Monday, April 21, 2014

Binge Watch: Classic Galactica Edition

At the length of a mere 24 episodes, the first and last season of the late 1970’s space opera, Battlestar Galactica, can easily be watched over the course of an average weekend. Although some might like to argue that there WAS a second season of the series, the dismal Galactica 1980 follow-up, with the exception of a single episode most Galactica fans would rather forget that ever happened. Was that one of the first reboots in what now is a reboot happy industry? If so, the planned Battlestar Galactica movie would make this series one of the most rebooted properties in Hollywood history.

Battlestar Galactica is the story of an advanced human civilization that is attacked and all but destroyed by antagonistic machines, the Cylons. Escaping complete annihilation is a single warship, the Battlestar Galactica, which leads a ragtag fugitive fleet of 220 civilian spaceships in search of a new home on the mythical 13th colony of Earth. Leading the way is the wise Commander Adama, his stalwart son Captain Apollo and the obligatory scoundrel, Lieutenant Starbuck. With the Cylons in pursuit, and a universe full of unknowns ahead of them, the Galactica and her crew make their way across the cosmos.

There is always a certain danger in revisiting something that you enjoyed in your youth, especially something that stands firmly in the shadow of a superior work, such as the mid 2000’s SyFy (still called the Sci-Fi Channel then) reboot of this show. But Battlestar Galactica holds up better than I expected. Yes there were a few too many “warrior out on patrol” gets lost/captured/etc. episodes, and yes for some reason Starbuck had to at one time or another find his father, get accused of murder and chase after a lost love, and yes there was the kid Boxey and that stupid mechanical dog (never called a dog), but between these annoyances and weak episodes there were moments when this series shined. These often involved multipart episodes that played out as small movies. The Annihilation of the Colonies Saga. The Kobol Saga. The Pegasus Saga. The War of the Gods Saga. The Terra Saga. Sure show producer Glen Larson used these sagas to advance his own paranoid political agenda (the Cylons and the Eastern Alliance being not so subtle metaphors for the Soviet Union), but a somewhat blatant use of the Good vs. Evil paradigm is not uncommon in the space opera genre. There were also at least two above average stand-alone episodes, Fire in Space and The Hand of God.

Yes this was before the golden age of the cable TV drama and the special effects industry was still using plastic models photographed against blue screens (and would recycle those shots continuously), but watching the right episodes of classic Battlestar Galactica can still be enormously entertaining. B

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