Monday, March 16, 2009

Hello and Goodbye to Battlestar Galactica

Five years ago I came across a television show on the Sci-Fi Channel that changed so much with me and with perceptions of what it is to be a science-fiction show. I hadn’t been an avid watcher of the Sci-Fi Channel, I only liked it because they played episodes of The X-Files; in fact I was probably watching that very show when a commercial break rolled around and a promo began to play on my screen. It was an amazing promo for a show about humans being annihilated by something they created to help them. Something that was used and abused and that rebelled in anger. A theme that I find myself being drawn to all the time.

That show was called Battlestar Galactica. A “re-imagining” of an old cheesy show that ran on ABC for a season way back in 1978. A cult favorite for what I can only assume is the nostalgia and cheesy-fun that it provides. But, this new Battlestar show looked intense and heavy, I had to watch it. So, for months I waited for December 7, 2004 to roll around. And when that day came I was hooked for the entire duration. It was the kind of show that I would watch no matter what. I would write off all other responsibilities every Friday night (and Sunday night for a tick). I didn’t care, that show is that good. And then I had to wait for season 1 to start with the intense, suspense-filled episode ‘33’.

Why is it that good? Why should you have been watching this show for the past five years? If you say it’s because it’s not a genre you like, or that you don’t like Star Wars so why would you like this? You couldn’t be more wrong with your knee-jerk reaction. This show is more than space battles, space-ships and Cylons. It’s about the characters, the humanity that is embodied in each and every choice a character makes on the show, good or bad. And there are oh so many times a decision was made that was wrong. In the post-9/11 world that saw this show come to be, there is a relevance to what it means to be human, to invade and take over another “culture”, to be taken over by another culture and to feel compassion and sympathy, at times, for those on the opposing side. This is exactly why this show succeeded as it did, had it been any other time it would have failed miserably.

I can assure you that I have run across my share of people who think I am crazy for loving this show. Then I make them watch it and they become enamored with it what they see. It begins to make sense, they realize it isn’t Star Wars 2.0; it isn’t about the “planet/alien-of-the-week”. It isn’t about glossy ships and gallant heroes that save the day just as the clock reaches one hour of air-time. But, I hear you asking, what is it about then? What is the core story behind this show you are telling me is groundbreaking, phenomenal, astounding and great? Well, let me tell you.

It’s an age old story of man creating a robotic helper to do their dirty work. I don’t mean offing people. I mean man created something, at this point not in his image, to help. At first it was a noble idea but soon those Cylons gain sentience and realize they are being used and they don’t like it. So they rebel against their parents. After a long and lengthy battle they decide to leave to find a planet to call their own. They agree to an armistice with humanity. On a remote station a human and a Cylon would meet once a year. Every year a man arrived and every year there was no Cylon. They haven’t seen or heard from a Cylon in 40 years…until today. The doors slide open; two severely updated Cylon Centurions enter and stand to the side. The man hears the distinctive click of high heels and in walks a leggy, beautiful woman. She asks the man if he is alive, kisses him and, from outside, a large pointed ship (Basestar) hovers above the armistice station shortly before blowing it up.

If that scene alone doesn’t get your attention, why you might be dead.

The meat of the show, like I said earlier, is the characters. Humanity is shortly attacked all over the 12 colonies by Cylons, and a rag-tag group of ships ranging from the Galactica to pleasure ships like Cloud 9 cling together for safety in numbers. They are led by, at the time, Commander William Adama and Colonel Saul Tigh, along with the newly appointed president, admittedly shaken and confused, Secretary of Education Laura Roslin. She was appointed because everyone above her was killed in the initial attack. Together they lead the fleet on a quest to find the mythical 13th colony of the 13th tribe of humanity, Earth.

But, the show isn’t just the story. Without the following things the show would be nothing. The special effects rival those of big-budget Hollywood blockbusters. All on a budget just a fraction of the size of those blockbusters. As a comparison think of the crappy effects in say, Spiderman or The Day After Tomorrow. While I know there technically wouldn’t be any explosions in space since it’s a vacuum, some of the battle scenes are breathtakingly gorgeous. Then there is set design, lighting, videography and the usage of some of the best, untapped directors out there. Namely Michael Rymer and Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (who has worked as a 2nd AD for Steven Spielberg). And the little (great big) cherry upon the icing on top, the music. Bear McCreary manages to weave a sonic tapestry of aural delight into every single episode. He uses instruments and styles from all over the world, including an accordion for Number 6’s Theme, though tweaked for a certain feel.

And it all ends Friday. This Friday March 20, 2009 will be the last episode of this show that has not only captured my attention for the past 5 years, but was one of the major reasons I decided to return to school for video production. The chance to make something that people are interested in, that catches their minds and makes them think. Over 5 years I have watched characters that aren’t real live and die, fight and make up, marry and divorce, shoot and be shot, fly and crash-land, discover and flee, order and disobey and realize they might not be who they were or want to be. When Friday rolls around I will be sad, sad to see a beloved show end and a ship no doubt “die”, and I’ll bid adieu to something that I hold near and dear to my heart as one of the best television shows ever produced. And in celebration of the show I will be doing a season-by-season rollout of episodes starting tomorrow. Catch up, whether it be by internet, DVD, or synopsis and say goodbye to the grand ol’ Galactica with me on Friday in style and respect.

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