3 reasons why Battlestar Galactica is the best TV show of all time

20 Oct


There have been many TV shows (drama) that I’ve considered to be great or one of the best. Shows like The Sopranos, Six feet under, The Wire, Cracker, The Twilight Zone, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Shield, Mad Men have ushered in new standards in Television. The qualities of the writing, acting and executions of these shows always  break new grounds and taking it to the next level. If I had to pick one show to be the elite, the best of the best, the cream of the crop  it would have to be Battlestar Galactica (re-imagined 2004 series). Although I remember with fondness the original 1978 version, it always felt like a bastardized version of Star Wars and in many aspect, it was designed to cash in on the Star Wars fever. The re-imagined series took the basic premise and mythology of the original series, moulded it into something new and took it to the next jump. Kinda like what Nolan did to the Batman franchise (with the exception of The Dark Knight Rises, that was an ugly bloated mess).  So here are the reasons.

It’s drama…..set in space:

The misconception of sci-fi shows has always been, it cannot be taken seriously-ever. It’s made for the nerds and geeks who have no contact with other human beings except their own and if you look at past sci-fi shows, you can’t blame ’em. Lost in space, Dr. Who, Star Trek, Buck Rogers, original Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5 didn’t exactly set the critics or audience on fire. Sure, these shows were important to a degree and achieved cult status but it never encapsulated reality or capture a single theme or idea that made a show prestigious to a wider audience.

To me the shows that achieved those prestige recognition bordering on sci-fi ideas (but not pure sci-fi shows) would be The Twilight Zone or The X-files, even those shows made sure that it’s feet were planted firmly in the roots of  ‘serious’ drama. Battlestar Galactica (or shortly dubbed  BSG) made sure it is a drama first and sci-fi show second. In fact, BSG drama encompasses many other serious drama shows and takes it up a few notches. It’s apocalyptic vision is brutal and grim, the human race is almost wiped out by the cylons. There are only 50,000 humans left and they have to find a new home. They seek for a mythical place called earth and the only thing that keeps the rag tag fleet of human beings from being completely exterminated by the cylons is the battleship Galactica. Low on food and supply while constantly being chased by the cylons and enemy within, BSG and it’s crew must protect the civilian fleet. BSG and the civilian fleet must run, hide and if needed fight the cylons who are superior in numbers and technology. Oh and some of the cylons look like humans now,  they can’t die and hide among the fleet.

What makes BSG drama stands out is its uncompromising look at humanity at it’s most flawed and desperate. It is bleak, it is harrowing and it is relentless. While other shows such as ‘Breaking Bad’ or ‘Six feet under’ have its dark comedy or bitter sweet moments to lighten the load, BSG doesn’t want that luxury. The humans  go through so many ordeals, pains, suicides, loss, betrayals, death, guilt, mutiny and their hopes keep crashing down around them time and time again. Yet they keep on fighting,  searching and holding onto each other against the overwhelming darkness. Characters fall in and out of love, made terrible mistakes, drown their confusion, frustrations and  sorrows in alcohol, drugs, fights, self loathing and affairs but somehow they manage to have the strength to pick themselves up back again. That’s what makes this show great.

It’s a reflection of its time:

BSG was made during the height of Bush era in 2004. The war on terror was at its peak, the attack on Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq tore America apart and the world turned against America. Other show such as ’24’ chose to tackle the issue by condemning terrorism in a black and white. Sure there were moments where characters from Arab descendants were innocent and Jack Bauer dealt with the usual moral ambiguity dilemmas and sometimes some characters you didn’t expect turned out to be rotten apples but as a whole you know pretty much the bad guys will always be two dimensional and typical. The Russians, the Arabs, the Latinos, the Chinese, the evil greedy Americans.

