BSG Rewatch: Mini + 1.1-2

25 Aug

It was 2007 and I’d just started my summer job at Christ Church in Oxford, doing admin for a summer school for mature students (mainly Americans aged over 60). It was to become a regular gig, and it was a really great job to have because it included a lot of free food, a nice place to stay over the summer and quite a bit of free time. The guests were usually interesting to chat to and I have a lot of great anecdotes from that time.

Anyway, the first weekend I arrived and moved into my amazing suite of two rooms, which I later discovered was once lived in by Lewis Caroll! I had a laptop and a Wheelock’s Latin textbook to work through, but disastrously no internet connection. I soon realised I was going to need some way to amuse myself in the long stretches of downtime. The next day I popped into HMV and browsed their DVD stand, eventually picking up Season 1 of Battlestar Galactica, which wasn’t too expensive for the amount of episodes included. I’d seen some of the original version when it was 0n BBC2 and something about this remake really caught my eye. Maybe it was the promise of a fresh reimagining of a show that had seemed fairly campy and silly; maybe it was the picture of Six punching Athena in the face that let me know there’d be some badass ladies. I don’t remember what really sold me on it, but anyway, I bought it.

A few weeks later I had inhaled almost all three existing seasons. I fell in love with the mythology, the politics, the grey morality and the amazing female characters (hiiiiiiii Starbuck!) It became one of my all time favourite TV shows, and I was able to follow Season 4 in real time. I also introduced my friends to the show and we used to watch the DVDs together after finishing our essays and tute work, usually around midnight, so I got to experience it a second time. Then *that* finale happened, and I was so sad about it I didn’t want to rewatch the show at all. Until this year…

So, join my lovely friend Jodie and me as we dive into a rewatch of BSG! Our reactions are grouped into four categories: Starbuck (the most impt, of course!); Mythology; Music; and the rather bloated Miscellaneous. Spoilers abound!

The Mini-Series

Ah, the Mini. Actually, my DVD set came without the mini-series and I spent the first episode wondering if the show was so daringly in-media-res that they just dropped you into the whole Cylon attack thing. I didn’t get to the Mini until after finishing the first two seasons.

Of course, it’s a pretty essential part of the story, explaining how most of our main characters came to be on board the Galactica, an ageing warship about to be decommissioned and turned into a museum. Its commander, the quietly powerful Adama, conveniently refuses to network the computers just in case the Cylon enemy return to finish the war they ran away from many years ago. When the Cylons nuke the Twelve Colonies of man, with a little help from genius-but-no-common-sense-scientist Gaius Baltar, Adama’s cautiousness is vindicated and the Galactica is one of only a few ships to survive. Its crew of engineers and pilots, including Adama’s son, Lee, and scrappy hotshot Kara, have trained all their lives for combat, but never really expected to see any. Joining a rag-tag fleet of ships fleeing their homeworlds is a state vessel carrying a delegation of politicians, including Education Secretary Laura Roslin, who must take up the mantle of President when everyone else in government is killed. By the end of the Miniseries, this disparate band of misfits must band together to survive, or face the end of the human race. Oh, and the Cylons look like people now.

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The Mini (released in 2003) has a curiously dated style (the early 00s hair! It burns!) that is much more noticeable than in the rest of the show, and it’s definitely a lot simpler in theme and character than it later becomes. However, it does sow the seeds for what’s to come. With some moments that might have been truly shocking in a pre-GoT televisual world (Six’s baby-killing comes to mind), and some cracking acting from the main players, it will never rank among BSG’s top episodes, but does enough to grab our attention and whet our appetites for the main course. It also places a firm emphasis on character development alongside action; its central emotional arc is the grudging truce between Adama and Lee, and we get a sense that the relationships on this show are going to be as important as the dogfights.

Rewatching is a strange experience, as it’s impossible to forget the characters’ ultimate fates. Jodie and I kept shouting out, “It’s you!” whenever we saw a familiar face, and then feeling sad when we realised this was probably the first and last time we’d see them smile.

Starbuck

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My first thought on seeing Kara jogging through the halls of Galactica was WOW she looks so young! Ron D. Moore must have taken a real gamble on Katee Sackhoff, aged only 22 at the time of filming, especially as Kara was originally intended to be a slightly older, more experienced pilot – after all, she was training nuggets at cadet school before Galactica, which is crucial to her emotional arc. It’s even more surprising when we remember that Ron was taking a well-loved male character, famous for his swagger, and gender-flipping him. Cue the backlash against ‘Stardoe’. Katee could have foundered in such a role, especially acting against seasoned veterans like Edward J. Olmos and Mary McDonnell. But on screen, even at 22, she has a vitality that sparkles. She’s muscular, butch, the type of girl who’s trained hard her whole life, but she’s also vulnerable. She plays cards with a cigar hanging out of her mouth and punches the XO with reckless abandon, but her quiet grief and inner turmoil looking at the picture of Zack (and Lee) in her locker is also palpable. In short, Katee makes it easy to love Kara.

We also get the first scene with Kara and Helo together (my friendship OTP) and, of course, some great UST between Kara and Lee (Pilots forever, not sorry for my unabashed shipping).

