Battlestar Galactica (2004)
Battlestar Galactica (2004) was a science fiction TV show that ran from 2003 to 2005. A reimagining of the 1978 TV series of the same name, Battlestar Galactica (or BSG) is responsible for inspiring the grittier and more realistic approach to science-fiction television in the early 2000's onwards. Starring Edward James Olmos, Katee Sackhoff, Jamie Barber, and Tricia Helfer; the show was immensely successful throughout its four-season run. In the years since the end of the series, the show has been nominated and decorated with numerous television awards, and is often at the top of 'best sci fi television' lists online.
In the distant past or future, the humans of the 12 Colonies of Kobol live in relative peace. 50 years have passed since the devastating Cylon war, where the sentient machines called the Cylons rebelled against their creators, and started a war with humanity. The last of the Cylon-war era Battlestars- the eponymous Battlestar Galactica- is being retired from active duty when the unthinkable happens: the Cylons return, and launch a sneak attack that decimates Colonial defences. The 12 Colonies are wiped out within hours. The only survivors of this genocidal attack are the inhabitants of a ragtag fleet of civilian ships...and their protector, the Battlestar Galactica. Now, they seek the mythical 13th Colony of Earth, where they hope they'll find a home.
Why this show is Awesome
- For a television show made in the early 2000's, the CGI and special effect work is on-par (and sometimes even superior) to many of the more modern science-fiction shows currently airing. The space battles and other shots of the various starships forming the Colonial Fleet look and feel very realistic. In addition, the designs for the Colonial and Cylon vessels- while admittedly inspired (in many cases) by the original BSG's designs- have a very realistic approach, with sensible designs that have enough detail to be interesting, but not too much that they distract from what's going on.
- The storywriting is brilliant, with many critics at the time calling BSG a 'modern epic'. The story is not afraid to kill off characters we have grown to love, a trend poorly carried forth in later works like Star Trek: Discovery. There's always a sense of tension and suspense, and even the episodes where the Cylons are not assaulting the civilian fleet feel like the aforementioned enemy could appear at any moment. Unlike many other episodic science-fiction television shows of the time, BSG didn't resort to "monster of the week" or "space anomaly of the week" type episodes, instead utilising a very grounded approach to the narrative. One week, the survivors might be dealing with low food supplies or internal strife within the fleet. The next, they might be fighting off a Cylon attack that threatens to kill them all.
- Very real stakes, and very real characters. BSG's story revolves around the last 50,000 survivors of the 12 Colonies fleeing the ruins of their civilisation, pursued by a enemy who won't rest until they're all dead. If the Galactica or her crew are lost, then humanity is dead. If the civilian fleet supporting Galactica is destroyed, then humanity is dead. If the Cylons simply pick off enough of them that they'll never be able to repopulate...then humanity is dead. There's no alien civilisations to help them out, no far-flung outposts of humanity to raid for supplies. They've got one military capital ship to help them, and she's a outdated relic compared to the ships that were destroyed in the destruction of the Colonies. Thus, the stakes are very real: one mistake, and everyone dies. The characters are just as brilliant. You have Admiral William Adama, the veteran commander of the Galactica. There's Kara "Starbuck" Thrace, a hotshot pilot with a mysterious destiny. There's Lee "Apollo" Adama, the CAG of the Galactica following the attack. There's Laura Roslin, the Secretary of Education turned President of the 12 Colonies following the assault. There are many others, and we get to know them well throughout the four series. When the few that die pass on, we feel the loss our heroes feel. When the all make the morally ambiguous choice, we feel for them.
- Brilliant production design. The sets for the ships are extremely well done. The Galactica Set is actually one continuous structure, as seen in the opening of the 2003 miniseries. While Galactica feels like some sort of aircraft carrier, civilian ships like Colonial One feel like they're purpose built for their intended use. Colonial One was formerly an interstellar passenger liner, and the interior feels like the inside of a modern-day passenger jet. On the other hand, Tyllium refineries like the Hitei Kan are more utilitarian and industrial, given their intended purpose. Even things like paper and signs reflect the culture of the Colonials: anything they write on is octagonal, rather than rectangular.
- Amazing music: The miniseries was composed by two people, Bear McCreary, and Richard Gibbs. Following the miniseries, McCreary took over as the sole composer, and would go on to write some amazing music. Instead of sticking to traditional western instruments, McCreary mixes in Irish Bagpipes, Japanese Taiko Drums, as well as cellos and other traditional orchestral instruments into scores like the main titles, or standalone songs like Reuniting the Fleet, Prelude to War, or Roslin and Adama. McCreary would go on to work with BSG showrunner Ronald D. Moore on future work like the TV show Outlander.
- The fourth season was by far the worst the show experienced. It suffered from a lack of direction, disappointing endings to many of the established storylines, a horrorshow of a final episode that left much of the question set up at the start unanswered, and essentially made the entire reason for the show "God Did It", which was criticised by many writers such as George R.R. Martin.
- The second half of the third season is also agreed by many fans to have been bloated with terrible episodes, and also introduced the "Final Five" subplot, one of the worst parts of the show. The Final Five are the five models of humanoid Cylon who are never seen in the show. The whole idea that they were hiding in the fleet the entire time, and that they were members of the main cast we'd come to know was extremely left-field, and is seen as a move by the writers to try and inject some last vestige of intrigue into a show that was beginning to run out of steam.
- Due to the success of BSG, MGM decided to meddle in the production of their Stargate TV shows, cancelling Stargate Atlantis to try and mimic BSG's dark and gritty tone with Stargate Universe. This trend of dark, gritty sci-fi is unfortunately still being copied over and over by more recent shows, homogenising the science-fiction market. While there are less dark sci-fi shows like The Orville