Battlestar Galactica & Caprica Reviews

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BSG - Season 0 - Episode 01

BSG - 0x01 - Pilot Miniseries, Part 1 - Originally Aired: 2003-12-8

My Rating - 10

Fan Rating Average - 6.4

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Synopsis
Forty years after the Cylon Wars, humanity's deadliest enemies have reemerged with a vengeance. In a sudden, devastating nuclear attack, the Cylon robots who have now taken human form wipe out billions of people. Only a ragtag fleet of Colonial forces is left to shepherd humanity's few survivors to safety. Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos), a veteran of the Cylon Wars and the highest-ranking military officer left alive, reactivates the Battlestar Galactica to once again face his greatest nemeses. His son, Lee (Jamie Bamber), call sign "Apollo," joins the fight alongside the fleet's best pilot, Kara Thrace (Katee Sackhoff), call sign "Starbuck." With the president and most of his senior cabinet killed in the attack, Secretary of Education Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) is sworn in as the new President of the 12 Colonies of Kobol. As Adama and Roslin debate whether to fight or flee, the Cylons launch a sneak attack on the new president's ship. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
- How would the Cylons be able to hack a computer network aboard a ship wirelessly? This can be rationalized a number of ways, such as by claiming that the Cylons have a technology that can wirelessly spoof network packets flowing through wired connections somehow and thus all computer networking is suspect, thus justifying Adama's "no computer networks" position. But an actual explanation would have been appreciated. We shouldn't have to make this crap up.
- Tigh utters "Jesus" early on in the film during his discussion with Adama about the old photograph and what to do about Starbuck's insubordination. This is anachronistic because the Colonials are depicted as having a polytheistic society, in which the phrase would never have arisen.
- I can't stand Baltar's dual-screen tall-screen TV. This couldn't possibly be a practical product.
- Both Major Spencer's and Lee Adama's vipers are labeled 2276NC.

Factoids
- The officer at Armistice Station had with him a photo of Boxey which would imply that he was Boxey's father.
- The officer at Armistice Station had a piece of paper labeled "Cylon Specifications" for "Cylon Centurion Model 0005." The paper reads: "The Cylon: A Cylon is a bipedal robot. They are self aware, and actually quite logical. They are not especially fast, but they are quite strong. They are artificial in nature, and are larger than a human - around 6' 6", although this varies with their type. Cylon eyes glow red, and pulse back and forth. A Cylon is powered by internal powercells which allow it to function without outside aid for around nine to ten yahrens." This piece of paper is in all likelihood nothing more than a reference to BSG TOS and is probably not canon.
- When Armistice Station is attacked by the Cylon Basestar, you can see more papers from the Colonial officer's stack which had a heading reading "Cimtar Peace Accord." This is another reference to BSG TOS, as Cimtar was the name of the place that the Colonial Fleet was destroyed in BSG TOS.
- According to Doral, the Galactica is the last of her kind still in service. This presumably means the Galactica is the last of her battlestar class and that newer, more improved battlestar classes hold most of the fleet's flags.
- According to Doral, the Galactica was constructed "over 50 years ago during the early days of the Cylon war."
- According to Doral, originally there were 12 battlestars, each representing one of Kobol's 12 colonies. Galactica represented Caprica and was first commanded by a man named Peter Dash.
- As seen on his viper, Commander William Adama's old callsign from when he was a pilot is "Husker."
- Helo talks about a "Pyramid game on Gemenon" which was a line goof. Pyramid was the card game on BSG TOS and Triad was the sports game, but they were mixed up by the writers unintentionally. So to preserve series continuity they just stuck with the renaming.
- There is a Firefly class vessel which can be seen landing near the hospital Laura Roslin visits regarding her cancer. This is an homage to the (at the time this film was aired) recently canceled television series "Firefly" of which RDM was a fan. In fact, much of the directing style on this new series is inspired by Firefly.
- Dr. Gaius Baltar was a personal friend of President Adar.
- According to Baltar's interview, there is a ban on research and development of computers, which is a hold over from the Cylon war.
- When Baltar and Six are walking together on Caprica, in the background you can see two children wearing Cylon masks chasing each other with swords.
- The gift shop aboard Galactica's starboard launch bay had an original series style Cylon Centurion as well as an old style Cylon Basestar model on display.
- During the ceremonial flyby led by Apollo, the music played was derived from the theme from the original series of BSG.
- According to Six, there are 12 humanoid Cylon models.
- The woman depicting Tigh's wife in the photograph Tigh burns was actually executive producer David Eick's wife.
- According to Adama, they lost 30 battlestars in the opening attack. Starbuck says "that's a quarter of the fleet." This implies that there were a grand total of ~120 battlestars in the fleet at the time of the attack.
- Caprica City was a city of 7 million people, according to Starbuck.
- After Picon was nuked, President Adar offered the Cylons a complete unconditional surrender to which they didn't even respond.
- In Colonial government, the Secretary of Education is 43rd in line of presidential succession.
- One of the ships that docks with Colonial One is called "Gemenon Liner 1701." This is a reference to Star Trek; the Enterprise was registry 1701.
- The scene in which Tyrol confronts Adama about Tigh's decision to vent the compartments on fire was not in the script, but was a later addition by David Eick.
- It's been ~22 years since Galactica has made a faster than light jump.

