I didn't see the end episode of Battlestar Galactica last night. I figure within a week or two I'll stumble across it somewhere. It's surprising how big yet how small this show has become. In many of the blogs I frequent there is much talk about Galactica. Galactica is one of those rare remakes, or reimagining as they wish to call it, which is far superior to the original premise.
It makes a lot of sense since the show was based on a popular but marginal show that tried to capitalize on the Star Wars trend of the late 70s. Like most reimagined projects, especially the ones that succeed so well, there is a convenient gap with the controversy which greeted the show.
During Comicon about two years before the miniseries came out Richard Hatch filled one of the convention halls, trying to get his vision of Galactica made. For years he had tried to get funding for the project and he was upset that a new version, not true to the original, was coming out. I remember the argument over human Cylons, over a female Starbuck and other changes to the core of the show.
Galactica did something science fiction shows needed to do, something I think we're still a few shows away from getting right. At the time the miniseries came out, science fiction still had the yoke of Star Trek around it. They were sprawling space sagas, which aren’t a bad idea per se, but it limited the audience for that type of show. When you had shows like Andromeda, Voyager and others, you had more fiction than facts in your stories. Babylon 5 probably came close to tapping what Galactica got, but it still had funny aliens, epic struggles and life after death things which while getting close to the human condition still had a barrier to it.
Galactica broke that mold. I don't think it was the perfect show for this, but it gave science fiction a gravity it hasn't had in a long time. The characters were in extraordinary situations but they remained human. It did dip into the soap opera, but the human condition defined it. It also helped that the basic premise, the destruction of the human race, easily tapped into the American angst after 9/11 to give a realistic template for the series.
Like with many projects like this, the hyperbole has been a bit much. It reminded me of when Star Trek: The Next Generation was ending its run and there were articles about how wonderful the show was, with many forgetting how, and we'll be kind about it, awkward the first two seasons of the series was. Many dismissed the show but by the end many had jumped on the bandwagon. The same could be said for Babylon 5, which by its final season there were many favorable articles about it which was in stark contrast to reviews from its first season.
Galactica started off with praise which has only gotten better with time, though it was a surprise to hear NPR do a story on the show, yet typical when the host admitted she wasn't knowledgeable about the show and actually had her daughter do most of the interview.
That is the fate science fiction will face until The Show comes along. Until that time it won't be ER, it won't be Grey's Anatomy. The next big science fiction show and the next one and probably more after that will be faced with the 'too cool to know you' vibe from journalist. Galactica has taken science fiction television a long way, but we are far away from being accepted.
The other thing we have to look for is that show to take the mantle Galactica placed and run with it. There doesn't seem to be a lot on the horizon to bring that along. We'll just have to hope.
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