Uh-oh. Apparently, there was some TV premiere that I missed last night that I’m seeing discussed all over the Intarwubs. I’d let it slide, but Scott McLemee said this:

Looking back, it was probably Tim Burke’s recommendation that made me give the remake a try. He called himself “probably the last geek out there to discover Battlestar Galactica” but actually, no, a few of us were left to follow in his wake.

Yep, that’s me, one of the last geeks to see this thing. I saw one episode a year or so ago…and I wasn’t impressed (it would take a fair amount of dazzle to overcome the hurdle put up by the ghastly original incarnation of the program), and I’ve just never made the effort to follow through on it.

So convince me.


  1. Miguelito says

    Sure, it’s set in a sci-fi setting, but it’s real power lies in the comparisons to today’s war on terror.

    Seriously, start watching it. You’ll start seeing big parallels in the tactics used (ie. torture), the role of religion in politics, and the dehumanization of the enemy as a few examples. The start of this season starts with the human settlement occupied by the cylons. See any possible comparisons to be made?

  2. Miguelito says

    Forgot to mention:

    They almost never solve problems with some scenes of last-minute engineering feats and techno-babble.

  3. says

    If you want to watch a TV series where absolutely everything that possibly could go wrong without ending the show does indeed go wrong, then watch it. Personally, I got really tired of really quickly.

    But then again, I pretty much only watch funny TV and MythBusters.

  4. says

    I’ll never watch it.

    Han shot first, and Starbuck is a guy, not a chick. He’s a very pretty guy, with finely feathered hair, but he’s not a chick.

  5. Robert says

    I agree, the reason to watch it is that it actually tackles some fairly difficult questions of morality including torture and abortion, but never actually makes a moral judgement, just shows how people try to tackle these problems. This is all wrapped up in a surprisingly entertaining package with some decent character development and a progressing storyline.

    Serenity kicks its butt in terms of pure sci-fi glee, but battlestar is a definate winner. Oh and I think the special effects team is the same on from Serenity/Firefly (or at least they completly stole the style)

  6. says

    I continue to be stunned that anyone but HBO could generate content that is so intelligent and relevant, and yet it remains successful on a cable network. I agree with the Firefly people as well, Joss Whedon is a hell of a writer, but Battlestar is just jaw-dropping. It’s just taking everybody and everything on. Last night’s episode was simply incredible, talk about turning the war on terror on its ear.

    PZ, I’d recommend starting from the beginning though. Or not watching hours of sci-fi and having a life, either way is good.

  7. JD says

    It’s a fantastic show, a friend(who says that there couldn’t be more differences between the original and this new series) finally got me to download the first two seasons a few weeks ago, and I was hooked immediately. It’s not really *that* sci-fi-ish, excluding the robots and ships. There’s no silly looking aliens, no ridiculousness. And there’s no perfect or completely predictible characters – in fact, at one point or another, you WILL hate just about everyone for the choices they make. Everyone is a bad guy at some point, it’s just in varying degrees. Really, my only complaint is they don’t kill off main characters enough. But then, that’s my complaint about every show. I highly suggest it.

  8. Claire says

    I agree, PZ. I watched a few episodes, but never really got into it. Firefly is all I need.

  9. dAVE says

    You just have to let the old show go. There really is no comparison between the two.

    One thing I really like about it, is that it gets you sympathetic to characters you should hate, and gets you to dislike characters that are supposed to be the “good guys”. Sometimes you see that the Cylons really might be justified in killing off the human race, other times, you’re reminded of what the Cylons did to the humans. It’s all very complicated, more complex than just about any other show on television.

    And, they actually use missles, bullets, and nukes in their battles, not lasers, phasers, or other made up sci-fi crap that would need a giant battery. Sure, they’ve got FTL drive, but they don’t have force fields, or all that other stuff.

    It took me a little while to get used to Starbuck being female, but it really works.

    Again, it’s totally unlike the original. Start out with the miniseries, and go from there.

  10. ffakr says

    It’s the best serious on TV (and I’m hopelessly addicted to the prime time crime shows).
    ((( WARNING: spoilers, lots of them)))

    Aside from being good sci-fi (as in, the fighters actually fly like objects being pushed through space and not like airplanes)… the story has a dozen layers to it. Granted some things are a little technologically silly but I’m not good at ignoring stupidity for the sake of making the story move and, in general, they do a fantastic job of making this great sci-fi. For the most part, they try and keep the realism up.

    Some of the topics woven in:
    Religion: the cylons are mono-theists and the colonials are poly-theistic. A lot of the tension is religious. In each group there are Religious zealots who push agendas while, in some cases, trying to convert by the sword.
    Politics (civilian and military): crooks and liars. revolutionaries with agendas. Theocrats, cleptocrats, and fascists.
    Personal stories: Twists and turns. love triangles, unrequited loves, separations and reunions, hidden enemies and impossible loves. Granted, this part sounds rediculous but they handle it well.

    It’s really a great show. My wife hates sci-fi and she’s hooked. I’m pretty geeky and I love it (my geek creds are Divisional IT Manager at a top-tier Private Research University ;-P ).

