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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Review: Battlestar Galactica Season Two

If I had to vote for a show that I think is the modern successor to Buffy, it would be Battlestar Galactica. The show is incredibly well-written, the actors excellent, the plot (up to season two anyway) believable and interesting, and above all, the pacing is nothing short of astounding.

Ron Moore, the producer/director is I believe the best modern user of negative spaces on TV. The show is filled with silences. Characters stare and look at each other for long moments, allowing your mind to fill in the details in the thoughts and the interactions between the characters. The soundtrack is moody, slow, percussion heavy, and heavy with foreboding. The tension builds until it's unbearable, and the release when it comes is a complete relief.

But the show is by no means plodding! When plot is revealed, the revelation is real, uncontrived. When you learn something new about a character (such as the Cylon agent in Season One), it really causes you to think, "Oh yeah. That's why he behaved like this previously!" There are frantic battle sequences which punctuated the story, but the battles are always meaningful, as though the producer said, "Here's the budget we've got. Better make every special effect count!" And indeed it does.

I never expected the modern remake of the extremely cheesy original Battlestar Galactica to be excellent, but I think this show beats recent shows I've seen, even Veronica Mars and Smallville. To make things even better, the writers do not shy away from possibly controversial themes, including terrorism, the trade off between security and freedom, when brutality towards the enemy ultimately robs us of our own humanity, and ultimately whether survival is sufficient, or whether we need more justification for that for the human race. The themes are not hammered home with obvious morals, and each episode is written with care and respect for the theme as well as the milleu.

Characters are complex and realistic --- even good people do bad things, and sympathetic characters can turn out to be extremely cold-blooded and willing to do harsh things to enemies. There is but one obvious villain --- Gaius Baltur, a scientist who betrays humanity to the Cylons but nevertheless manages to insinuate himself into high office. Yet even he does pull miracles out of a hat sometimes and does something unexpected.

In any case, this show (the mini-series, seasons one and two) are very much worth watching, and highly recommended. Worth paying full price at the DVD shop for.

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