Sunday, February 27, 2005

'Battlestar Galactica' - the new TV phenomenon.

Geeks in their 30s - very much like ourselves – probably remember the old Battlestar Galactica, the cheezy late-70s cult-series that tried to capitalize on the Star War success.

This new version, which started as a mini-series on Sci-Fi has become a TV phenomenon. Not only has it been critically acclaimed, it has also become the network's biggest hit, averaging more than 3 million viewers per episode, throwing the Sci Fi Channel to the top spot in cable for five consecutive Fridays.

The story of the show revolves around Cylons - human-made robots who've learned to take on human form - and have just destroyed billions of people. The only survivors from this devastation are a ragtag fleet of ships, which were getting ready to retire and call it quits. Now, these ships and the people they house have been thrust into the position of being the sole opportunity to advance the human race into the future.

The reason for this unexpected success can be explained in several ways:

  • a good cast playing characters that seem more like real people having a real bad day,
  • good writing (with no archetypal sketches of good and evil so prevalent in many Sci-Fi shows),
  • and with state-of-the-art special effects.

But above all, it is the post-traumatic world into which the characters are thrown that makes it interesting. It plays with the audience’s emotional ties to their own post-9/11 environment of course and each character is challenged while the viewer is never lectured. The enemy is no longer the old toaster-like robots with the flashing red eyes as the Cylons have been ‘updated’ to now look very human, even becoming suicide bombers.
The greatest achievement of this series is probably to redefine the genre of space opera by giving it gritty realism.

To be noted: The SciFi channel has planned for another season to be aired in the summer. In the meantime, it has made Episode '33' (Season 1 Episode 1) of Battlestar Galactica available for free, uncut and commercial free, online at Also available are deleted scenes from the series. Whether this is a a ploy used by the Sci Fi channel to attract more viewers or just a bold move, it’s a pretty cool thing to do.


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