BSG on BBC: Episode 1.01 “33” – Tick-Tock

Image from BBC America



“Yes, we’re tired. Yes, there’s no relief. Yes, the Cylons keep coming after us time after time after time. And yes, we are still expected to do our jobs!” Col. Saul Tigh



I know that I am three days late posting my review of Saturday night’s episodes of BSG on BBC but real life has conspired against me. For one thing, I’ve been ridiculously busy my son’s birthday party at a waterpark (an all day affair), work, appointments and life in general. Two, I reset my DVR to only record first run episodes of BSG, thinking that it would consider the new episodes on BBC as first run. It didn’t. So the first two weren’t on my DVR and I’ve had to find time to watch them through Netflix. Which is just happening right now. As a matter of fact, I’m watching it on my iPhone because when I tried to watch it through my computer it was jumpy. This is actually a perfect set-up because I have it propped at the corner of my screen and I’m typing while it plays.

Since this was the first episode I saw, I was greatly confused with the cuts between Baltar’s dream world (his house back on Caprica) and the real world of being chased by the Cylons, but the writing is so good that within the first five minutes, I understood what was going on. The Cylons have been chasing the Colonial fleet for five days, jumping to their new position every 33 minutes. The Galactica crew is exhausted from 130 hours without sleep. The pilots have landed their Vipers 232 times. The fleet is strung out from tension. You have to think that everyone right now is wondering how intelligent the decision to run from the Cylons instead of staying and fighting really was.

On top of that, everyone is having to come to grips with the loss of friends and family. A hallway on Galactica has become a memorial tribute of sorts with pictures of missing loved ones posted on the walls with flowers, candles, etc. President Roslin has her own memorial, keeping a whiteboard updated with the number of human survivors. This number represents the preservation of the human race, her primary focus and motivation throughout the series. Everything she does, good and bad, is done with the goal of saving the human species from extinction.

Baltar’s primary goal, on the other hand, is saving his own neck. In “33” we get the first glimpse of his innate ability for self-preservation. Head Six constantly preaches to Baltar about God’s will and Baltar’s fate, which he dismisses as religious hooey. You do have to wonder when he is able to wriggle out of so many tight situations if the hand of God isn’t protecting him from himself, and others. Dr. Emerich is just the first hurdle Baltar will have to jump on his path to enlightenment.

So, the first episode of the first season does its job splendidly. It is high in tension to reward the mini-series viewers and to hook first time viewers (like I was). It sets up themes that will run throughout the first season (the military/civilian tension between the President and Adama) and throughout the series (faith and divine intervention) and hints at larger storylines (the Cylon’s desire to procreate) that become key elements to the actions of a number of people. The way Moore and Eick weave individual stories within the larger narrative over the next four seasons is a beautiful thing to watch.

  • When Helo gave his seat up in the mini-series there was no plan for that character to return or be a part of the larger story going forward (if BSG was indeed picked up). Apparently fan reaction to him was so good that Ronald D. Moore and David Eick decided to keep him around and follow his survival on Caprica. Helo becomes a very important part of the storyline going forward so it’s interesting to think of how the story would have been different if Helo hadn’t been around.
  • From the looks of Helo, I’m guessing not many humans are left on the home worlds, only those with access to anti-radiation meds which can’t be many.
  • One big plot hole of this episode, IMO, is that the fleet didn’t go ahead and execute another jump. If the Olympic Carrier was captured by the Cylons and reason they didn’t follow then another jump, the coordinates the Olympic Carrier didn’t have, would have protected them from the Cylons.
  • It’s easy to focus onthe acting of the two powerhouses of the cast, McDonnell and Olmos, but the other actors, unknown for the most part at this point, give incredible performances as well.
  • The series focuses on the government, Galactica and Cylons almost exclusively throughout the course of its run. I understand they needed to limit the stories they told but I can’t help but thinking of the 47,000 other people that are living through this as well and we never get to see.
  • Something fun to look through: Battlestar Galactica’s homepage on BBC America’s website. Apparently, my Viper pilot call sign is “Spud.” I do like me some potatoes.

