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The weakest of the 5 seasons by far, but required viewing to understand the terrific series
on August 14, 2011
Fascinating, sometimes maddening mix of wonderful and silly,
intelligent and dumb, insightful and obvious.
At it's best it's the 'Wire' of science fiction, challenging
'Battlestar Galactica' for intelligence and emotional depth. At it's
worst, it's like an OK episode of 'Lost in Space'.
Generally far more intelligent than most TV sci-fi (or recent sci-fi
films for that matter), with stories based more on ideas than laser
battles. In that, it's a little reminiscent of the original 'Star Trek'
The most interesting thing; this was an early case of a series having a
pre-planned multi-year arc, so throughout there are sometimes seemingly
throwaway details that suddenly return to be finally explained as
having great importance a season or two or three later. On the other
hand, because this preceded the acceptance of truly serial cable shows,
each episode is more self contained than more recent shows in a
sometimes annoyingly neat way.
The show is also full of allusions; Shakespeare, the Bible, Buddhism,
King Arthur, the Koran. Certainly the writing is grounded in pretty
heady stuff. Of course, sometimes it's dealt with in a pretty heavy
The setting is a space station that's sort of an intergalactic United
Nations. In season 1, some of the acting is so stiff, that it brings
the series down. Also, the effects, production design, etc. all reflect
a budget that's clearly way too low, giving it all an amateurish air.
None-the-less, I found myself caught up in a number of the episodes,
both emotionally and intellectually. One even brought tears to my eyes.
And the layering in of deep mysteries only slowly solved gives it a
sense of deeper meaning and arc.
One running problem of the series, the villains tended to be a little
'Snidely Whiplash', complete with black costumes and deep scary voices.
It got a little better as the series went along, but I wish the 'bad
guys' were a little less cartoony.
I wish the series was even more consistently great, but - in the end - it was
more than good enough.