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Friday, April 07, 2006

Battlestar Allegorica

Yeah, I'm a bad geek. I only just tonight finally got around to watching the Sci-Fi Channel's Battlestar Galactica mini-series. As you read my impressions, please keep in mind that the initial mini-series is all that I've seen, so these thoughts are unaffected by later events in the series.

First, I was struck by how much more somber this version is compared to the original series. I suspect that probably reflects current events now versus the 70's as much as anything. Whereas in the original show, the Cylons embodied the Cold War era Communist enemies: faceless, soulless, and completely inhuman. The new Cylons, though, definitely reflect our Terror War paranoia and fear of an enemy that looks just like us, not to mention the terrifying possibility of sleeper agents who won't even know they're traitors until too late.

Perhaps because of that, for me a lot of the early war stuff felt a little forced and strained. Taking Star Wars, for instance, in 1977 using the power to destroy an entire planet certainly seemed villainous and evil, but it also seemed prosaic and remote. In today's world, seeing entire cities suddenly and unexpectedly destroyed by nuclear weapons is too realistic a possibility to be very entertaining.

It's also interesting that they chose to make Starbuck a woman, and to introduce some obvious sexual tension between her and Apollo. In the original, of course, they were both men, and were best friends and rivals. The mini-series was made about 3 years before Brokeback, so the latter couldn't have influenced the Battlestar producers, but it's impossible for me to watch the new dynamic between the heros without wondering whether it's a knowing nod to the wink-wink nudge-nudge happy homoeroticism that lurked below the surface of so many 70's guy teams and shows. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

In general, I think you'd have to say that Battlestar Galactica is the best space sci-fi on TV today. Sadly, it doesn't take much to earn that distinction, although I think it could still make a strong showing even if Firefly were still on the air (although that would make the camera tricks that Battlestar cribbed from Joss Whedon even more obvious).


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