Thursday, 21 April 2011

Battlestar Galactica Season One: " 33"- Eyes On The Clock And The Road

Maybe one day, you can have small little toasters of your own.

I watch a lot of TV, and one of the selfish benefits of being such an anal retentive viewer is that I get to pass shows on to whatever social group I may be involved with at any given moment, and look all smart and awesome. And while I've turned a lot of people onto a lot of shows, I've never successfully turned anyone on to Battlestar Galactica. I've known a couple of people who've liked it, but they came pre-affiliated. For all my nagging, screaming and crying that moment of conversion has never happened, and with consideration I've decided to take the cause to the streets, and every Thursday I'll recap a new episode of this endlessly enterprising, smart and unique show. It's going to be my first large scale re-watch too, so personally I am very much looking forward to re-immersing into this universe.

- Having said this of course, I've got a sneaking feeling that Season One may be quite a bit worse then the seasons that followed it, so I guess we'll find out if that's true.

- Maybe not though, because '33' for the most part is a crisp and well-executed episode. Ingratiating us again with the universe after the mini-series, whilst being a pretty thrilling chase movie of an episode at the same time. The downfall of so many first episodes is they get too caught up explaining to actually be engaging as their own story, but this one manages to dodge that bullet, showcasing many of the shows intentions from the get go.

- The set-up sees The remainder of the human race fleeing blindly through space, with the Cylons, a sentient AI race who just destroyed the known worlds hot on their tail. For reasons unknown to the humans, the Cylons keep finding them every 33 minutes, which means those fighting back don't get to rest, eat or sleep. We're thrown into the midst of the frontlines, from the top military brass stuck in the control room, to the pilots barely allowed to leave their jets. There's such an atmosphere of bleak despair, the sheer exhaustion on everyone's face builds up the atmosphere nicely.

- The high-concept set-up means the show can get to work on all he characters too, without wasting too much time on what's going on.

- Liked a lot how the episode intercut Baltar's fantasy scenes at his riverside mansion with the hectic main action. Elegant shit. Plus metaphor heaven.

- Early scenes of the show are not afraid to pursue grey areas can be scene in the episode's treatment of the Olympic carrier plotline, something I won't spoil in too much earnestness

- Speaking of which, the danger of BSG perhaps is its earnestness, and while its nice to these officers get pissed off, be irrational and just generally be assholes ( Saul Tigh and Starbuck in particular) there's still something innately good and noble about everyone, from the in over her head President Roslin (Played effectively by Donnie Darko's Mary McDonnell) to the gruff but fair Commander Adama. They might be subtler takes on these familiar tropes, but they still are those familiar tropes. Particularly in this episode.

- Still like the gallows humor going about. That makes watching despair much more enjoyable.

- Also like how the episode is building the smaller characters already, Roslin's aide Billy and Deck-Lt. Dualla are both small characters that get nice moments in this episode.

- Gaius Baltar in the early going at least, is the reason this show isn't just an ultra-polished version of Stargate: SG1. Baltar is by all means of measurement a coward and a traitor, and possibly the human responsible for the end of the world. On paper he's the easy villain of this show, but thanks to both the shows intentions and the funny, charming performance James Callis gives, it asks you to root for him. Its the first note of ambiguity in a show that went to grow many, but in '33', he's the audience surrogate into this militaristic world, a welcome presence of selfishness and humor in amongst the straight-faced nobility of the soldiers. Oh yeah and he also hallucinates metaphysical conversations with the Cylon chick Six he once banged. K?

- Tricia Helfer's performance as Six is awesome. I grant she's hot, but I've seen many hot actresses try to play sensual and fail, yet Helfer is encapsulating.

- I couldn't go much further without mentioning Starbuck, played fantastically by Katee Sackhoff, who is basically Humphrey Bogart as a hot chick. Delivering her limited material in this episode with an amusing hateful candidness. It gets much, much better.

- There's a great pace about this episode, that sets up the vibe of Battlestar Galactica as a road movie. A post-apocalyptic story as bleak as any, only skew sci-fi/fanboy. But I hear what your saying, its' called Battlestar Galactica and that just sounds shit and immature and yadayada. But Television is always the medium of how and not what, a terrible premise can make for great TV, and a great premise can make for shit TV. And even in this episode, ostensibly its first, the ambition and craft in Ron Moore's writing is plain, and this is not just another wish-fulfillment space fantasy, its something altogether smarter and engaging.

- My gut feeling though is this might be the best one for a while. Still bold writing, moral ambiguity and space battles make for an exciting 40 minutes of TV. Fucking solid opener.

Rating: 8/10

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