Boxing Clever: Battlestar Galactica


In this Otwo feature, Jack Walsh discusses his latest addiction – Battlestar Galactica.

Title: Battlestar Galactica

Starring: Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber, Katee Sackhoff

Original run: 2004 – 2009

So, you just finished The Wire, hailed by most as the greatest television experience ever. But hey, we all have to move on sometime. How about a show that’s as honest and passionate in discussing contemporary politics as The West Wing, as emotionally exquisite as Six Feet Under, with dialogue and memorable characters equalling The Sopranos?

Unfortunately the term ‘science fiction’ turns many viewers off Battlestar Galactica. As a result, most never experience what became one of the most sophisticated, enthralling and elegant shows on TV- a testament to writer/producer Ronald D. Moore, who re-imagined the show from a cheesy seventies Star Wars cash-in, keeping the bare bones of some characters’ names and the overlying plot idea.

Battlestar essentially boils down to a simple storyline. Humans made robots called Cylons which, after being treated like slaves, fought back until they were given their own side of the universe. The show focuses on a sole Battlestar ship and its struggle to defend the human race from the Cylons, who wish to wipe them out. They try to find refuge on a mythological planet far away from the Cylons, i.e., Earth.

Based around that central plot point, a rich tapestry of events and characters unfold and cleverly mirror modern-day society. Most evident is the replication of the ‘war on terror’, graphically represented by robots designed by the Cylons to look human in order to infiltrate the human world.

Moore explores the characters in great depth, allowing viewers to connect with them on an emotional level. This is the beauty of the show. The characters go through a constant evolution not always present in sci-fi shows.

The show is awash with modern agendas such as religious ideology and fundamentalism, cloning and robotics, ethnicity, family love and identity. The list really does go on.

However, none of these elements would be as effective without the large cast, each of which follows their own meandering life path throughout the series. The show features several breakout characters, but the highlight must be Kara “Starbuck” Thrace. Everything about this character breaks the stereotypical mould of female roles in sci-fi – the part was played by a man in the seventies version, and is now seen as a role model in the sci-fi medium.

Starbuck was played to perfection by actress Katee Sackhoff, who exuded a presence that, within seconds, could create an unexpected flurry of emotions. She was described by one of the show’s producers; “We saw this whole other side that was all because of Katee: vulnerability, insecurity, desperation. We started freeing ourselves up to explore the weakness of the character, because we knew Katee could express those things without compromising the character’s strength”.

Battlestar Galactica ran for five years, ending in 2009. Box sets are available in most good video stores.