12 years ago, Ronald D. Moore revolutionised storytelling, sci-fi and television with his reimagining of Glen A. Larson’s 1978 series, Battlestar Galactica. The series aired with an ambitious mini-series and subsequent pilot on the much-maligned SyFy network and changed the face of SyFy and television forever.
Battlestar Galactica took the campy and kooky premise created in 1978 and transformed it into a distinct post-9/11 show brimming with grim and emotional undertones.
It mastered the art of balancing nerd appeal and genre charming elements. Battlestar Galactica featured dogfights between spaceships, artificial intelligence, light speed jumping, colonies and prophecies. But it was not without flashy action, beefy guys and skimpily cladded women strutting their stuff. But the triumph of Battlestar Galactica was the respect it treated its audience with. The show featured sci-fi gears in abundance, it featured cogs to allure the general audience but the political and emotional threads that run through Battlestar Galactica are what make it a marvellous show and a game changer.
It is a show that held no gender barriers in its story telling. For the ever-powerful Admiral Adama, there was a staunch and even more powerful President Roslin. Creator Ronald D. Moore even went as far as to gender switch Starbuck, who was a man in the original series, into a woman, played immensely and giddily by Katee Sackhoff. Every single role came with strength and vulnerability. Every character had their angels but they also had their demons and it was the glow from hell that held the audience through four special seasons.
Battlestar Galactica showed other lesser writers and creators that one does not simply focus the spotlight on the lead characters. One does not need to place the burden solely on two or three leads whilst supplementing a few fresh faces here and there. Galactica made the most throwaway of characters into stars and into figures of worth. It was Game of Thrones before Game of Thrones and it did the spectacle with less money, a smaller fanbase and a pocket full of ambition.
It’s also a certainty that Battlestar Galactica created and pioneered a cinematic effect that still holds and runs to this day – the wide shot to close up zoom. Have you ever watched a film or television series where the shot of huge and vast and epic and to show the scale and detail it punches into the shot and highlights the subject? We saw it in Man of Steel when Kryptonians flew through the sky. We saw it in Star Wars: The Force Awakens with the Millennium Falcon pirouetting and twirling through Jakku. That technique, whilst it may have existed before, was popularised by Battlestar Galactica. Admittedly, the SyFy show used it to mask lesser visual effects on its spaceships and aerial battles, but it worked. It made the action rapid and tense. It made the shooting visceral and harsh.
A lot of productions, whether they hit the small screen or the big screen, are all surface. They begin with a premise and they build on that premise. Shows like Battlestar Galactica and Game of Thrones have that premise but they understand the premise to be a culmination already. The audience jumps into the aforementioned series knowing half the story and are expected to catch up with the history and the events that came before. It all circles back to that respect, that audience value, which we mentioned before. There is nothing surface about Battlestar Galactica. It is a thick crust bubbling with a frighteningly layered core with a vast and endless sky and space above it.
And whilst its predecessor – what happened once will happen again – played fast and loose with its performances, Battlestar Galactica is a masterclass in acting. Edward James Olmos was born to bless us with Adama. He may have had to wait until he was 57-years-old to finally step onto the Battlestar Galactica, but when he did he fulfilled a performance that puts even the most experienced thespians to shame. And he wasn’t the only one. Middling actors and characters that had no right to change the face of television showed audiences that we could experience Oscar worthy performances each and every week.
Battlestar Galactica is a triumph. It is a triumph in storytelling, acting, scoring, filmmaking, humanity and respect. It built on all that came before and inspired all that has become of it since. And yet, having hit the small screen 12 years ago, Battlestar Galactica not only holds up but also makes the SyFy channel look like a joke. We once had Battlestar Galactica on SyFy, now we have Sharknado.
But even that morbid and disconcerting thought won’t tarnish the beauty and triumph of Battlestar Galactica.
So Say We All.