Calamar's Picks: Battlestar Galactica
Here is a whole new "world" for GMs looking for a new setting to run games in. This series provides everything: major NPCs to interact with, bad guys, a great storyline, a timeline with major events, and a host of subplots and other research material. At the very least, you will have the pleasure of watching a great story.
Have you seen the new "BattleStar Galactica"? Holy snikeys is it cool!! My wife and I borrowed Season I and II of BattleStar Galactica from a friend so that we'd have something to watch in the hospital before the baby was born.
I remember watching the show as a kid. I remember the original show featured cool things like space battles, robotic bad guys, and gambling. The commercials for the new "BattleStar Galactica" has much better special effects, which is to be expected after twenty five years or so. They also hinted at an intriguing plot that on the surface was the same as the original show. I wanted to see it, my wife humored me because she thought the show looked "cool".
Galactica opens with a three hour mini-series that introduces the main characters and plot line. The mini-series begins with the Cylon attack on the twelve human colonies (planets). In the past forty years the Cylons have been busy preparing for the annihilation of the human race. They've updated the design of the "soldier", the robotic killing machines that make up the bulk of their ground troops. They've also incorporated bioengineering into their manufacturing processes. Their ships have a brain and organs. And they've discovered the science of cloning and have agents that look, feel, and seem human in all aspects. Some even think that they are human.
The mini-series is included with the Season I DVD set. Unfortunately, only half of Season II is currently available. The second half of Season II is due out at any time. BattleStar Galactica is based off of a series by the same name that aired in the late 70s.
For those fans of the original series, there may be some initial disappointment. The Cylons are different, their appearance has changed a lot and some of them look like humans. The main human characters are different (although a lot of them have the same names) with some characters having switched genders and new main characters being introduced. The whole feel of the show is different then the original. While the original series had a silly, campy, bad children's movie quality to it, the new series goes in the opposite direction and takes itself very seriously. The original series was bad science fiction, the remake is more like a suspenseful drama set in space.
The basic plotline of the series is the same. The evil Cylons, a race of humanoid robots, is trying to exterminate the entire human race. In the original series, the Cylons were created by a race of alien reptile men. These aliens wanted the human-occupied planets that formed the twelve colonies.
The human colonies were attacked and the survivors fled in the BattleStar class ship, Galactica. The refugees embarked on a desperate pilgrimage to find the mystical birthplace of humans, a place known in legend as Earth. During this pilgrimage the humans were repetitively attacked by the Cylons.
As a child, the original series didn't impress me very much. There was a robotic "bear" pet, lots of gambling, but very little purpose or plot. It felt like the "A Team", without all the cool vehicle upgrades and explosions. The Cylons were very obviously guys in shiny suits and were clumsy, completely lacking intimidation. The good characters were stupid, making nonsensical decisions that got them in trouble, spouting off bad jokes at every opportunity, and hitting on everything female. It had no heart and the series reflected that fact. Watching one of these old episodes now is painful.
In the new series the Cylons were created by humans to serve us as slaves. The Cylons were originally bipedal humanoid robots. They were clumsy, but incredibly strong with a sophisticated A.I. Because of their A.I., the Cylons gained self awareness and revolted against their masters. The war waged on for years and the humans fought the Cylons to a stalemate. The humans and Cylons signed a treaty and the Cylons were given a planet to call their own.
A space station was built between their planet and human occupied space. No one heard from the Cylons for over forty years. Now they are back and meaner then ever.
The twelve colonies are struck with nuclear missiles from orbit, destroying most of the human population. The Cylons corrupted the human defense systems with a computer virus, the human military was utterly helpless against the assault.
The survivors of this holocaust, in civilian ships of different makes and models, form a fleet protected by the last surviving Battlestar: Galactica. A former teacher named Laura Roslyn, head of the department of education and 47th in line of succession, becomes president because everyone else in the government has been killed.
The fleet sets out for a mythical place referred to in the Colonists' religious scriptures as the 13th colony, a place named Earth; the birthplace of humanity.
The story is pretty dark and acts as an emotional sea. The series takes itself very seriously. It takes a close look at the causes and effects of war, hatred, and politics. Religion, racism, gender roles also play a part, as does social science, psychology, and the battle between good and evil. The show questions and probes into what it means to be human.
Despite these heavy subjects, the series is extremely easy to watch and is enhanced by great writing, great stories, great characters, and believable acting and special effects. Characterization and story come first. The camera work has a documentary feel to it that draws you into this world and is full of bad angles, shaking, and quick zooms. The end effect is total suspension of disbelief and complete immersion into the story.
All of the characters are real. Everyone has a past. Commander Adama, leader of the military, is estranged from his son Captain Lee Adama. Father and son drifted apart when Adama's other son died, two years earlier in a training exercise. Lee blames his father for pushing his children into the military.
President Laura Roslyn was informed that she has terminal breast cancer and that she has half of a year to live, the morning of the Cylon invasion. She is a school teacher thrust into the role of the presidency of the 50,000 survivors. She must also cope with the fact that she will die before the year is over.
As you can tell, this is much more than just a G-rated science fiction series like Star Trek or Star Gate SG1. This series will move you and make you think. It plucks at the heartstrings and reminds us what makes us human. It doesn't shy away from mistakes or consequences. It deals with the abuse of power and the lengths that people will go to attain or hold onto that power. Alcoholism, psychosis, and the effects of war all have their place within the show. All these things can be found in humanity today, but the show does not focus on it, they are just part of the background.
If you are looking for glossy, unrealistic, good-guys-always-win type of show, you'd be better off watching Star Trek or Smallville. BattleStar Galactica is as realistic as a show set in space can be.
I cannot recommend this series enough. I give it an A+!