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Wandering in the deserts of space
on February 13, 2006
'There are those who believe
that life here began out there...'
Thus begins the tale of Battlestar Galactica, full of meaning and hope and mystical importance, spoken with the majestic voice of Patrick Macnee (best known from The Avengers).
Okay, enough theology for the moment.
Or, maybe not. The first episode, a movie-length introduction to the series, along with the first several episodes, definitely has theological undercurrents. It is the fight between good and evil. It is a wandering in the desert (of space) looking for the promised land. It is about hope and humanity, sensitivity and courage.
And, as a 12 year old (when I first saw it) I of course understood none of this. I merely loved the special effects in my own home (as opposed to the Star Wars which required payment at the movie theatre), the characters and the technology. I was amazed that every computer on the bridge set of the Galactica actually worked.
Today I'm amazed that the computer on which I'm typing this review has more power than all those computers combined!
The story is basic. Ambush in space because of a monumental betrayal by a sinister bad guy who is in turn double-crossed (Baltar), a quickly-organised escape from the evil mechanical Cylons (who both symbolise the terrors of technology as well as of autocratic rule--remember the Cold War?), a daring journey, and finally a hope. Unfortunately the series became a wandering in the desert with little hope for reaching the promised land, and in television-series timelines and lifelines, this just wasn't acceptable.
In video form, the entire series was not available. It was frustrating that not all of them are available, as watching them in sequence left some gaps. However, there are enough dedicated fans who would purchase these (as is evidenced by the amount of BG 'junk' being auctioned at ebay and other such places) that the DVD generation has made all of the episodes available. This includes the complete set of Battlestar Galactica (please note that Galactica: 1980 is a different, if related, series).
The series was fated only to last one year, due to high costs (a million an episode may be a standard 'ER' actor's salary, but back then it was big bucks even in Hollywood), a slumping viewership (which in retrospect was never as small as reported), and an overall lack of direction (not just that of the fleet). The journey was just taking too long for the era of instant gratification.
The first episode is a three-hour extravanganza. The whole premise is set up here, and the rest of the episodes look back to this set-up. The acting is fairly basic, occasionally rising above a level playing field (particularly Lorne Greene, the leading figure as Commander Adama), but the audience was supposed to be so 'wowed' by the special effects and sets that they wouldn't notice the slightly-above-average acting. For the time, the effects were great; some scenes still hold up well.
The plot of this film goes from the destruction of the colonies, through the assembly of the 'rag-tag, fugitive fleet' to a final battle with some Cylon Death Stars, leaving an open-ended but hopeful conclusion between Apollo (Richard Hatch) and Starbuck (Dirk Benedict in pre- A-Team days).
Outstanding episodes of the series include Living Legends (guest starring Lloyd Bridges), the Man with Nine Lives (with Fred Astair), the War of the Gods (with Patrick Macnee out of the shadows of Imperious Leader) and the three-episode arc when the Galactica encounters a planet named Terra, which is very earth-like in appearance.
There are documentary/interview segments worthwhile, including Dirk Benedict, Glen Larson (the creator/producer) and long-term fan and advocate/star, Richard Hatch. There is also a trailer for the new Sci-Fi soon-to-be released series.