Battlestar Galactica, on Sci-Fi
A new series based on an old series which I haven't seen enough of to comment upon or have an entry here. (There are various differences between the two series, probably more than I'm aware of. But I can tell you that in the original series, Starbuck and Boomer were male, and here they're female. Also, in the old series, there weren't Cylons who appeared human.) Maybe someday I'll try to watch the old series in order from beginning to end. But from what little I have seen, I was never terribly interested. And I wasn't too interested in this new series, either, especially since some of my friends said it sucked. Fans of the old series, of course. But then other friends (also fans of the old series) said it was good, and of course I read plenty of glowing reviews throughout the first season, which made me kind of wish I'd been watching. So, finally, a week or so prior to season 2, I caught a marathon of season one, and I liked it well enough, so I'll keep watching the series.
Anyway, it begins with a miniseries (IMDb; Peacock; Wikipedia), in which the Cylons attack and destroy all 12 Colonies of Man (each colony's name is based on a Zodiac sign, btw). The Cylons are robots created by humans decades ago, which rebelled and won their freedom, but haven't been heard from for like 40 years now. Then suddenly they attack, unwittingly aided by a scientist named Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis), who's having an affair with a woman who turns out to be a Cylon called Number Six (Tricia Helfer). Yes, some Cylons now appear human, though not all do (the fact that some Cylons appear human is a secret a few humans know, and keep from everyone else through most of the first season, to prevent a panic). These Cylons are fully biological and can feel emotions, pain and pleasure, and so forth. And some are sleeper agents, which means they don't even know they're Cylons. Anyway, with all 12 Colonies destroyed, along with most of the human fleet, all that remains is one old Battlestar, called Galactica, which is about to be decommissioned when the attack hits. (There's a great deal of old-fashioned tech aboard Galactica, but I think the same is true of all the ships and Colonies; some things look even a bit more primitive than what we have on Earth in the present, and I don't think this has anything to do with Galactica being an old ship.) It leads a small fleet of commercial ships (the main one being Colonial One, which houses the new government), carrying the last 50,000 or so surviving humans (there's a survivor count on screen each episode, which sometimes decreases; but sometimes it increases), to escape the Cylons and search for Kobol, birthplace of humanity, and hopefully Earth, the 13th Colony of Man, which many, including Galactica's commander, William Adama (Edward James Olmos) consider to be purely mythical. Adama will form a shaky alliance with Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), the former Secretary of Education, who, as the senior surviving member of the government (43rd in line of succession), assumes the position of President. Their goals are generally the same, but they are sometimes at odds. Particularly because she believes in the gods, and Earth, and various prophecies....
Well. As for the series itself, what I want to do first of all is introduce the major characters of the series, and give a general sense of some of the overall tone, or whatever. Which means I may leap around plotwise, rather than give a chronological sequence of events. Sorry for any confusion. There will be some spoilers of major developments, which is unavoidable, but I'll also leave out a great many details. Um... basically the show is about surviving, and searching for Earth, but in the meantime, there are just plenty of obstacles to overcome, from the need to find water and fuel supplies, to Cylon attacks, to internal conflicts between Commander Adama and President Roslin, to... well, all kinds of things. And there are religious themes. The humans, those who are religious at all, worship a pantheon of gods, apparently the ancient Greek ones. Cylons believe in one God, and Six is always trying to get the atheistic Baltar to believe in Him. Then there are ancient prophecies, predicting the current plight of Humanity, and Roslin appears to play a part in these prophecies (including a fact known to few people, that she's dying of breast cancer).