It’s not too late to jump on the BSG on BBC watching party here at Swamp of Boredom.  All BSG episodes are available to view on Netflix. Plus, BBC America is going to show repeats before the two new episodes (1.03/1.04) this weekend.  If you haven’t started watching, watch the first two episodes on Netflix (33, Water) and, if you like those – which I’m sure you will – go back to the mini-series. Then, let me know what you think!

It looks like BBC will be showing two episodes every Saturday night. I haven’t decided if I will combine the reviews into one post going forward or do an individual post for each episode. Most likely the latter. I will have the review of “Water” later this week.

Battlestar Galactica on BBC America

The Battlestar Galactica cast for season three

Image by Michael Heilemann via Flickr

I’m not sure how I discovered the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. The first episode I saw was not the pilot mini-series but the first episode of the first season, “33.” It was a brilliant hook – every 33 minutes, the Colonial’s robotic enemies, the Cylons, would find the fleet of ships and attack, forcing them to “jump” away from danger. The 33 minute interval never changed and when the episode starts they are in hour 130 and on jump number 237. The crew’s exhaustion shows. There is tension from start to finish. It is one of the best dramatic hours of television I can ever remember watching. Not only did it hook me, but it also won a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

It wasn’t until Sci-Fi started airing repeats of the first season in preparation of the second season that I was able to watch the mini-series. That didn’t matter. It was not all that difficult to catch up with who was who and what the general storyline was about. If I had any doubts about the show during the first season – and I really don’t think I did – they would have been erased after the shocking cliffhanger that ended the season. In the second season, it took four or five episodes to untangle the mess that the events of the season one cliffhanger put in motion which, in my opinion, makes BSG shoot straight to the top of the list of brilliant television. (I mentioned in my end of season review a month ago that so many “cliffhangers” are not cliffhangers at all. The viewer knows without a doubt that everything will be fixed by the halfway mark of next season’s opening episode. You never had that assurance with BSG. You also knew when they said there was a game changer, they meant it.)

BSG is part action movie, part political drama, part romance, part Lord of the Flies. You think you know who the good guys are until you start comparing them to real life events and you wonder, who am I supposed to be rooting for again? It could easily be argued that the women in this show are the strongest characters. They are equal to their male counterparts in every way and many times, better.  The president is a woman. The best fighter pilot is a woman. The leader of the Cylons is a woman. Other women play an important role down the road, as well. Their society seems to be completely devoid of misogyny. When the ranking military commander objects to the new president, it’s not because she’s a female, it’s because she’s a schoolteacher. (Sorry, Camey.) You can’t imagine how shocking and refreshing that is. There hasn’t been another show that I have ever watched that made me think as much as BSG did. It had its frustrating moments and probably about half of the fandom was pissed about the ending, but I don’t think it could have ended any other way. It was on that path from the beginning. There were a couple of questionable side trips and a few storyline acrobatics, but overall Ronald D. Moore told a fantastic story.

The reason I’m telling you all of this is because BBC America is going to start airing BSG tomorrow night, Saturday June 11, and I want to invite all my readers to watch along with me. I’ll be posting reviews, as I’m going with Carnivale, and will do my best to keep all spoilers out of the posts. Now, before you say, “I don’t like Sci-Fi” let me just tell you this: I raved so much about this show that my 70-year old mother started watching it. She loved it and said that she understood what I had been raving about all this time. Plenty of people have laughed at me for watching BSG but I promise that if you will at least give the show a chance, you will enjoy it. (While this is nothing like HBO, BSG can be rather sexual so it isn’t necessarily appropriate for kids. My youngest watched some episodes with me because I thought he would like the Top Gun type action but, while watching with him, I realized how inappropriate it really was.)

How about it? Who’s with me? Will you watch? If you don’t get BBC America, the entire series is available to stream through Netflix.