Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Battlestar Galactica Season 1

When BSG was on television, I shrugged it off based on what it looked like on the surface. I have a bad habit of doing this. A vampire slayer named "Buffy" sounded so ridiculous that I passed by on the TV show, no doubt thinking of the extreme silliness of the movie as well. That one is now one of my favorite series of all time. So I decided that even though I tend to gravitate away from most Sci-Fi shows that aren't Star Trek, so many people were raving about this show, and it was of course now completely finished, that it was time to give it a chance. There's something really refreshing about watching a show that's already done. You can expect an ending, and you will know in advance if that ending is a complete one or if the show got abruptly canceled without a chance to tie up the loose ends. You rarely get that with shows currently on the air, unless you're talking about Lost where the end was set years in advance. If someone had told me Heroes was going to consistently suck post Season 1, I could have saved myself a lot of hours, let me tell you.

I started BSG by watching the mini-series that introduced this modern version of the show. It's packaged right along with the first season, so if you're out there looking to jump in you don't have to go hunting for it. My brief non-spoiler version is this: I felt like the mini-series dragged and was not really what I was looking for, but by the end it picked up speed and turned into something a bit different, and now I have reached the end of Season 1 and am completely hooked. If you like any of the shows I have mentioned above, you will enjoy this one too. Don't worry about not liking sci-fi, the drama between the characters is so compelling that the setting is just the backdrop. This is what sci-fi is supposed to be: an allegory for humanity's struggles, temptations, and triumphs. You won't be disappointed.

Spoilers below, continue at your own risk.

I had a really hard time starting off with the show. The mini-series in the beginning really reeked of military based sci-fi, the thought of which bored me to tears. My dad and grandfather may love their "war pictures" but that trait was never passed on to me. The details to which they were showing the battles just was not exciting me in anyway. Come to think of it, the battle sequences in the first Star Wars movie also fail to hold my interest for similar reasons. I'm not opposed to action, but apparently I prefer to see my action in hand to hand combat far more than shootouts or tank/plane/starship sequences. However, the entire mini-series is really about setting up the entire world that BSG is based in. They have to show us Caprica because otherwise it would mean nothing to us when the colonies are destroyed and they have to show us this war between the Cylons and humans because how else would we understand the stakes. So while I was really close to just turning the thing off somewhere around the end of the first part, I hung in there. Boy, am I glad I did.

A sign of a good show for me is if I become really invested in the characters. I know there are some people out there who, for instance, only watch Lost because they want to know the big mystery of the island, and really that's okay. But to me it's also about the journey the characters are going through, and why I hate Kate so freaking much - when you have a shitty actor like Evangeline Lily with no emotional range the character is ruined because you're not going to see anything in them that you like or enjoy. So far on BSG, I've not run into a single actor who has this problem. There are characters I don't like, certainly, but it has more to do with who the characters are and nothing to do with anything lacking on the actor's part. The situations they often find themselves in are also believable in the context of the series. I can see easily now why people love this show. This isn't sci-fi military battles on spaceships with robots - this is a civilizations trying to rebuild itself and survive in the face of being annihilated, with an enemy who is almost impossible to distinguish/detect and who very rarely shows any kind of mercy.

Perhaps the most interesting dynamic is all about the Cylons themselves. As a group they are merciless, intent on destroying humanity. Individually they believe in God and seem to have a weakness for falling in love with humans. It definitely sets up this idea that maybe who we are seeing as the "bad guys" are not in fact the bad guys at all. It at least presents the idea to you that the bad guys are still living breathing people with thoughts and feelings of their own. It's something I've always appreciated myself. There were nice people in Nazi Germany, and there were benevolent slave owners. Sometimes good people do bad things because they've been led astray and don't know any better. In the end it's quite possible that neither the Cylons or the humans are the bad guys - they both may be operating under the wrong impression. That in itself is a reason to be in love with this show.

Current impressions of various characters:

Colonel Adama & Captain Adama - The difficult father/son relationship isn't anything new, but the way it's handled here is fantastic. You can easily see things from both their points of view and feel for them, yet I also find myself just really wanting these two to just hug it out and be a strong family again. And of course every time they get close to that, something else happens to pull them apart. They are the old guard vs. the new, and I'm currently refusing to believe that the shots the Colonel took killed him. If I've learned anything from movies and television, it's that stomach wounds take a long time to die from (Thanks, Reservoir Dogs!).

Kara "Starbuck" Thrace - I want to be Starbuck when I grow up. I'm not sure there are enough words to describe how in love I am with this character. She's flawed, to be sure, but she's just so strong and competent and doesn't take shit from anyone and can do just about anything and she's funny and hot and if anything happens to her in the course of the series I'm going to scream and cry about it for days. The main reason I refuse to look up anything online is that I don't want to be spoiled on what happened to her. I was literally cheering her on in that battle with Number 6 in the season finale. I love you, Kara. Please only change for the better.

Gaius Baltar - I hate him. That's really okay, because I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to. He's morally ambivalent and only out for himself. He also may be crazy. Honestly, if anything was annoying me in this series it was the constant presence of Number 6 in his head and the way he would talk to her even though no one else could see her, and how she would make him do things, etc. While I appreciated the one episode that purposely cast a lot of doubt as to whether or not she was just in his head or not, overall the device is just being overused, to the point where when he was all set to have sex with her I was literally groaning aloud. Why wouldn't he lock the damn door first, anyway? I got long before that that she's an influence on him, and any cheap jokes around the fact are just getting old. I'm really hoping that now that he's on the planet that foolishness will end and maybe he'll just start living with her and the other Cylons or something. I can't take much more of it, though it's not enough for me to stop watching the show.

President Roslin - I really love the whole setup. The bottom of the succession ladder who never expected to get there, and on top of that she doesn't have long to live. Her visions are also becoming more and more interesting, and this idea that she's a fabled leader to help them reach earth adds so much more depth over her role as government rep vs. the military philosophy.

Sharon - My feelings are so mixed on this character. I started off really liking her, and now I'm not so sure. And I don't mean because she's a Cylon.. regardless of her species I'm just not sure I'm enjoying who she really is. I do know that while watching the finale I wished that the one aboard Galactica would die and the one on Caprica would remain. By the time we reached the end of the finale.. well I just don't know what to think anymore. The pregnancy is interesting, and the conflict between her "human" side and her "agent" side is interesting.. I'm just sort of finding myself currently ambivalent to her fate now.

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