To say that Battlestar Galactica is the only show of its kind is not an exaggeration. As a sci-fi drama, it was an ambitious project by an ambitious team of people. When Glen A. Larson created the Battlestar Galactica Universe in 1978, it is quite possible that even he could have never imagined the influence his teeny-tiny one season science fiction show (at that time still with aliens and extra terrestrial life forms) would have, generation upon generation upon generation.
Then, something remarkable happened. Into the mind of another television creator (Ronald D. Moore), Battlestar Galactica took on a life of its own. Cylons were no longer the only enemies human beings – for all intents and purposes perfectly flawed creatures that dwell within BSG’s Cylon-infested universe – had to face. Since 1978, the human beings in Battlestar Galactica got injected with some much needed personalities, desperately missing in the 1978 version. They had evolved so to speak. They were no longer just following orders and hoping for the best, NO! No longer was angst just written as a means to an end, a way to cause friction among characters alike. Humans, in Ronald D. Moore’s sci-fi drama reinvention of the original sci-fi series of Battlestar Galactica, had become perfectly able of being their own worst enemies.
If not their own enemies, how about throwing in some humanoid-looking Cylons to boot? That’s right, human beings weren’t the only creatures to have evolved since the 1970’s. Since the original series, where the first thought-out Cylon models were golden, axe yielding evil space-knights, Cylons got themselves a sort of skinjob (pun intended-). Eight of them – well, seven because Ronald D. Moore originally forgot one so the eight’ model was considered boxed – have infiltrated humanity and are passing along the info to their Cylon-copy brethren. Five other’s don’t even remember ever being a Cylon. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a tactic that has been used over and over again, throughout the centuries of warfare.
Let exactly that point be one of the focal points of the entire series. A strangely, indiscriminate line that comes by every once in a while.
“All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.”
One eerie doom-and-gloom sentence to describe an entire series. Over 100 episodes.
Every week, for almost five years, millions of cross-genre loving television watchers all over the world delved into a world of mythology, humanoid red-spine orgasmic Cylons, divinities and returning-from-the-death-until-now-no-one-is-sure-what-she-was-Starbuck, but they didn’t care about all that. They wanted it, and they wanted more of it. Every week – excluding breaks, hiatuses and writer strikes – Ronald D. Moore and his brilliant team of writers brought their fans into the darkest, the deepest complexity of human emotions and capabilities, where people could be shot out of an airlock for being forty seconds late, and he made them think about what it was they were actually watching. It made them think about the way they would react, faced with crises like having their (our-) entire planet and everything they ever knew and loved being wiped away.
At some points along the story, Battlestar Galactica took a lot of creative liberties in getting their points across. It’s highly unlikely that a set of music notes will end up being the salvation to all that is Human and Cylon, but that doesn’t matter.
“All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.” Made people think about the world around them, about their own mortality and per extension their own responsibilities to the people and planet around them.
People were swept away from the very beginning, and it didn’t even start with the brilliant series first episode “33”. It started with the Battlestar Galactica miniseries, later also dubbed the series prolonged pilot episode. Fans wanted more, so Sci-Fi (later SyFy) gave them more Moore. When the pilot was aired, it became quickly apparent that Battlestar Galactica wasn’t your ordinary Science Fiction show. It was a show with the ambition to give viewers an experience no other show had ever given them. Battlestar Galactica was a show with the ambition of giving people a start-to-finish feeling of going to the movies, because that’s what it is. 100+ hours of cinematic quality on a small screen. Whether you are for or against the Battlestar Galactica Universe, it’s undeniable that the quality of visual effects is unlike anything ever seen on a 40-60 minute weekly show. The show runners gave their fans movie quality on a TV budget, which is remarkable. Were there things that could have been better, sure. But when is this not the case? Hollywood movies with over 40 times Battlestar Galactica’s editing time- and budget have those same flaws and even more so, have been known to “borrow” BSG-effects for their own movies.
Making movies on a TV budget isn’t something that just happens overnight. It requires brainstorming and an absolute insight of: “this is the budget we can’t cross, let’s make the most of it.” Without having inside information, it is very likely that some things just weren’t workable on the budget they were on. Almost undoubtedly, cuts had to be made to benefit other scenes which were deemed more important in post-production. The important thing to keep in mind is that the fans (or – we won’t speak for everyone – the fans whose opinions we’ve read) didn’t feel that, and it’s not like Science-Fiction lovers are the easiest crowd to satisfy.
Maybe it weren’t just the visual effects or the writing that allowed people to empathize with this rag-tag fleet in a 95% CGI-modified universe. The super visual filmic feel was even more enhanced because of Bear McCreary’s music. That moment the music crescendoed as Laura Roslin’s elation grew, running from bulkhead to bulkhead in her cancer-ridden body, we, the audience, felt that. We first felt with her as she took her careful first steps, then we felt happy when we saw she could do it. Then, for those that watched the extended version of the episode, we saw a combination or fatherly proud and loving care when Bill Adama notices her up on the hangar deck. But more importantly, we felt it. That gravitating scene where Lee Adama watches Starbuck plummet to her death left fans clustered (or maybe hugging-) the screen because they wanted to find out more. Would this have been the case if the music were different? Different music sets different moods and Bear McCreary understood the world of Battlestar Galactica so well, that he opened up a universe with his music. His music allows dreams to take place with eyes closed. In your dreams, you might not see the Galactica swooping by the screen, but you might be walking betwixt the cities of ancient Rome.
Taiko Drums, visual effects and writing staff aside, when Battlestar Galactica first aired again in 2004, there were critics, there were doubts, there were idolizations and people who thought the creators might have been too brave in trying to reinvent something so steadfast. 2004 got Battlestar Galactica out of its 1978 niche market. Maybe Ronald D. Moore really did think: “What can happen before, can happen again.” What’s certain is that the ambition and drive of creators, writers, CGI- artists, composers and the acting team alike, is what made Battlestar Galactica into an entirely new and exciting universe. If not to be part of, then for sure to explore. People got to watch a show that wasn’t only cutting edge and – to this day – alone in its kind, but also a genre barrier-breaker. Watching Battlestar Galactica, however, did not come free of charge. It opened viewers up to a whole new universe, but it made them think about their own and the finality of everything around them. Where others shied away from religion, Battlestar Galactica embraced even that aspect in an open-minded, non-judgmental way. But most of all, and maybe this is the most important thing, this show taught us that there is no greater enemy to humanity, than human beings themselves, and that’s a dark and gritty thought to go to sleep with. Think about it. In the show, the final survival of humanity relies on human beings drastically changing their lifelong beliefs and ways, joining together with their secondary enemy, the Cylons in finding Earth. (It really is Earth because According to Bill Adama, they have struggled long and hard enough to deserve the right to call it that). So maybe that’s the ambitious but ambiguous message here? Think about it, talk about it. Open your mind to it.
Or maybe, we’re just wrong about all of this?
So say we all!
ps: Is it a coincidence that a one-letter middle name seems to be a requirement before creating parts of this show? We think not Glen A. Larson & Ronald D. Moore!
Written by the BSGmuseum-staff [E&DV], for www.battlestargalacticamuseum.com