BSG took a different but brilliant and a more elegant approach. In the third season, the humans are being occupied by the cylons. The humans live in a tent city similar to a refugee camp. Colonel Thigh orders the human resistance to keep fighting the cylons by strapping humans in a bomb and turning them into a suicide bombers. What is so brilliant about this concept is that everything that we know about terrorism and suicide bombers are being turned upside down because now we are following the story of characters that we’ve come to know well and respect choosing to fight dirty and in a way that we loathe and despise. It definitely made me think about terrorism in a different light and that’s the beauty of the show. It made you think even for a bit and not hitting you over the head repeatedly with ‘moral’ messages.

There are also some realistic political  issues that were being asked by BSG that I’ve never seen in other sci-fi shows before such as the political struggle between military and civilian leaders; in a time of crisis who has the power? Labour  and class issue; if you’re stuck in a ship that makes ammunition does it mean that you have to work there for good and if you have children, does it mean your children will end up making ammunition too? Do prisoners have the same rights? Is abortion legal when humanity is facing extinction? Is there a need for election?

The answer is never simple or black and white and BSG is not afraid to tackle these issues.

Faith, God and spirituality:

One of the basis of war between cylons and humans is their different views of God and faith. Which is eerily similar to what is happening in the world today. The humans basically worship many Gods such as Apollo, Zeus, Poseidon, etc. The cylons believe in ‘one true God’ like the Christians or Muslims. Humans originally created the cylons as mechanical slaves. After a while the cylons rebelled and a war broke out. After a few years a truce happened, and the cylons dissapeared for 40 years. When they returned, some cylons  who looked like humans were able to infiltrate human colonies and set off nuclear bombs that caused the genocides. The cylons now worship the ‘one true God’ and believe the extinction of human race is necessary because human is a flawed creation and cylons believe they hold a higher moral ground.

What is so interesting about it is that BSG doesn’t shy away from the spiritual aspects. It embraces it to enhance the mythical aspects of the show to add another layer. The religious conflict between humans who believe in polytheistic beliefs and cylons who believe in monotheism is the engine that drives the main plot, which is very rare in a sci-fi show. Each side has someone who experienced spiritual awakening, visions or intuition and believe it is a guide from above and they must act upon it to make it happen. And strangely all the different beliefs and paths intertwined with each other destinies and make the story whole. Like two sides of the same coin.

There are many more aspects that make BSG great. The cool action scenes of gun fights, battle ships or fighter planes. Using handheld camera techniques for most of the time to capture the sense of urgency and realism. Great character developments for both major and minor characters. Great CGI/sfx for a limited budget of a TV show but to me those three reasons I mentioned are the ones that made BSG the best TV show of all time. Hands down.


4 Responses to “3 reasons why Battlestar Galactica is the best TV show of all time”

  1. Oni Suryaman at 1:09 am #

    Arghhhhh. I get only Season 1. I cannot find where to get all the other season (except by ordering the ORIGINAL series which is VERY expensive)

  2. joegievano at 6:25 am #

    try mangga dua (3rd or 4th floor, in front of the lift) thats where I got it from otherwise you could download from vuze. its worth it.

  3. Ben at 11:53 am #

    What did you make of the last season specifically Daybreak Part 3 and the Epilogue? I thought it was cop-out after 4 seasons of mostly brilliant writing. There are so many holes and unresolved issues that it cheapens the series for me.

    **** spoilers ****

    Ignoring all the supernatural elements revealed including obnoxious angles and a ghostly fighter pilot, there were subjects that were simply not believable. The whole notion that pre-earth humanity would abandon all technology, to break the cycle, to start all over again? Technology isn’t just Cylons, spaceships, guns and nukes. It’s shelter, clothing, food and medicine. For pre-Earth humans to universally leave everything just to wrap the show in a neat bow really breaks the meme of the series, that was things are rarely black and white, right or wrong.

    • joegievano at 12:59 pm #

      I was taken back as well with the idea that humans would be so inclined to give up modern comforts to start over but the more I thought about it, it kinda makes sense to start over from scratch to break the pattern of violence due to our reliance on technology.

      I don’t think the show was wrapped in a neat bow because in the end, present earth is shown to be self-indulgent in technology, which makes a subversive/warning statement, the cycle will repeat it self once again.

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