It’s been 15 years since Battlestar Galactica broadcast its first episode of its rebooted series. I was much younger then. I’ve changed, my passionate crush on Jamie Bamber has dissipated, and I hope the series still holds up, as it has remained one of my most favorite series of all time. When released, I wasn’t looking for new sci-fi shows, nor had I been excited by anything within the genre for some time; all of that changed when the Cylons rose again. I’m starting this rewatch journey with the first part of the 2003 miniseries of Battlestar Galactica. Here are my thoughts:
1. Opening of the series
This miniseries is extremely ambitious; it asks a lot from its audience. It speeds right into world building. Really, we begin in medias res; even if you didn’t watch the original 1970s version, you probably have an idea of what the series was about. The opening of the episode explains, with written text, what has transpired over the past 40 years – the time since humans created Cylons and they rebelled against their creators. It’s a highly effective way to catch the audience up in a brief and interesting way. We find out, within the first 5 minutes, that the Cylons are back, and they’re here to destroy their creators.
2. World building
Give me a well-defined world I want to immerse myself in, and I will follow you anywhere. This is another aspect of this series that I love; a world I am invested in, wholeheartedly. Again, this miniseries is asking us to absorb so much information within this world right at the get-go: the music, the drums, a basic, primal sound that is unexpected in space, but fits. The movement of ships in space is quiet, but complex; the silence of space stands out in stark contrast to the noise of being onboard the Battlestar, and the noise of life, and destruction, on the planet Caprica. The ‘technology’ we’re told is old, but this just helps it avoid looking dated, even in 2018. Commander William Adama’s office is cluttered with piles of paper, old maps, old lamps, and framed photographs, which brings me to my favorite element of world building on the show: the cut corners of all paper, photographs, and frames. Why is this a thing? No idea, but I love it. It contributes to this world that seems like our own, but is just a little different. Things are not quite the same as they are here, but not different enough that we couldn’t make the same mistakes.
3. Character building
Give me some characters I can connect with, or at least some characters I am invested in. And don’t be lazy with the storytelling. Luckily, Battlestar, while again asking us to absorb an insane amount in an hour and thirty minutes, creatively shows us most of the key players of the series. The first 20 to 30 minutes is, arguably, the best of the episode. We travel around the Battlestar Galactica, and I mean literally travel around the ship. We meet Commander William Adama, stern, calm and steady; we meet Commander Kara Thrace, or Starbuck, the best Viper pilot in the fleet, whose blonde hair stands out amongst the muted colors of the series, just as her tough as nails, aggressive personality stands out amongst all others. We meet Saul Tigh, the XO that likes to push people’s buttons, and likes to enjoy a drink or two now and then, but mainly always. On the planet Caprica we meet Dr. Gaius Baltar, a man with an ego so big, it can barely fit into the storyline; we meet his girlfriend/work partner/Cylon double agent, Number Six. Baltar’s lack of interest in anyone other than himself seems to have left him with no idea what his girlfriend’s name even is. He never states it; never refers to her by name. Which brings us to Number Six. She loves Baltar, if Cylons can love. Maybe it’s just her fascination with humans, their humanity, and their frailties. Number Six is striking in her beauty, and uses it to her full advantage. There are many more key players we’re introduced to, but I’m afraid I’ll lose you if I simply list them all. We travel through these characters lives to learn about them; we’re not asked to simply swallow mindless and tedious exposition.Continued below
4. What it means to be human
This is an idea I am all consumed with when it comes to teaching, reading, watching, and living. It’s obviously a question we’re all consumed with, because it’s one that posed everywhere, from school, to books, to movies, to our own everyday lives, and it’s a major question that runs throughout the series of Battlestar Galactica. “Are you alive” are the first words spoken in the series, from a Number Six, to a human. Is simply being alive being human? Not according to Adama. The Galactica is being decommissioned at the start of the series; it’s old, it’s outdated. It’s Commander is old. The war between Cylons and humans is only remembered by the old. It’s something for history textbooks and museums for the young. Adama is a member of the old guard; he does not think people should forget the threats of the past, and the threat of past sins. During the Galactica’s decommissioning, he speaks of how humans fought for their survival against the Cylons, but reminded those in attendance that they never asked why they were worth saving. Why do humans need to survive? He reminds his audience that humans still commit murder because of greed, spite, and jealousy. And that humans still visit all of their sins upon their children. According to Adama, humans decided to play God, create life. And that life turned against them. Those children turned against them.
5. Female aggression
Generally, men are praised for their aggression; frequently, women are admonished for it. The first female, human, character we meet is Kara Thrace, or Starbuck. Starbuck speaks her mind clearly. She doesn’t care for the XO of the Galactica, and she lets him know it. When she’s threatened, she will stand up and fight. She punches the XO right in the face. Starbuck is a pilot; Adama says she is the best pilot he has. He obviously loves her as a parent loves a child. Starbuck demands respect, she’s out of control, and she will not back down. I always wanted to be Kara Thrace, and I still do now, 15 years later. Oh, and she smokes cigars, just like the original Starbuck. We meet Laura Roslin as she is being diagnosed with cancer. She has a short time to live. After the Cylon attack on Caprica, most of the government has been wiped out, and Secretary of Education Laura Roslin, 43rd in the line of succession, is sworn in as President of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol. (It takes a schoolteacher to run a wartime administration. What’s a few hundred Cylons compared to a room of 26 teenagers?) But before this even happens, after the Cylons first attack, she takes command of her ship when the captain seems too frightened and too hesitant to do so. She is calm, clear headed, and firm; just what the crew and passengers need in a time of war. But, one guy isn’t so pleased: Aaron Doral. He’s a civilian Public Relations Officer and he approaches Commander Adama’s son, Lee ‘Apollo’ Adama with some “concerns” about Roslin’s assumed leadership role. Lee approaches her as she’s making a plan to gather survivors. Her demeanor is impressive and Lee recognizes effective leadership when he sees it. “Lady’s in charge,” is his response to Doral. We see the beginning of Laura Roslin and Lee Adama’s partnership at the end of this episode. This partnership will put him even further at odds with his father, Commander Adama. Two female characters that could not be more dissimilar, but both finding success in a world torn apart by human mistakes.
The Adama family drama was not compelling to me when I first watched the series, I guess we’ll see where it goes this time. So say we all.