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Battlestar Galactica (DVD)

Starring: The guy who does the origami in Blade Runner, the love interest from Dances with Wolves and a whole stack of other people who aren't bad but just can't compete.

Rated: 15

Story: The exiled robot slaves of humanity, the Cylons, return home to the twelve colonies of Kobol after an absence of forty years. They hold something of a grudge. After some serious Armageddon, all that remains of humanity is a small fleet of civilian ships led by a single military battlestar, the Galactica.

They run away.

Their only hope is the lost thirteenth colony - Earth.

Comments: The history of film and television is littered with decisions which must have seemed like no-brainers at the time but which later turned out to be a little iffy. ('Another Star Wars film, Mr Lucas? But, of course! Why not make three?' or 'I tell you what, let's hire Ben Affleck.') Then there are other decisions which seem insane even now but richly paid off. ('I know! We'll bring back Dr Who with Billie Piper as his assistant,' or 'All right, you've talked me into it, let's give this whole Buffy thing another try. I suppose the film wasn't that bad...')

Re-imagining Battlestar Galactica is definitely in the latter category. I have no idea what they were smoking when they came up with the idea but I'm very glad they went through with it. Forget the seventies version. This is tense, gritty war drama with a big slice of politics, a dash of religion and regular, spaceship-sized explosions. Fantastic.

Admittedly, after watching the first episodes, I wasn't too sure whether I could be bothered with any more. The initial mini-series is impressive enough but it's a bit of a downer since it deals at length with the end of human civilisation. Also, Season 1 is a little by-the-numbers at the beginning but this changes as the conflicts and schemes amongst the survivors start to build and the Cylon threat becomes more complex. Some of them look human; some of them even think they are human. The military command and democratic government of the fleet must try to work together against the threat of terrorism. Resources dwindle, the fighter pilots get tired, the story arcs build and the civilians start complaining there isn't enough hot water. Then, whenever things seem to settle down, there's a new twist. Everything continues to crank up during Season 2 with more discoveries and revelations. The first four episodes of Season 3 are as frantic and entwined as anything 24 has to offer. (There's also the bonus that they reach something of a conclusion rather than everything just unexpectedly rattling off in a different direction).

One of the strengths of the show is that very little is ever black and white. The Cylons have a legitimate fear of humanity. The humans cannot see past their prejudice against 'the toasters'. The leaders of the fleet often have to make difficult decisions that serve the greater good and they don't always get them right. It's all refreshingly mature.

If there's anything to be said against the show, it's that some of the characters are a bit annoying. The pilots, Apollo and Starbuck, need a good slapping on occasion. This is off-set, however, by the performances of Edward James Olmos as Commander Adama and Mary McDonnell as President Roslin. They do an exceptional job at keeping everything together.

If you start now, you might just about manage to catch up before Season 4 starts on Sky One after Christmas. Of course, if, like me, you're with Virgin Media and don't get Sky One any more, you might want to pace yourself or you'll be left with plenty of time to curse Rupert Murdoch and all his minions before the DVD release. (Sort it out, people!)

Conclusion: Drama, political commentary, big fights and spaceships. What's not to like?

Explosions: Loads.
Stunning CGI space battles: Frequent.
Duff episodes: Surprisingly few.
Dodgy haircuts, flared trousers and disco: None.
Chance of me finishing this review before skiving off to watch the rest of Season 3: [To do].

Rating: 5/5.

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