Battlestar Galactica – Season 1 Overall Review

BSG Season 1

The first season (or really the second half of the first season, if including the mini-series) of Battlestar Galactica’s reboot is a good mix of dreary reality and great sci-fi, as well as very hard to write about without giving spoilers for the series as a whole, which I’m trying to avoid… I’m also a bit late with this review due to the amount of new seasons or new shows entirely that have returned or debuted on TV since the start of October, but here we are anyway! Just don’t expect the first half of Season 2 until next year… Right, with that said, Season 1 then!

Synopsis:

Having fled the besieged Ragnar Anchorage, the convoy of refugee spaceships is relentlessly pursued and attacked by Cylon Basestars. The colonial fleet must execute a faster-than-light (FTL) jump every 33 minutes to escape the Cylons, who consistently arrive at the new jump coordinates approximately 33 minutes later. After over 130 hours and 237 jumps, the fleet’s crew and passengers, particularly those aboard Galactica, have been operating without sleep while facing the strain of nearly constant military action… Something has to give eventually…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

BSG Season 1 2

Grah, I hate this picture, it really feels like they’re looking at me! … Stop it! Leave me alone!

Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) – Adama has the unenviable task of guiding what’s left of humanity’s military against a superior foe, but given that he was about to be retired, maybe deep down a part of him enjoys the situation.

Captain Lee “Apollo” Adama (Jamie Bamber) – Apollo is now the top-ranking pilot, not only on board the Galactica, but in general thanks to humanity’s current situation. This fact at least eventually makes him see that some grudges aren’t worth holding on to…

Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) – Starbuck is still laidback and cocky, though deep down she holds a lot of guilt from a decision before the war, one that might end up costing her dearly should it ever get out…

President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) – Secretary of Education-turned-President Roslin not only has the weight of the survival of humanity on her shoulders, but she also has cancer! That’s a winning combination for stress, that’s for sure…

Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis) – Baltar is responsible for the death of countless human lives due to his arrogance, but that same arrogance (plus a want to … stay alive) means he keeps that fact to himself. The truth is he is a benefit to humanity, though mostly due to a hallucination of a sexy Cylon woman in his head giving him tips… Hmmmm…

Number Six (Tricia Helfer) – One of the many Cylon human-looking duplicates that have inserted themselves into mankind, though in Number Six’s case she has already been found out by at least one human…

Lieutenant Sharon “Boomer” Valerii (Grace Park) – Another Cylon human-a-like, “Boomer” is actually unaware that she is a Cylon, and continues to happily serve the Galactica, unaware that countless copies of herself are banging about the universe…

Lieutenant Karl “Helo” Agathon (Tahmoh Penikett) – “Helo” is stuck in the dead world of Caprica, constantly being monitored by the Cylons as a sick experiment, desperate to find a way off the planet.

Colonel Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan) – A strict commander who is second-in-command of the Galactica, a fact that has lead him to stop his drinking habits… for now.

Chief Petty Officer Galen Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) – Responsible for repairing and maintaining the ships onboard the Galactica, Tyrol is currently in a love affair with a killer robot, not that he’s actually knows that…

Plus many more!

The Good:

BSG Season 1 4

Now all Starbuck needs to do is befriend the Cylon inside and then deliver a God-Baby! … Oh right, wrong Galactica…

There is a lot of love in the first season of the reboot BSG. The mood is kept bleak but still has time for the odd bit of humour, the “who is a Cylon” plot is still at the peak of interest, especially knowing Boomer is one but the crew being unaware makes for good TV (as does knowing the other Cylons, but I won’t spoil that…) and generally the over-arching plot is still in its promising and teasing phase. So much raw potential, this season you do get to see how much the original series was wasted by having such a short run (and inconsistent tone, though I did enjoy the more family-friendly-ness a lot of the time…)

Adama continues to be a great leader and a complex person, Starbuck continues to be extremely fun to watch, even in bad situations, and Baltar is a comic delight constantly, even in the bleakest of moments. The rest of the cast (minus one or two…) fill in their roles perfectly, with Tricia Helfer doing a bang up job both as the teasing Number Six in Baltar’s head and the cold-hearted (but somewhere deep inside more emotional than you’d think) other copies in the “real” world. The scenes with Helo and eventually a Boomer clone, which at the time seemed to be going nowhere, now are a great look at the beginning of a major plot point, and are generally a good “post apocalyptic” story in a more traditional setting.