Mythology

This is really lacking in the Mini. Whilst there are brief references to the Lords of Kobol, the zodiac and the legend of Earth, there’s not much of the mysticism of later seasons. Interestingly, Baltar seems to be fine with Six’s talk of one God rather than many; does this contradict the show’s later insistence that monotheism is considered quite deviant in Colonial society? Or is it a sign of Baltar’s open-mindedness? Or has Six been working on converting him?

Music

The music of the Mini is by Richard Gibbs rather than Bear McCreary who took over for the rest of the show. It does, however, introduce some of the main themes such as Six’s iconic chimes and the Celtic influence for the Adama family. The international influences are clear and strong, with heavy use of drums to heighten the excitement.

Misc

  • Galactica has no corners. Galactica needs no corners.
  • Oh man, young, happy Gaeta. Crying forever. Also, DEE. And Billy. Gah.
  • Tigh has two eyes!
  • The first words, ‘Are you alive?’, are a pretty good intro to the show’s philosophical themes as well as the Cylons’ childlike fascination with humanity.
  • Gaius Baltar, my second favourite character, is such a standout. James Callis finds the perfect balance to make Baltar both punchably arrogant and so foolish we actually root for him.
  • Head! Six says she wants Baltar to love her. Now, I’m not convinced the show runners had actually decided what she was at this time, but that does fit in with the whole ‘angels of God’ deal. Head!Six also claims God has a plan for Baltar…if the whole show was just to get one man to love Him, you honestly have to wonder wtf God was thinking. This is one bit that does NOT work in hindsight.
  • Laura Roslin is such a great character. Actually, major props to Ron for the women in this show. There’s a real range of ages and personality types and they’re just as rounded as the men. Jodie notes that the idea of an equal world, where everyone is called ‘Sir’, is emphasised here and that makes for a refreshing change.
  • There’s a lot in here about what makes us human, the hard choices we have to make and what’s important to preserve even in the darkest times. It’s easy to forget this was one of the first shows to really tackle 9/11 and the ensuing era.

 

Episode 1.1: 33

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33 is widely recognised as one of BSG’s top episodes and it really stands up to repeat viewing. Its central conceit, that the Cylons are tracking the fleet and find them every 33 minutes, makes for a high-tension, taut piece of drama. Of course, everyone’s nerves are fraying, and this leads to various emotional problems as sleep-deprivation takes its toll. Baltar’s story advances as Six shows him a Cylon tracker on the ship and he’s able to gain brownie points with the command by identifying it. At the end of the episode, Lee has to make a tough decision to sacrifice the Olympic Carrier and save the whole fleet. Again, the theme of difficult choices is key.

Starbuck

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Starbuck is a little harder and sharper in this episode – perhaps because of the escalation of war, or perhaps because Katee has found her feet a bit more. Certainly, Kara seems to relish the danger and the purpose the fight is giving her. The Chief and Kara have a really interesting friendship in these early episodes and it’s a shame that’s not explored much as the show goes on.We also get the iconic stim scene between Lee and Kara, that perfectly encapsulates their aggressive, flirty banter.

Mythology

Still very little, although Six again goes on about God’s plan.

Music

Bear McCreary’s on duty now, and goes all out with the drums to complement this tense and action-filled episode.

Misc

  • Everything is a bit grittier in comparison to the Mini. The camerawork is edgier, using the handheld, shaky effect to really put us in the scene.
  • Also, the hair is sooooo much better. Laura is a redhead.
  • Gaius’ house is so beautiful. It was a good call to have his hallucinations there – it provides a needed respite from the blacks and greys of the ship.
  • Okay, so I hate the reveal of Tigh as a F5 Cylon because he’s one of the most flawed and complex characters on the show and the retcon cheapened that for me. HOWEVER it’s interesting that he doesn’t suffer from tiredness like the others…

Episode 1.2: Water

This episode uses the idea of hidden Cylon agents – namely, Boomer – to great effect, as she struggles to comprehend how and why she woke up with a set of explosive charges and wet hair. When the water tanks explode, she begins to suspect she might be a Cylon, and enlists the help of her boyfriend, Chief Tyrol, in covering it up.

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There’s something of a plot hole here, as we wonder why the Cylons don’t programme their sleepers to detonate nukes on all the ships or turn Galactica’s weapons on the fleet. Sabotaging the water supply will mean a long, slow death for the humans but it’s not the instant, clean solution a bunch of robots would presumably prefer. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting episode that raises the stakes for the fleet as they begin to run out of the basics.

The episode also advances the subplot of Helo on Caprica, who meets up with a woman he thinks is Boomer, but is actually a Cylon clone. Grace Park is no Tatiana Maslany, but she does an okay job of showing the differences between fragile Boomer and the slightly-too-chipper Eight clone (later known as Athena).

Music and Mythology

No notable mythological references here. Boomer’s theme is understandably important to the soundtrack.

Misc

I’m sorry, I can’t help it. I love the scenes of Baltar and Kara interacting. KS and JC are two GREAT actors, both playing characters who act out to hide inner insecurities and both playing incorrigible flirts. The sexual tension is crackling and I just love it. I’d never actually ship them – never want them to be a couple because laaaaaaawd that wouldn’t work – but I really enjoy their relationship and I’m gutted they never got much time together after Season 1 even as antagonists.

I mean, come on. Look at that eye-frakking right there. HOT.

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Not sure when Jodie and I will get a chance to continue, but watch this space for another recap. Until then…Good hunting!

caps courtesy of http://www.frak-that.com

 

 

 

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