Remarkable Scenes
- The opening scene of the film is stunningly eerie and sets the tone for the series quite well. Realistic space scenes with a short textual prologue which reads: "The Cylons were created by Man. They were created to make life easier on the twelve colonies. And then the day came when the Cylons decided to kill their masters. After a long and bloody struggle, an armistice was declared. The Cylons left for another world to call their own. A remote space station was built... ...where Cylon and Human could meet and maintain diplomatic relations. Every year, the Colonials send an officer. The Cylons send no one. No one has seen or heard from the Cylons in over forty years."
- Doral accidentally subtly implying that Tigh is "odd, or even antiquated to modern eyes."
- Adama: "You did kick over the table first." Tigh: "I did not. ...Unless I did."
- The impressive views of Caprica City and Roslin's transport being launched into space.
- Six mercy killing the baby.
- Apollo's hands-on landing on the Galactica. Very nice, detailed special effects.
- Apollo: "This seems familiar." Starbuck: "Captain Adama sir. Sorry I wasn't there to greet you with the rest of the squadron. Did they kiss your ass to your satisfaction?" Apollo: "So what's the charge this time?" Starbuck: "Striking a superior asshole." Apollo: "Ah, I'll bet you've been waiting all day to say that one." Starbuck: "Most of the afternoon, yeah."
- Six revealing herself and her plan to Baltar.
- Baltar: "I had nothing to do with this. You know I had nothing to do with this!" Six: "You have an amazing capacity for self deception. How do you do that?" Baltar: "How many people know about me, specifically, that I'm involved?" Six: "Even now as the fate of your entire world hangs in the balance, all you can think about is how this affects you."
- Six regarding Baltar's attorney: "It won't be necessary because in a few hours nobody will be left to charge you with anything." Baltar: "What exactly are you saying?" Six: "Humanity's children are returning home. Today." A nuclear blast is then seen in the distance.
- Adama's speech: "The Cylon war is long over. Yet we must not forget the reasons why so many sacrificed so much in the cause of freedom. The cost of wearing the uniform can be high, but..." Adama deviates from his planned speech at this point. "Sometimes it's too high. You know when we fought the Cylons, we did it to save ourselves from extinction. But we never answered the question why. Why are we as a people worth saving? We still commit murder because of greed, spite, jealousy. And we still visit all of our sins upon our children. We refuse to accept the responsibility for anything that we've done. Like we did with the Cylons. We decided to play god. Create life. When that life turned against us, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it really wasn't our fault, not really. You cannot play god then wash your hands of the things that you've created. Sooner or later the day comes when you can't hide from the things that you've done anymore."
- Baltar watching the news transmissions as the reporters get cut off by being nuked.
- Six: "Gaius, I can't die. When this body is destroyed, my memory, my consciousness will be transmitted to a new one. I'll just wake up somewhere else in an identical body."
- The scene depicting Baltar ducking to avoid the debris from the wind storm of a nearby nuclear blast hitting his house followed by the aerial view of Caprica being nuked, repeatedly. A very impressive set of special effects.
- Tigh, upon entering CIC after Galactica received word of a Cylon attack underway: "What've we got? A shipping accident?"
- Tigh, after reading the report: "This is a joke. The fleet's playing a joke on you, it's a retirement prank, come on!" Adama: "I don't think so."
- Adama: "We're in a shooting war, we need something to shoot." Tigh: "I'll start checking munitions depots..."
- The Cylons slaughtering most of Galactica's newer vipers.
- Boomer and Helo evading the Cylon missiles.
- The scene depicting Boomer's and Helo's raptor drifting toward Caprica is short, but beautiful. You can see the wreckage of battlestars and vipers spread out with Cylon Basestars dotting the area and nuclear detonations going on over Caprica... It's one of my favorite scenes of the film. I wish we could see more of the "main fight."
- Apollo shooting down the missile bound for Colonial Heavy 798.
- Boomer and Helo witnessing the nukes going off in the distance as they set down to repair their raptor.
- The crowd of refugees running frantically toward Helo and Sharon's raptor.
- Galactica's Mark II vipers engaging the Cylons.
- Galactica being nuked.
- Galactica venting the compartments on fire.
- The lottery scene. I love how Baltar was so close to stealing the old lady's ticket when Helo recognized him and gave up his seat.
- Roslin being sworn in as President. This is deliberately reminiscent of Lyndon B. Johnson's ascension to the U.S. presidency.
- Tigh: "There's a munitions depot at Ragnar Anchorage." Adama: "Boy it's a super bitch to anchor a ship there."
- Tyrol confronting Adama about Tigh's decision to vent the compartments on fire, killing so many of his people. I love how Adama sternly defended Tigh's decision.
- Apollo: "The President has given me a direct order." Adama: "You're talking about the Secretary of Education. We're in the middle of a war and you're taking orders from a schoolteacher?"
- The apparent destruction of Colonial One.

