Overthinking Battlestar Galactica: The Miniseries

Preface

I’m a BSG virgin.

bsg_miniseriesWhich is weird, I’ve gotta say, especially when you consider what a big nerd I am.  You know what’s sitting on my nightstand right now?  Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama.  Yes, friends.  I’m that nerdy.

Going into this new series, I only knew these few facts about BSG:

  1. It was about robots,
  2. one of the robots was Tricia Helfer,
  3. and basically everyone on the Internet hated the series finale.

So, yeah.  I have that to look forward to.

Naw, to tell you the truth, I was super-excited that you folks picked Battlestar Galactica for me, and it was with gleeful anticipation that I snuggled up on a friend’s couch to watch the miniseries.

That glee was immediately dashed to the ground, its blood-glistening brains left to dry up on the floor.  Because, my friends, Battlestar Galactica: The Miniseries may be the bleakest, most misanthropic piece of television I have ever seen.*

That isn’t to say I don’t like the show, of course!

But that’s what I want to talk about today, in this first of a many part series on the new BSG.  Bleakness.  Depression.  Ennui.  Despair.  Misanthropy.

Mmm!  Sounds fun!  But first, let me recap the miniseries for those of you whose minds haven’t been colonized by Cylons lately.

*Well, except for Neon Genesis Evangelion, maybe.  Anyway, the race is close.


Battlestar Galactica The Miniseries: The Recap

Once upon a time, millions of people lived on twelve colonies somewhere in the vast expanses of Space.  Those millions of people invented robots, called Cylons, which became sentient and decided to kill their masters for some reason.  The Cylons and humans fought a war, and the humans won.  Hooray!  Hooray for humantity!  Only good things can happen from now on!

Ha.  Fooled you!  You thought this show would be optimistic.  But that was just the prologue!

Because now, the robots have come back, and some of them look like peoples!  And some people who believe themselves to be humans are really sleeper Cylons waiting to be activated!  And every time you kill a human-looking Cylon, it doesn’t matter, because they have copies of themselves and can transport their consciousness from one body to another by some kind of robot-Internet!

Man, Cylons are overpowered.  And what do they do with these nearly-magical powers?

Easy.  THEY BLOW UP EVERYTHING.

My notes: Hmm. That's kind of bleak.

My notes: Hmm. That's kind of bleak.

But, lo, is that some hope on the horizon?  Is that the Battlestar Galactica?  Yes!  Yes, it is!  The luddite’s dream, the galaxy’s only analog spaceship!  If everything else in the Twelve Colonies was a Mac, the BSG is a PC.  Except it can’t get viruses because it doesn’t have a wireless network.

Because the Battlestar Galactica is so outmoded (it was actually a flying museum before everything got nuked) and so well-insulated (it was used in the previous Cylon War), it’s the only human-inhabited thing in the galaxy the present-day Cylons can’t manage to destroy.  On this ship are:

  • Commander Adama, who was supposed to retire yesterday but ha ha the irony,
  • Colonel Saul Tigh, his second in command, who I will refer to from now on as “Colonel John McCain,”

    Colonel Tigh doesn't believe in mandates.

    Colonel Tigh doesn't believe in mandates.

  • President Laura Roslin, who is played by—oh God, yes!—the first lady from Independence Day,
  • Lieutenant Starbuck, who is already my favorite character,
  • Captain Lee “Apollo” Adama, the General’s angsty son,
  • Lieutenant Sharon “Boomer” Valerii, who is REALLY A ROBOT OMG,
  • Specialist Cally, who is being set up as the “Kaylee” of this mission,
  • Petty Officer Dualla, the red herring (OR IS SHE?!?!),
  • and some other people whatever who cares.

Sidebar:

Let me make special mention of Dr. Gaius Baltar, who gave the Tricia Helfer-bot (a.k.a. Number Six) access to the government mainframe in exchange for hot robot sex yada yada yada.  That’s not what I care about.  What I care about is his absurd likeness to Dr. Julian Bashir, a character from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a show written in part—wait for it—by Mr. Ronald D. Moore.

