Battlestar Galactica has always had a special place in my heart — I’m reaching all the way back to the original series with Lorne Greene. The Sci-Fi channel reimagining of the series is about to come to a close. All that’s left is a 3-parter shown this coming Friday and a double helping on March 20. I’m happy and sad.
I’ve always loved the intro to the original series. The majestic nature of the fanfare resonates with me. It does, however, lend itself to the Star Trek style “let’s just show the ship for a reeeeealy long time” shots which I’ve heard described pretty aptly as “Starship Porn”. See Star Trek: The Motion Picture for some of the grossest examples of this.
The main thing I loved about the original BSG (besides the theme) was space battles. I didn’t watch the original series when it was originally on, of course — I was all of one in 1978. I watched them when I was maybe 4 or 5 which is also around the time I had seen Star Wars, so space battles were what I couldn’t get enough of. The storyline of this being the last surviving humans trying to find Earth sounded ok, but I’d also seen Star Trek (a couple movies and the original series), so living in space didn’t seem so bad. Planetary life is so mundane.
I never really watched the original series enough to get closure, and from what I understand they didn’t really do a good job with continuity, anyway. When I heard SciFi was remaking the series I automatically had the horrible taste in my mouth regarding remakes and other derivative work. I didn’t even watch the pilot until after the first season had aired. Watching the two hour pilot and the very first episode, however, I was hooked beyond belief.
First off, the show is shot very well. They employ a handheld camera style… in space! It has to be seen to be believed. This flies in the face of the normal “starship porn” static camera while the ships slowly (so so very slowly) glide past all at the same speed. Changes in camera angle, zoom, and even dramatic depth of field focus tricks make the fleet feel more real and less models.
Second, the ships move like they should – big ships move slowly, small ships move fast, and fighter ships, especially, are made for flying in space. This seems like a small detail, but it’s pretty important for a geek like me. Aerodynamics are out the window. ships have maneuvering thrusters on all sides. A valid combat tactic is to flip the ship over and travel backwards while shooting at what was chasing you. Awesome.
Third, the space battles they have (though admittedly fewer than I’d like) look great. Part of this is the fancy camera effects and part of it is because the ships move as they should — a small light ship is made for dogfighting or strafing runs on a bigger ship. A big ship fires “flak” style bursts to keep a defensive perimeter while employing big-fish weapons (actually nuclear weapons!) to go toe-to-toe with other big ships. No lasers, or jazz like that.
Fourth, Faster Than Light (FTL) drives. While for the most part, travel is nicely Newtonian with acceleration and momentum playing very realistic roles, sometimes the ship has to jump away, and that is done so well. While Star Wars and Star Trek use “hyperspace” and “warp” technology, they still appear to be “flying forward” to get to their destination. Comparatively, when the Battlestar Galactica decides to be on the other side of the star system, it just winks out and appears over there.
Fifth, wonderful characters. The main cast of characters have very good and motivations and development. The investment in everyone is very high. Sometimes characters go astray and I’ll blame the writers for these missteps, but for the most part, you can count on Colonel Tigh to pull it through. He’s easily the most consistent character on the show, even more so than the “Old Man” Admiral Bill Adama who is played ruthlessly well by Edward James Olmos. Colonel Saul Tigh is the hard-as-nails second in command on the ship and really steals he scenes he’s in. Mainly because he is especially good at saying…
FRAK. My 6th and final favorite point about the show. I usually spell it with a c (frack) but I guess the show has it as just frak. Frak is the lovingly applied expletive of choice on the ship. Much like Red Dwarf had “Smeg” Battlestar Galactica uses frak to color up the conversation occasionally. Sometimes more than occasionally. It’s pretty synonymous with English expletive that begins with F, and it’s a great way for the show to maintain their rating, I guess.
Some of my favorite moments of the show:
- Anything with Baltar and the Model Six in the Red Dress from Season 1
- Tigh yelling: “You were frakkin’ her!” to Chief Tyrol after he finds out he’s been sleeping with an officer
- Galactica jumping into the atmosphere in Season 3 episode 4 (possibly the most action packed ever)
- Admiral Lee “Fatty” Adama
- Lucy Lawless as a Cylon
- The Last Supper picture
I guess once it’s gone I’ll have to sate myself with some of the other decent TV that’s still around: Breaking Bad (Season 2 starts tonight!), True Blood (“Miss Sookie… May I call on You”), 24 (This season makes it great again), Heroes (on the brink for me), Dollhouse (giving it a chance), and Flight of the Conchords.
I’ll watch with rapt attention for the last few episodes, but we’ll miss you Battlestar Galactica. So Say We All!