The best show on television right now is Battlestar Galactica, the re-imagined version of the 1970s campy scifi show of the same name. Unfortunately, BG suffers from being relegated to what one friend has termed “the SciFi Ghetto.”
In literature, there is a divide among readers who perceive some writings to be serious, literary writings and others to be superfluous fluff. Science Fiction writing falls in the latter category. I know – I used to be one of those literary snobs who looked down on anything that be considered fantastic in nature as being second-class in the world of writing. Fortunately, I decided to prove myself correct, and I discovered the wonderful world of science fiction and fantasy. Now, I am equally comfortable reading For Whom The Bell Tolls or The Lovely Bones as I am reading Dhalgren or The Left Hand of Darkness. Good literature is good literature regardless its nature. (I will be writing a fuller article on this subject in the future.)
The same is true in television and film, though a much greater argument exists with regard to science fiction, fantasy, or horror. There has been some real crap out there. The number of really good genre shows is finite. A few of my favorites include Buffy, Angel, and Farscape. But, being one of my favorite shows is a far cry from being the best show on television. Buffy was wonderfully written and acted, and I loved the story arcs, but neither it nor Angel were the best shows on television during their runs. Farscape is by far the best science fiction show to ever grace the television screen. Unfortunately, the show was truly inaccessible to anyone who did not love science fiction – and even a few of those who did could not maintain solid footing while watching this classic show. This is not the case with Battlestar Galactica.
I am not a fan of the original series. My opinion of it has not changed over the years. The show mixed poor writing with campy plots that served the viewer little more than doughy white bread with cheap margarine. I never could figure out why Lorne Greene took the job. On the other hand, one can fathom Edward James Olmos’ decision to assume the mantle of Adama, the highest ranking military commander to survive the murderous attack of the Cylons…man-made robots sent by God to eradicate the imperfection extant in humans. The same is true of Mary McDonnell’s role of Laura Roslin, a third-string cabinet member who managed to be on the right ship at the right time and discovered herself to be the only surviving cabinet member for whom anyone could account. Olmos, an Oscar nominated, Emmy winning actor, along with McDonnell, a twice nominated Oscar contender and Emmy nominated guest actress, sink their teeth into two of the most complex and imperfect characters to ever appear on screen. The warts show. But, so does the bravery, the integrity, and the determination of a man and a woman for whom guardianship of the human race is more than a cliched tagline.
The second season of Battlestar Galactica provides no letdown in quality or complexity of character and plot. Nasty things happen — nasty things one expects to see when a civilization shatters and must reconstruct itself — all the while defending itself daily against a seemingly unstoppable enemy. Probably the strongest hallmark of the show is that it does not take the easy way out when it comes to story resolution. Sure there are characters less likely to die than others; however, if the story required it, there is little doubt that the writers would off a favorite character. The second hallmark that stands out is that the characters are a mix — sometimes really wonderful people, sometimes complete asses who deserve what they get. Apollo and Starbuck…on the original show, they would never have contemplated cold-blooded murder, yet they both wrestle with the need to commit political assasination in the current version of the story. Boomer comes to us as a pregnant Cylon loved by two human men, one of whom is the father of the child she carries. Baltar was an out-and-out bad guy on the 70s show; on this version, he bear a slightly sad, ego-centric, mix of hubris and shame.
The best thing about the current show is its accessibility. Events occur that viewers can understand. Characters offer up traits with which viewers identify. Drama and humor intermix, drawing fans back show after show. Someone new to the story could sit down, watch an episode and come away with a strong sense of who is who and what is going on. Yes, they miss some details, but that only causes the viewer to seek out the repeats so they can catch up with the story arc.
Friday nights on the SciFi Channel were already worth people’s time. With Battlestar Galactica that is even more the case. Watch! Enjoy!