So, you’ve finished The Wire, Breaking Bad and The Killing and you’re still hungry for more boxsets. Fear not, Standard Issue writers are on the case with some hidden gems you might not yet have seen. This week, Ruth Bratt on why Battlestar Galactica is out of this world.
What? USA/Canada sci-fi show, Battlestar Galactica (or BSG) spans a mini-series, four series, various spin-off TV movies and webisodes.
Why? I’m not bothered by sci-fi. I liked Star Trek The Next Generation but that’s because I have a huge crush on Patrick Stewart. But my fella’s a big BSG fan, so we sat down to watch the mini-series –and I was hooked.
The Twelve Colonies are at war with a cybernetic race – the Cylons – whose goal is the extermination of the human race. The Cylons offer “peace” to the humans, but carry out a nuclear attack on the Twelve Colonies and the starships that protect them. Commander Adama, in Battlestar Galactica, leads a fleet of survivors in search of the fabled 13th colony, Earth.
But… some Cylons look human, so you can’t tell they’re Cylon. And then you find out. And then there are more. And then there’s more guessing who’s a cylon! And then you find out. And then everything you thought and everything they thought is changed. Because Cylons don’t always know they are Cylons!
Fighting is mostly done in ships and because it’s in space it’s nearly silent. Balletic aerial combat, with none of usual the ear-assaulting bangs. Swooshes and muted ft-ft-ft noises is all you have to put up with. It’s strangely, painfully beautiful. Other violence is easily avoided with eye shielding.
But the acting. Edward James Olmos as Commander Adama is simple and understated, but just watch him listening to other people – that’s what acting is. He can really listen. Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) is everything I hope female characters will be – a character who just happens to be a woman. She isn’t a “strong woman”, she’s a person, doing the best in impossible circumstances. Her gender is mostly irrelevant. In fact, pretty much all of the characters are written genderless. Starbuck is a little stereotypical – damaged by her childhood, she’s a pilot who is ‘one of the boys’ but has a heart of gold… blah blah, but what is she? And then there’s Six, played by the incredible-looking Tricia Helfer. To start with I was unconvinced (a prejudice against “model turned actor”), but as the series go on you see how versatile she has to be. She has to move away from the sexy, sexy, breathy, sexy stuff and do some proper good acting. Which makes me think the sexy, sexy, breathy, sexy stuff might also be proper good acting (I certainly couldn’t do it convincingly…)
And the cowardly, self-serving Baltar. And the growling Captain Tigh, who can break your heart in a second. And Chief, how could you forget the Chief? If Tigh breaks your heart, the Chief puts it in a blender and then stamps on it…
By the end of the run, this show isn’t so much a sci-fi show, as a “prose poem to humanity”, as my fella put it. It’s true, you start seeing humanity, in all its glory, its pettiness, its vileness, its spirit, its small-mindedness, its great imagination and its capacity for forgiveness.
From the first notes of the theme tune (which we do a very good dance to – the best shows have a theme tune you can dance to), to the end of Series 4, I was utterly entranced. It’s beautiful. We raced through all four series and some of the spin offs. I think I was in mourning when we finished. I didn’t know what to do with my evenings. In fact, writing about it has made me want to start watching it again.
Why wouldn’t you want to see great acting, excitement, genuine surprises, brilliant twists and turns and some good action stuff, as well as some interesting philosophical questions (that I don’t mind weren’t answered)? Oh, I am definitely starting again from the beginning, right now.
Ruth is an improviser, comedian, actor, writer and the short half of double act Trodd en Bratt. She is rapidly becoming a middle class cliche who likes to bake and knit. Ruth is in Showstopper! The Improvised Musical currently in Edinburgh and about to embark on a West End run. www.theshowstoppers.org