I didn’t think I’d like the new Battlestar Galactica. For one, I have only a surface affection for sci-fi. Which means, for example, that I enjoyed the first few Star Trek movies, but only watched enough of the television series to grasp the basic characters. To this day, as far as I know, I haven’t seen any of the films featuring later casts.
As for the original BSG, it began airing at a most inopportune time in my life, when I was in youthful Star Wars thrall and wary of impostors. Plus, I was still young enough to grow restless and distracted during scenes of inaction. So to me, a typical episode went like so: Starbuck says something stupid, Apollo does something dull, Adama harrumphs something portentous, and — oh, there’s Boxey! Hi, Boxey! When, oh when, will the Cylons arrive to blow shit up? Mind you, I had the toys. Those were fun. The Cylon Bubble Machine. The little Muffit whatsis. Other than that, BSG was ponderous drool.
So when I started seeing signage around L.A. for the Sci-Fi Channel‘s revival of the franchise, I was sure that cable television was desperate for programming, any programming, shoveling through the television morgue for something to dump on-air.
The reboot had been on a couple of years by the time my friend Amy convinced me it wasn’t dreck. “But I hated the original show!” I spat. “It was so awful!”
“It’s nothing like the original show,” she reasoned. “I think you’d like it if you gave it a shot. It’s very intense.”
Eventually I decided the miniseries couldn’t hurt. No harm, no foul and all. If I loathed it I could file it in DVD oblivion with the rest of my impulsively purchased regret. Then I’d indignantly scratch Amy off my list of friends with taste.
So one empty weekend I dropped cheek to couch and settled in for the extravaganza that revived the forgotten dead. The first couple hours were less than impressive, like a Zalman King declaration of Art with the smut torn out. Perhaps Cinemax sold Sci-Fi its late-night catalog. I also thought James Callis, as Dr. Gaius Baltar, lucked into the gig of his life, his only direction being, “You’re trapped in these idyllic locations with the half-naked Tricia Helfer. Look soulful, aaaand action!”
But then I started getting into it. The apocalpyse. The evacuation. The religious underpinnings. The relationships between characters forced together by trauma. I wasn’t bothered by Starbuck remolded as a woman, though Katee Sackhoff, whom I’d previously seen as a shrill goon in the execrable Halloween: Resurrection, was an acquired taste — one I acquired quickly. I was suddenly and deeply involved in this multilayered narrative of humans and Cylons floating through space. While I missed the Cylon garb from the original series, as well as the data burps of “By your command,” I loved the idea of the race developing humanoid models. Plus, the new Centurions, if I may devolve to 12, looked badass. It was all so exciting and fraught with dread.
I also loved the slang developed to swerve the censors. Frak. Godsdamn. (Galactica‘s humans worship deities, plural, while the Cylons acknowledge only one.) I loved the denunciation of enemies as “skinjobs” and “toasters,” and of sympathizers as “toaster lovers.” I love the show’s fearless willingness to veer into shadows. If Season 1 was a little dark, Season 2 forgot to pay its electric bill. Hope surfaced in Season 3, at least as I remember, and Season 4 was all that’s best of dark and bright, with a darkness in light to wrap up the year. I loved how the Galactica crew and their Cylon adversaries (now tenuous allies) believed Earth held the answer to everything, only to learn that Earth was not the utopia of their fantasies. It was gnarled wreckage under blue skies, the site of its own apparent apocalypse.
And then there’s the matter of the Final Five, the original Cylon humanoids. After being teased with their existence, we soon learned the identities of four — and two were wowzers. It took me some time to accept Colonel Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan) as a skinjob and not a cruel script twist. Even more heartbreaking was Galen “Chief” Tyrol‘s (Aaron Douglas) realization that he, too, was a Cylon, married to a woman whose hatred of toasters was a murderous matter of record. That we went through Season 4 without assembling the final piece was maddening.
But tonight, in about, oh, five hours, the last Cylon will be revealed. Scout’s honor. I don’t know how to feel about that quite yet. Whoever it is, it’s bound to feel anticlimactic. Conjecture with friends was a lot more fun. I’ve bounced around on this issue a lot over these last few months, waiting for the premiere. Back in Season 3 I was sure it was President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), but when one of the Final Five turned out to be her assistant, Tory Foster (Rekha Sharma), that path seemed to grow cold. This year I began to suspect Zak Adama, late son of Bill (the stalwart Edward James Olmos), fallen brother of Lee (Jamie Bamber), who had died before the miniseries began. His name came up in two episodes after having not been discussed in some time, as if the creators were reminding us of his existence. Of course, that could be that old storytelling ploy, the red herring, the false lead.
This afternoon I set my sights on Doc Cottle (Donnelly Rhodes — anyone remember him from Soap?), partly in jest, partly because it kinda makes sense. Wouldn’t the Final Five have positioned themselves strategically among the humans in case of a shitstorm? They’d have access to the President (Tory), the bridge (Tigh), and the fleet (Chief and former freedom-fighter “Longshot” Anders [Michael Trucco]). Why not a provocateur with the crew’s literal health at his mercy? But then, how about … oh, I can’t take the suspense!
Whatever. I’ll be glued to my set at ten. I want no spoilers, no interruptions. May this last season of Battlestar Galactica be its greatest. So say we all.