DVD Release Date: July 28
Creators: Glenn A. Larson, Ronald D. Moore, David EickThere’s often a dichotomy in art between the epic and the personal. Smaller stories, those dealing with the kinds of challenges we regularly experience—family, romance, friendship, work, money—connect because they’re familiar. We watch epic films like Braveheart or Lord of the Rings to get caught up in struggles much greater than we face and vicariously inherit the satisfaction of seeing them overcome. But we read novels with minimal plots to see people like ourselves make the same stupid mistakes we do and come out on the other side having changed.
Science fiction is almost entirely the domain of epic stories—working
through a relationship gets completely overshadowed with the fate of
humanity on the line. This is one of the main things sci-fi fans love
about the genre and also what many people hate about it. So when people
say that Battlestar Galactica is a show with a broader appeal than sci-fi, this is partly what they’re getting at.
Certainly, it’s an epic tale—it begins with the near annihilation of
humanity, a culture spread across 12 planets but with many similarities
to 21st-century Earth. The villains are Cylons, intelligent robots who
believe that human extinction is the key to their own survival. And nearly
every episode takes place aboard a single spaceship. On paper, it’s
got everything to set off those with sci-fi allergies.
But over four seasons, it does a better job than any sci-fi
film, book or TV show, of telling small stories. Unlike the Utopian
crew of Star Trek’s Enterprise, each of the major characters has significant
flaws. Even with only 50,000 survivors facing a single oppressor,
humanity has a difficult time uniting. First, there’s the issue of the
military taking control of a society used to its freedom. The tension
between President Laura Roslyn (Mary McDonnell) and Commander William
Adama (Edward James Olmos) is among the show's most compelling threads.
An inexperienced education minister, Rosyln finds herself promoted to
the top post when no other senior government officials survive the
initial attack. She pushes for a restoration to democracy, while Adama
is hesitant to reliquish any decision-making in the face of the Cylon
threat. Complicating things are Roslyn's religious visions—a controversial experience among
polytheistic cultures of varying degrees of observance. The challenges
the leaders face are of a higher magnitude than we've experienced on
earth, but the moral squirming and self-justification are all too
familiar in politics today.
Creator Ronald D. Moore took the bare bones of a campy 1970s series and
completely reimagined it, bringing a realism that sci-fi hadn't quite
seen before. The ship itself is aging and cramped. Quarters are
claustrophobic, leading their inhabitants to live in a hyper-sensitive
fishbowl—everyone is in everyone else's business. Characters like
Kara "Starbuck" Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) and Adama's son Lee "Apollo"
(Jamie Bamber) are forced to drag their emotional baggage into the
uncomfortable open, which frequently causes them to snap. Ordinary life—love,
marriage and raising kids—doesn't cease just because there's a war going
on. Rosyln keeps a whiteboard with an updated population count, and each of the principle characters changes with every right or wrong decision.
But where Battlestar Galactica trumps other sci-fi stories in the minutia, it also beats
them at their own epic game. Each season propels the main story arc
along at light speed. A limited number of Cylon models are perfect human
replicas—"skinjobs" who've infiltrated the human fleet. Their
relationship with humanity grows more complex as disagreement arises
within their ranks. And humanity's search for the mythical Earth is
full of constant surprises. Nearly every season is better than the last.
With no alien civilizations to discover, Moore turns his
lens inward on the species we know best. All the tensions in life are examined: religion vs. science, safety vs. freedom, the needs of the many vs. the needs of the few, conscience vs. loyalty, passion vs. commitment. And the show's big
question—"What does it mean to be human?"—is explored on every level,
big and small.