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If there was any doubt of my citizenship in the geek nation, I’m about to erase it. Yes, I am a dweller at the fringe, a fan of the science fiction. In my own defense though, I don’t care for Star Trek so much and I’ve never dressed up as Han Solo (not in public anyway). So why the admission, you ask? Because this past Friday night, my inner geek was in full bloom. The final season of Battlestar Galactica has arrived at last.
The show is a near total re-imagining of the original 80’s series in which the last remnants of the human race are on the run from the vastly superior Cylons. Their only hope of survival is escape to a mythical place called Earth, a planet that might not even exist. Amid a wasteland of horrific programming on the Sci-Fi Channel they have somehow managed to produce this one jewel. The cast is A-list, the characters are crisp, the look and feel of it is authentic and, all joking aside, there is no reason to apologize for watching a show this good.
Like all good science-fiction, its qualifier isn’t space ships, epic battles, or ray-guns (though all are present), it is the questions it asks. It establishes a compelling premise and uses it to explore all sorts of questions about politics, religion, good and evil, and the nature of man. It delights in following its suppositions to their logical conclusions and punctuating them with jaw-dropping space battles that should make George Lucas hang his head in shame. Where else can you see an intergalactic homage to the Exodus story in which “Moses” jumps a spaceship the size of a city out of lightspeed directly into a planet’s atmosphere where, caught in the gravity-well, it hurtles to the ground, guns blazing, only to jump out again at the last possible second as the human race is liberated from slavery. That episode might be one of the great moments of television history. I’ve got chill-bumps just thinking about it.
Yet, more than that, the creators have succeeded in creating an amazing ensemble of nuanced, broken, and painfully human characters (even the ones that aren’t human). Saul Tigh, the starship’s executive officer, and fighter pilot Kara Thrace are two of my favorite characters from any TV show. The magic of it is that most of the time I hate them; they are driven by such self-loathing and self-destructiveness that it’s nearly impossible to watch them fall apart without rooting for them and hoping that somehow they will find a way out of their wretched existences.
One of the reasons I generally dislike television is that most series are created to be perpetual, you know the main characters aren’t going to die, you know the primary conflicts will resolve in the last ten minutes, you know it’s just going to continue until it finally peters out and signs off with a whimper when the ratings hit the bottom. Not so with Galactica. Like Twin Peaks, Lost, and Babylon 5 the story is deliberately finite. There has been a resolution in place since the beginning and the writers have been writing their way toward it ever since. This makes for much better story-telling by far. Here people die, actions have real consequences, and the end is near.
If you haven’t been watching, I cannot stress enough how important it is that you avoid seeing anything from this season, or any other season, until you’ve started at the beginning. Trust me, there are things that you do not want to know until it’s time for you to know them.
Vis a vis some recent discussion here at the site, I feel like I should mention that the show is PG-13 for the usual reasons. The show is definitely not for the kids, nor is it for base entertainment–but if you are looking for something that will engage your ways of looking at things, I challenge you to embrace the geek within.
The days are numbered. The fate of the human race is written. Who is the final Cylon? I can’t wait until next Friday night.
Note: I’d love to discuss some plot points in the comments section if anyone is interested so I’ll put a SPOILER WARNING here. Read no further unless you want your experience ruined.
Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he's the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.