"Battlestar Galactica," A Frakking Good TV Show

8 years ago

In three weeks, fans of good TV science fiction are going to be in mourning.  That's when "Battlestar Galactica" will conclude its five year run on the SciFi Channel.

If you've never seen BSG you've been missing some very entertaining television because the show is frakking great.  Er, excuse my French.

BSG does everything great science fiction should do, make us think about our current circumstances, our impact as humans on the universe and each other, and also gives us a mirror of our own time reflected in a fictional world.  BSG does all that with depth and intelligence...and some really good space battles.

 

To my eternal shame, I only started watching BSG during a TV
dead zone late last summer.  After hearing such great things about the show from people I trust, I thought it was time to check it out.  Man, am I glad I did!

I got one DVD set after another and watched them voraciously.  I'm actually glad I watched the episodes that way, because no way could I have waited from season to season for all those nail biting cliffhangers to be resolved.

If I'd had to wait months instead of days for all twelve human/Cylons to be revealed one by one, I would have been ripping my hair out.

A little history about the show:  BSG is a retelling of the old BSG TV show from 1978 starring Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, and Lorne Greene.  It was a television offshoot of the "Star Wars" craze and like most TV sci-fi of the time, had cheesy effects, clearly drawn good and evil characters and a hotshot pilot who liked women and big cigars.  The problem was, the best thing about the show was the opening theme music and consequently the show lasted only one season.

Enter executive producer Ronald D. Moore 25 years later.  He re-worked the original Glen A. Larson idea, used first class special effects, hired fantastic actors led by Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos and put together a knock out 3 hour miniseries that led to the current series run on SciFi.

The plot?  Human created robots, called Cylons rebel against the human race eventually wiping out all but about 50,000 people.  They then evolve into beings that can look like humans and hide among the fleet of spaceships carrying the human survivors they are pursuing. 

The Galactica, a military battlestar is the protector of this fleet of refugees looking for a permanent home, Earth.  It's commanded by Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos) while the civilians are led by a woman who's dying of breast cancer, President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell). 

And remember Starbuck from the old series?  Well he's no longer a he, but a she.  Played with vibrant gusto by Katee Sackhoff, Starbuck is still the best pilot in the fleet, still smokes big cigars and loves drinking, gambling and men.

SCI FI Channel 2008 Upfront Party

In fact, the show is filled with fabulous women characters.  Not only Starbuck and President Roslin, but communications officer Anastasia "Dee" Dualla, and several incarnations of Cylon/human women played by Tricia Helfer, Grace Park and a guest starring Lucy Lawless.

BSG has mysticism, messy politics, and characters who are well drawn and fascinating.  The writing is excellent, and why not with people like former "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" writer Jane Espenson penning several scripts and eventually acting as co-executive producer.

Now be warned I'm about to reveal some plot points. 

Needless to say, the blogosphere has been buzzing about this show since it started and now that the end is near, that buzz has reached a mighty roar.

If you're a fan of the show, you must read Maureen Ryan's Chicago Tribune blog, The Watcher, for weekly show updates and behind the scenes interviews with the cast and crew.

Richard Hatch of the original 70's show had a recurring role in the current one and after his character Tom Zarek was executed for treason a few weeks ago, Hatch himself wrote a very interesting comment on one of Ryan's posts defending Zarek's actions.

On the flip side, Dirk Benedict, the original Starbuck, thinks the new BSG is fraked up.  He wrote all about it in a much discussed article for Big Hollywood, "Lt. Starbuck...Lost In Castration:"

There was a time, I know I was there, when men were men, women were women and sometimes a cigar was just a good smoke. But 40 years of feminism have taken their toll. The war against masculinity has been won. Everything has turned into its opposite, so that what was once flirting and smoking is now sexual harassment and criminal. And everyone is more lonely and miserable as a result.

One thing is certain. In the new un-imagined, re-imagined world of "Battlestar Galactica" everything is female driven. The male characters, from Adama on down, are confused, weak and wracked with indecision, while the female characters are decisive, bold, angry as hell, puffing cigars (gasp!) and not about to take it any more. 

