It's almost become a cliché—Battlestar Galactica is a sci-fi show that even non-sci-fi geeks will love. But you need more than a cliché. You need actual, compelling reasons to commit to the 70-odd-episodes (not including the miniseries) that, however good, are still about robots at war with humans, first on a dozen far-off planets and then on the few human spaceships that survive. Not only is the premise as sci-fi as it gets, but the show is a remake of cheesy sci-fi. If ever there were a show that could clear those hurdles for people who won't be in costume when they go see the Star Trek reboot this summer (and even those who will be skipping it altogether), Battlestar Galactica is it. You should start with Season One and continue through the last few remaining episodes of the final Fourth Season. While staying vague enough not to give anything away, here's why:
1. Sci-fi realism
If novelists can employ "magical realism," then it's not an oxymoron to call what Ronald D. Moore has done with BSG
"sci-fi realism." The worlds may be imagined, but there's nothing tidy
about the way any episode or storyline ever ends. Every character is as
flawed as the Galactica ship herself, after years of service, countless
skirmishes with Cylons and nowhere to port. Goodness and selfishness
reside in every heart, whether it's made of flesh and blood or a really
good artificial facimile.
2. The exploration of politics
Political junkies should have a field day with all the hypotheticals
presented when a government—run by the former Secretary of Education
when all those in the line of succession above her are killed in the
initial Cylon attacks—butts heads with a military at war. What freedoms
matter when the entire human population numbers less than 50,000 and an
enemy is doing all they can to bring that number to zero? Do the ends
justify the means when traitors are on the verge of taking power
through due process? Should those in charge follow the will of their
people or their own conscience?
3. The exploration of religion
The humans believe in the gods, to varying degrees, but the
Cylons have adopted a belief in the one true God. Religion can be
destructive, as both sides have their fanatics, but it's also
redemptive, mysterious and somehow very real. It mixes with politics in
messy ways, but there are compelling reasons for belief. And the truth
is somehow much bigger than anyone is able to grasp.
4. The exploration of marriage
The stress of the war, of uncertainty, of cramped quarters, crying
babies and infidelity takes its toll on the crew of Galactica, but in
the glimpses of love, we see the whole reason to struggle for survival.
The sinfulness of humanity is in full bloom, and yet the glory of
living is in seeing flaws up close and choosing to love anyway. The
families on Galactica model this reality as much as any family drama on
5. The constant surprises
There have been major twists throughout BSG's four-and-a-half-year run, but the plotlines never leave you scratching your head a la Lost.
The balance between character development and plot development has been
near pitch-perfect, making the wait between seasons as agonizing as the
wait between Harry Potter books—uh oh, I've lost you again—I mean football seasons... or Anne Hathaway movies. I promise.