Thursday, March 4, 2010

Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)

In a distant quadrant of space, an ongoing war between humans and Cylons --sentient, human-like cybernetic creatures -- enters its endgame following a sneak nuclear attack on human outposts (the Twelve Colonies of Kobol and primary planet Caprica), which are thoroughly destroyed. A handful of survivors escape by taking to whatever ships are nearby. This cobbled fleet falls under the stewardship of the only remaining warship, the Battlestar Galactica, and its beleaguered commander, Admiral Adama. Newly-elected President Laura Roslin, battling cancer and susceptible to drug-induced visions, instructs the skeptical Adama to chart a course for the legendary lost Thirteenth Colony (Planet Earth, duh) guided only by religious artifacts and vague prophesy derived from ancient polytheistic scriptures. Adama is grumpy about it, but follows orders, understanding that people need a more constructive, positive goal than merely maintaining their desperate flight from the relentless Cylons. They need to find a new home.

The mortal plight of these 50,000-odd remaining human beings is counterbalanced by the schemes and needs of the Cylons. They are a race eons old; twelve clone "models" of Cylon are known to exist, but only seven have been identified. The "Final Five" models have critical internal, subconscious knowledge of their racial genesis, but are scattered among the remaining human population, their memories erased and masked by new identities. To fulfill their destiny and forward their monotheistic system of religion/prophesy, the Cylons want to reunite with the Final Five, find their own way to Earth, and establish a permanent home world. But the "Significant Seven" are themselves divided about how to proceed: do they simply destroy the remaining humans (so the Final Five will then "download" into new clone bodies on their Resurrection Hub)? Or do they use, even team with, the humans to collectively find Earth and, eventually, peace? Even their primary pawn, human scientist Gaius Baltar, can't keep their machinations in order -- not that he tries much, being so sidetracked by his lust for Cylon Model #6 he can no longer tell reality from dream. A condition that may very well define the end (or is it the beginning?) of the Human Race....

War and Peace set in outer space; a serious SF drama about war, politics, culture, race, and the miraculous, unknowable nature of God. Showrunners David Eick and Ronald Moore remain philosophically pliable throughout, challenging viewers to pick a side, then painting the Cylons the same shade of Human as all the other human characters. Much that the 1970s-era show took for granted, this version cultivates and explores, building a world that supports two conflicting religions, neither of which can survive direct confrontation. This became problematic when it came to scripting an ending for the series, but the great strength of the overall Galactica narrative is in the questions it raises, less so the answers provided. Joss Whedon: "It's so passionate, textured, complex, subversive, and challenging that it dwarfs everything on TV."

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