Most British sci-fi fans reacted to the news that Battlestar
Galactica was to be revived with a slightly-puzzled 'Why?'
(if they reacted at all). Paul Dempsey takes a look at the
finished results of the Sci-Fi Channel's new miniseries...
original 1978 TV series - foisted first on us Europeans as
one of those Sensurround seat rumbling movies - was viewed
on this side of the pond as just another bit of simple-minded,
fantasy fluff that had tumbled off Obi-Wan's cloak.
was a Star Wars me-too exercise that might have humbled
the good Doctor with its special effects, but which also spewed
forth characters, scripts and plots of profound awfulness.
A strong central idea - mankind fleeing across the galaxy
in search of its one remaining colony while pursued by an
implacable enemy - was buried.
the US, however, news of the remake has had all manner of
fanboy manning the online barricades and bombarding its broadcaster,
the Sci-Fi Channel, with complaints about the plans of project
mastermind, producer-writer Ronald D. Moore (Star Trek:
be adama'd, he's made Starbuck a girl! Some of the Cylons
look like human clones! It's got sex! And there are no DAGGITS!!!!!!!!!!!!'
OK, I made the last one up, but you get the drift.
the naysayers can sling it, because the 2003 model is high
class TV. Moore has made claims that it will reinvent small
screen sci-fi. That much is pure hype. But this Galactica
does comfortably inhabit the more sophisticated but well-established
world of series such as Babylon 5 and the genuinely
sadly short-lived Space: Above and Beyond.
This initial three-hour mini-series is at its strongest when
playing off the differing political points-of-view of its
updated Galactica Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) and
the junior minister turned President (Mary McDonnell) on whether
to make a last stand against the Cylon baddies or flee. It
helps no end that two fine character actors fill those key
roles - Olmos making his first sci-fi appearance since Blade
Cylons get an upgrade. No longer the Vocodered tin cans of
the original, they now come in all shapes and sizes, including
those of a former lingerie model and of a Kevin Spacey lookalike.
Post September 11, there are very conscious hints of 'the
enemy within' and cyberterrorism as these baddies infiltrate
the human world using every means at their disposal.
do get a whole lotta shagging and also the revelation that
the key weapon is a computer virus. And we learn something
new about Cylon lore - they are mankind's own creation, the
where once polyester and Lorne Greene ruled, we have moved
into a much darker imaginative landscape. The cardinal TV
rule about no cruelty to young children or babies gets chucked
out the window even before the Cylons begin their genocidal
nuking of the human colonies. Thousands are abandoned to their
fate because there is nothing else that can be done. And the
man who probably holds the key to saving mankind from extinction
is also the one who unwittingly paved the way for the Cylon
attack in the first place. Those in search of cheesy fun are
likely to be disappointed.
are flaws. One gloriously misjudged scene involves a central
character having a wet dream on the Galactica's command deck
- and that is not an exaggeration. The younger characters
are still somewhat wooden and one-note, even with Dirk Benedict's
Starbuck 're-imagined' as a cigar chomping, smart-arsed tomboy.
And, possibly most disappointing, the script never really
makes it mind up whether to be something that can stand alone
or the pilot for a new series.
that last respect, Moore and his co-remakers can be seen as
victims of their own success. By inserting a number of intriguing
themes and character relationships, they do leave you wanting
more, but also a bit irritated at what's left hanging after
a 180-minute viewing stretch. A final twist makes this feeling
balance, though, this is far better than most sci-fi fans
could ever have expected. There are even some amused nods
to the original's aficionados - as we start, the Galactica
is about to be decommissioned and turned into a museum, allowing
glimpses of props from 1978, not to mention the ongoing use
of those actually quite cool Viper fighters.
effects are excellent - but then again they were the one thing
the original did get spot on. And that thing with the red
light 'humming' across a Cylon face - oh yeah, that's still
there too, in its own way.
no mistake, this is one hell of a refit.
UK version of the Sci-Fi Channel will screen Battlestar
Galactica in early 2004 and the series will also be released
on Region 1 DVD in the first half of the year. The 1978 series
is available now in a DVD box set, if you really must waste
your hard-earned dosh.
the original series on DVD for £43.99 (RRP £49.99)
by clicking here
Buy the original series special edition on DVD for £48.73
(RRP £64.99) by clicking here