    The acting is good to exceptional. They manage to drive a fairly straight-forward plot for over two seasons now. It even looked like they painted themselves into a corner at the end of last season but the show last night was good. They’ve opened up a lot of interesting story lines (the humans are occupied with only a puppet government and they’re running an insurgency).
    ((( really spoiling it now…)))
    One thing I appreciate, they pull story twists you wouldn’t expect. (they’d never let that nuke go off.. they’d never let the cylons catch everyone.. they’d never attempt an aliance, they’d never trust that cylon).

    Give it a try. Pick up the 4 part mini-series from Apple (iTunes Music store has it). They cover a lot of ground and it’s really well produced. You might feel like they just create questions but they do a good job of spinning everything off and then tying everything up in the series.

  11. dAVE says

    One bit about the miniseries, (rented it from Netflix instead of downloading it) – there is a brief appearance by a kid who is the Boxy character from the original show. He does NOT appear anywhere else in the series. No stupid kid tagging along on missions, no robotic dog.

    Oh, and the Cylons are BAD-ASS!

  12. ffakr says

    Two quick things:
    sorry about last post.. I typed serious instead of series in the first line. I mainly mention it because it was automatic typing that I didn’t realize that the time and it’s fascinating that I correctly typed in a completely incorrect word when I conciously intended to type something else and I didn’t even notice. :-)

    I also forgot to share a good story. I was in Europe with Friends this past summer and one guy was staying alone in an English B&B before we all got together in Greece. The ladies there were talking about the B&B owner’s son and she was proud that he was in an American TV show. None of them were familiar with it at all. After a bit, he realized what they were talking about and he said..
    “Oh my god, you’re Baltar’s Mom! That’s the best show on TV!”
    He said she was quite happy to find out he was familiar with the show (apparently B&Bs in england don’t attract the Sci-Fi crowd)

  13. Fedaykin says

    Battlestar is the type of Sci-Fi that is not overtly sci-fi, meaning that the sci-fi elements are not the focus, but rather the background and plot elements. Other than the FTL travel and Cylon “computer” tech, there are no automagic technologies. There are no bumpy head forehead “aliens”. Deux ex machina (SP?) resolutions are rare (at last count I was upset by only two in two seaons + the miniseries). Finally, it contains the mystical lost concept in sci-fi of good character driven stories and progressive character development that probably completely outmatches any other show currently on the air. However, I only watch a few shows, so I may be wrong ;-)

    One of the best things about Battlestar is that the characters seem real, far more than perhaps any other sci-fi I’ve ever read/watched. There are no black and white characters like many sci-fi stories. They have personal problems. They are alcoholics, smart mouths, cocky, etc. They’ve made bad decisions (in the past and in the show) and those decisions come back to haunt them. Also, this is the first sci-fi where the writers have written in a realistic fashion about character’s sexuality, though they go a bit overboard sometimes with “Number 6”.

    Sure, the setting is a bunch of people running from genocidal robots in spaceships, but they handle that concept in a way that is not hokey, and does not distract from the real story, which is really about the people and the ideas it deals with (many of which parallel current problems in our society).

    What you need to do is watch the miniseries first, and then watch the rest of the series in order. You can get it on DVD or purchase it (and the whole series actually) from iTunes. It’s the type of show that you really have to watch from the beginning because while it’s episodic (somewhat) as far as the plot goes, you really miss out on a lot of “texture” if you watch it out of order, because the writers do a brilliant job with continuity and maintaining a continuing story arc that is coherent and interesting.

  14. Fedaykin says

    P.S. Damn you Apple for not posting last nights episode to iTunes yet!!!! And damn you Comcast for not including sci-fi in basic cable in my area!

    Sorry, had to get that out…

  15. plunge says

    Guys, you don’t seem to know PZ very well. You’re making good points, but you are missing the critical bullet points:

    – Put very simply: monotheists are the BAD GUYS trying to force their religion, which claims to be about love, onto the pagan humans via genocide and oppression.
    – The chicks are hot and they get Tv risque nekkid. Sometimes they even squirm around nekkid in goo.
    – The producers turn the War on Terror on its head: the show is full of political subtext.
    – The plot is full of sprawling story arcs and twisty character turns: twisty LIKE SQUID.

    Nuff said.

  16. plunge says

    “Han shot first, and Starbuck is a guy, not a chick.”

    Starbuck was fucking Face from A-Team. Who cares whether the Starbuck character from the corny original is a guy?

  17. up2orbit says

    Battlestar Galactica is one of the best shows on TV. Its script is very intelligent and the characters have very deep backgrounds with endless cross-connected relationships that are well-explored while the story progresses.

    Its a movie about society and how humans deal with crisis…not just a human-race-scale crisis, but close, personal crises as well.

    Note: You must watch the series from the beginning, episode 1, season 1. Rent it from Netflix or buy if off of, but watch it from the beginning. Otherwise, not only will you be lost, but the events won’t mean as much because you won’t know the character’s backgrounds.

    So, the premise is that the human race is nuked almost to extinction by a malevalent race of robots called the Cylons that humans created decades prior. But the twist is that the robots have evolved (woohoo, evolution!) and they have many different models that look human now. And not just Terminator-human where you can peel the skin back to find the metal endoskeleton, but full-on human: blood, flesh, bones, digestive system, reproductive system. And nobody (including the audience) knows what all the cyclons look like. So how do you deal with that situation, when anybody from the janitor to the president could be a cylon? That’s the underlying tension of the whole thing.

