Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The best frackkin' show ever!

No I am not one of those sci-fi freaks. I don't normally watch sci-fi at all and I hate any scifi show and that includes Stargate, star trek and even star wars. So yeah, I hate any show that has 'star' in it especially 'dancing with the stars'. However, Battlestar Galactica is an extraordinary exception. What attracts me is not the sci-fi elements of the show, it's the drama and the show's outlook on some current issues like religious fanaticisms and the Iraq war.

Don't believe me? (It's not that surprising anyway coz judging from my dismal marks in persuasive writing in high school, my chances of making it big as a politician or even a salesperson is practically 0). Then let someone else change your mind about BSG.

Source: The Arizona Republic

Found in space

Bill Goodykoontz
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 18, 2006 12:00 AM
OK, OK, already: Battlestar Galactica is a great frakkin' show.

Sorry, got carried away there. Me, a newbie, using Battlestar lingo. Won't happen again. No real fan would stand for it.

Because, like any good genre show worth its salt, the updated tale of war between humans and Cylons inspires intense loyalty among its fans. Which is a polite way of saying that sci-fi freaks are nastily protective of their show.

And in this case, they deserve to be.

Battlestar Galactica, much to my delight, turns out to be less a traditional sci-fi TV show and very much more a character-driven drama, thick with political allegory, moral ambiguity and only the occasional spaceship battle. It transcends genre in much the same way Buffy the Vampire Slayer did. Where that show used metaphor to shine a light on the horrors of high school, Battlestar goes for bigger game, using conventional sci-fi to examine, among other things, the war in Iraq, its costs and consequences.

It's a show that deserves, even demands, to be seen by anyone who loves good television. And I was late to the party - a glaring omission.

"I'm on board," said Peter Lehman, the director of the Center for Film and Media Research at Arizona State University. "I just think on a lot of different levels it's a very thoughtful and engaging series. . . . I like Battlestar Galactica better than Star Wars. I think it's better than Star Wars."

Heresy? No way.

As for my late start, there are excuses (someone else wanted to write about the show when it debuted, only so many hours in the day, failed attempt at having a life outside of watching TV nonstop), but they don't really matter. What does matter is that after a Battlestar marathon and a chat with one of the executive producers, I'm on board. And if you're not, you should be. The only question I had after hours of episodes was a simple one: Exactly who am I supposed to be rooting for here?

"Who told you you needed to be told who to root for?" asked David Eick, a Phoenix native and one of the show's executive producers. "That's just a convention you've grown accustomed to. That's a convention of the times we're in. That's never necessarily been the case in drama or good storytelling."

And Battlestar is that.

To recap the entire story would take far too long - it's complicated, but not so much so that you should let it prevent you from diving in - but here's the short version: Cylons were created by humans and eventually rose up against them. They evolved over time, so that they now look like people, some of them, and not just chrome-plated kitchen utensils.

Naturally, they want to wipe out the creatures who created them, and they did a pretty good job of it, managing to kill all but a few more than 50,000 humans in a surprise attack. Those survivors, led by Adm. William Adama (Edward James Olmos) and Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), a former secretary of education elevated to the presidency after the attack, took to a battleship named Galactica and headed off for a planet that may be just a myth: Earth.

Of course, the Cylons are in hot pursuit, their single-minded purpose driven by - metaphor alert - religious fanaticism.

As the second season ended, humans thought they'd found safe haven on New Caprica, but the Cylons followed them. Rather than kill everyone, they decided to allow the humans to live under occupation (the humans have since fled).

Any parallels you want to draw to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, feel free. And note: the Cylons, not the humans, are the ones doing the occupying.

"Clearly we knew we were going to do a story that was going to evoke what was going on on CNN," Eick said. "Once those seeds were planted, it was a very natural thing."

No choices are easy. The humans strained under the yoke of the increasingly brutal Cylons and resorted to savage tactics, including, at the beginning of the third season, the use of suicide bombings. How human is that?

When Col. Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan), the drunken former second-in-command on Galactica and a leader of the insurgency on New Caprica, found out that his wife, Ellen (Kate Vernon), betrayed his comrades in an effort to save him, he killed her. How far are we willing to go in service to a cause, noble or otherwise?

Those kinds of questions lie at the heart of Battlestar. Other hot-button issues have included genocide and stem-cell research (or at least a reasonable stand-in). This is heady stuff for a television show to tackle, much less a genre show, yet it's the smartest Iraq portrayal out there, in any media. In this case, the genre format is a blessing; a straight-on take - a lightly disguised, traditional fictional account of the war, say - would be too tough to stomach, particularly with both sides being so morally slippery. The sci-fi trappings allow the show to take aim at difficult targets in a more palatable way. Which isn't to say the violence - and more importantly, the choices about when and how to use it - is anything less than teeth-kicking in its intensity.

When plotting out the new version of the show, Eick said, the producers decided, "If we're going to do this, let's try to make it feel real. Once you say it's a society that's been devastated by a holocaust, it leaves you very little wiggle room to say, 'Hey, let's do the casino planet,' which is what they do in the original Battlestar."

Oh yeah, that. The 1978 version was a campy affair - Lorne Green in space, no less. The current edition retains some basic plot elements from the original, but it's obviously a much darker show.

The Sci-Fi Channel occasionally suggests a somewhat lighter touch, Eick said, but none of the attempts seems to work out that way. The episodes in which they try to lighten up become their most depraved. He pointed to an episode in the first season that was going to be a laugh riot, ha-ha, but by the time Olmos stepped behind the camera to direct, things had taken a different turn. The episode included Ellen Tigh "swinging from the rafters with her legs wrapped around Tigh's neck, thrusting her pelvis in his face.

"It's just not in our destiny to do the light or the morally deliberate episode," Eick said.

Sounds like. And that's a good thing.

After escaping the Cylon occupation on New Caprica, the humans are once again searching for Earth. But now so are the Cylons, who have decided they want to make the planet, if it exists, their home. Gaius Baltar (James Callis), a genius who manages to get himself into some incredibly stupid trouble - he allowed his Cylon lover access to defense secrets that led to the attack that nearly annihilated the human race, oops - is trying to prove his worth to the Cylons so that they won't kill him. (Baltar is perhaps the show's most intriguing character, at least when he's acting crazy. He's somewhat wasted negotiating for his life trapped on a Cylon ship.)

Of course, proving his worth involves putting his fellow humans in jeopardy - old hat to Baltar, and typical of the dilemmas the show's characters face (though most struggle with them a little more than he does).

"We win this particular battle, but there's a cost," Eick said of the consequences of what seems like everything that happens on the show. "We win, but there is an ethical compromise."

That doesn't sound like science fiction. That sounds like real life.

And that's what makes Battlestar Galactica frakkin' great.

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