Usually when I hear that an old television series is being redone I shutter, a big red warning sign goes off, "Danger – Bad TV ahead".
To be fair there has been exceptions to this, the New Outer Limits for example. Now, another television series has been resurrected and believe it or not it is excellent, Battlestar Galactica.
The basic elements of the campy 1978 series are all here only cast in a much darker, more realistic setting.
Long ago the human race had settled on twelve planets and established colonies. To help make life easier they created a robot race, the Cylons.
One day, the Cylons decided against being servants and rebelled. After a prolong war they disappeared, reappearing some forty years later, almost destroying all the colonies.
Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 picks up right where the mini series left off, the remains of humanity are on the run, lead by two strong willed and often conflicting leaders.
On the military side there is Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos), stern and set in his ways he is pragmatic, not really buying into the prevent religion that foretells there is a thirteenth colony out in deep space.
The political leader is President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), former Secretary of Education who rose to her office after every other person in the line of succession died. She believes in the prophecy, if not for religious reason at least because hope is all the remaining humans have.
The major problem they face is the Cylons have developed a form of artificial human beings that is almost identical to the real thing. The enemy is among us and we have no way of telling you they are.
Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 is full of excellent characters, emotional and fully developed complete with back-stories that are slowly revealed throughout the season.
Adama’s son ace fighter pilot Captain Lee (Apollo) Adama (Jamie Bamber) goes against his father and sides with the president. Another fighter is his friend the rambunctious Lt. Kara (Starbuck) Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) who agonizes over a decision made in the past that cost the life of her lover, Apollo’s brother.
One the Cylon side there is the smoldering Number 6 (Tricia Helfer) who haunts famous scientist and the author on mankind’s woes, Gaius Baltar (James Callis).
One of the best characters is Lt. Sharon Valerii (Grace Park), a fighter with the code name of Boomer.
There are actually two Boomers around, the human one stuck on one the bombed out planets and a Cylon substitute serving on the Galactica.
There are so many ways Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 could have gone wrong; fortunately, the producers avoided every one of them.
While many old timers, admittedly myself included, found the idea of a female Starbuck and Boomer something to get used to the gender reassignment actually works to the benefit of Battlestar Galactica: Season 1.
Starbuck as a woman gives the opportunity to juxtapose some deeper emotional conflicts with a real action hero, or should I say heroine. The duality of having two Boomers is genius.
Many stories bounce back and forth between the two, the human struggling to stay alive with a small band of survivors and the Cylon plotting to destroy the fleet.
Like really great science fiction reality is echoed, held up for examination in the format of an action series.
When people on the fleet find out that Cylons can now look just like humans there is a witch-hunt to find out whom among them is an impostor. This harkens back to the communist scares of the fifties and even fits the terrorist profile that is now in the news.
There is even the age-old battle between religion and secular authority. Both are vital to the survival of the remnants of humanity, both should find common ground yet they rarely find any point of agreement.
Unlike the Battlestar Galactica series in 1978 people die here, fairly frequently and not in very clean ways. There are needs for supplies, water and other necessities that must be procured while running from and overpowering foe.
There is nothing camp about this incarnation of the story. It is dark and gritty with an impact that is almost visceral.
The cast in Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 is excellent, far beyond what is normally seen on television, perhaps HBO aside.
Edward James Olmos is one of the most powerful actors around. His laconic style is such that a look or grimace can convey more emotional content that pages of dialogue. He takes the basic character he had in other works like Blade Runner and Miami Vice and brings it to a new level.
He gives us an Adama that is a man that was ready to retire from a long, successful career only to face the most difficult challenge possible, keeping the human race alive. He only knows the military ways; to him politics has little to do with the reality of survival.
Mary McDonnell is the perfect counter point to Olmos. Where he is sullen she is cautiously optimistic. She believes that there is a way out as long as there is faith and hope. She also has to overcome the fact that she was basically a political appointee, in many ways not being a true politician is what helps her succeed.
Either one has the one true solution to the problems at hand; they forge a shaky partnership because they need each other.
Katee Sackhoff won me over as Starbuck, no, not for the obvious reason that she is good looking but because this young woman can act.
When most of the fighter pilots are killed and Starbuck has to train a bunch of rookies she is reminded of the incident that haunts her. Still, she is an officer and has to rise about her emotional baggage to get the job done.
James Callis is a far cry from the Baltar of years ago. In the old series Baltar was an almost comical villain, devoid of any redeeming qualities. Callis plays Baltar completely differently. His Baltar is conflicted.
A brilliant scientist who was duped by Number Six, he is popular among the survivors even to the point of becoming the Vice President. He wants redemption for his sins and feels the burden of what he has done to his kind.
Grace Park has one of the more challenging parts in Battlestar Galactica: Season 1. She has to play both sides of the conflict. Her human character is struggling for survival while her Cylon counterpart must maintain her secret identity while subverting the safety of everyone around her.
Tricia Helfer is the ultimate temptress. She is to say the least extremely sexy but there is a logical and able mind beneath her beauty.
Universal has been releasing a lot of television season sets lately but Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 is without a doubt the best to date.
Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 is a set created for fans but also will make fans of those just being introduced to Battlestar Galactica. Although the pilot mini series already has been released it is included in the set, complete with the commentary track.
All thirteen episodes of Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 is presented in pristine 1.78:1 anamorphic video. The color palette is more like a feature film than a television series. There is a realistic edge to the video that is exceptional.
The Dolby 5.1 audio mix bursts out of all six speakers with force, from the explosions that will rock your living room to the quietest dialogue there is nothing done wrong with the sound here.
The key episodes have commentary tracks that are informative as well as entertaining. With the behind the scenes featurettes there is everything you could want presented here for hours of entertainment.
Not only is Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 one of the best series on television today this DVD set is up there with the best around.
You will regret not running out to get Battlestar Galactica: Season 1.
by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com
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