Battlestar Galactica Premieres Tonight
By McGee Noble
This fourth and final season of Battlestar Galactica (Sky One, tonight, 9pm) makes some of us quiver with anticipation and others shrug and say ‘so?’ To those latter people: Scat. Get. Go on, get outta here. Go watch Hollyoaks.
To the former, gather in, gather in, and I’ll tell you a little about what’s in store for you.
The fleet is on the run and Starbuck has returned claiming that she’s found the mythical Earth. We’ve got Cylons aplenty and humans who have found they are not as human as they thought. There’s fights in space, love, loyalty and betrayal. All the stuff that makes Battlestar Galactica so very watchable.
When this show first began in 2005 it was amid a storm of protest from fans of the original show, with particular damnation heaped on the decision to cast Starbuck as a woman. Dirk Benedick, who played the orginal Starbuck commented at the time “What a sad fate to happen to Starbuck. I don’t know why they’ve done this; it’s kind of mystifying.” In fact several actors from the original series who were supposed to guest star in the re-make pulled out in disgust over the changes, however showrunner Ronald Moore stood strong with his vision.
And a good thing he did too.
The new Battlestar Galactica took the old fluffy, family friendly teddy bear of an original and jumped all over it with one booted foot, roughed it up in the mud a little, re-stuffed it with ball bearings and gunpowder and then sat back and watched it explode into television goodness.
In 2001 when Ron Moore came on board to bring the new show to life, it was amidst the world changing events of 9/11 and the profound questions of terror, morality and war that this brought into our social consciousness became central questions of the series. Gone was the fantasatical campness of Star Trek (for those in the know, Ron Moore was a writer and executive producer on Star Trek: The Next Generation and also Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Moore wanted to bring a real war to a science fiction world. As he said before the mini series aired “I don’t want to do Star Trek and Star Wars all over again. There’s a certain style of filmmaking associated with those shows, which is a very romantic, glossy approach to science fiction, with big, lush, orchestral scores, etc… We’re going to try to make it, for want of a better word, more real, a real place, down and dirty, with a sort of ‘You are there’ feel to it. It’s going to be – and this is a bad phrase – a ‘down to Earth’ sort of place.”
Co-producer David Eick supported this “there have been two aesthetic touchstones primarily for this pilot: 2001: A Space Odyssey and Black Hawk Down, both of which are very rooted in reality and both of which still manage to be gripping, suspenseful and exciting.” The handheld camera motion, particularly in space, which was so clearly inspired by Black Hawk Down does exactly what the creators hoped and gives instant grit to the battles.
There is an epic darkness to Battlestar’s premise, because it is essentially about the end of humanity, not just literally but also culturally, metaphysically and theologically. The growing religious fervour of the Cylons (which as you will see in tonight’s episode is becoming an important theme) is one of the things that forces the question of what makes the humans ‘human’, not to mention the discovery by several important characters that they are in fact Cylons. On the one hand the humans in the show have lost much of their humanity in the form of civilisation and culture, while on the other; the Cylons are becoming more human both in civilisation and emotion.
Tonight’s episode begins what will be the final story arc for this series, and for fans of the show this is both a disappointment and a relief. To know the answers to the questions posed in the first episode will be immensely satisfying, but we will surely miss what has been one of the most interesting and well written science fiction shows in many a year. Let’s see if this last season lives up to the promise of the first three.