Torn between Commander Adama and President Roslin is Adama's son, a pilot and Galactica's CAG (Commander, Air Group), Captain Lee "Apollo" Adama, whose own moral compass often puts him on the President's side, against his father and commander. (There are, I guess, two types of smaller ships the pilots fly; Vipers, which are one man fighters, and Raptors, which generally have a crew of two but can carry more, and are used for recon.) Firmly on Adama's side is his XO, Colonel Saul Tigh, who nevertheless has some personal problems. Then there's Dr. Baltar, who is only really on his own side. He does seem to regret his part in the Cylon attack, and is constantly afraid people will learn his secret. Also, his former lover, Number Six, continues to appear to him in visions (which rather reminds me of Harvey on Farscape). Of course, these visions can be rather embarrassing. His attention often seems to wander, he may speak to Six and seem to be talking to himself. She can even affect him physically, sometimes sexually. So his behavior is often quite nervous, suspicious, and everyone seems to think he's odd, but they put up with him because he is of help to them, especially in creating a Cylon detector. He is sometimes assisted by Lt. Felix Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani).
Speaking of Cylons, there is a sleeper agent aboard Galactica, a pilot, Lt. Sharon "Boomer" Valerii (Grace Park), who is constantly troubled by doubts concerning her own humanity. For a time she has an affair with Chief Petty Officer Galen Tyrol, head of the mechanics who keep the Galactica's Vipers and Raptors repaired. Also, while Boomer is unaware she is a Cylon, there is another copy of her (there may be countless copies of any human-looking Cylon, and whenever one is killed, its memories are downloaded to one of the copies) back on Caprica, one of the Colonies, who does know she's a Cylon, and is working with other Cylons to keep an eye on a pilot, Lt. Karl "Helo" Agathon (Tahmoh Penikett), who gave up his seat so Baltar could evacuate during the attack. He and Sharon become lovers, until he learns she's a Cylon, and rejects her. But she's fallen in love with him. And eventually he'll get back together with her.
Another important character is pilot Lt. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace (Katee Sackhoff). She's a maverick and is sometimes at odds with her superior officers, especially Tigh. She is close to the Adamas, as she was once in love with Lee's brother, Zak, who died years ago. She feels some guilt over this. But she's now falling in love with Lee. At the end of the first season, Roslin will send her on a mission back to Caprica.
President Roslin has an assistant named Billy Keikeya, who forms a relationship with Petty Officer Anastasia "Dee" Dualla. Then there's a prisoner named Tom Zarek (Richard Hatch, who played Apollo in the original series), who some consider a terrorist and others consider a freedom fighter. He eventually is elected to the new Quorum of Twelve, and then runs for Vice President. But he loses to Dr. Baltar, who had also been elected to the Quorum, without even running.
I think that covers pretty much all the major characters, at least for the first season. (Oh, there's also a doctor named Cottle, but I can't think of anything to say about him, except that he's played by Donnelly Rhodes, whom I knew from Danger Bay.) Now, let me see if I can mention any other major events... I suppose I should say they find Kobol at the end of the first season. Unfortunately, the Cylons also find it. Also, Boomer's Cylon programming is finally triggered, forcing her to shoot Commander Adama. He'll be out of commission for awhile in the second season, leaving Tigh in command, but eventually Adama recovers and resumes his position.
Also in season 2, um... lots of stuff goes on involving Kobol and Caprica. Plenty of strife between Roslin and Adama (the fleet was under martial law, for a time). On Caprica, Helo and Starbuck meet a group of resistance fighters, including Samuel T. Anders. But then for awhile Starbuck was caught and held by Cylons. And on Galactica, eventually Boomer is killed. On Kobol, eventually a clue is found which may lead toward Earth. And eventually everyone on Caprica and Kobol return to Galactica. But there are always other concerns, like the ongoing paranoia about the fact that there are a number of other humanoid Cylon agents within the fleet, and no one knows who they are. For a time. Anyway, eventually Galactica meets up with another Battlestar, the Pegasus, commanded by Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes), who's gone rather crazy, and who is at odds with Adama. Eventually she's killed, and Roslin promotes Adama to admiral, and later Apollo becomes a commander, and is given Pegasus to command. Eventually Dualla starts having feelings for Apollo. And at one point, Billy gets killed. Helo and Sharon had a child together, half human and half Cylon, who they named Hera. But Hera was taken from them, and given away, while they were told the baby died. (Oh yeah, and I should have mentioned that some time before being born, Baltar used the fetus's blood cells to cure Roslin's cancer.)