I get the sense Dirk is a tad upset.  I don't know what show he's been watching, but in the show I watch, Adama's never been "weak and wracked with indecision" and there are plenty of macho males to go around.  Namely Karl "Helo" Agathon (Tahmoh Penikett currently on "Dollhouse"), Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan), and Jamie Bamber (Lee Adama). 

The 600+ comments on Dirk's Big Hollywood post went back and forth over whether Benedict was a has-been actor who was jealous he didn't get a role in the new version, or a male patriot ripping the wool off the eyes of we duped, female loving viewers.  It all makes for fascinating reading.

Jeff Fecke over at Blog Of The Moderate Left wrote a scathing rebuttal to Benedict's rant:

Of course, there are an awful lot of men out there who find themselves plagued by doubt sometimes. But Benedict doesn't want to see them. Because in his mind, he was playing a man's man, a guy who was the apotheosis of tough guy. And it's got to hurt him that in a fair fight, Katee Sackhoff's Starbuck could kick his Starbuck's ass. But she could, every single time, in any fight from piloting to boxing to painting to acting. Stop blaming your inadequacies on feminism, Dirk. It's really just you

Sue Brennan, a women's studies professor who taught a class on "Gender, Race and Sexuality in Pop Culture" at Ohio State University talks about President Roslin in a thoughtful article by Hugh Hart of Wired, "Strong Women Steer 'Battlestar Galactica's' Final Voyage:

"There isn't this idea that women are going to be guided by their hormones," Brennan said. "With Roslin, she makes at lot of tough decisions that are not compelled by her feminine intuition. At the same time, in the second season, she had that whole weird mystic breakdown religious experience that sort of played into her femininity."

Then there are those who think the show isn't feminist enough.  There was recently a big discussion at Feminist SF -The Blog about the "Gynocide" on BSG.  Namely, too many women characters being killed off.   Ariel Wetzel wrote:

Much to my disappointment, in the premiere of the last stretch of Battlestar Galactica, another prominent female character died.

Battlestar Galactica strives to be genderblind both in casting and in the show's military structure, and as a result I find it to be much less sexist than what usually comes out of Hollywood. But a major flaw in a "genderblind" show is a denial of the pervasive and internalized sexism that informs the creators of that show.

I don't quite agree with that.  My opinion is more in line with Sigrid Ellis at Thinking Too Much:

Male and female characters on BSG get to be sexy. They get to be neurotic. They get to be confident, arrogant, hubristic and wrong. Characters on BSG make absolutely stupid decisions for reasons good, bad, impulsive, planned, rational and spiritual. The men are not all rational and the women all emotional. The women are not all scheming and the men all dupes. The men are not all stoic and the women hysterical.

And Melissa Silverstein at Women and Hollywood:

When I talk about Battlestar with friends I always say that it is a "post gender" show. Gender is not something discussed in any way on the show and it always comes off as liberating. It's not the women are desexualized at all, it's just that it doesn't seem to matter in the greater scheme of things whether the pilot flying next to you is a guy or a girl.  

This fall the SciFi Channel will debut a new series that's a BSG prequel.  It's called "Caprica" and will take place on the planet Caprica before the Cylons attack.  Jane Espenson will be the executive producer and I'll be sure to add that show to my TV viewing calendar as soon as it debuts.

If you've never seen BSG, I highly recommend it, even if you don't usually like science fiction.  My one suggestion though is to watch it from the very beginning and leave yourself lots of viewing time.

 

Related Links:

The Hathor Legacy:  "Roslin As Female President"

A SciFi Wire interview with Kandyse McClure who played Dualla. 

Ten things Gretchen loves about BSG, at Gretch A Sketch.

The Angry Black Woman's meeting with BSG executive producer Ronald Moore and what she told him about black people on the show.

A post about the 3rd anniversary of black sci-fi writer, Octavia Butler's death from Chally at Zero At The Bone.

 

Megan Smith is the BlogHer Contributing Editor covering Television and Online Video and will sorely miss "Battlestar Galactica" when it's gone. Her personal entertainment blog is Megan's Minute, Quirky Commentary Around The Clock.

This is an article written by a member of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.
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