Sci-Fi Nerd: Commentary, reflection, and accolades from a fan’s point of view on all things sci-fi and fantasy.
From its almost camp 1978 depiction of one of science fiction’s oldest classic themes of man-made technology coming back to bite humanity on its collective ass, to the more sophisticated wartime melodrama version of 2004, this series has proven to be one of the most enduring ever in the hearts and minds of fans all over the world.
What’s is it about this series that makes it so special and highly regarded? I’m not sure there’s a clear simple answer to that. Obviously, it’s a combination of ingredients, including timing and other factors that led to its almost legendary status in the world of science fiction tv shows.
I have a confession to make regarding my initial reaction to the latter-day incarnation of this show – I didn’t like it all that much. It seemed to put too much emphasis on the personal drama aspect of the show for my tastes at the time. It seemed to me to be little better than a soap opera dressed up as science fiction. I have come to appreciate it more since then.
Like a lot of fans, I was thrilled at the notion of the original Glenn Larson version of this show coming to television in 1978. The concept seemed pretty solid to my much less sophisticated mind at the time. I Liked the look of those slow moving gigantic chrome Cylon centurions, and the classic 70’s style robot voices they spoke in. it wasn’t that I hadn’t read these sorts of ideas before in the science fiction books I consumed on a regular basis, but there’s something magical about seeing science fiction portrayed on tv.
Of course, they have now recognized for what they were – a camp portrayal of future technology that is laughable now and was even then. It didn’t take long, only a few episodes, for me to see the show for the near parody of real science fiction that it was.
While I enjoyed seeing the spaceships, portrayals of good and evil, and the fights with the Cylon robots, the show made several mistakes that doomed it being regarded as nothing more than sometimes enjoyable light entertainment. Another thing about the original series was the integration of the then-popular disco lifestyle trappings of the show. the haircuts, the style of the clothing, and oh gods, the capes. The culture the series depicted was in sharp contrast to my enthusiasm for the punk/new wave pop culture I liked in reality at the time. That stupid robot dog didn’t help the show’s case much either.
Of course, I kept watching it anyway. Being a science fiction junkie, I needed to watch anything remotely science fiction on tv for my fix. I finally had to completely drop the series when it became that latter-day version after they reach earth. That was the last straw.
None of us imagined what was in store for this series 25 years later.
My initial reaction to the news Battlestar Galactica was being remade as a 21st-century science fiction series was “This should be interesting” Naturally, I was very curious to see what had been done to the classic series in its resurrection.
What I, and many others, didn’t expect was Ronald D. Moore’s over-the-top taste for melodrama and the grim war story approach taken by his vision of the concept. Now we have “frak” in all its glory, a significant development in portraying these rejuvenated characters as being more realistic, gritty, and grounded. Now we have key roles being reborn as female pilots. Now have Caprica 6, the sultry Cylon spy representing the new human looking new Cylons, indiscernible from their human counterparts. Now we have CGI centurions looking a lot less clunky and a lot more menacing. Overall the series made a successful, and a significant shift from its original somewhat lighthearted portrayal of humanity at war with its own creations.
One question that has never been satisfactorily answered by this series is why do they hate us so much?. I understand it’s to give the show a Bible level mythological theme to hang from, but still, why not just go off on their own and leave us (humanity) behind? Having watched Caprica and the story of the teenage girl who plays a role in the creation of autonomous artificial intelligence in the Cylons, I am still seeking a satisfying answer to this query. Are we supposed to think the Cylon’s hatred of us is part of their DNA because a teenage girl had a frakked up relationship with her parents that leads to all this destruction and war? That notion strikes me as a little silly.
Caprica (2010-2011), of course, was the short-lived spinoff prequel to The Battlestar Galactica reboot that was an odd blend of Ronald D. Moore heavy-handed style of melodrama. It was about a dysfunctional family, the Greystones, that were the face of an industrial empire that first created the Cylon prototypes, that later came back as the mortal enemies of the humans that created them.
Also, the series dwelt on the early life of a young William Adama who of course later became one the only serving admirals of the surviving humans military in its desperate fight for survival against the Cylons, this aspect of the series introduced a sort of gritty tale reminiscent of The Godfather series of stories by Mario Puzo. Framed by the conflict between the Adamas and the Graystones over the resurrection of loved ones lost in an act of terrorism, the series was meant to explore ethical implications of advances in artificial intelligence and robotics.
In addition to its focus on the two families, the series also had some additional tropes that included a virtual playground, popular with young people, used for hedonistic purposes and role playing. Throw in the virtual mind of his dead daughter, recreated by Greystone, that somehow ends up inside one of the first Cylon prototypes, and some other stuff about a religious cult, and you have a real strange mix of a show.
So that brings us back to my original question what make the series such an enduring phenomenon? Probably part of it is the primal archetype of its portrayal of war, a theme so deeply ingrained in our collective psyche and DNA it is an inescapable part of the human experience. The stories of heroism, adventure, honor, and betrayal, conflict and cowardice are an integral part of who we are, proven by the ancient myths that tell the story of our time on this planet. As far as the remake goes, part of its success can be attributed to it being simply the perfect time to revisit a story of this kind. Add to that it, its fun, good science fiction, and was very well done, and you have a pop culture iconic event.
I am wondering when we will hear from this series again, and in what form. It has already given birth to the remake, Caprica, and nearly Blood and Chrome also. I don’t think we have heard the last of this series. Something along the lines of a live action Gundam type approach might be fun. Look for it sometime in the future, maybe on tv, in a movie, or right here on earth in our future reality. If that happens we’re frakked.