Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Battlestar Galactica バトルスターギャラクティカー

Today I borrowed the series premiere of Sci-Fi Channel's Battlestar Galactica on DVD. I almost never watch TV or movies anymore, but I heard great things about what the Sci-Fi Channel was doing with the program. So I took a look at what the fuss was about.

For those of you who don’t know, the original Battlestar Galactica was a TV program from the late 1970’s. Being a campy rip-off of Star Wars, the program was ultimately cancelled due to poor ratings, reviews, and an enormous budget. The story revolved around a group of people on a giant space-ship/aircraft carrier: the Battlestar Galactica, and their adventures and quest to find Earth. Unfortunately, the program suffocated under the sheer overpowering force of its own cheesiness.

A few years ago, the Sci-Fi Channel decided to resurrect the program (while I was in the process of moving to Japan) and bring it back to TV. The producers preserved many aspects of the original program, including the Cylon villains, numerous character names and the concept of humanity struggling against overwhelming odds. What’s gone is most of the whimsical silliness that both defined and ultimately doomed the original series. They still have some goofy names like Captain Apollo, and use words like ‘frakin,’ that make you cringe a bit. But the show doesn’t take its campiness too far or too seriously, and it isn’t drowning in such waggish drivel like its predecessor did.

More importantly, most themes of the program like the conspiracy plots, character struggles and the moral dilemmas facing the characters are anything but juvenile camp. Unlike my beloved Star Trek, the characters are anything but righteous paragons of virtue such as Captain Picard. The leaders are real people, and like most political leaders, they are often forced to choose between one of two lesser evils. Unlike Captain Picard, Galactica Commander Adama and President Roslin cannot fully depend on the unfailing loyalty and righteousness of their staff. In this sense, the characters could potentially be much more interesting people.

One particular moral dilemna involved a decision about who should live or die. As the human race was attacked by the Cylons, a small crew had the choice to rescue several refugees, but could only take a few. They took straws, until one man was recognized to be a brilliant scientist, Dr. Baltar. Unaware of his treason to humanity, a pilot gives up his seat for the scientist, believing the survival of humanity required the services of his brilliant mind. Commander Adama wisely keeps knowledge of a spy’s presence secret, knowing that public disclosure would lead to a frenzied witch hunt. President Roslin, a government minister of education made president through a long line of succession, rightly suspects the possibility of a military coup during the initial crisis. She knows that her tenuous legally prescribed political influence may hold little sway when surrounded by other people arguably more qualified to make very painful but necessary policy decisions. The characters try to do what is right, but like real people their judgment is often clouded by personal interests, emotions, and other negative character traits. Definitely not Trek.

Being a recovering Trekkie in a 12 step program, the existence of this show will not benefit my recovery. I now intend to watch the entire first season on Dan’s DVDs. While I worry about becoming a TV junkie again, I think this new series is sufficiently hip to justify watching from time to time. Also, with the DVDs I won’t be watching TV commercials, which is one of the reasons I have abstained from watching television for a long period of time.

Here are a couple of other articles to read about the new show. Apocalypse Noir and Battlestar Iraqtica.



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