SyFy recently ran uninterrupted the entire early 2000s reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” series starring Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell. I realize fellow contributor Alec Lloyd is not a fan of this remake series, but I think it’s good to disagree sometimes.
Based on the 1978 series of the same name, the story surrounds the remnants of a devastated human race running for their lives from the robotic Cylons. But unlike its predecessor — where the Cylons were robotic replacements for a dying reptilian race — this time the Cylons were created by humans, who, in Terminator and Matrix-like fashion, turn against their creators.
My recent “Galactica” viewing binge after almost 15 years made me appreciate the series even more. Not a lot more, mind you, just more. The acting is top-notch for the most part, and at least through the first two and a half seasons the stories are gripping. Edward James Olmos is one of the best actors in Hollywood, and he has a greater gravitas than the original Galactica commander, Lorne Greene.
However, watching the shows consecutively made me realize how many times Olmos’s Bill Adama backtracked on decisions he had made. It seemed he was always being talked out of something, even after he made up his mind. The biggest instance of this was relinquishing all non-military decision-making to President Roslin (McDonnell), the former Colonial secretary of education who was elevated to president. Imagine: The human race has been just about completely obliterated, and yet the survivors demand a free press, voting rights, etc. I realize this makes for good stories, but it makes little sense in reality.
A close second was Adama waffling against eliminating the Cylons once and for all when given the chance. He’s told by his XO, Helo, that humans would be “no better than the Cylons” if he took advantage of a disease that was ravaging the robotic race. After Adama gets the go-ahead from Roslin to eradicate the Cylons, Helo disobeys orders and puts the kibosh on the plan.
Which brings up another matter: How many times was Adama going to put up with insubordination? Helo’s is arguably the most grievous example; however, his own son (Apollo) was guilty of it several times, as was Starbuck. The actual answer is “as much as he had to.” Again, the desperate situation virtually required Adama to be as forgiving as he was. How many Viper pilots did the human fleet have, after all, let alone good ones?
In the latter half of season 3, Adama and crew are made aware of the depths of the Cylon grand “plan,” which sort of makes Helo’s actions on behalf of the Cylons forgivable. As is mentioned many times throughout the series, the “all of this has happened before, and will happen again” begins to make sense. The Cylons now are dealing with an internal struggle; a faction of humanoid Cylons wants to work with the humans to break the cycle of violence ravaging the two species. In addition, Adama believes humanity is partly responsible for the Cylon attack on the Twelve Colonies: In one episode, he recounts a clandestine Colonial mission across the human-Cylon armistice line which he believes broke the long (yet uneasy) peace between the two civilizations.
The writers did grant a storyline to those who were fed up with actions like Helo’s: A group of disgruntled personnel, including bridge officer Gaeta and politician Tom Zarek (played by 1978 “Battlestar” star Richard Hatch) take control of the Galactica and almost succeed in executing Adama, et. al. and continuing the struggle against the Cylons.
Though the series finale is far from perfect, it does offer a logical conclusion of sorts. The cycle of war between the two species is broken because the two (three, actually — see below) are now one.
We are taught that great leaders are those who have looked beyond traditional mores and hatreds, and acted on behalf of the future of the greater good. Unfortunately, such individuals often pay for it with their lives. Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, for example, took a giant leap when he agreed to the Camp David accords and made peace with Israel (he was assassinated for it a few years later). See also: Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi among others.
Adama could have continued to fight the Cylons (which he wanted to do early on, but was one of his numerous reversals) in a futile attempt to “win” the renewed conflict, and he could have permanently ended the Cylon threat (which he reluctantly agreed to, but was thwarted by Helo). He almost ended up like Sadat, et. al. thanks to Gaeta and Zarek, but survived. And he ultimately was successful.
One hundred and fifty thousand years later, Earth is inhabited by beings of the combined genetics of the Colonial humans, humanoid Cylons, and the humanoid inhabitants discovered by the Galactica fleet upon landing on this planet.
Battlestar Galactica was nominated for 19 Emmy Awards in its run, eventually winning two for Outstanding Special Visual Effects and one for Outstanding Sound Editing. It also won a Peabody Award and got itself listed among Time Magazine’s 100 Best TV Shows of All-Time, among a host of other nominations and awards. If you’d like to watch it, or rewatch it for yourself now that all four seasons, the mini-series and the two movies, are available now, free of charge, on Syfy.com.