    Then you mix that with the whole human-race-on-the-run and barely surviving, while we try to scrape by and the “Oh yeah, we should make babies so we can propogate the species” thing. Man, it is intense. It makes you think about everything in a different light.

    For example, in real life, I’m pro-choice, but if the human race was whittled down to 50,000 people, I think I would want every baby that we could possibly make. For all those closed-minded people out there, it really makes you consider things in new ways.

    They touch on all different topics: science vs religion, strong military leadership as it alternately cooperates and argues with the civilian leadership, fly-boy pilots vs grease monkey mechanics, father and son relationships, xenophobia, preservation of life, terrorism, black markets, drugs and alcohol abuse, etc.

    My girlfriend loves it, and she’s not usually a sci-fi fan. Its the human intrigue that roped her in.

  18. Caledonian says

    I strongly recommend watching the first season and a half because the writing and acting is superb. The story can be appreciated on the most superficial level, or you can dig through it to find layers of meaning – and either way, it’s extremely entertaining and frequently thought-provoking.

    Up to a point halfway through the second season, I’d say the writers’ courage to write complex and adult stories within a frequently scorned medium never failed.

    But of course the most important reason to watch it is to maintain geek cred.

  19. andy says

    Don’t forget that there was that character played by Dean Stockwell who was an athiest chaplain. Okay, he turned out to be a Cylon too, but there you go…

  20. says

    No, no, you’re going about this all wrong! If we want to get PZ Myers to watch, we need to talk about the wonderful space squid that are in just about every episode!

  21. says

    I liked the original show. Not as much as the original Star Trek, and it was during a long dry spell for scifi in movies and TV, but I liked it. Liked the Buck Rodgers series too, until they changed Twiki’s voice actor. That little robot was never the same after that. It was like when they tried to replace Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger — voices matter.

    Erin Grey was, though.

  22. says

    I sloughed off watching it until about a month and a half ago. I boought a new iPod, my first with video capability, and wanted to download somethng to see how well the video worked, and my niece had raved about the show so I downloaded the miniseries and watched it. Within two weeks I’d downloaded and watched the next two seasons.

    Pretty much everything positive that people have said above I agree with. And the show did lose direction a bit in season two.

  23. Robert says

    I disagree with the losing direction part, it was more like they diecided they wanted to change gears… It may not have been the smoothest transition, but I think it will work… (this won’t make sense until you have watched the show)

  24. Caledonian says

    Yeah, but I don’t think it worked at all well. And there’s an event just after the midpoint of season two – technically, a nonevent – that I don’t think anyone can claim was well-thought out. Dramatically, the show began to go awry there.

    I’m willing to see if they can redeem themselves. But that has nothing to do with the first 1.5 seasons, which kicked butt.

  25. JJR says

    Man! The premiere last night just blew me away. BSG just has such consistently good writing, good acting…some of the shows near the end of season 2 started to drag and I started to lose interest, but the “Webisodes” on and then the actual season premiere caught my interest again.

    I’m just waiting to see where they go with all the Cylon-Human hybrid stuff, and the rebel cylon incarnation of Sharon Valerii that Adama seems to trust now (and whose human-cylon child is still on New Caprica in the care of adoptive foster parents, unbeknownst to Sharon, the cylon mother).

    I admit I was skeptical of a Female Starbuck, but Katee Sackhoff just nails it–same swaggering, maniacal leer, same roguishness…she’s Starbuck alright. Dirk Bennedict seems to approve, too.

    I still like the old series, but they really are completely different shows…and the old show was based heavily on its creator’s Mormonism. The new Baltar is way more twisted, pathetic, and interesting a character than the comical stock villan of the old BSG. I do sort of miss the original Lucifer cylon, but Number 6 is way more interesting–all her different incarnations.

    Did anyone else notice the GOLD-plated cylons that marched up to act as firing squad at the tail end of the seaon opener? That was new for this series (but also a respectful but brief tip of the hat to the old series).

    I can’t decide what is creepier…the Cylon’s monotheistic religion or the Orii religion from Stargate SG1. Both of them give me serious willies. The BSG humans are polytheistic, but only a small set of the total population is really very religious in any profound way. I keep wondering what direction BSG will ultimately go…because if they ever do actually reach Earth, that’s pretty much all she wrote. The original BSG didn’t know where to go after that, other than quickly downhill.

    Still, they have a lot of interesting story arcs to play out, and I’m looking forward to watching the liberation of (or abandonment and new diaspora from) New Caprica with earnest.

    The Cylons seem to have shifted their motivations from outright genocide to trying to “save” the humans through their “superior” religious vision, with predictable (e.g. violent) results. That intermarriage seems so far to be the only real way to peace and understanding is an interesting sub-plot.

    I love the series, and give it a big thumbs up, and I do encourage PZ to watch it from Episode 1, season 1 and really take it in. (and forget about the old series, it can’t serve as much of a guide to this one except in VERY broad meta-arcs)

  26. tacitus says

    Other reasons to watch? Many right-wingers hate it, and many of the religious right absolutely loathe it. :-)

    Why? Battlestar Galactica reflects life the way it is, not how it should be. The right loves their fiction to have “moral clarity”, there’s no mistaking the heroes, no doubting that they are going to “do the right thing.”