Consider the following.  Dr. Gaius is a scientific genius with a Britishy accent whose ladies’ man-ish charms and arrogance hide a dark and well-guarded secret.  Dr. Julian Bashir is a scientific genius with a Britishy accent whose ladies’ man-ish charms and arrogance hide a dark and well-guarded secret.  Consider them side-by-side.

gaiusbashir2gaiusbashir1

WTF Ronald.  WTF.

<End sidebar.>

So, Commander Adama, the world has just ended, you were supposed to retire, and humanity has just been added to the endangered species list.  What are you going to do now?

A)    Fight the robots!

B)    Hide somewhere until you figure out how to fight the robots!

C)    Pick a new planet in a new galaxy far, far away from the robots to colonize and start human civilization again from scratch.

D)    Go on a mission to find some mythological planet that no one knows about and that you admit probably doesn’t exist, all while the robots continue to chase you.

Did you say D, Commander Adama?  Ooh!  So close!  (That was Olmos right.  Get it?  Olmos?  Get it?)

And that’s the end of the miniseries.  Some other things happened along the way—New President Lady started a convoy, Starbuck punched out Colonel John McCain and saved Lee’s posterior, Tricia Helfer is possibly living in Baltar’s MIND—but you get the picture.

Now let’s overthink this bitch.

17 Comments on “Overthinking Battlestar Galactica: The Miniseries”

  1. DK #

    Nice start! Like you, I watched the show on DVD. I think Baltar is more like the anti-Bashir, since Bashir is idealistic to the point it gets him in trouble. Also, Baltar and Bashir isn’t the only DS9-BSG character overlap. As a friend pointed out to me, Chief Tyrol is essentially the same person as Chief O’Brien if O’Brien hadn’t been in namby pamby starfleet.

    The first episode of S1 proper is good like whoa.

     
  2. mlawski #

    @DK: It will be done. :D

     
  3. Megan from Lombard #

    there were two words that I saw while reading this post that made me smile; free will. BSG deals with that time and again (in fact in the show there’s an arc about that keeps popping up every so often) so it should be interesting to read about if you do a few posts on that.

     
  4. MaxPolun #

    * Even though you would expect there to be at least ONE therapist on the BSG to help the characters deal with their grief over the apocalypse, there won’t be.

    This.

    Actually I just started watching BSG myself (I only watch shows like this after they’re done… except for True Blood for some reason). I actually watched from the start of season 1 rather than the miniseries which made for a little bit of a confusing time (though I knew enough of the basic premise to figure it out). Looking forward to what else you have to say.

     
  5. Saint #

    If the Cylon/human conflict is a metaphorical manifestation of IRL post-colonial guilt (chickens coming home to roost, etc), it’s not very flattering to the colonized. Fanon talks about the “colonized mind” turning local oppressed people into castrated, helpless automatons who go out of their way to visually and psychologically emulate their oppressors, while simultaneously creating a distorted psychosexual mythos that strips the oppressed of their humanity. BSG seems to take this system to an extreme, turning the colonized into literal robots who have succeeded in “assimilating” as part of a larger plan to obtain subjecthood through annihilation of the human race.

    It goes back to the same imperial anxieties in 19th century England that resulted in the popularity of Dracula. There’s going to be a certain amount of “we deserve it” sentiment, along with the subtext of “they’re not really people” and “they’re super-sexy and dangerous.”

     
  6. Kevin #

    @mlawski: just to lay some ground rules (and since I never asked in your Lost columns), we know to avoid spoilers… but what do you think of our impressions of the other seasons before you’ve seen them?

    For example, in your S1 post, could we say things like “Thank God it’s short, so we can get to the GOOD episodes!” or “It’s too bad the rest of the seasons weren’t as good as S1!” Those aren’t spoilers… but they imply something, for better or worse, about the rest of the series. Just not sure how much of a “virgin” you want to be when it comes to these.

    Having said that: enjoy the very first episode, “33.” I love some of the later episodes, in both S1 and the other seasons… but there’s something especially fantastic about that one. Savor it!

     
  7. mlawski #

    @Saint: Ooh, nice Dracula comparison! I buy it. I wonder, though, is it fair to call robots “colonized”?