In terms of specific episodes, the season opener, “33”, is a great start to the series, and among the most bleak it gets. You really feel for the people and crew and get a full-on sense of how hopeless everything looks. Episode 3, Bastille Day, and its sort-of sequel Colonial Day (Episode 11) are great, mostly for the morally complex Tom Zarek, played by Richard Hatch, who takes on a completely different view now I’ve watched through the original series, seeing him looking just like the old Apollo but, well, older. It almost feels like he was in a happy place and now resents having to live in the grim political world and wants to change it back, as if his character IS somehow the old Apollo (not literally, but you know what I mean).

Episode 5, “You Can’t Go Home Again”, is a great story centred on Starbuck and her unfortunate past that lead to Adama’s son being killed. I actually now also see it as a close-to remake of “The Return of Starbuck” from Galactica 1980, which was fun. It’s the little extra knowledge from watching the original run that adds to the experience this second time round. Episode 8, “Flesh and Bone”, sees Cylon human Number 2, a.k.a. Leoben Conoy, appear as premonitions in President Roslin’s dreams and simultaneously be in the real world and interrogated by Starbuck. There are some great “makes you think” scenes that the human Cylons would be famous for later, and a great performance by Leoben’s actor Callum Keith Rennie.

The two-part finale, “Kobol’s Last Gleaming” is everything you want from a finale. Lots of action, plot twists, a big clamctic fight (between Starbuck and a Number Six) some teases for next season (particularly the Boomer clone on Caprica being pregnant and Baltar and the Number Six in his head talking about the future) and then a big shocking cliffhanger. A nice extra layer is once again added on as I get the connections to the original series two-parter “Lost Planet of the Gods”, although this time the similarities were barely present beyond both featuring the remnants of humanity reaching Kobol.

The Bad:

BSG Season 1 1

Apollo tries to kill Apollo and therefore gain his identity…. I think that’s how it works, anyway…

It seems if you play Apollo in Battlestar Galactica, you have to be really dull. I guess it comes with being the lead or something, but there just isn’t any reason to be invested in Apollo during the season, even in moments where you’re supposed to feel sorry for him. Just too plain and “all American hero” –esque. Same goes for Roslin, who despite claiming to have everyone’s interest, keeps on to the role of President despite having no actual experience and dying slowly of cancer… (in other words, Tom Zarek is right!) Plus as I said in the previous mini-series review, the whole President thing and having an airforce 1 equivalent just feels like an unnecessary way to make the show feel less fictional, which is ridiculous given the rest of the show!

Two things that didn’t bother me the first time round are starting to annoy me a bit this time. The constant camera zooming in and out all the time thing, and the repeated religious stuff. Some of the latter I don’t mind, the idea of a robotic race ending up caught up in a religious prophecy and how it plays out is good, but some episodes rather unsubtly ram the point home, particular with Baltar and his debates with “Head Six”.

Most of the episodes were good to great, though the episode with Colonel Tigh’s wife appearing (Episode 9 “Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down”) was more annoying than funny, as it was the first time round, although I at least now appreciate that Ellen plays a rather more important role down the line…

Also I’ll quickly point out again that 10-ish years old CGI still looks far more outdated than the model shots from the original series. It’s not any kind of deal breaker, but it is noticeable, particularly with the non-human looking Cylons.

Overall Thoughts:

BSG Season 1 3

Oh look, practical effects looking better than CGI! Weird! (admittedly this would have been a nightmare to do with CGI, but you get my point…)

The first Season of the resurrected and rebooted Battlestar Galactica is still top-class TV, with some good drama, action and a bit of comedy, and with a central premise and storyline that’s set up and teased really well. That being said, some cracks have formed over the decade and a bit, it’s no longer the full-on 5-Stars it would have been had I had this site back when I first saw it. It’s a bit heavy handed with the religious stuff and some characters and effects can draw you out of it here and there. Still well worth your time if you haven’t given it a go yet. I look forward to revisiting the rest of the show next year.

4 Star Watch

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