    You won’t find anything so simplistic on Battlestar Galactica. Sure, you can root for the good guys, but when one of the good guys deploys a suicide bombers to help save the day, or employs rape and torture of a Cylon (i.e. non-human) to extract intelligence data, it’s not always that comfortable.

    Not only is BSG well written, well acted, and well made, it is consistently one of the most intellectually challenging (entertainment) shows on TV.

    P.S. Here’s a few choice quotes from a right-wing board about BSG:

    “Battlestar has become blinding anti-Christian anti-Bush propaganda.”

    “I’m thinking this show is an apologist for underground Iraqi tactics versus the American troops.”

    “After seeing how Galactica is now a Pali-wood production, I think I’ll be foregoing this boatload of Pali-c**p.”

    Anything that despised by the right-wingers has got to have something going for it! :-)

  27. says

    I liked the original show. Not as much as the original Star Trek, and it was during a long dry spell for scifi in movies and TV, but I liked it.

    So did I, but I was of the right age to enjoy the associated cool Colonial Viper toys that actually shot little red pellets. Way cooler than the X-wing toys.

  28. yoshi says

    Another reason to watch it – after every episode airs the producer releases a podcast of the show. He drinks, swears, and every other podcast you can hear the garbage being picked up. And through all that he gives an straight forward description of why they made decisions, the challanges involved, and what he thought worked and didn’t. And he takes the blame for any bad decisions.

    Its just a refreshing change from all the other shows out there.

    As for the Firefly/Serenity crowd: you may not have heard but Firefly was cancelled after one season and is no longer on the air. Just thought you might want to know. [grin]

  29. Caledonian says

    Can JJR’s comment be deleted somehow? It has *way* too many spoilers for a thread intended to induce someone to begin watching the show.

  30. says

    I second the vote to go back to the beginning — the first season boxed set has the mini-series, too, and it wonderfully establishes the tone for what follows (though S1.1 “33” kicks butt all by itself!). It’s wonderful that nobody’s unadulteratedly good or bad, there are no tidy endings, no happily ever-afters and no easy solutions. And it amuses me no end that people are screeching about it being so vulgar and sex-filled that it shouldn’t be allowed on TV while my two girls (now 11 and 9) have been watching it with me from the first season. But, then, I’m just a bad, liberal parent!

    Yeah, I loved the original (in a cheesy, campy way). I mock the new series for mixing up Triad and Pyramid (gosh! That’s so obvious). But I love it fiercely, even after some of the episodes in the second half of season two seemed to falter — the season finale was awesome.

    Now I’m eagerly awaiting Canada’s chance to watch the start of season three when it airs tonight at nine.

    If you want to get a fun feel for what’s involved, see the video on the official site comparing (tongue-in-cheek) the old series with the new:

  31. says

    I’m pretty picky about my sci-fi– literary, film, etc… So I was definately putting off BG due to memories of the unwatchable original POS series. Then I happened to catch a “what’s happened up ’til now” broadcast, which got me hooked on the decent story… and then saw a few episodes– it’s damn good stuff. Very well written, very NOT what I’d expect from the usual boob-tube moron writers.

  32. Belathor says

    Every 10 minutes or so there are breaks where you get to loudly curse the stupidity and absurdity that are Sci-fi channel commercials…

  33. Ian H Spedding says

    Firefly/Serenity, Dr Who, Babylon 5 and even Stargate are all better. Eureka is good fun , too.

    This latest Galactica is trying too hard to be all contemporary and edgy. It’s all style and no SF substance. There’s no sense of it being ‘out there’ since it seems to be mostly navel-gazing politics and religion. You can get plenty of that in other genres. It’s little more than a soap in space. What I’m looking for from SF – but rarely get – are new ideas that make the hairs on the back of your head stand up.

    Besides, there’s not one sympathetic character amongst the whole cast as far as I can see. This female Starbuck, for example, drives me up the wall. She seems to be the sort of neurotic drunk that no one in their right mind would let anywhere near a fighter – whether aircraft or spacecraft – unless it was absolutely the last resort.

    It’s a real shame that Firely wasn’t given a chance to develop.

  34. Caledonian says

    Eureka is good fun, too.

    Eureka is a mass of cliches and everyman “common sense” resolving problems that even a demented three-year-old should be able to anticipate and cope with, yet the town of genuises can’t seem to tie its own shoes or build houses that aren’t cybernetically enhanced and go homicidally mad.

    And Stargate is a fairly good show. It boggles my mind that you’d see fit to include it in the same category as Eureka.

