Sci Fi’s “Battlestar Galactica”: A primer

AWESOME re-cap from Salon Magazine. Know nothing about BSG, read this first! Click the link at the bottom of article for the full primer.

Sci Fi’s ‘Battlestar Galactica’: A primer  | Salon Arts & Entertainment

When the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ miniseries premiered in 2003, viewers could be forgiven for having low expectations. At the time, the Sci Fi Channel, on which ‘Battlestar’ aired, was a niche cable channel known mostly for ‘Stargate SG-1’ and ‘Star Trek’ reruns, and the show’s source material, a cheesy ’70s flop for ABC, wasn’t exactly ‘The Sopranos.’ The series’ premise, furthermore, involved enough clichd science fiction elements — an evil race of robots, a hotshot fighter pilot and characters with names like ‘Apollo’ — to make the show’s fans wince when explaining it to their friends.

Three seasons later, ‘Battlestar Galactica’ has become one of TV’s smartest series. It has won a Peabody Award, made the Sci Fi Channel a semireputable cable outlet and revolutionized science fiction on television. It has proved that the genre, when liberated from the body-hugging Lycra jumpsuits and staid dialogue that have plagued most post-‘Trek’ science fiction series, can be a vehicle for both scathing political commentary and genuine pathos. The network recently greenlighted a prequel spinoff series called ‘Caprica,’ and on Friday, April 4, ‘Battlestar’ returns to Sci Fi after a yearlong hiatus for its fourth and final season.

If you haven’t been watching, the show follows a fleet of human survivors from the Twelve Colonies of Kobol — a group of planets decimated by a surprise attack from the Cylons. The Cylons are a race of partially humanoid robots that were created by humans, and then revolted. Protecting the tiny fleet of survivors is a large aircraft-carrier-like spaceship called the Battlestar Galactica, whose crew is the main focus of the show. In each episode, the humans must evade the Cylons as they slowly make their way to salvation on the mythical planet Earth.

The premise may sound like derivative schlock, but by virtue of its strong writing and naturalistic style, the series manages to be engaging and politically relevant. Its creator, Ronald Moore, uses ‘Battlestar’s’ universe as a funhouse mirror for American post-9/11 cultural anxieties. Since the miniseries’ initial Cylon attack — with its parallels to the events of Sept. 11 — ‘Battlestar’ has broached topical debates about torture, military occupation, abortion, genocide and war crimes. It has managed to do so while avoiding the trap of strained allegory and partisan politics, and has maintained the escapist thrill that makes science fiction, well, science fiction.

Over the past five years, however, the show’s universe has also become awfully complicated. At this point, there are good Cylons and bad Cylons and morally ambiguous Cylons and, if the third-season finale is to be believed, Cylons with an inexplicable affinity for Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower.’ With that in mind, we’ve prepared a ‘Battlestar Galactica’ explainer — as we’ve done for ‘The Wire,’ ‘Mulholland Drive,’ ‘Donnie Darko and ‘Southland Tales’ — to prepare you for the upcoming season premiere (which Salon’s Heather Havrilesky will review on Friday) and square away any confusion. We’ll begin with a summary of the ‘Battlestar’ story line, and briefly outline the characters, before answering some nagging questions.

(Via Sci Fi’s ‘Battlestar Galactica’: A primer  | Salon Arts & Entertainment.)

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