It was the series Time magazine called the “best show on television”. It was the reboot that showed you could update an old format and improve it beyond all recognition. It was so addictive it should have come with a warning like the ones you get on cigarette packets (“Beware! This show will frak you up!”). Most of all, however, it was science fiction that crossed over into the mainstream, giving our genre a good name and proving that, sometimes, evil killer robots are more than they seem. Time for SFX to take a look at 20 reasons why Battlestar Galactica is worthy of our love... (Spoilers ahead, obviously)
1 The Red Dress
Think of Battlestar Galactica and one image comes to mind: the devastatingly sexy Tricia Helfer, aka Number Six, wearing that dress. There are few images in science fiction – or, indeed, recent popular culture – that stand out quite as much as that figure-hugging drape of scarlet cloth, so integral to both the character and this new, defiantly sexed-up Battlestar Galactica . It’s no wonder the dress sold for $23,000 in a charity auction when the series ended. It was worth a million.
2 The Thrill Of
The first season (and, to a lesser extent, the later ones) did something rather clever with its week-to-week format: it turned the action into a stretched-out game of cat and mouse. In their ragtag flotilla, the humans hopped from solar system to solar system while being tailed by the Cylons, who would occasionally catch up with them, to often disastrous effect. The tension of this drawn out, nail-biting hunt gave the series an edge; the colonists couldn’t ever relax, so neither could you...
3 It’s About Humanity (Even When It’s Not)
Boiled down to its very basics, BSG was about a bunch of humans fleeing from a bunch of robots. But because BSG was anything but basic, it wasn’t really. It was about humanity. It was about how the human race, in all its flawed, painful, beautiful glory, wanted to continue surviving despite insurmountable odds. And it was about how their persecutors, heartless, soulless, half-flesh, half-machine Cylons, wanted to be human more than anything else in the universe, even though being human is anathema to them. How’s that for ironic?
4 The Box Sets
The final episode of BSG drew in a seemingly tiny 2.4 million viewers for Syfy in the US. So why is it that it’s considered a success? Because it did so well on DVD. The vast majority of BSG viewers seem to have found the show via DVD, which meant that it was possible for them to mainline entire seasons in a few days. Many box set-owners found themselves acting as BSG lending libraries for their pals. All of this gave watching BSG a “community” feel that rivalled watching it live on TV, although avoiding spoilers was a nightmare...
5 Sharon Valerii/Number Eight
The innocent Boomer from the show’s first season (like Starbuck, recast from the original series as a woman) turned out to be a deadly Cylon sleeper agent. Elsewhere, another Sharon knew she was a Cylon but fell in love with human Helo regardless. More Sharons, in the guise of Number Eight, populated the Cylon basestars. So many different facets; just one actress – and Grace Park rocked them all.
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6 The Ships
The Galactica is stocky, ugly, functional space hardware. The Cylon ships are streamlined, elegant and powerful, just like their owners. The Vipers, holy cow, the Vipers; how we want them to be real. Not since
X-Wings have nippy little fighter ships been so cool. The crafts’ interiors, too, are immaculately thought-out, from the Galactica’s submarine-like command deck to the light-drenched, spacious rooms on the Cylon Basestars. These ships are so full of life, they’re almost characters themselves.
7 The Survivor Numbers
Making the survivor tally part of the show’s opening credits meant that we could watch humanity dwindle from the first count of 50,298 (from 50 billion pre-Cylon attack) to the final roll-call of 38,000 in the final episode (the number said aloud by Adama). And of course, seeing one or two numbers drop down after deaths of beloved characters in the previous episode made the countdown all the more poignant... (Though it was also a gift for people who like spotting continuity errors.)
8 Romo Lampkin
No genre show would be complete without a guest star turn from the ubiquitous Mark Sheppard, but nobody could have guessed how extraordinary his trip on the Galactica would be. As the fiercely intelligent, self-assured and faintly creepy lawyer Romo Lampkin, Sheppard brought every ounce of his acting skill to a role that could very well be his finest ever, a perfect combo of performance, costuming, writing and direction that meant you couldn’t take your eyes off him whenever he was on screen. We’re still not sure about the dead-cat-in-a-bag thing, though...
9 The Apollo/Starbuck Love Connection
So who did you ship? (That’s “ship” as in “relationship”, in case you don’t know the lingo.) First we had Starbuck and Apollo dancing around each other until you wanted to scream at them to rip off their clothes and do the horizontal foxtrot. Then Starbuck went on to marry Sam Anders and Apollo got hitched to Anastasia Dualla, who loved him way too much seeing as he was still besotted with Starbuck. The angst! The sex! The unfortunate coma! The suicide! Surely the most heart-breaking quartet of ships since ships began.