  35. Cyan says

    Alon Levy, Stuart Coleman, Max Udargo, Claire, Ian H Spedding: you are all clearly Cylons. ;-)

  36. says

    I’m with all the positive things said. Great show in sooo many ways. Give it a whirl.
    Edward James Olmos as Adama is fanfuckintastc. I had a crush from Episode 1 ;)

  37. Kagehi says

    I watch Eureka for the same reason I read Pratchett, or even the “Phule’s Company” series from Robert Asprin, **because** they don’t take the science seriously and the cast are all clowns that somehow make it through in spite of there incompetence. Yeah, there are things in it that bug me once in a while, like the recent episodes where some of the “geniuses” make religious comments and no one even blinked an eye, as though the entire town agreed with them. The magic orb, or what ever the heck it is, makes me nervous precisely because of that. It smacks of, “This is something invented by some guy that figured out god, then dropped it some place, where it was later found (or sent it through time, etc.), and Eureka is going to be saved some day by a huge miracle…” Frankly, if so, then its going to rapidly turn into a case of enjoying two trains, then suddenly realizing they are on a collision, and you can’t do a damn thing about it. :(

    But as to BSG. PZ, if you miss this show, stop watching “any” Sci Fi, because *nothing* could possibly ever satisfy you if you think this one is somehow horrible and impossible to watch.

  38. Anonymous says

    I’ve now lost complete faith in PZ Myers. His failure to like BSG has proven to me that he is wrong about evolution and that Intelligent Design is correct. Ah, who the frak am I kidding. I always knew the the planet was intelligently designed, Douglas Adams said so in the Hitchhicker trilogy and that is all the proof I need. Anyone who disagrees with me is full of felgercarb. =p

  39. Dark Matter says

    tacitus wrote:

    Other reasons to watch? Many right-wingers hate it, and many of the religious right absolutely loathe it. :-)

    Really? I remember watching the original series- It was “Exodus in
    Space”……did they completely rework the old testament “flight of the israelites out of Egypt” stuff out of the new show?

    Has Lucifer shown up yet?……..:-) :-)

  40. Ian H Spedding says

    Cyan wrote:

    Alon Levy, Stuart Coleman, Max Udargo, Claire, Ian H Spedding: you are all clearly Cylons. ;-)

    By Your Command… :-|

  41. tacitus says

    Really? I remember watching the original series- It was “Exodus in Space”……did they completely rework the old testament “flight of the israelites out of Egypt” stuff out of the new show?

    Yes, really. The show has the same basic premise as the original, but cardboard cut-out “moral clarity” of the ’70s version has been replaced by a much more grown-up, sophisticated, and realistic vision of what it would be like to be fleeing for your lives with the very existence of the human race at stake.

  42. Torbjörn Larsson says

    The old show looked to much like a kiddie concept, so I have never watched it. But they sneaked in the new show without ads here, so I happened to catch an early episode by chance. And it is great!

    Since they can use modern animation and cutting instead of oldstyle technomagic transporters to accelerate the story, they can have a diversified story and cast instead. It really makes a difference. Transporters was once a great shortcut, but already STNG had problems with technique taking too much from the story.

    If the story arc is also as good as said here, I am delighted.

  43. says

    Wow. After all those reviews – I’m gonna have to give it a go.
    I’ve deferred, mostly because I loathed Battlestar Ponderosa (how formulaic can you get?), robot sidekicks, all that flash gordon crapola from the ’50s.

  44. Robert H. says

    “She seems to be the sort of neurotic drunk that no one in their right mind would let anywhere near a fighter – whether aircraft or spacecraft – unless it was absolutely the last resort.”

    That issue is tackled in the show constantly. Several characters would never be put in the positions of power and responsibility that they are in, but given that humanity has been reduced to 50k, they ARE the last resort, and the results are usually disastrous.

  45. Bob O'H says

    Also, this is the first sci-fi where the writers have written in a realistic fashion about character’s sexuality, though they go a bit overboard sometimes with “Number 6”.

    I haven’t seen the latest BSG, but I’ve done my time as an sf geek, so I’m still trying to work out what could be going on. Kind of appropriate really.


  46. Ichthyic says

    And Starbuck was always a girl.

    you mean figuratively?

    if so, yeah.

    the current starbuck is more butch than the original one was (Dirk Benedict).

    if you mean literally, uh, no.

  47. zoeific says

    Watched about two thirds of season 1 some time ago. The plot was only mildly amusing for the most part. It’s getting harder, at least for me, to ignore the silliness of any new sci-fi still presuming humans will invent and use advanced space-faring technology without first drastically altering their own very nature in the process. And I’d rather get a sense of positive self-development when contemplating the future than the overwhelming feel of jaded cynicism exuded from Battlestar.

    The cylons were awash in genocidal piety and the humans behaved in such an obtusely, dumbly racist way towards the cylons (you are a machine, you have no soul blah blah), it seemed like being presented with a false dichotomy between two equally disagreeable philosophies. Which admittedly might make the human-cylon hybrid thing someone said was going on later in the show all the more interesting. But I’m not holding my breath.

  48. DrYak says

    The show is OK but don’t forget that even though the Sci Fi elements are not as bad as Star Trek et al there is the whole hokey religious stuff going on. One of the main characters (the president) has religious visions that actually come true for no compelling reason – bleach. And don’t get me started on the “Cylon antibody therapy”…

  49. Stogoe says

    Look, zoeific, if you can’t grant them the conceit that future space-faring humans will have the same physiology as modern actors portraying them, then maybe this thing called moving pictures just isn’t for you.

    Sorry, but I’ve come to despise transhumanism.

  50. zoeific says


    it’s one thing to acknowledge the fact that contemporary TV/movie SF, because of practical, creative and financial constraits, lacks the imagination to look beyond the human condition. But despising those who notice this limitation illustrates a small part of that narrowmindedness mankind had better overcome fast.

