Battlestar Galactica is the best show on television. Even after four years, it still seems just a little crazy to say that. After all, the original was one of the schlockiest shows created, a grab bag of Star Wars mixed with Mormon theology and sci-fi cliche. The brilliance of Ronald D. Moore’s remake is that it takes the essential part of the Galactica story and turns it into what good sci-fi should be: a story that takes relevant issues to our times and puts them in a new context that gets the audience to think critically about our world.
Galactica is one of those shows that reinvents an entire genre. Instead of the sterility of Star Trek, Galactica plunges us into a gritty and realistic world. Instead of cookie-cutter characters who can do no wrong, the characters on Galactica are flawed, make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes are deadly. Instead of cheesy dialog and unrealistic technology, Galactica was conceived in such a way that a viewer could easily mistake it for a historical drama set on an aircraft carrier. The whole point of these changes is to make Galactica more relevant to our times. We can identify with Admiral Adama because he’s not the sort of perfect leader who can do no wrong, but a realistically portrayed human being faced with an impossible situation.
This will be the fourth and final season. Unlike shows that draw on forever, well passed their expiry date (I’m looking at you, X-Files), Galactica is going to tell a self-contained story. It’s a gutsy move to end a popular show, but it would be easy for a show like Galactica to fall into cliche and collapse under its own weight. Every season, Galactica has done something to radically alter the very nature of the show—few shows on TV are so daring.
Usually, the first episode after a series’ pilot is the singularly worst episode of the series. Everyone’s still finding the character, trying to get ahold of the series’ budget, and the writers are still trying to figure out what the show is really about. “33”—the first regular episode of Batlestar Galactica is one of the best scripted TV episodes ever created. It’s tense, it’s daring, and it is relentless in setting the tone for the entire show. Even among the cast it’s a favorite. A show that can start that strongly is a rare thing indeed, and if Galactica can go out with as much strength as had at the beginning, it will have cemented itself as one of the top TV dramas ever created.
The fourth and final season premieres tonight on the SCI FI Channel.