I was a really strange child. Example A: Funtime activities, age 8:
Picture a small boy with rusty brown hair, sitting indian-style behind an old electric fan, which he was projecting his voice through, firing a Daisy air rifle at small chrome vacu-plated action figures. All the while saying things like "By Your Command." and "Cylon Raiders Attack!" and brandishing a plastic toy Viper space fighter craft in his hands.
The fan helped make cool, Cylon-style vocal distortion effects, I'm proud to admit.
It's an understatement to say I was a big fan of late 1970s ABC Television's Battlestar Galactica. Hell, for a young Star Wars freak, it was kinda like methadone... something to keep me occupied while waiting for the Empire Strikes Back fix from my dealer, George Lucas. Plus, Cylon Raiders rock so hard, it's painful. And, they're vastly superior to Imperial Stormtroopers in my opinion, because, quite frankly, they seem to have no trouble whatsoever hitting targets. Stormtroopers fire laser guns in about the same manner as I'd imagine Stevie Wonder would attack a pinata.
So, when I heard about the Sci-Fi channel launching a revisionist take on the concept, I was all ears. The plot's essentially the same as the original. The Colonial Forces of the 12 Tribes of Man who inhabit 12 worlds in a distant star system are attacked by the mysterious Cylon Raider faction resulting in near-genocide. The remaining survivors of the devastating massacre rally up a convoy of rocket ships,and start space-truckin' towards a fabled world colonized by the "lost" 13th tribe...a world called "Earth". All the while, they are protected in their journeys by the sole remaining war machine of the conflict, a "battlestar" dubbed Galactica and it's plucky crew of space cowboys who piloted the Viper fighter ships.
It sounds kinda like The Grapes of Wrath meets 12 O'Clock High with a science fiction atmosphere, but the final execution in hindsight seems more like Wagon Train meets The Dukes Of Hazzard. Especially with Dirk Benedict as "Starbuck" involved in the proceedings. But, even with all it's faults, it was still a fun sci-fi romp.
So, I checked the new show out. And some signicant changes have been made:
-The tone is drastically more grim. Basically, the pilot miniseries is a decent piece of storytelling depicting a world at war. Some great stand out performances by Mary McDonnell as "Pres. Laura Roslin" and Edward James Olmos, who takes up the reins of "Commander Adama" from the late Lorne Greene.
-It's a lot racier. The sexual tension is so thick, it tends to distract at times. Someone should thank Jeri Ryan and her cast addition to Star Trek: Voyager for this current trend in sci-fi TV. The president's assistant gets twitterpatted by the Galactica's communications officer, Boomer is sleeping with the deck crew chief....hell, even the Cylons are gettin' some these days.
-Boomer and Starbuck....brace yourself....are now women. I know it's a shock, but it's our job now to support their decision on this matter, which we should have begun doing when they got their first hormone injections.
Seriously, though, a couple key roles in the series have been gender-switched in the new version. And, surprisingly, it works. You've come a long way, baby....
-The Cylons are now more human. And hot. Take the new character Number Six,for instance. I rest my case. Plus, an origin story has been developed for the mechanical beings, making their grievance with the human race more believeable and less "mysterious". Why exactly were the Cylons of the original series so pissed off at humanity, other than the standard "because they're the bad guys", anyways?
Crisp and clean, no complaints. I mean, it's a project that was probably filmed in a digital video format, or at least some of the special effects sequences, and then transferred to another digital format, so's there's no real margin of error there to begin with. My only complaint is this: It's a two disc set, yet the animated menus and the discs themselves proclaim that the supplementary material contained on either disc is on the reverse side of them, when it's not.
Example: The first disc physically has the instructions: Bonus Material on Reverse Side printed on it,and it's "Special Features" menu states basically the same thing, as does the second disc. Yet, the supplementary materials that are supposed to be on the reverse side of Disc One are actually the contents of Disc Two.
Apparently Universal planned this release to be a one disc "flipper", then changed things up prior to the physical release of the title, I don't know....but what I do know is that this leads to a ton of confusion while viewing said discs for the first time. And seeing as there is no artwork on either disc, just two perfectly shiny sides, this adds to the bafflement. But, fear not....you don't have a defective disc, nor are you being cheated outta anything....it's just the confusion brought about by being told one thing and being given another. A fact that I had to learn after about three tries of flipping each disc and saying "What the hell?" repeatedly when I'd get a "NO DISC" error message from my player...
Once you finally work your way through the confusing mess of actually finding the supplementary material, there really isn't much of it there to make the whole experience really worth it.
After it's all said and done, one of the more pleasing revisionist takes on an old sci-fi television concept to come down the pike. Though the disc has a few problems (largely due to the confusing nature of it's packaging) it's a worthwhile purchase for "classic" Galactica fans, if only as fodder for debate as to which incarnation of the series is best.
Anthony Conn, aka The Hong Kong Cavalier, 1/26/2005