  51. zoeific says

    Good point. If you see the story as nothing but a metaphor for current politics then the argument is moot.

  52. says

    There’s some great comments here, both for and against BSG. I’m all for it. I found the writing and effects both very engaging and there’s an underlying social commentary that’s unmistakable.

    I wrote a post, Battle of the Starbucks in response to some harsh comments about the show that Dirk Benedict made in an interview. He commented that Starbuck was castrated to “Stardoe” & that the shows “re-imagined” perspective was not up-to-par with the original show.

  53. Stogoe says

    All artistic expression is in regards to the human condition. Transhumanism just smacks too much of emo-style self-importance, or ‘humans suck, I wish I were an elf’. I happen to like humanity, and it will be interesting what roads we travel, what little I actually get to experience of the future during my lifetime. But I’m not in any big hurry to escape what we are currently.

  54. Miguelito says

    The show is about the human element. Humans wired up like the borg or some other “transhuman” appearance would distract from the crudity and flaws of the human spirit.

    That being said, those that are wired up are the cylons. The cylons that are less wired (the human-like copies) appear to suffer from some of the flaws that the humans do. And if you had the humans wired, then you would lose that contrast.

    Besides, if the humans were ‘transhuman’ it would be assumed that they would have far greater technologies at their disposal and then each episode’s crisis would be solved by engineering miracles ala Star Trek.

  55. says

    If you don’t like it, PZ, I don’t know that there’s much I can say that will change your mind. On the other hand, to get into the story arcs takes more than just watching one episode. And, in fact, there were a couple of real clunkers last season; so if you happened to be unlucky enough to see one of them you’d get a false sense of just how good this show is. For one thing, it takes huge chances, the season finale last year being perhaps the best example. In a couple of episodes, the entire premise and nature of the show was altered from flight from the Cylons to dealing with being occupied by the Cylons. (And Apollo even got fat and soft in the interim.) I have little doubt that the Galactica and the the Pegasus will manage to rescue the currently enslaved remnant of humanity sometime this season and the show will return to the search for Earth, but for several episodes at least the show has changed significantly. I did have concerns that the show may have jumped the shark with this huge change, but the premiere at least shows my fears to have been thus far unfounded, dealing as it did with the resistance, the increasingly brutal techniques used by the Cylons to crush the resistance, and the use of suicide bombings by the resistance–not to mention Baltar’s falling further and further into evil.

    I concur with others. This show is so different from the original incarnation that letting your memory of the original BSG interfere with the evaluation of this incarnation makes little sense.

  56. bmurray says

    The only thing I dislike about the new Starbuck is that whenever they need a romantic punchline, she turns into a girlie. She should be much tougher, especially in the romantic department.

  57. BSG_Fan says

    BSG re-defines the Sci-Fi genre. It’s ground-breaking, high quality TV that I would recommend to anyone. It has already won several awards, and will no doubt win more over the coming years.

    Best show on television, bar none.

  58. Kagehi says

    Look, zoeific, if you can’t grant them the conceit that future space-faring humans will have the same physiology as modern actors portraying them, then maybe this thing called moving pictures just isn’t for you.

    Not to mention the fact that people have been whining about everything from the impossibility of travelling faster than a horse to instantly being fried like a bug under a magnifying glass if we ever actually got into space. And if you went back to the time where people where crying about travelling faster than a horse and explained to them G-Forces, bullet trains, etc., they would probably be thinking something not too different from the modern, “The only way that would work is if you had transhumans.” Sure, right now all the methods available are impractical, unlikely, barely understood well enough to speculate on them or actually would require transgenics or other transhuman stuff. This doesn’t mean that we won’t find something less crazy to solve the problems, any more than it was impossible to go from horse back to 200 mile an hour trains.

  59. zoeific says

    Stogoe, that’s a lazy critique of transhumanism. It’s sort of like saying “queerness smacks too much of emo-style self-importance, or ‘straights suck, I wish I were a drag queen'”.

    Some would-be transhumans have both good personal and civilizational reasons for looking forward to changing their own biology. The former is usually denied by authoritarians who want to break the sheep’s back so it won’t run from the flock. The latter is open to evidence-based discourse.

    Provided the computing power for whole-cell biochemical simulations will eventually be available, helping improve one’s rationality and learning skills through biology-altering technology should not only be fun but also markedly increase mankind’s chance of survival. Science is progressing rapidly while the human brain’s processing power has remained roughly the same at least since the Greek philosophers. That is to say, cutting-edge scientific knowledge and theorizing is approaching a degree of complexity where it sails over the heads of more and more people, hence in part the resurgence of creationism. When full understanding seems out of reach, we often tend to fall back on the ‘simplest’ explanation.

    Others are forced into idiot-savantry because keeping abreast of advances in their own field of expertise sucks up all the time and energy they have. I’m constantly under the impression that I don’t have a 10000th of the time necessary to learn everything worth being learnt — and I know I’m not alone there. Sometimes, even competent peer-reviewers are having a hard time telling good from bad science as highlighted by the Bogdanov Affair. I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out why this trend is an existential risk to humanity.

    But I’m not in any big hurry to escape what we are currently.

