Here’s the thing : Battlestar Galactica not only holds up in 2020, but now major elements of the first season of the series are felt more urgently.
Battlestar Galactica was one of the largest shows of the pre-streaming era. It was a zeitgeist-defining hit that was so popular that inspired one of the most hilarious sketches ever done about binge watching on Portlandia. It was also a show that felt quite much of its time, using the clandestine cyanons and the imagery of Caprica’s destruction to float over the anxieties of America in a post-war landscape.
Here’s the thing – Battlestar Galactica not only holds up in 2020 but today key elements of the series’ first season are felt more urgently. The nightmare of trauma, paranoia and fear gripping the characters in the first episodes of the show feels eerie for anyone who has lived through 2020.
Battlestar Galactica was originally a revival of a 1970s science-fiction series of the same name. Showrunner Ronald D. Moore took the concept of the show to a ragtag team of human survivors on the run from Cylons in outer space and anchored it in emotional reality. While the original series was a sexy space opera inspired by the first Star Wars film, Moore focused on the psychology of the character cast. In this new iteration of the story, grief, panic, stress and, most notably, paranoia cast an attack on the characters.
The Battlestar Galactica reboot began as a super-splashy miniseries in 2003 that showed how the so-called defeat Cylons managed to wipe out the “Twelve Colonies” aka a loose federation of twelve human-based worlds that are all named for astrological signs. With most of humankind destroyed, the refugees are on the run. The only old-guard ship in the Colonial fleet, Battlestar Galactica, is in charge of the future of the human race. The one problem? Well, the human race must contend with normal human weaknesses besides facing an insidiously aggressive enemy. We are talking about political divisions, feuds, rivalry, and messy interpersonal drama.
In fact, what struck me a few months ago in a binge of Battlestar Galactica’s first season is how much more I could relate to the characters’ crass ennui. A loose strap pulls a torpedo off of Galactica’s hangar early in the season and kills 13 of the fleet’s precious Viper pilots in a single swoop. The following briefing with surviving fighter pilots made my heart ache. Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber) struggled to console his friends and subordinates. The camera cuts his father Edward James Olmos (Edward James Olmos) into the room. His hand rests in a dead mask on the photo of Caprica engulfed in smoke.
When I first watched Battlestar Galactica, I made the mistake of thinking that it was a sci-fi-filler about the anxieties of living in post–9/11 America. It now feels more universal Battlestar Galactica isn’t just a captivating puzzle box-style sci-fi story. It is a meditation on the way human beings sometimes break under the weight of trauma and how they sometimes reach themselves and continue to plummet onwards. The pain of living is simply repeated.
As the characters themselves say, “All this has happened before and all this will happen again”
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