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Film reviews and other thoughts

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Location: New York, New York, United States

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pop genius: Battlestar Galactica

Some of my friends will roll their eyes: hopelessly nerdy. They wouldn’t stoop so low as to waste their valuable time on a space opera.


I came late to this cable serial, as I have to several other TV phenomena, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Six Feet Under, watching it mostly on disc. And, as also happened with those two series, becoming hopelessly, helplessly hooked.


The four-hour ‘miniseries’ and the first several weekly episodes are indeed space opera, well done but, I was thinking, not worth continuing to clog my Netflix queue with. Then, somewhere in the second half of the first season, I began to realize just how good this was: in fact, a pop masterpiece.

Humans are being genocidally annihilated by evil robots…but wait...why are the humans non-believing carriers of Greek/Roman religious traditions, while the robots are fierce devotees of ‘the One True God?’ ...Huh? And the episodes that touch on terrorism [is it ok to torture a robot?] and presidential politics, without once being heavy-handed; the uniformly excellent writing and acting; the brilliantly conceived documentary look that, combined with beautifully done special effects, give the series an immediacy and believability previously unknown in either film or TV sci-fi. Most of all, the enormous overall conception and the long, novel-like story arcs—again, something quite new for filmed space sagas. And it’s sexy, and funny, and…oh just rent it already. If I told you it’s as good as The West Wing, with a more exciting plot, will that convince? Because it is.

[PS No weekly series is without the occasional bummer episode. And I actually think they may be cheating a little with the mythological stuff about God and the Arrow of Apollo and the Lost Planet Earth…raising tantalizing questions and then dropping them. I hope I’m wrong about that last part, and I can’t wait for the new season to start in a few months.]

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