BitDepth 673 - March 31

Battlestar Galactica resurrects an old campy franchise in fine style.
BSG: a 70's show retold with feeling

The last episode offers a rare elegiac conclusion to Ronald Moore's unsentimental rethinking of the 1978 television series, Battlestar Galactica. Photo courtesy

Over the last two years, the differences between Tim Kring's Heroes and Ronald D Moore's remake of Battlestar Galactica became starker and more pronounced.
The two television series, each guided by a visionary creator, began at different ends of the popularity arc. 
Heroes was the golden child; well hyped and dramatically introduced, superheroes for a post-Matrix age. Battlestar Galactica (BSG) seemed destined to be either reviled or ignored, depending on where you stood on the original television series, a campy blow-dried extravagance of the late seventies.
The two shows then proceeded down two very different paths.

Kring and his cohorts squandered much of the potential of Heroes on a series of unpopular indulgences. Sylar's deliciously murderous streak became a kind of horror movie joke and progressively weirder powers began popping up, cluttering the small screen with paroxysms of special effects.
Moore took BSG's high concept shiny Cylons and attractive crew on a very different journey from the one that Glen Larson imagined almost 30 years before.
The story begins in the same place. Vengeful Cylons destroy the planet Caprica and its twelve sister planets sending humanity fleeing into space aboard a crazy jumble of civilian ships led by an ancient warship, the Galactica. Chased by the Cylons they search desperately for the mythical planet Earth.

Big changes, intense reactions
The first grumblings were about the changes Moore made to the characters. Starbuck was foul-mouthed, aggressive and female. Boomer became an Asian chick. Given what Moore would get up to over the next few seasons, the changes seem merciful in retrospect. Heaven only knows what he would have done with Jane Seymour as a 'sociolator'.
Much of the rationale for his approach to BSG is to be found in an
interview he gave with about his unsatisfying stint with Star Trek Voyager, the last of that franchise's series that he worked on.

After spending years writing some of the best Klingon stories ever written for Star Trek and co-writing the note perfect series finale of Next Generation, Moore left Voyager abruptly, citing differences with show runner Brannon Braga.
"Voyager is not true." Moore told Mania. "If it were true, the ship would not look spick-and-span every week, after all these battles it goes through. How many times has the bridge been destroyed? How many shuttlecrafts have vanished, and another one just comes out of the oven?"
None of the restorative qualities of episodic television were to be found in his version of Battlestar Galactica. The punishing battles across space with the Cylons were matched by internal political wrangles, betrayals and the presence of "skin jobs," human looking Cylon spies aboard the ships, a plot element that would factor heavily in the final story arc.

Science fiction with little fantasy
In Moore's reimagining of BSG, there are no aliens and the fanciest science is the presence of faster than light drives. Battles are waged with atomic weapons, missiles and bullets, and the Cylons are the creations of mankind, not mysterious invaders. Created to do man's work, their growing intelligence became self-awareness and a desperate desire to evolve.
As the desperate remnants of the human race blip across space in search of a new home, the plan of the Cylons, at first brutal and unknowable, clarify into a wholly understandable need to know themselves and their place in the universe.

The humans, meanwhile, become progressively more cruel and unrelenting in their fight for survival. It's a potent allegory of machines seeking grace and redemption while their creators turn away from the essence of their humanity.
Telling this story, Moore creates a world so grimy and unrelenting that most episodes felt more like an assault than entertainment, plunging viewers into the mire of the worst that we can imagine in human nature.
A week and a half-ago, Moore brought his series to an end with a curious elegance, sounding a note of warning for our future. It's a series that proved both worth watching and thinking about.

Related: BSG's most memorable moments
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