Harlan Ellison recently handed over a writers' award to Ronald D. Moore in Los Angeles, telling him he'd taken the worst SF show of the 1970s and turned it into the best of the 2000s. Certainly the modern iteration of Battlestar Galactica is a substantial improvement over the original in terms of acting, drama and special effects. That said, the tiresome "GINA" versus "TOSsers" argument still raging in some corners of the web is somewhat tiresome and pointless.
Season 3 of Galactica has been running for a few weeks now. It picked up the dangling threads from the Season 2 finale, Lay Down Your Burdens, which ended with nearly 40,000 of the 50,000 survivors of the human race under occupation by the Cylons on the bleak planet of New Caprica, whilst the under-manned battlestars Galactica and Pegasus fled into space to avoid destruction. Season 3 thus started with two stories unfolding in parallel: the battle between the human 'insurgents' and their occupiers on the planet, and the unfolding of a dangerous, complex plan hatched by Admiral Adama to rescue his people. The first four episodes of the season - Occupation, Precipice, Exodus, Part 1 and Exodus, Part 2 - form a continuous, building narrative which starts by turning our American-analogue heroes into suicide bombers and doesn't let up. The idea that the only show on US TV at the moment bold enough to directly address the issues raised by Iraq is a science fiction show featuring sexy robot women and space pilots called 'Hot Dog' is pretty ridiculous when you think of it. Yet Galactica delivers in spades. Wisely, Moore chose not to milk the Occupation story arc across half a season or more, instead resolving the plot in just four tightly-plotted episodes. Exodus, Part 2 sees the rescue of the civilians from New Caprica through massive ground battles, the most astonishing space battle sequence since Deep Space Nine's Sacrifice of Angels episode in 1997 (outstripping all three Star Wars prequels for imagination and design) and, significantly, one of the most emotionally powerful moments of television drama I've seen in years. Needless to say, Michael Hogan and Kate Vernon won't be getting their Best Supporting Actor Emmys next year (what? A scifi show with good acting?), and that is a crime.
Sadly, the enormous quality of BSG's opening arc this year has inevitably led to a bit of a comedown in the episodes immediately following it. Collaborators dealt with the problem of Cylon collaborators among the fleet far too easily, whilst the two-parter of Torn and A Measure of Salvation suffered from a flawed central premise (there are simply too many ways the Cylon virus could have been cured, especially once the Colonials knew Baltar was on the basestar; Helo's actions at the end of the storyline may have been noble but should have landed him in the brig). Hero, the latest episode to air, was simply an ungodly mess of continuity flaws, self-contradictions and a Cylon plot so half-hearted as to be preposterous. Despite these weak installments, the series has consistently delivered quality acting and effects and it is hoped that the forthcoming 'big' three-parter which ties up a lot of the outstanding plotlines will lead to a better second half for the season.
Next week, a big boxing match on the Galactica generates flashbacks to the Colonials' year on New Caprica.
301: Occupation *****
302: Precipice *****
303: Exodus, Part 1 ****
304: Exodus, Part 2 *****
305: Collaborators ***
306: Torn ***
307: A Measure of Salvation ***
308: Hero **
Forthcoming: Unfinished Business (01/12/06), The Passage (08/12/06), The Eye of Jupiter (15/12/06), Rapture (21/01/07)