mysterious death of the village priest. No cyborgs allowed.