indulge in some quiet time
Sci fi is one of those genres that Iím always surprised to find I actually like. Growing up as the child of a Star Trek nut, sci fi was what I ended up having to sit through when all I really wanted to watch was some cheesy sitcom. These days, my television tastes have improved, but still, itís hard to resist that urge to keep on flipping when I happen to stumble across anything featuring spaceships and aliens. All of which is to say that Iím not exactly what one would describe as a big sci fi fan by nature. Still, good storytelling is good storytelling, and as Iím slowly learning, rich characters and riveting storylines know no genre limits Ö as these two DVD TV picks prove.
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The battleship Galactica is on the verge of being retired from usage in the Colonial space fleet and into museumhood when the planets that form the twelve colonies of mankind suddenly find themselves ambushed in a swift and brutal attack, and the old but trusty military space vessel is called back into action. The attackers are Cylons, a robot race whose ancestors were created by humans themselves. Itís been 40 years since the Cylons first rose up and battled their creators, then promptly disappeared, and in the time since, it seems the Cylons have made some big advances in their technology -- peskiest of which is that the latest models no longer look like machines, but exactly like humans. The home planets have been devastated beyond salvation, mankind largely wiped out. The few who have managed to survive the attack now band together, with Galactica and its venerable Commander Adama leading the way on the military front, and the former Secretary of Education, Laura Roslin, stepping up from her position way down the long chain of succession to become interim President. Though Galacticaís young hotshot pilots, including Adamaís estranged son Lee/Apollo and feisty tomboy Kara/Starbuck, do their best to fight off the persistent Cylons, it soon becomes apparent that theyíll need to keep running if they want to stay alive. Which is how this ragtag team finds itself making its way through the far reaches of outer space, battling Cylons as well as their own personal demons as they try to find a new home for their people: the 13th colony of their cultureís mythology, Earth.
Remakes are rarely a good thing, and remakes of decades-defunct TV shows seem like particularly dodgy endeavors -- not so boldly going where man has gone before, feeding on nostalgia like a parasite. Having never seen a single episode of the cult classic 70s Battlestar Galactica, and as a non-sci-fi-geek, I naturally assumed that this new incarnation would have little to offer me. But after a few rave reviews from my brother and sister-in-law, I finally decided to check out it out -- and proceeded to get so addicted that Iíve become a bit of a Battlestar Galactica evangelist myself. See, this is not your usual dumb action-driven effects-laden sci-fi. Yeah, there are battles and explosions and fast-flying jets and all that other stuff that youíd expect in the genre. But all thatís just background for the really juicy action: the power struggles that develop as the colonial survivors try to rebuild their decimated society, the philosophical battle between differing religious ideologies, the debate over the dividing line between artificial intelligence and living beings, even the smaller-scale clashes between fathers and sons, husbands and wives, old friends, best friends, and lovers. The characters are vivid and complex, infuriating and wonderful all at the same time; moreover, like one of my other all-time favorite sci-fi shows, Firefly, itís one of the rare shows in the genre that really revels in the strength of its female characters. Battlestar Galactica might take place in a galaxy far, far away, but its characters are fabulously human, and the big ideas it brings up are instantly familiar. Race, religion, technology, government, culture, family, love: Battlestar Galactica wrestles with all this and more, even as it packs in relationship drama and intense action aplenty. This is not just good science fiction: itís good fiction, period. Check out the miniseries and first two seasons on DVD now Ė season 3 starts in October (on the Sci Fi Channel), and I guarantee youíll be dying to find out what happens next.