I never even saw the original Battlestar Galactica, although I’d obviously heard of it. I used to get it confused all the time with Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. I never watched either (…wait…I think I may have seen an episode or two of Buck Rogers), partly because I was super-young and living in the Philippines, and I had no control of the television choices. I did watch Mazinga-Z and Voltes-5, though. Loved the former especially. Voltes 5 was the more popular one, but there was something else about Mazinga-Z that appealed to me.
Anyhoo, I digress. More recently, I’ve become obsessed with the new “reimagination” of the Battlestar Galactica series on the Sci-Fi channel. I’ve always liked the Star Trek films (well, except for V and X), but I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been a big sci-fi fan. I had a good friend in college who could talk of nothing else but Star Trek, and she would bore me silly with her play-by-plays and comprehensive analyses of Enterprise, its characters, motivations, plotlines, etc. It didn’t help that I’d never seen the show, of course. Perhaps if I had, I could have gotten more into it.
The new BSG, though, has one thing that no other sci-fi show can lay claim to: the best female characters on any TV show currently in production, and perhaps some of the best ever. (With the exception of Tina Fey, of course, in my favorite show, 30 Rock. She’s the reigning queen.) Katee Sackhoff (Kara “Starbuck” Thrace) and Grace (Sharon “Boomer” Valerii) Park in particular are awwwweesome, playing two lead characters who were male in the original series.
I have a love-hate relationship with Starbuck, mostly because she’s such a tightly wound woman with a chip on her shoulder the size of Gibraltar. Seriously, sometimes this woman can really piss me off.
On the other hand, I have to admit: when was the last time you saw a female character on television get to be explored with such depth, emotionally and physically? Edward James Olmos as Commander Adama may get top billing as the most senior cast member (and character) on the show, but Starbuck steals every scene she’s in, practically shredding the scenery and all other characters unfortunate enough to be near her. She’s a volatile woman with a physical presence so heavy and real it almost hurts, especially when she’s shot or whacked across the face. She struts across desolate landscapes with such daring bravado, a true machisma, and yet she can crumble in the face of emotional challenges with heartbreaking vulnerability. Sure, she can be a real pain in the ass, but damn. This girl is someone you’d want by your side in any fight. Firecracker or not, she knows her way around a gun, a fighter plane and a poker table.
Boomer, on the other hand, is her mirror opposite, a more deliberate, introspective character with the classic conflict of good and evil roiling in her machine-generated body. She’s a Cylon, a human-made machine and the sworn enemy of the humans in the series. She’s also in love with Helo, (Tahmoh Penikett) which kinda complicates things because on the one hand, Helo is a human and a loyal and ferocious foot soldier who’s tasked to destroy any Cylon who comes across his path. On the other hand, he’s in love with Boomer, too.
Both women get to wield badass looking guns, zip across the universe as ace pilots, engage in some pretty nasty fight scenes, and scream at people. And neither bothers to spare a moment to apologize for their strength and massive self-confidence. Gawd, would that the real world could be the same.
The show pursues some really complex issues that would tax the mind of the most devoted sci-fi fan. I can see why it’s attracted a significant mainstream following, as it deals with everything embraced by the term “the human condition:” loyalty, faith, spirituality, brother/sisterhood, family, friendship, patriotism, courage, hope, love, betrayal. It’s more of a drama set in space than a classic science-fiction story, and the intricately drawn characters, convoluted and ever-surprising plots and nail-biting suspense (who else among the crew is a Cylon?) only add to the brilliance of this show.
I only discovered it a few weeks ago when B. introduced me to the mini-series that kicked off the current show. We’ve since plowed through Season 1 on DVD and are now in the middle of Season 2. The fourth and final season began this past Friday, so we’re hurrying to catch up. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, do so. Immediately. Fellow feminists among you, this is the closest we’ll get to a show with us in mind on TV.