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“And They Have a Plan…”

Bsg-SnipSo I’ve started watching the “re-imagined” (and made-in-Vancouver) Battlestar Galactica the past couple of weekends, after having it recommended to me so many times that I was starting to feel like the last geek on the planet to get hooked on it. And I have to say, based on the miniseries/pilot and the first half-dozen episodes on the first season, it is not just good, but shockingly good.

I was kind of expecting a science-fiction series that was good in the way Firefly was — an original universe with interesting characters and strong writing. And sure, it has all those. But the really interesting thing — the thing that really impressed me — isn’t that. It’s that the show lives up to the oft-claimed, seldom-witnessed ability of science fiction to act as social commentary.

Once day, there will be a TV series that deals directly with 9/11 and its aftermath, but by the time it happens, our perceptions will be colored by history, like all those Vietnam War movies made in the 1980s. Battlestar Galactica is about the anxieties of living in the aughts, albeit given a lot of sci-fi twists and shakes. In 10 years it will seem dated and perhaps ridiculous, but right now, when a possibly-commandeered passenger ship seems set on a collision course with the Galactica, or the Cylons talk about God with the earnestness of Christian fundamentalists, or when Apollo holds his gun to a rebel’s head and offers him his choice of democracy or a bullet — it has real power. And it doesn’t hurt that the acting, photography and special effects are all more cinematic than small-screen.

Not to mention, the very second episode opens with the near-complete annihilation of humanity, and ends with the death of most of the survivors. Now, putting something that dark on TV is bold. Making that your very first story arc, instead of the backstory — that takes balls.

Now, that’s not to say it’s perfect — I mean, it’s TV. It’s pretty unsubtle, and halfway through the first season, some episodes have already felt filler-ish. And the weird mixture of c. 2005 technology and politics, and technofantasy space opera makes the world seem jarringly schizoid sometimes.

But still: you can count me among the hooked.