10 Gaius Baltar
Renowned scientist. Biggest traitor in human history. President of the Colonies. Prisoner on trial. Sexual messiah. Mysterious godlike being with a blonde Cylon counterpart who wears a nice dress... Whoever and whatever Baltar became, he was always an absolute riot, whether copulating with an invisible Six or whining about his lot in life. The fact that he was British only made him more watchable.
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11 The “All Along The Watchtower” Moment
BSG had so many finest moments it’s probably quicker to list the bits that are only average, but this one’s definitely in the top three. The siren song of Jimi Hendrix’s remixed “All Along The Watchtower”, which had been popping up in enigmatic bursts and flares for much of the show’s story arc, brought the four secret Cylons together in a revelatory scene. Bear McCreary’s score was always worthy of praise, but this entire sequence was so funkadelically bonkers it made our heads spin.
12 Kara “Starbuck” Thrace
“Starbuck can’t be a woman!” wailed the die-hard Galactica fans when the casting of Katee Sackhoff was announced, and even Dirk Benedict, the man who made Starbuck a legend, wasn’t chuffed. But how wrong they were. This Starbuck was a tightly-wound spring of anger, defiance and intelligence – with a smidge of raw spirituality thrown in that paid off in the final episode – whose performance stole our hearts. We reckon she could take the old Starbuck in a fight, too.
13 The Battles
The reboot’s stunning FX work, elegant storyboarding and tight, controlled writing ensured that the space battles on BSG were always a treat to behold. Gritty, visceral and furious, there was a tangible sense of danger to them, reinforced by the tragic deaths of Viper pilots left, right and centre. Not since 1977’s Star Wars had space skirmishes been so thrilling.
14 The Last Supper Promo Pic
It’s par for the course for any TV show with a decent budget to stage magnificent, artistic promo shoots to advertise their wares. Take The Sopranos , for instance, which in 1999 enlisted the services of Annie Leibowitz to snap the cast enjoying a Last Supper. It was an award-winning idea... but we think BSG did it better. With Six in her iconic dress cheekily standing in for Jesus, clues aplenty in the characters’ poses and a sense of drama that made the shot fascinating, this is the promo pic to end all promo pics.
You don’t find a lot of television science fiction that tackles the subject of religion. But BSG bit the bullet and did something extraordinary. Not only was the central yin/yang of the show about humans versus machines, it also addressed polytheism versus monotheism... and, crucially, it cast the machines as the “Christians”, with their one true god, against the many gods of humanity. An astonishing idea.
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16 Adama and Tigh
Two old warhorses struggling on despite overwhelming odds, the relationship between the crusty Admiral Adama and the troubled Colonel Tigh was the backbone of the series, particularly after Tigh discovered that he was a Cylon. Watching them work together, fight together and, most importantly, survive together was a joy. Never let it be said Edward James Olmos and Michael Hogan didn’t earn their pay, because they seemed to live every moment along with their alter egos.
17 The Cylons
The original Cylons were spectacularly of their time: flashy, kitschy and impractical, yet undeniably fun to look at. Nostalgia probably accounted for the fact our new Cylons kept that Glen A Larson signature effect – the swishing red LED light in their eyeholes, à la Knight Rider ’s KITT – but the rest of the 21st-century robot reboot was about as “fun” as a bullet through the brain. These guys were terrifying hunter-tracker killers ruled by a ruthless master race who could pretend to be human: a dynamite concept that made the old Cylons look like yapping robot dogs.
18 The Big Mystery
We’re hard-pressed to think of any show since Twin Peaks ’s infamous “Who killed Laura Palmer?” plotline that managed to come up with a mystery as enticing as the one at the heart of BSG : who were the final Cylons? Unlike Peaks , however, this show didn’t reveal the answer too soon: nor did it drag things out for too long. The sheer hold-your-breath-until-you-faint intensity of the Final Five’s unveiling kept audiences hooked.
19 It’s An Allegory
Using a sci-fi show as a thinly disguised tool to discuss social or political events happening in real life is nothing new. But while Deep Space Nine , for example, had already touched on terrorism, no show had had the balls to go as far as BSG did. With its writing team moulded in a post-9/11 world, the series contained suicide bombers, insurgents, terrorist cells, torture... And for once the mainstream press noticed, giving the series even more weight.
20 It Made Geeks Cool
Battlestar Galactica outgrew its humble Syfy origins until it became a TV phenomenon discussed in the same breath as The Wire or The Sopranos . It was serious and it was important – so important, in fact, that it even inspired a panel at the UN. Because of its dark themes, allegories for the violent modern world and unashamed sexual content, nobody could say it was for kids, the criticism all too often levelled at sci-fi series. And so, gradually, it became a must-see show across the board, drawing in ordinary viewers alongside the die-hard geeks and giving TV sci-fi a very, very good name.