Battlestar Galactica’s new incarnation is superb entertainment. The first two seasons were the best show on television, SciFi or otherwise. Huge themes, such as an apocalyptic vision of the end of the world born of the robot servant’s revolt (the Cylons); or a theory of human genesis that posits sister worlds, is interwoven with minute intimate personal detail of fascinating charaters. Characters are explored – their pasts delved into to reveal their evolving natures. These individual threads are picked up and engage the main threads and build towards exciting conclusion after exciting conclusion. The central plot – humanity’s struggle against the robot Cylons is nuanced as well. There are moments of savagery on the part of the humans, and moments of odd tenderness, vulnerability, and spirituality on the part of the Cylons. Like life, there is little black or white. Hated characters become humanized, then loved. Characters evolve and change. They are scarred by their experiences (physically and psychically) – and are never again the same. This all increases the sense of reality and our (the viewer’s) sense of involvement. Many of the plots echo current events – New Caprica looks like Iraq, for example. The writing, on the whole, is exemplary.
Battlestar’s staging succeeds as well. The special effects advance the state of the art for television. As others have noted, technology does not dominate. In fact, many key technologies are familiar – or even retro: they use telephone handsets with intermittent audio problems; guns shoot bullets; space fighters look like 1960s jet fighters; “Dradus” looks like contemporary radar; books are on paper (albeit with a trapezoid shape); their computers are not networked by design. Like the rest of the writing, even these small details are explained and woven into the plot – the anti technology slant is a reaction to the Cylon’s revolt. This allows the plotting and writing to remain in the fore – transcending the SciFi genre. I didn’t even mention the subtle and addictive language “Galactica speak” that you will soon be talking (if you don’t already). This is some ‘frackin’ good stuff indeed.
Season 3 starts where season 2 left us – with the Cylons occupying the human settlement on New Caprica and oppressing the humans. The humans react with armed resistance and acts of insurrection including a suicide bombing. This depiction of armed insurrection as a basic human response to oppression is bold, and extremely brave considering the political environment at the time those episodes were written and filmed. These early episodes in Season 3 are controversial, thus, and as hard to watch emotionally as anything in the series. To folks who feel that this means the writers of this show have joined Al Qaeda, I’d refer them to read history, including the history of the American Revolutionary War. Americans have behaved this way before (not that the humans of Battlestar Galactica’s world are Americans, of course, but they represent us – unavoidably. The 1984 film “Red Dawn” is all about American citizens engaging in insurrection to fight the Russians for example). The resolution of the New Caprica crisis involves a space battle that contains the most thrilling special effects sequence I have ever seen on the small screen. The finale is also extraordinary – involving a mind blowing confluence of events impossible to even remotely characterize without spoilers but involving brilliant plotting, emotional power, and fantastic special effects too.
So why not 5 stars? Season 3 has a tough time exceeding the high bar set by the first two seasons. Other than the New Caprica beginning and that crackling ending, the focus on Gallactica and the Colonial Fleet becomes absolute for much of the remainder of the season and the show loses sight of the Cylons. This is a shame. The battles with the Cylons – both physical and psychological, are the wellspring of the show’s crackling tension. Without the Cylons in view, the show sags. We have an airlock crisis, a whole show about Admiral Adama’s memories of his troubled marriage, a long show trial of Gaius Baltar – that while dealing with great issues and having great moments lacks the life or death slam of events in the first two seasons. Season 3 is more cerebral, and less action packed than the first two. Is it still worth watching? There are many great moments even in the slower episodes. If you’ve come this far you’ve probably fallen in love with the characters and will not mind some psychological background story. Plus, you’re crazy if you don’t watch the first two seasons and if you do you’ll absolutely need to wait on tenterhooks for season 4 with the rest of us – and you’ll need to have watched season 3 for continuity alone. Make no mistake, season 3 is still great television – just not quite up to the heart pounding level of the first two seasons, that’s all. The finale to season 3 is incredible,…
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Consistently the best thing about the ongoing BATTLESTAR GALACTICA series has been in its intellectual ambitions. While its predecessor and namesake, the Glen Larson series from the late 1970s, was largely a space opera, this series is actually a study in war, and attempts to cover such difficult ethical problems as loyalty, violence, torture, religion and class in a war-torn society (except this happens to be a society in outer space). But you often find yourself applauding the series more for its intentions than for its execution, particularly in this, its third season.
