If you are looking for a first-rate science-fiction epic featuring a threatened humanity and simultaneously destructive and attractive cyborgs, then binge-watch “Battlestar Galactica.”
Title: “Battlestar Galactica”
Year it began: 2003
Where it can be seen: SyFy, Hulu, Amazon
Who’s in it: Edward James Olmos, Katee Sackhoff, Tricia Helfer, Mary McDonnell, Grace Park, James Callis, Jamie Bamber, Michael Hogan
Typical episode length: 44 minutes
Number of episodes to date: 76
Brief plot description: After the Cylons, led by improved android models, nearly annihilate the humans who created them, refugees escape in a fleet led by the Battlestar Galactica. As Commander Adama and his crew fight off pursuing Cylons and try to find Earth, President Roslin attempts to maintain order and rebuild human civilization.
Why it’s worth watching: A reboot of the 1978 series of the same name, “Battlestar Galactica” offers deeply engaging and intelligent science fiction. While the tropes of machines that rebel against their masters and humanlike cyborgs might lead to clichéd storytelling, “Battlestar Galactica” produces a fresh, thrilling and intriguingly spiritual narrative. Refusing to limit questions of ethics or desire to humanity, the show compellingly blurs the lines between human and machine. Fraught love affairs between humans and Cylons add emotional tension to the larger conflict, while Cylon atrocities are paralleled by humans’ willingness to use such inhuman tactics as biological warfare and suicide bombings. One of “Battlestar Galactica’s” greatest strengths is the unsettling, claustrophobic atmosphere it generates by confining so much of the action to the interiors of ships: viewers are made to feel the tensions of a hunted people living in close quarters.
Three stellar performances drive the show: Olmos’ Adama somehow balances the outward cold-bloodedness of an experienced military leader with a quiet, inward suffering that humanizes the saga; Sackhoff’s Starbuck radiates joy and angst as her maverick fighter pilot finds herself unexpectedly at the center of events; and Helfer is spellbinding as Cylon Number 6, a steely, sultry and eerily spiritual agent who is key both to the Cylon attack and the new order it creates. Other standout performances include Callis’ cocky, side-switching scientist Baltar; Park’s deeply conflicted Lieutenant Boomer; Callum Keith Rennie’s psychotically spiritual Leoben; and McDonnell’s Roslin, who gracefully deals with her own illness as she leads a fractious and anxious people. – Randy P. Schiff