Sunday, March 12, 2006
I watched the season finale of Battlestar Galactica on Friday night. I won't give away any spoilers, but will say that this show continues to impress me. I used to love watching the original series when I was a kid and have to say that I enjoy watching the new series even more.
The show is about a civilization of billions of human beings on 12 colonies that have been destroyed by robots they created (the Cylons), with less than 50,000 survivors who have escaped destruction. They are now on the run in a small "ragtag" fleet of spaceships with the Cylons in constant pursuit, looking for the lost colony of Earth.
One of the most interesting changes between the old show and the new one is the portrayal of human nature. From what I remember of the old show, it portrayed Apollo and Commander Adama as noble characters with very few flaws, always acting from high moral virtues and good intentions. Starbuck was always shown to be a "ladies man" who tended to get himself into trouble with the women, but always with a touch of humor and never with any serious consequences.
Contrast this with the show today. Apollo and Commander Adama begin the show with a very estranged relationship because of the death of Apollo's broth Zak. Commander Tigh has a drinking problem. People constantly face difficult choices with non-ideal solutions, often giving into the temptation to do the wrong thing. The stress of being constantly on the run takes its toll on the crew. Civilians mount terrorist attacks in order to try to achieve justice against the Cylons. Others do the same thing in order to force peace with the Cylons. People constantly make poor choices that they often regret. Damaged relationships lead to serious consequences, sometimes even to the unintentional death of someone. Oh yeah -- and the new Starbuck's a girl...
It seems like the old show represented human nature in a very idealistic way -- being basically good and innocent at heart. The new series shows all the good, bad and ugly of a group of people thrust into a difficult and tragic situation, doing their best just to survive. I find the new series' portrayal of a deeply flawed, multi-faceted human nature to be both more realistic and much richer in its complexity. It touches on topics such as love, family, betrayal, sorrow, loss, temptation, sacrifice, loyalty, faith, frustration, sacrifice, death, and life.
In an interview explaining the creation of the show, one of the creators discussed how he wanted to portray what it would be like for real people to be caught up in a situation like this. He didn't want it to be another series of advanced space-people who had solved all of life's problems and now peacefully explored the galaxy, frolicking about in their enlightened way. Instead, he wanted to show the struggles of what it might be like to find yourself in a constant battle to survive, not knowing if you will live to see the next day. He has succeeded and succeeded well.
The show further delves into realism in its portrayal of many of the economic issues the fleet faces. Problems of scarcity of resources, difficulties faced by the small population's reduced capacity for specialization of labor, public choice issues faced by politicians, conflicts of interest between the military and civilians, black markets, demographic problems caused by a shrinking population, etc.
This has truly been one of the most enjoyable television programs I think I have ever watched. It's one of two shows I now see on a regular basis. (The other is Lost and I like BSG much, much better.) Both shows are available for purchase on iTunes, which allows me to download them on my PC and watch them at any time for $2 an episode and gives me a permanent library of the series. This is great for my irregular schedule as a PhD student and has only added to the fun.
You can see fan sites here, here and here. Images from the show are here and here. There’s even a Battlestar Wiki that some fans started.
View the entire episode of the Season 1 Finale for free.
Watch the show. It's really, really good.
P.S. -- I agree with Tyler Cowen -- if you like this show, you will really like Serenity and Firefly too. After downloading the series from iTunes, I faced the same dilemma he did trying to figure out how to best watch the show. I too tended towards option #6…
P.P.S. – Here’s the 1-minute opening sequence of the old show. Really brings back memories…
P.P.P.S. – What Battlestar Galactica character are you?