And um, man, I'm just getting a lot of stuff out of order, I think. Um... it was... Starbuck, Helo, and Sharon had gotten off Caprica some time ago, but Anders and his resistance fighters were still on Caprica, it wasn't til the end of the season that they went back to rescue them. And um, at some point this Sharon was accepted as trustworthy by at least some of the humans, and given the callsign "Athena." Though she and Helo were never treated well by anyone. And meanwhile, Vice President Baltar was running against Roslin in an election. And a planet is found which could support human life, which is also hidden, so it's assumed the Cylons wouldn't be able to find it. The question of whether to continue the search for Earth or settle on this planet (which is called New Caprica) becomes the central issue of the election. Oh yes, I should also mention that working with Roslin on her campaign was a woman named Tory Foster (Rekha Sharma). Roslin had realized by this point that Baltar had been working with the Cylons before the attack on the Colonies, but she had no proof. And... Baltar won the election.
So, the surviving humans settle on New Caprica. The season ends by flashing forward one year, and there have been plenty of developments in the intervening year, as they worked to build their settlement. Tyrol seems to be married to Cally, who is pregnant. Starbuck is married to Anders. I think perhaps Adama and Roslin may have had a romantic relationship. (There are several times I've thought that over the course of the series, but I don't recall ever being entirely sure about it.) And um... then the Cylons attack, and they will occupy the planet, when President Baltar surrenders. And the Galactica and Pegasus jump away. ...Between seasons 2 and 3 there is a series of 10 webisodes called The Resistance, about some things that happen during the occupation, the resistance that is formed, and whatnot. And some humans were recruited by the Cylons as a police force, which these recruits seemed to think was in the best interest of the humans, but others simply labelled them collaborators and traitors.
Season 3 begins when New Caprica has been occupied by the Cylons for about 4 months. Apollo and Dualla are now married. Sharon and Helo are married. Starbuck was held captive by one of the humanoid Cylons, called Leoben (Callum Keith Rennie). She killed him several times, but he was always resurrected. He also kept telling her she had a special destiny, a major role in future events. Anyway, eventually the two battlestars jump back to New Caprica, as part of a coordinated effort with the resistance, to evacuate the humans from planet. The Pegasus was lost in the battle, but the crew transferred back to Galactica. But Six (one of the real copies, not the one in Baltar's head) and Baltar find Hera, and take her with them to a Cylon Basestar. Ironically, Baltar isn't any better liked by most Cylons than he was by the few humans who knew him personally. But they allow him to live in the hopes that he can lead them to Earth. In Baltar's absence, Zarek becomes President, but he steps down, and Roslin resumes the position, and she appoints him as her vice president.
I should also mention, or perhaps I should have before, that there are 12 human models of Cylon, and by this point we've seen most of them. Of course we know Number Six (whose various copies have gone by various names), and Number Eight (Sharon). There's also Three (Lucy Lawless); at least one copy has gone by the name D'Anna Biers. And there's Five, Aaron Doral; plus Leoben Conoy, Cavil (Dean Stockwell, who I know from Quantum Leap); and Simon (their numbers have yet to be revealed). Baltar wants to learn who the final five Cylons are; in fact he wonders if he might be one, which would alleviate his guilt over his various crimes against humanity. But neither Six nor any of the other Cylons will tell him about the final five, though they're clearly very important, and will remain a major mystery throughout the rest of the series, apparently. Anyway... back on Galactica, Gaeta will use Baltar's former research to try to find the way to Earth for the humans. Um... and I should say there will be marital troubles between Starbuck and Anders, as well as between Apollo and Dualla. In large part this is because Starbuck and Apollo love each other, and... well, it's complicated.