    To each his own. When it comes to permanent space settlements, though, I wish you the best of luck (you’ll need it) in trying to leave our cradle of life with human-level resistance to radiation, gravity-adapted physiology, adverse reaction to low air pressures, short lifespans, poor-to-nonexistent nonlinear thinking, tribal-hierarchic psychology, emotionally colored memory, slow logical thinking, a working memory limited to a handful of independent objects, and vulnerability to all manner of cognitive bugs. But don’t panic: the nice cyborgs from the asteroid next belt will lend you a helping hand, all four of them:)

  60. Dave says

    I absolutely love the new Battlestar Galactica, for many reasons. Here are a few:

    1. The low-tech nature of the Galactica. The ship was built to fight the Cylons – a highly advanced machine intelligence fully capable of using viruses to compromise computer systems. As such, this is one of the least sci-fi spaceships ever. In fcat, it feels more like Das Boot (and Olmos looks every bit as grizzled as Jurgen Prochnow). Doors are manual. Phones have cords. Jump coordinates are worked out on paper. Battle simulations use models. Virtually nothing relies on a computer, and hi-technology almost never saves the day in a tidy way (a-la star trek). (The one exception is faster-than-light travel. But how fun would the show be if after 3 seasons they were still slowly making their way out of their home solar system?)

    2. The flawed characters. Absolutely everyone has shades of grey. These aren’t the best of the best, gloriously fighting off the Cylons. You get a real sense that this is the last few thousand humans alive – helped by the (ever-decreasing) count of survivors at the start of each episode.

    3. The Mission-Impossible style flash-forward at the start of the episode. It’s great – it gives you a real teaser for what you’re about to see (no more thn a standard TV advert would), sets the mood, and as a stylistic choice I love it.

    It is dark, brooding, apocalyptic, many-layered, well-written, well-acted, complex and inspiring. It kicks the ass off any other show currently on TV.

  61. Stogoe says

    To echo Kagehi, we’ll probably find a way to shelter our naked ape bodies from space without surrendering biology to mechanics. And I don’t much care. After all, I’m not going to see permanent human space-settlements in my lifetime. And neither are you.

    In the meantime, I don’t mind sci-fi that uses humans to portray humans.

  62. owlbear1 says

    It only takes the names and basic plot line from the original series. Everything else is new. If you do decide to start watching you will really want to rent the DVDs. Actions and decisions made in the earliest episodes still have consequences that are showing up in the 3rd season.

    A good example of how ‘different’ the show really is comes from Colonel Tigh (Adama’s second in command) explaining how sending off soldiers to die as ‘suicide bombers’ is really no different than any other soldiers he has ordered to their deaths. The tactic is effective and he will continue doing it.

    Col. Tigh is also a raging alcoholic with a VERY dysfunctional marriage. Gaius Baltar is a self-absorbed genius with delusions of grandeur not just “evil”. The reason the Cylons attacked was religous zealotry not ‘cold and calculated machine reasoning’.

    Its worth watching.

  63. says

    I watched the first season and the mini-series and am still skeptiacal, for a number of reasons.

    1. It’s not _Firefly_ and — though it pains me to say this — that series raised the bar for fantasy/SF by so much that everything I’ve watched since then seems a very pale knock-off. They’ve got their cheesy pre-watershed swearing (‘frak’ instead of ‘fuck’, basically) which is neither as amusing as ‘smeg’ or off-the-wall as swearing in Chinese. Even the _BSG_ camera work bears more than a passing resemblance.

    2. *Everything* is stolen. If you’ve read even a small number of Philip K Dick novels you’ll be seeing plot points appear miles away. I know you could argue that Dick really did pick clean the field of SF and it would be hard not to copy him; but to borrow so heavily from one source is shameless.

    3. The culture is even less imagined than the original series of Star Trek. Between the pervasive religion and the urge to light up a Havana at the end of every episode the show seems to have been built by US industrial pressure groups rather than writers. (BEGIN SPOILER ALERT) The only open atheist is also the person who betrayed all of mankind to the Cylons… how *interesting*. (END SPOILER ALERT)

    I’ll continue to watch the series if I can borrow DVDs from friends but I won’t be buying them. It’s no great loss to me.

  64. dAVE says

    Dick had some good ideas, but he is one of the most uneven writers ever. Some good books, and some that were complete crap.

    Anyway, some commenters here seem to think that BSG takes place in the future. I always thought that it took place in the past.

    Hey, look. I love Firefly, but how many times can you watch the same dozen or so episodes and not get all pissed off that it’s not on anymore?

    And, aside from the jittery camera work on the battles, I really don’t see how you can compare BSG and Firefly. It’s like apples and oranges.

    Well, you can’t please everybody.

  65. says

    It’s really uneven. When it’s good, it’s really good. When it’s bad, it’s fucking horrible. Compare/contrast episodes like The Pegasus with, e.g. that dumb and formulaic episode about “Scar” or any of the episodes about Apollo’s stupid feelings. I recommend watching the first and last three episodes of each half-season and skipping the rest.

    It may have jumped the shark with that terrible episode about the “black market” with the last couple episodes of season 2.5 being only a temporary return to quality. The season 3 premier had major problems.

    If you’re going to watch it, watch it from the beginning starting with the mini-series.

