So Say We All: Thoughts on Battlestar Gallactica (Part One)

*CONTAINS SPOILERS*

How frakking crazy am I?! I watched all 4 seasons of Battlestar Galactica in less than 3 weeks. This was geekiest and best thing I have done a while.  Battlestar with all its cheesy graphics and (at times) ridiculous dialogue really gets it right.The “it” I’m referring to is that the writers really understand how to engage the viewer and make them forget that BSG is imagined world full of bad CGI. The themes in BSG are not new, especially to the world of Sci-Fi. At its core, BSG is another humanity vs technology story. The ethics and morality of humanity come into question when cylons, first created by man, are now human-like. The cylons send a human-like agent to infiltrate the defense main frame of the main colony, Caprica (#6). War begins and only the oldest ships that are not affected by the defense mainframe can survive. The Battlestar Galactica is on its last day before being turned into a museum when the cylons attack the colonies. Since it fought in the last cylon war and is unaffected by the breech, its members are left to protect the remaining survivors of mankind. In this post, I’m just going to give an overview of some of the elements that I think make the show really work.

The members of Galactica are where the real story lies. The characters are extremely well-written and complicated (some bad acting aside). Their lives after the attack forces them to live in constant fear of death or more importantly, of ruining humanity’s only chance of survival. Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) is my favorite character. Throughout the series, the audience gets to see his character grow, his views change. The complex relationship he has with his son, Lee ‘Apollo’ Adama (Jamie Bamber) is showcased in one of the first tense scenes of the first episode. Adama and Apollo are cold towards one another and their dialogue is fragmented. The audience does not know why there is such tension between father and son. Apollo is forced to be on the Battlestar for its final voyage, but after the attack, he is stuck on the BSG. Adama and Apollo are forced to interact with each other. This forced relationship really struggles at first, but the viewer can see how similar the two men are as leaders. Through leadership, the two find commonality, and their relationship becomes one of mutual respect. Watching Adama on screen is truly powerful. The more the viewer discovers about Adama’s character, the more Olmos finds ways of making the character a deeply personable, believable figure.

Adama’s relationship with his drunken comedic sidekick, XO Saul Tigh ( Michael Hogan) highlights one of the shows constant questions: What defines humanity? From the very beginning Adama knows his XO is a mess, yet he remains loyal to Tigh.  Adama’s trust becomes the basis of his breakdown (a truly wonderful scene). In the final season, Adama learns Tigh, his loyal friend is a cylon. Saul Tigh chose not be a  traitor toaster and wanted only to continue his role in saving humanity as  Adama’s second in command. After many many many drinks of ambrosia, Adama realizes that the cylons cannot just be wires and hardware. If the cylons are anything like Saul Tigh, they are in many ways human. At that point, Adama chooses to believe the definition of humanity lies in something more spiritual, not in science, DNA. Tigh’s level of loyalty cannot be mechanized, and this epiphany causes a real change in the tone of the show. I needed a lot of tissue to get through some of the scenes with Tigh and Adama because they were so… human.

Speaking of crying like a sentimental basket case when watching fictional characters on a Sci-Fi show, I sobbed quite a few times when watching Adama’s relationship with the dying President Laura Roslin (Mary Mcdonnell). President Roslin takes office only when it is announced she is the highest rank official still alive after the cylon attack. As former Secretary of Education, Roselin has no real leadership experience, so watching her find her voice is really refreshing. Roselin makes tough decisions that many times ruffles Adama’s military feathers, yet she manages to always find the best solution. It is only when she is voted out of office in the third season, and sneaky Gaius Baltar (James Callis) becomes president, do we see how intimate the relationship between Adama and Roslin can get. As tough and finite both Adama and Roslin can be with their decisions, their relationship is soft and charming. Because of their duties, they create a bond that is beautiful to watch on-screen and devastating to see its end. They become each other’s moral compass in order to guide humanity towards salvation. Ultimately, it is their love affair that surpasses all others. There love endures time, war, and eventually, death.

Lee Adama and Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace (Katee Sackoff) are probably the most talked about characters throughout the Galactica series because of their complex relationship. Starbuck is Lee’s deceased brother’s ex-fiance (say what?!), but their attraction towards one another from the very first episode is juicy. Although both characters have a deep love for one another, their relationship has many layers that unravel very slowly throughout the season. Starbuck and Apollo are usually at two different ends of story arc. Their relationship is always displaced by situations, people, or their own moral obligations. As the seasons change, their relationship reflects what is occurring on the ship– most notably, the divide between reason and religion. As the ship struggles with faith, Starbuck serves as a religious symbol. When the characters are in need of action and social justice Lee serves as a symbol of reason. Lee and Kara, much like religion and reason, are always at odds, yet they intermingle and long to exist together. In season one, because of the chaos occurring following the cylon attack, they unite to become a formidable force on the ship. They are both leaders and regardless of some fights over who slept with who, they manage to stay best friends. As the seasons progress, Lee is more of a political figure and less of a comrade. Kara struggles but ultimately, comes to term with her own fate of being a religious messenger. They stand at opposite ends of the spectrum, but even though their destinies are separate, they come together to save humanity.

There are a lot of characters and crazy dramatic relationships in BSG. At times it seems more like a Russian novel. Maybe I need a character map? I just wanted to highlight some of the characters that really make BSG work, but I am not done. I will most definitely post a second post where I will talk about the infamous BSG ending. Because that post, my friends, deserves some real attention.

To Be Continued….

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