Sunday, January 08, 2006

We interrupt this program . . .

. . . to plug one of the best shows on TV right now.

from Heather Havrilesky at

What's strange is that, even when people told me, very directly, that the new "Battlestar Galactica" was a really smart, character-driven drama that just happened to be set in space, I didn't believe them. That's how insidious the layers and layers of crappy space-show buildup can be. Even though I heard "dark" and "smart" and "unpredictable," all I could picture was Captain Kirk in a toga.

It's all been said before, but I'll say it again: "Battlestar Galactica" is much, much better than you can possibly imagine . . .

What's most remarkable about "Battlestar Galactica" is that it's populated by distraught, fallible characters who fumble around in the dark and make big mistakes, but never lose our sympathies. Many of them aren't likable or even easy to understand, but we're offered some way of seeing the world through their eyes. For example, Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan), Commander Adama's (Edward James Olmos) right-hand man, may be the least likable character of all, but his indiscretions are balanced by his confusion and uncertainty about his decisions. During the second season, he kept going back to the bedside of an unconscious and ailing Adama, telling the captain over and over again how badly he was screwing up. As soon as Adama was conscious, Tigh told him he wouldn't believe the mess he left for him. When do you see a captain of any kind, let alone a captain on a show about outer space, behave this way? You think you're watching for the tough-girl hero Starbuck or for the battle scenes, and suddenly you're heartbroken over the plight of this poor old jackass.

. . . Of course, this show has so many strong female characters in it, where do you begin? Roslin, Starbuck, Number Six, Boomer... And unlike network TV's lead females, who so often veer into the realm of fragility and Teri Garr "Forget your job and come to bed, honey" moments, these characters - particularly Roslin and Starbuck - are presented as just as confident and as flawed in interesting ways (Take note, "Commander in Chief") as their male counterparts.

. . . This show is so fracking intense it makes me want to take a Raptor out for a spin through an asteroid belt - or at least drive that El Camino through the mud until it overheats. Frackin' A! With such insanely high stakes and so many fast-moving storylines, "Battlestar Galactica" may just be the anti-"Lost."

See also Gashwin's post on Galactica.


Blogger Talmida said...

Thanks for this, Mark. My Beloved and I were big fans of the original, but not impressed by the pilot episode of the new series. Maybe we'll give it another shot.

We will have to do something, because last night we watched the final episode of Firefly. I gave him this series on DVD for Christmas on a whim, and it is FABULOUS!! We've got Serenity to watch tonight, but after that, there's no more Mal & Zoe and Inara for us.... *sniff* *sniff*. They're my friends now. I'm going to miss them.

Why is it so easy to get hooked into these worlds?

12:35 PM  
Blogger Mark Mossa, SJ said...

Yeah, Firefly is great. And Serenity is a good film! But, alas, that's the end! *SIGH*

Try BG again, it just gets better and better.

Don't know if you've had a look at Lost, but I downloaded the first few episodes on ITunes, and now I'm hooked. Also a good, character-driven drama, with more than a touch of sci-fi!

Worlds upon worlds . . .



3:46 PM  
Blogger Gashwin said...

Oh man, BSG does get better and better! There's a bunch of us that are talking about [gulp] making this our Friday night thang ... [Geeks-r-us! :-D]

The difficult part about actually watching this off TV is that one has to wait a week for the next episode! :)

Anyway, since the middle of the first half of the second season they haven't gone back to the religion-theme at all. I'm waiting to see how that develops ....

11:07 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

There is no shame in having friends over for regular friday night BSG parties. Just don't resort to wearing costumes...

2:20 AM  
Anonymous Chris T. said...

I got busy around toward the end of '04 (beginning of '05? can't remember...) and stopped watching BSG. I obviously need to go back. I've been hearing amazing things about it the last few months.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Dale said...

Do, do, DO give BSG (75) a try. I've been hooked since early in Season One. No one dares bother me at 10pm on Fridays. My wife is now infected, too, and she swore she wouldn't be roped in this time--unlike with B5.

The acting sustains the show. The cast (unknowns apart from the brilliant Olmos and the superb McDonnell) is one of the best ensembles I've seen.

Just so on the flawed humanity of the characters. Not only do I like the portrayal of Tigh, I especially liked Adama backing his right hand man's decisionmaking after he woke up. That's pitch perfect insight and writing.

This season I'm especially enjoying the slowly morphing attitude of the Galactica survivors toward the Cylons--much more ambivalent than the "Smoke the toasters" approach of the Pegasus crew (I truly, truly, truly hope Cain eats a bullet ASAP--she confirms the old Neitzsche saying about fighting monsters).

Probably the "deepest" treatment of religion and religious motivation on TV, too.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Dale said...

And I would dispute that there's been no religion emphasis thus far: there's the "Resurrection Ship" (though "reincarnation" would be more accurate), and the case of Linda, the Pegasus' Cylon prisoner (and atrocity victim). She seems to have no faith at all--probably lost due to what the Pegasus' crew has subjected her to.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Dale said...

"thus far THIS SEASON."

Sigh. And the kids slept through last night, depriving me of my stock excuse.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Gashwin said...

Dale: to clarify, I meant there's not been much movement on the overtly religious themes of the movie for a while (or maybe it just feels that way because of the break over Christmas?), especially the polytheism (humans) vs. monotheism (Cylons) thing.

Of course, these are not the only religious themes in the series, as you've pointed out.

And yes, I'm loving the ambiguity towards the Cylons, and can feel Balthar's horror as he says "I am not one of them" (the rest of the humans, i.e.) They got me feeling that way too!

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Jim Cork said...

I was a big fan of the original BSG back when I was 9. I've been watching it again recently, and is it hilarious. Just finished watching a very silly episode ("The Young Lords") with some kids wearing animal skins and riding unicorns that terrorize a remote Cylon outpost. Lucifer and Baltar have some great scenes. (What I want to know is, why do some people say "felgercarb," and others "feldercarb?")

I've only seen the first season of the new show on DVD (no cable, and season 2.0 is on its way...). At first I was skeptical about the female Starbuck, but the first episode won me over right away.

Still waiting to see Serenity (it's on the way too).

9:29 AM  
Blogger Dale said...


Good point about the lengthy hiatus--I am having a bit of difficulty sorting out and recalling the first ten episodes of season two. I was a little surprised that Sci-Fi didn't rerun them prior to last week's debut.

So I could easily be conflating the seasons now. Either way, I definitely need to get ahold of the first ten episodes to get fully back up to speed.

I'm with you on Baltar's reaction. I found myself clenching my fists as Tyrol and Helo raced to help Boomer. The Galactica crew is, against all inclination, starting to see the humanity of the humanoid Cylons. Because, after all, that's what they are--human. Or so I argue.

5:54 PM  
Blogger Mark Mossa, SJ said...

Hey Y'all!

This, surprisingly, turns out to be one of my most commented on posts!!

I wish I weren't so distracted by other things and could better participate!

But, carry on!

(I'm taking this as an invitation to post more sci-fi related stuff in the future--you've been warned!)



1:38 AM  

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