  66. zoeific says

    Farscape is wild stuff, love it. Season 3 is my favorite with its often-dark-but-varied mood, imaginative settings and an innovative storyline involving, among other things, how one might cope with a loved one having been “twinned” aka mind-cloned. Also the Moyans are quite the anarchic bunch — that has to be worth something with all the chains of command hanging about in other sci-fi shows. The spirit of adventure is definitely there and for that I’m blithely overlooking its scientific plausibility troubles.

    Speaking of which, my low-grade non-native English might have obscured my earlier point that the human mind’s shortcomings are more of a roadblock to a self-sustaining ‘high frontier’ than inadequate hull safety and so on. That said, anything short of autonomously self-repairing structures would pretty much necessitate a police state in larger well populated space stations in order to prevent catastrophic sabotage. Out of the frying pan into the solar flare?

  67. says

    Forget BSG. Dr. Who, now THAT’s an SF series. Just saw the last episode of series 2.

    Cyberman: So this is war then
    Dalek: This is not war, it is pest control

  68. says

    I think the richness of BSG, alluded to by many others here, lies in the fact that the series feels a lot more like a novel than a TV show or movie. It’s not over-reliant on effects; the stories and plots are character driven rather than a series of space battles strung together by vapid dialogue. It’s the kind of stuff I prefer to read, write and publish myself. The SF background is, as noted, a vehicle for rather than the reason for the story.

    Watching BSG is a lot like reading an extremely well-written SF Grand Master novel. It’s nuanced, subtle, there are deeply interwoven plot elements … but it is episodic enough that you can basically wade in anyplace and know where you are.

    It is topical and timely, yeah. But it also touches on deep and universal enough issues to have a kind of ubiquity that is lacking in most TV fare today. (I think there’s a lot more reality to BSG than in any episode you care to name of, say, Survivor.)

    If you’ve ever wondered about the definition of human — just how arbitrary a term it generally tends to be — you’ll probably really enjoy BSG.

    However, I have to swallow my ire at some of their gaffes, as well. For instance, they have 12-hour clocks … and food that is clearly terrestrial. (And the “they took it with them to Earth in ages past” argument is no good. The common ancestry of DNA on this planet is inarguable and absolute. Now if you want to suggest that the colonies are using exported terrestrial foodstuffs, okay … that could make for a nicely expanded subplot, as well.)

    The irony, of course, is that the Cylon menace is partly self-created (by humans) and at the same time a profound query into the nature of belief in a god, since for the Cylons, humans are obviously the only logically defensible god (we made them) — yet they have rejected this premise and decided, as one, that there is something else (or Else) out there.

  69. Caledonian says

    (And the “they took it with them to Earth in ages past” argument is no good.)

    The “they took it from the Earth in ages past” argument holds quite a bit of water, though.

  70. says

    A bit of info. That ‘jumpy camera work’ in the CGI mentioned above being common to BSG and Firefly is very intentional–and not just because the two shows used the same studio for the work (that being Zoic). One of BSG’s big guys directly says so, that they wanted to borrow Firefly’s ‘handheld’ style. See

    As to my opinion: I find BSG uneven, but good enough at its best that it’s well worth following, and I watch very, very little TV. It has extremely good character development for television in general, never mind televised sci-fi, and stands, in this regard, at least, head and shoulders above almost everything else out there. Really gets into the grimy, ugly corners of humanity the way not a lot of drama dares.

    No, it’s not Firefly. Something about its grimmer vision, and somehow, it lacks some of that rounded humanism Whedon can put into a production. And sure, you either gotta swallow the Van Daniken crap whole or ignore it entirely to stomach the premise (a lot of otherwise interesting sci-fi, of course, has similar problems, as mentioned, and don’t get me started on Star Trek’s agonizing biology). But it’s still unusually good TV, overall.

  71. says

    Wait until the show is off the air, and if everyone’s still hyped rent it from Netflix like I’ll probably do.

    I watched all of Buffy in about six months, likewise Babylon 5. As American TV gets more soapy, shows benefit from back to back viewing.

    I also ate all my peas first as a kid, then the potatoes, then the meat . . . .

  72. says

    Wait until the show is off the air, and if everyone’s still hyped rent it from Netflix like I’ll probably do.

    Me, I burn the new BSG episodes to DVD and wait until I have a chance to watch several in a row. Time being what it is, I am only about halfway through season 2 right now. :)

    The new BSG’s a pretty good show. Like others above me have said, it’s essentially a drama set in space and using only the rough framework from the old (cheesy) BSG. It’s a pretty good drama, too. The science? Well, if you’re watching it for the science content, you’re watching the wrong channel.

    Besides, what *other* sci-fi ya gonna watch?

  73. says

    “I saw one episode a year or so ago…and I wasn’t impressed (it would take a fair amount of dazzle to overcome the hurdle put up by the ghastly original incarnation of the program), and I’ve just never made the effort to follow through on it.”

    The original was absolute crap. That has nothing to do with it.

    I could try to convince you, but I urge you to try 2-3 more episodes; either that will do it, or not. There’s no dazzle at all. Just acting and writing.

    It’s not science fiction, in fact, beyond the two primary premises, but it’s some of the best drama ever done on tv.