Some Thoughts on the New Battlestar Galactica

One thing that really strikes me, as I think about it, is that the show just feels a lot meaner.
Battlestar Galactica

One of my co-workers taped the Battlestar Galactica remake that is currently airing on the Sci-Fi channel, and I sat through it last night. Wow, is it painfully bad, even for a “Sci-Fi Original.” I was never a huge fan of the original series. I watched it as a kid, so it’s more nostalgic than anything else. But this revised version is pretty awful.

Edward James Olmos (who plays a fairly uninspiring and pale version of Adama) acts like he’s either drunk or half-asleep in his scenes, which makes the fiery speeches and awkward moments with his estranged son rather comical. The only actor who seems to be doing anything of merit is Mary McDonnell, who plays the stricken president with the right amount of warmth, determination, and tragedy.

There’s a fair amount of sex in this one, whereas I remember the original to be quite chaste — I guess in order for something to be “modern,” it’s got to have some racy sex scenes with a cyborg/clone/whatever the heck it is they’ve turned the Cylons into now.

Regarding the Cylons, I also can’t shake the feeling that there’s about 45 minutes of explanation (along with character development, etc.) that’s missing from the miniseries. As a result, there are just a tad too many convenient little twists and contrivances throughout the show. It’s almost like the creators/revisers couldn’t think of “real” ways to answer things, so they offer these semi-explanations and quasi-resolutions.

One thing that really strikes me, as I think about it, is that the show just feels a lot meaner. Nearly all of the major characters are jerks and pricks, or in the case of Starbuck (who is now a woman, by the way), a bitch. You wonder how this crew ever became a “crew” — you get the sense that if the Cylons didn’t do them in, they’d probably rip each other apart. That impression is heightened by the revelation that takes place at the very end, in the way that the revision subverts and entire premise and hope of the original series, replacing it with a “hope” that feels incredibly mean-spirited and hollow.

In fact, many of the references to the original show seem like slaps to the face — Starbuck is a woman, Adama and Apollo’s relationship is spiteful at best, Boxie is mere windowdressing. I’m not at all surprised at how dismayed and hurt Richard Hatch (who played Apollo in the original series, and who has campaigned long and hard to revisit it) was at the announcement of this series.

In an interview, Olmos said that fans of the original series shouldn’t watch this new one, or else they’ll be pretty disappointed. But what’s the point of remaking a cult-status show like Battlestar Galactica if you’re knowingly going to piss off the people who most want to see more Battlestar Galactica? Just imagine if Peter Jackson had taken a similar approach to the Lord of the Rings movies. I doubt they’d be anywhere as popular and successful as they are, and I’m sure Tolkien fans would be clamoring for Jackson’s head on a plate.

I can understand and support the desire to expose a new generation to a beloved show, but IMHO, this Battlestar Galactica revision was not the way to do it.