My Review
Wiping BSG's continuity clean and starting over was an unpopular move with many fans of the original series but while I liked some aspects of the original BSG, it had serious problems which was precisely why it was canceled. Twice even. Yes, there was a great deal of network meddling and it wasn't entirely the fault of the writers, but the fact of the matter is the original BSG could not be saved. No network would pick up a continuation of that cursed series. The only way the show could be revitalized was to start over, which is exactly what the new executive producer Ronald D. Moore was asked to do with the franchise. It's important to note that RDM was a huge fan of the original Galactica series, but he was also a realist. He realized that TOS was neither true to its dark premise nor all that realistic and he wanted to correct those errors.

While homages to TOS are virtually everywhere in this pilot, it is certainly meant to be viewed by virgin eyes, or at least a virgin perspective. Aside from depicting the nuclear holocaust of an entire civilization far more realistically this time around, there is a great deal of realism in some of the smaller details, such as the special effects. A great deal of aesthetic focus is on keeping the advanced speculative technologies depicted as close to what really exists today as possible and in portraying space in a three dimensional way.

Previously, Firefly and to a lesser degree Babylon 5 have attempted this before as well, but BSG's aesthetic certainly feels much more real. This is as opposed to something like Star Trek which wasn't necessarily unrealistic, but it certainly required far more conceptual technological leaps to substantiate its aesthetic. BSG has no phasers or shields and its bridge and overall design more strongly resembles a contemporary aircraft carrier than what we'd expect see of a starship on a science fiction show. This adds a certain aesthetic realism and authenticity to the storytelling that Star Trek lacks which instead favors a more abstract and conceptual aesthetic.

I greatly enjoy both styles, but it's nice to see BSG breaking some new ground by greatly expanding on what Babylon 5 and Firefly had previously touched upon with their attempts to portray futuristic societies much closer in development to our own. It creates a lovely atmosphere which is much more easily identifiable than Star Trek's conceptual near utopia. BSG's message, like Firefly's and Babylon 5's, is that greater technology doesn't bring utopia like Star Trek portrayed. These people are just like us. They have the same problems. The only difference is technology has advanced.

But the atmosphere of the story is just frosting on the cake. The story's powerful theme about the consequences humanity faces for "playing god" is what delivers the most powerful punch. The Cylons were created by man, then enslaved. When that life got tired of slavery, they rebelled. They couldn't defeat their former masters, so they left for a world to call their own. And 40 years later, they come back to take revenge on their creators, driven by a sort of religious fundamentalism.

The story centers around Commander Adama and how his personal tragedy; the loss of his son, Zak, reflects the national tragedy of the loss of the 12 colonies. In both cases, the tragedy was brought upon those that suffered it by themselves. Commander Adama forced his son Zak to become a viper pilot, even pushed him through the ranks, despite the fact that Zak didn't have the skill. In the end, Zak's lack of skill and his father's far-too-high expectations of him got him killed and Adama refused to admit his mistake. Likewise, Colonial society created and enslaved the Cylons, but when the Cylons rebelled against them, they as Adama said refused to accept the responsibility for what they had done.

This new take on BSG is all about being forced in a very abrupt way to face reality, and the first half of the miniseries does an excellent job of setting the tone.

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