Battlestar Galactica – The Mini-Series Review

BSG Miniseries

From fun family adventure to baby neck-snapping, it’s hard to find two series with the same name any more different from each other. My re-watch / review watch of the 2000s Battlestar Galactica feels completely different from my first, not only because of how TV has moved on the decade and a half since, but because of sitting through the original series shortly before watching this. So let’s get started in what will be more infrequent and condensed than the original BSG reviews due to time constraints and the general feeling that a lot has been said on this show compared to the older sci-fi shows I’ve watched / plan to watch… So… Yeah. Mini-series!

Synopsis:

After a 40-year armistice in a war between the Twelve Colonies and the Cylons, the Cylons launch a surprise nuclear attack intended to exterminate the human race. Virtually all of the population of the Twelve Colonies are wiped out. Most of the Colonial military is either rendered ineffective or destroyed due to malware in the military computer network that renders it vulnerable to cyber attack.

The Battlestar Galactica, an aircraft carrier in space that fought in the earlier war, is in the final stages of being decommissioned and converted to a museum when the attack occurs. During her decades of colonial service the Galactica’s computer systems had never been networked so it is unaffected by the Cylon sabotage. Its commander, William Adama assumes command of the few remaining elements of the human fleet and heads into the unknown…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

BSG Miniseries 3

Can you tell this is one of two pictures not captured from the HD blu-ray?

Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) – Decorated war veteran William Adama is in charge of the military now most of it has been wiped out. As if that wasn’t pressure enough, his estranged son is one of the top pilots remaining alive! Awkward…

Captain Lee “Apollo” Adama (Jamie Bamber) – Apollo is the top fighter pilot left alive, but instead of concentrating on avenging humanity, he seems to think keeping a grudge with his father is a better use of his time…

Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) – Arguably the actual best fighter pilot left alive, Starbuck is held back by her anti-authority attitude, and sexual attraction to Apollo, not that she’d admit it… much.

President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) – Laura was just a simple politician, Secretary of Education to be precise, but she ends up as President due to so many politicians dying in the Cylon attack… and wouldn’t you know it, she has cancer! Humanity really is just out of luck…

Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis) – Dr. Baltar is arrogant, snobbish and thinks he’s on top of the world… until he realises that sleeping with that attractive blond woman has caused the apocalypse. Whoops!

Number Six (Tricia Helfer) – One of seven humanoid Cylons that can share the memories and events that happen to copies of themselves. One such Number Six is the Cylon model who tricked Baltar into helping her cause the apocalypse…

Lieutenant Sharon “Boomer” Valerii (Grace Park) – A well-respected pilot, who managed to survive the apocalypse… lucky! Or was it…?

Colonel Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan) – The Executive Officer on board the Galactica, and Adama’s right-hand man. Has a bit of a drinking problem, not helped by the near extinction of his entire race…

Chief Petty Officer Galen Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) – Tyrol is in charge of maintenance of all the ships that come out of the Galactica… and secretly sleeping with pilot Sharon “Boomer” Valerii, despite it being against the rules…

Lieutenant Karl “Helo” Agathon (Tahmoh Penikett) – Brave soldier who believes he is sacrificing his life in order to save as many civilians as he could during Caprica’s apocalypse… Something tells me his story doesn’t end there…

Plus many more!

The Good:

BSG Miniseries 2

A well shot entrance, that’s for sure!

It’s funny comparing this to the pilot of the original series, there are actually far more similarities than comparing pretty much anything else the two shows have done. Yes this mini-series has plenty of sex and violence, but they both convey the troubles that would come with a travelling caravan of humans on multiple ships, as well as the mental effects of having your entire race taken to near extinction. The main difference (beyond the gender swapping of several characters, and the odd lack of pretty much any black characters, which I never noticed before… must be the 2017 in me!) is the human Cylons, although I now know this was first seen in Galactica 1980! … About the only thing worth talking about that show for…

Anyway, “Number Six” is great, it’s hard to take your eye of her, and so you feel she was made artificially in order to be sexy, and that works well. Could have done without the baby neck-snapping scene, I’m pretty sure the opening scene of the peace negotiations and the later scene of her admitting to starting a genocide would have been fine to convince me she was bad, but hey-ho. The big cliffhanger reveal of Boomer being a Cylon was great, still stands up as a perfect way to build up anticipation for the following series.

Commander Adama and Starbuck are as entertaining as I remember, as serious but sometimes snarky leader and, well, Starbuck-y laidback cocky pilot, respectively. Dr. Baltar is great as a smug git who for some reason you want to get away with being a git despite everything he does being so self-obsessed. The Number Six in his head visions start in the second half of the Mini-Series and are always a treat. One of the things I can definitely say is better in this version is Baltar, the Baltar in the original series made no sense (why would the Cylons keep him around??) even if he was amusing in a scenery-chewing way.

The scenes with Adama and the Cylon-human known as Leoben also still hold up, as does the “lucky guess” that Baltar makes about Aaron Doral also being a Cylon. It’s these scenes that do set it apart from the original in at least creating a new kind of drama, not that the few space dogfights aren’t good here (though I much prefer the models from the originals to the CG, but I’ll get to that later…)

The Bad:

BSG Miniseries 4

I’d look like that too if he were my son…

It’s funny how Apollo from the original series was so bland and goody-goody and yet I think I prefer him to the remake Apollo, who is a bit of a dick and not very relatable. Both Apollos suffer from being surrounded by far more interesting characters, that’s for sure…

I have to say that the 2003 TV CG is looking pretty ropey now. Unavoidable, I know, but comparing it to the original series just proves to me what I already knew, and that’s that good practical effects always look better than CG, and even more so with age. Only the last few years has CG gotten to the point where it won’t ever really look poor because they can’t improve too much, but the old CG… yeah, not so much. It’s like a good 2D computer game is still great to look at and play, but an early polygon CG game? Not so much…

I don’t like how they do the very American thing of having a President and having a line of succession. It works in places, though it does make everything seem less fantastical and more like real life, especially the “Colonial 1” spaceship that looks far too much like Air Force 1…

Overall Thoughts:

BSG Miniseries 1

Compare that to the sweeping model shots of the original and tell me which one looks better…

Having watched the original, I can now see why so many people complained that they overly “sexed it up” and made it more grim for no reason, though the reason is they were making a whole new show with the bare framework of the original, so it doesn’t bother me, but then I watched this first so I can’t really see their point of view. Although there are some shaky bits, this mini-series did do a great job of setting the scene for the story to come, and for that it should definitely be praised.

4 Star Watch

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