    @Kevin: Haha, I’m not THAT crazy. Let’s alter the rules to say, “If you must spoil (i.e. refer to later episodes), try to be vague.”

    For instance, “Ooh, just wait until you get to season three!” is fine. “Wait until you get to the part where Baltar and Number Six join together to dismember and eat a baby!” is not fine. Likewise, “Free will is going to be a major issue in the show” is great. “Free will comes up in season two when robo-Boomer’s programming forces her to kill President Roslin” is not great. (Note to other BSG virgins: These examples are not real. I think.)

     
  8. sarielthrawn #

    My understanding was that the original series was written by a Mormon and was based on their history/mythology. That would explain religious tone and the trek to the promised land.

     
  9. K-Brack #

    I just forced my friend to watch the mini-series and i look forward to reading your column as i make him watch more episodes. no one is joking about S1E1, its unreal. i have a soft spot for season 3, however. can you say secret tribunal? WHOOOSH
    (i hope at least one person gets that)

    as for the cylons’ motivation, i dont think it gets explained at all during the series, unless i missed something. i think they were just upset about being enslaved. can’t imagine why.

     
  10. Marty #

    I can’t speak for the miniseries, but the show definitely becomes more than a simple allegory, covering a very wide range of themes and subjects, often a different one each episode.

    Mary McDonnell (Laura Roslin) was also excellent in Donnie Darko.

     
  11. Gab #

    I hope I can keep up decently with you. I’ve never seen it, either, so between borrowing DVDs and then finding the time to watch them, I’m probably going to play catch-up. Sad pandas. But anyhoo, so much from the board game makes more sense to me now. Like Roslin’s “terminal illness” thing that makes drawing cards or something when you play as her harder.

    Ahem.

    I find the idea of Earth being the myth kind of spiffy. Are the characters going to find out in the finale that humans are really from Earth? In the optimistic section of my brain, I’d like to think they’ll make it back to Earth, find a utopian society that doesn’t even need the civil government OR military Roslin and Adama discuss in the end of the miniseries, and everybody lives together in peace and harmony and all that kinda jazz. But, alack, alas, I am not so naive as to expect it in the slightest.

    The “make babies” thing was kind of tongue-in-cheek, but I wonder… will we see some random hookups or even marriages because people are “settling” due to a desire to procreate? This could actually lead to some interesting commentary on and discussion about various standpoints on marriage v. relationships v. sex and what purpose each has for society as a whole as well as the individuals making that society up. I mean, an example straight from this miniseries: Chief and Boomer obviously have something going on, but she’s one of the Cylons- how is that going to affect him in the future when she’s revealed to the Galactica crew? Will he go abstainate over the loss, will he force himself to be with someone else, will he be able to fall in love again, will he turn promiscuous? Will his actions be portrayed negatively or positively? And whatever he does, how will the rest of the crew react (and will those reactions be portrayed as good or bad ones)? Hmmmm…

     
  12. Tom P #

    I don’t know how you’re going to do full seasons in a week if that’s the way you go. I could do four episodes at a time before it got too depressing.

    And I thought the season finale was great. Like All Good Things… from TNG level great.

     
  13. mlawski #

    @Tom P: I’m going to do 8 or maybe 12 episodes every two weeks. I watch an episode every day or two. It’s been working fine so far.

    All Good Things is SOOOO good. If BSG’s finale is even close to that I’ll be one happy panda.

     
  14. Okult #

    I think that there is a christian point to it, not counting the metaphores. The main plot is cyclic, the events that happened happened before, the eternal return of the same. The genealogy of guilt flows in a dialectical current between both sides forever interchangin and forever staying the same- here the christian logic of redemption kicks in it can break the cycle,…
    something new can happen

     
  15. Tom P #

    @mlawski: Right — I meant “series” finale. I blame jetlag.

    I also had a field day with gender roles while watching the first few seasons. The evil male-dominated military vs. the peaceful female-dominated presidency. The supremely flawed male characters who weren’t complete without female to lead them.

    Then Michelle Forbes showed up and everything went to hell.

     
  16. Gab #

    Tom: I never saw the original version, but I hear Starbuck was a man in it. Does that do anything to your gender analysis?