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Battlestar Galactica - The Series
Review by Drew Bittner
SciFi Channel TV Series  ISBN/ITEM#: B00005JNTP
Date: Fri, Jan 14 9/8C (premier) / Show Official Info /

Official Site: www.scifi.com/battlestar

IMDB Site: BattleStar Galactica (2004)

Series Developer: Ronald Moore
Cast: Edward James Olmos .... Commander William Adama / Mary McDonnell .... President Laura Roslin / Katee Sackhoff .... Lt. Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace / Jamie Bamber .... Captain Lee 'Apollo' Adama / James Callis .... Doctor Gaius Baltar / Tricia Helfer .... Number Six / Grace Park .... Lt. Sharon 'Boomer' Valerii / Michael Hogan .... Col. Paul Tigh / Paul Campbell .... Billy Keikeya / Tahmoh Penikett .... Lt. Karl 'Helo' Agathon / Kandyse McClure .... Petty Officer 2nd Dualla / Alessandro Juliani .... Lt. Gaeta

Wow. This is not your father's Battlestar Galactica.

The 1970s series, coming hard on the heels of Star Wars, emphasized flash and excitement over the opening tragedy of billions killed and humanity's scant survivors hurtling into interstellar space. Apollo, Starbuck and the rest fought clunky robot soldiers, flew sleek space borne fighters and made the series as much a "wagon train in space" as a struggle to survive relentless attacks from a merciless enemy.

Not so this new incarnation.

Last year's miniseries set the tone. Mankind has been all but eliminated by their 'prodigal children?, the Cylons. With models able to pass as human (great shades of Terminator!), they infiltrated the Colonies, subverted their defenses (with the unwitting help of self-absorbed genius Gaius Baltar [James Callis]), and unleashed hellfire on the unsuspecting planets. A small number managed to escape and join a flotilla defended by the remnants of the Colonial military-- including the mothballed Battlestar Galactica. Led by President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) and Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos), the survivors now hope to find a mythical thirteenth colony known as Earth.

In the first episode of the series, "33?, the flotilla has been run ragged avoiding Cylon attacks. Every 33 minutes, the fleet must jump to a new location. The incessant pounding is taking its toll on the crew, who have been going without sleep for over a hundred hours straight. Baltar's ongoing hallucination of his Cylon paramour Number Six (Victoria's Secret model Tricia Helfer)-- or is it hallucination? -- gets worse, as she goads him toward greater and greater betrayals and his sanity deteriorates.

The question in everyone's mind is how the Cylons keep tracking them--and when they realize the answer, the president must make a shattering decision to sacrifice over a thousand lives to preserve the fleet.

The second episode, "Water?, opens with Lt. Sharon Valerii, aka 'Boomer' (Grace Park) waking, soggy and disoriented, in a weapons locker. Horrified, she realizes that six detonators are missing... and when the Galactica's water tanks are blown up, venting precious water into space, she is the only logical suspect. Her guilt is covered up with help from a disbelieving friend, but the damage is done and the suspicion grows in her mind: could she be a Cylon agent?

This suspicion is more than confirmed by the sight of a second Boomer on the bombed-out world of Caprica, helping her comrade 'Helo' (Tahmoh Penikett) survive Cylon patrols. It quickly becomes clear that Boomer is a Cylon production model... but her attachment to Helo (like Six's attachment to Baltar) is nonetheless puzzling and intriguing. Do the Cylons have a perverse fixation on humanity? Or is there a deeper game being played, with humanity's numbers whittled down to a manageable few? Regular references to God by Baltar's Number Six only add to the mystery.

The third episode, "Bastille Day?, features a tense prison standoff led by Tom Zarek (Richard Hatch, "Apollo" from the original series). The convicts are needed to mine an ice planet to replenish the water supply. Zarek is a political prisoner with an apparent death wish, whose stated goal is real democratic elections -- he judges Roslin's presidency invalid and unsupported by the will of the people. Lt. Lee Adama, aka 'Apollo' (Jamie Bamber) faces down his opponent even as Lt. Kara Thrace, aka 'Starbuck' (Katee Sackhoff) storms the ship with the fleet's Colonial marines and escalates the tension to its breaking point.

The series to date has been extraordinarily dark, but show 'reinventor' Ronald Moore shows tremendous courage in presenting such raw, stark storylines. The crises faced by the survivors are many and the new series does not shy from presenting them. The plots and subplots are myriad and this review cannot hope to summarize them, much less critique each one, but viewers are amply rewarded by keeping up with the series.

If the writing is top-notch, the acting is no less so. The actors more than do justice to the premise and their characters with each new episode, revealing the pain, anguish and heroism of persevering when everything is gone and life is seconds away from ending. Adama's clashes with his own conflicted son Lee, the president's hidden struggle against cancer and despair, and Starbuck's anguish over causing the death of a lover stand out among these storylines, as does Baltar's growing madness and duplicity. This is truly amazing work and the cast deserves many kudos.

Will the Cylons destroy the battlestar and its fleet? Well, rumor has it that Battlestar Galactica is already preparing for a second season. Hard to imagine that the suspense can go on that long and this level of quality can be sustained, but we'll certainly keep watching.

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