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Television Round-Up: Battlestar Galactica

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I thought I would write about some of the television series that have been entertaining me recently, even though they are way behind the times. But this was going to happen a lot, especially when the shows are coming over from the US and don’t appear on free-to-air channels (in other words – I don’t have Sky One).

Let’s start with the show that has blown my mind the most: Battlestar Galactica.

My blog-reading meant that I had heard good things about BSG long before it arrived over here. As far as I know, it hasn’t reached terrestrial UK television yet, only airing on Sky, but it shouldn’t be long before one of the channels will have the good sense to snap it up and put it on at a sensible hour. It’s that good.

I arrived fairly late to the BSG party, back in June of 2006, but the sheer entertaining quality of the show meant that I quickly developed a taste for it and had to devour it as quickly as possible.

I saw the thirteen episodes of series one (with the prequel mini-series on DVD in between) in chronological order. When I saw the cliffhanger at the end of the series, I knew I had no choice but to see series two on DVD because I couldn’t wait that long until it came out on (on Freeview channel) Sky Three.

The brilliance of this update of the cheesy original is that it does everything right – from the characters to the acting to the action to the suspense to the twists to the story development. It’s almost impossible to believe that something this good sprung from something so ordinary. It is the power of the bond that develops between the characters and the audience that makes the cliffhanger at the end of series one such a palpable shock.

Essentially the same as the original, this version of BSG sees the Cylons destroy most of the human population of the twelve colonies by infiltrating important positions with Cylons that look human and are almost impossible to detect. The only battleship that survives the attack from the Cylon fleet is the Galactica, an old ship that was to be decommissioned but, due to its age, is immune from the attack to the computer systems that disabled the human fleet. Using this ship as the beacon for the surviving human (civilian) ships, including the new president of the twelve colonies, the former school teacher and Secretary of Education, the Galactica – under the leadership of Commander Adama – heads an exodus away from the Cyclons and towards salvation.

That is a mere taster of the basis of the series. With its real-world feel to the science fiction and its use of real-world issues to drive stories, this is compelling, rewarding, intelligent drama that just happens to be set in the sci-fi genre. When Time magazine said it was one of the best six dramas on television, they were right. However, they said that about the second series, which wasn’t as strong throughout its 20 episodes (Scar wasn’t as strong, and the episode introducing Lucy Lawless to the cast seemed a wasted hour except for the reveal) as the even better series one. That’s how good it is.

Having devoured the second series on DVD in a heady rush of a few weeks, I now have to wait for some time before I see the third series because I don’t have cable/satellite. Every week, the Guardian Guide recommends it as one of the programmes to watch on its day of airing, and I have to not read that section in order not to have it spoiled for me. With the end of the second series pulling off the wonderful trick of having an incredible ending to all the plotlines AND setting up the next series by having the last 10 minutes fast-forward to a year after the events of the that just happened, I have to confess that the wait is absolute agony.

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