A few weeks ago I reviewed Season 1 of Syfy network’s re-imagining of the 1970’s cult TV show Battlestar Galactica, and came to the conclusion that the show had a great deal of promise but was weighed down with a bit too much style instead of substance. Thankfully Season 2.0 improves on many of the first season’s shortcomings, and while it still seems like a guest at Thanksgiving dinner relegated to the kid’s table, while desperately wanting a seat with the grown–ups, it is showing definite signs of maturity. Battlestar Galactica is built on the premise of eschewing convention and devying expectation. Many science fiction tropes are turned on their heads (doctors are no more able to cure diseases or repair limbs than their 20th century counterparts, communication happens via analog telephone, and people cannot be magically whisked from one location to another via magical teleportation beams), and difficult situations are not given easy answers followed by pithy platitudes in the closing minutes of an episode. Characters make tough choices, and often not the ones we might expect. Season 2.0 continues this tone admirably, but injects some much-needed characterization and humanity into things as well. It’s not perfect, but it’s a well done and very respectable sophomore effort.
My biggest criticism of Season 1 was that the show was light on characterization but heavy on explosions, and from the first episode of Season 2 this problem is addressed, though not exactly how I would have liked. Commander Adama, arguably the best character on the show, is effectively out of commission for the first four episodes, which leaves the slightly-more-than-somewhat incompetent Saul Tigh in command of the entire fleet. I appreciate the shift in focus here, as it allows viewers to get to know Tigh in a more meaningful and personal way and also see how difficult the responsibilities of commanding a ship can be. Tigh is put into some really tough scrapes and has to make some difficult choices, and it is somewhat refreshing watching a less-than-stellar individual take command for a while. There is also a healthy dose of politics injected into the series too, as the fleet begins to splinter with some ships following President Roslin on her quest to find Earth and the rest sticking with the military.
The absence of Adama’s leadership is painfully felt in these early episodes, it speaks to the quality of the writing that the frustrations felt by the crew at Tigh’s lack of leadership are keenly felt by the viewers too. The theme of Season 2.0 is that of divergence, as the fleet is split physically and ideologically, Starbuck goes back to Caprica to retrieve a talisman which is supposed to guide the fleet to Earth, and the crew of the Galactica struggles to adapt to changing leadership. Lee Adama is forced to choose alliances that damage his relationship with his father, and I’m eager for the day when he will finally be given the chance to stretch his wings and take command. It’s more about politics and relationships in Season 2.0, and thankfully, less about shocking viewers with gratuitous violence and sexuality. Though these elements do show up from time to time, they are less overt and slightly more warranted in terms of the storyline. There is also more in terms of creativity, like the episode Final Cut which strikes a markedly different tone from the rest of the series as it essentially follows a TV reporter who is given total access to the Galactica for one day. It’s an interesting concept and I appreciate the show’s willingness to take a risk with it.
Battlestar Galactica remains, if nothing else, a refreshing change of pace from the usual TV fare, though it’s still obviously trying to find its footing while stretching its legs creatively at the same time. The characters are given more time to just be themselves in Season 2.0, such as the episode in which Chief Tyrol takes it upon himself to construct a stealth ship just to keep himself and his crew busy. Edward James Olmos remains a force to be reckoned with, while Starbuck continues to be the one we are supposed to like but doesn’t quite cut it. Even though the Cylons are basically on coffee break for much of Season 2.0, the fear of their attacks is enough to keep things moving at a brisk enough pace overall. And so while there is still room for improvement, Season 2.0 is an impressive sophomore effort and one that should be near the top of the list for any fan of science fiction.
Last 5 posts by Simon R.
- Mission: Impossible III - November 1st, 2013
- Pacific Rim - July 19th, 2013
- House of Cards - May 9th, 2013
- Academy Awards 2013 Liveblog - February 23rd, 2013
- Why JJ Abrams Will Save Star Wars - February 19th, 2013