Season 2 ended extremely thrillingly with a leap forward in time of a year in the final episode when the fugitive fleet, after settling on an Earth-like planet, found themselves invaded and conquered by their Cylon nemeses. This season begins four months after that during the ongoing Cylon occupation; although the show’s creators remark repeatedly on their pride concerning these first four episodes (which involve the humans having to escape the Cylons yet again) in their somewhat gaseous podcast commentaries provided as extras on their DVDs, these actually some of the least enjoyable and least original episodes of the series so far. The creators of the show seem to have tried too hard to push for contemporary analogies to Iraq and Afghanistan. The cinematography replicates the gritty stock and overexposed lighting of recent international problem films (such as RENDITION and BABEL), and the tone goes from the darkness of the previous seasons a bit too far into out-and-out bleakness. There are too many fancy torture scenes here (and in other episodes during the season), and it’s a big relief when the fleet gets back into space. The succeeding episode, “Collaborators,” is one of the best of the series, and some of the other stand-alone episodes are quite intelligently done. But by the end of the season, when the show has bizarrely become an endless courtroom drama (with Apollo a defending attorney!) you feel like the writers have become a bit bored by the premise and don’t know where to go next. It may be the best thing for the series that it ends next season.
The acting on this series can be absolutely first-rate, and Grace Park, Alessandro Juliani and Katee Sackhoff continue to turn in terrific performances episode after episode. Some of the other actors seem a bit hampered by the fact their characters seem caught in a creative revolving door: yet again we have to see Colonel Tigh descend into alcoholic sprees and depressive bitterness, Laura Roslin struggle with cancer, and Apollo and Starbuck have another fling. The special effects are sometimes heartstoppingly beautiful, as with a flight through a bullseye -colored planetary storm system and a battlestar falling through clouds towards the ground of a planet below; at other times, such as in the scenes set on the Cylon basestars, the sets seem cheaply furnished courtesy of a Seventies mall headshop. The whole season is worth seeing despite its wild unevenness: you always feel at the very least the creative team is trying at something, even when they don’t quite succeed.
Having grown up as a kid totally addicted to the original campy/glossy BSG I must say when I heard they were beginning the whole thing anew in a new big way I was excited! I remember all the hoopla and hubbub regarding the direction of the new series and treatments of characters and can safely say I love BOTH series with equal veracity.
Allow me to state however that the modern BSG is fast becoming for me one of THE greatest works of film making art I have ever had the privilege to witness. The story arc of the modern BSG series is beyond superlative. Unlike some other reviews I have been gripped equally by each season and have also been totally immersed in it’s emotive and deeply powerful story line. To be quite honest the story line of BSG makes Star Wars seem like a cartoon by comparison and I love the Star Wars series as well.
I am not going to bother giving away ANY plot spoilers as it’s the last thing any new viewer needs – all you need to know is that with each season that passes I find I can’t get no frackin relief! It was an agonizingly long period to have to wait in Australia between Season 2 and Season 3, so much so I feared we’d never see it at all. Now I have literally just finished watching my edition all in the one hit in the space of 2 days … after the final scene I HAD to jump online and read the reviews I had been deliberately avoiding!
This show kills me! So now I find out there is a new Mini Series prequel about Pegasus called RAZOR! When can I get this and when will it be released in Australia? If any Aussies out there care to fill me in I will be eternally grateful. All I can say is that I am totally spent after Series 3 and yet I NEED more already. Those who have watched this season already will know exactly what I mean when I say …
“I can’t get no relief”
BSG reigns supreme and I would love this to run to 10 seasons! So say we frackin all!