Eventually the Galactica discovers a planet with a temple on it, which could be yet another clue to finding Earth. And then of course the Cylons show up. And Helo and Athena learn that Hera is still alive. Six helps Athena get Hera off a Basestar and to Galactica. Then Six is arrested. Meanwhile, Baltar is also taken back to Galactica as a prisoner. And Number Three, who has behaved strangely in a number of ways throughout the season, is no longer allowed to be resurrected, and dies apparently for the last time. Much of the rest of the season will lead up to Baltar's trial. Also, he puts out writings from prison, which garner him something of a cult following. And on one mission, Starbuck's Viper is destroyed, and she's assumed dead. Um, we'll also meet Romo Lampkin (Mark Sheppard), who becomes Baltar's attorney. Apollo becomes his co-counsel, which further aggravates the strained relationship with Adama. Roslin, Athena, and Six will all have the same visions, which involve Hera. (Roslin's visions may be caused by a drug called chamalla, which she has recently resumed taking since her cancern had returned.) And, I guess Dualla finally leaves Apollo.
And Baltar wins the trial in the season finale, though no one is happy about that, and it doesn't leave Baltar with anywhere to go. Until a few women approach him and escort him... somewhere. Meanwhile, four of the final five Cylons are revealed: Tigh, Anders, Tyrol, and Tory. They're all surprised to discover this about themselves, and don't want to believe it. But they retain their thoughts and feelings, and are determined not to change how they behave, but at the same time, they must hide the truth from everyone around them. Also in the season finale, Starbuck returns, claiming to have found Earth.
Between seasons 3 and 4 there was a TV movie called Razor (IMDb; Syfy; Wikipedia). It included flashbacks to various points during and prior to the series. And it involved the Pegasus. And I don't remember anything specific about it, but maybe someday I'll rewatch it and write a separate review. Around the same time, there was a series of webisodes called Razor Flashbacks, which I guess were just basically deleted scenes or something.
In season 4, Starbuck is shocked to learn that she's been gone for 2 months and everyone thought she was dead. She doesn't remember much aside from taking photos of a planet that matches the description of Earth, and then turning her ship around. From her perspective, she'd only been gone six hours, and for most of that apparently she'd been unconscious. Also, her Viper appears to be brand new. So everyone's suspicious of her. But as the Galactica continues making a series of jumps expected to lead toward Earth, Starbuck insists they're going the wrong way. Meanwhile, Baltar is embraced by a cult of women who believe in the one true God, whom the Cylons worship, and look to Baltar as a spiritual leader (and sex object, apparently). In the middle of the season there was a series of webisodes called The Face of the Enemy.
Okay, now I shall try to add a bit after seeing the series finale. Um, there was a civil war between different groups of Cylons, and one faction allied themselves with the humans, though no one was ever too happy about this. (The other faction was led by Cavil.) Anyway, the humans and their allies found Earth halfway through season 4, and... there wasn't much to see. So they continued on. And more stuff happened. Eventually we learn the identity of the fifth of the Final Five Cylons (which I'm not going to reveal), and also there's a 7th Cylon we never actually met, but he was called Daniel, anyway. (So actually there were 13 models, not 12, and this seems to be just because one of the ones we knew about was number 8, which was a discrepancy if there were supposed to be five more.) And... I dunno, all kinds of stuff happens, and Hera gets kidnapped by the enemy Cylons, and it all ends with a major battle trying to rescue her, and then finally... they find another planet to settle on. Lots of questions were answered throughout the season, but much was also left unresolved or uncertain.
I'm sure I've left out lots of stuff from every season, whether because I forgot or in some cases am trying avoid spoilers, or whatever. But anyway, the series could be interesting at times... even if I don't think it's quite as good as the critics and many fans seem to think. A lot of the time it pissed me off and I hated some of the human characters and thought the Cylons should just kill them all. And the end was less than satisfactory. Not sure what else to say.
There's a prequel series called Caprica, set 58 years prior to this series. There's also a TV movie called The Plan, which aired in 2010, about a year after Battlestar ended. I never saw it, and don't really have any interest in it. In 2012, there was a prequel webseries called Blood & Chrome, which later aired as a TV movie in 2013. I haven't seen it, but I'll probably get around to it eventually.