Caught by the River

In Praise Of Galactica

19th March 2009


I’ve avoided writing about Battlestar Galactica on CBTR over the last few years as I’ve become very aware of the dampening way that people’s eyes glaze over at the thought of a sci-fi drama series about the seemingly futile battle between humans Vs robots in some dim distant corner of the galaxy. Nice to see someone at The Guardian nailed it today and did the job I just couldn’t do – “As anyone who has actually committed to it will tell you, BSG has evolved into one of the most sophisticated, compelling and original shows that’s ever been made.” Yes, even the Holy Grail itself, The Wire, is mentioned in comparison, as a peer.

The series, a ground-up reboot of the 1970s post Star Wars cash in of the same name, works because space and sci-fi and robots become secondary to the story itself – a claustrophobic tale of survival in unworkable circumstances. The acting is exemplary – it works mainly for the fact that they never deviated into wacky CGI sidekick territory. The mighty Edward James Olmos, who plays the ship’s gravel-voiced, battle-scarred admiral, joined up with one previso – “I made it very clear. I said, ”If there are no four eyed-creatures, and no weird aliens from another world or galaxy or universe, I will be a part of this. The very first creature I see from the Black Lagoon, I’m going to faint on camera and I’m off the show. That’s it. You can just write that Adama had a heart attack and died. But I’m not going to do that kind of sci-fi show.” And so it stayed that way – human interest, nothing else.

It’s with a bit of sadness for me that it now nears it’s end game. Each of the last few episodes (the final series is currently broadcasting on Sky One) has been taut beyond belief, executed with razored precision, tying up five years of loose ends as it marches on grimly towards an inevitably dismal conclusion – a final run of episodes that shows just how to wrap a classic series up, unlike, say, The Sopranos damp squib kiss-off or The Wire‘s slightly demented series 5 McNulty plot (come on – it was the one wrong foot that series ever made, the only bitter taste left after an otherwise unparalleled sequence of episodes).

As telly goes, Galactica really is up there with the greats. Maybe history will declare it so, maybe allow it to be judged on plot and acting rather than the fact that the villains of the piece are big mad robots led by the bloke who sung “In Dreams” in Blue Velvet. In the meantime, do yourself a favour and give it a go – you never know, you just might frakkin dig it.