5. Total Destruction
For all our whining and groaning about the old tropes in SFF, the truth is none of us ever tire of seeing the entire village burned to the ground. Especially at the outset of the story.
Galactica takes this old trope and makes it bigger than ever: not only is the village burned down, twelve planets are nuked. An entire species is driven to near extinction, its population going from billions to less than 50,000 in the space of a few hours. The enemy is so formidable it appears impossible that anyone will survive. The ragged remnants of a sophisticated civilization have no choice but to run, surrendering their fates to the vast desert of space in hopes of finding a legendary livable planet that no one is even sure exists.
4. Those Sexy, Soulful Cylons
I get such a kick out of the fact that all the sexiest characters of the 2005 series are Cylons. Definitely gives a new twist to the old artificial-intelligence-takes-over-the-universe idea. And what's more, they are highly spiritual sexy robots. This is presumably not the way they were designed. But after the humans created and then banished the Cylons, the robots continued to evolve.
Here we see a resurrection of the age-old questions first immortalized in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. What are the consequence of creating intelligent life? Can something we regard as merely a thinking machine have a soul? And most disturbing of all, what would happen if beings of our creation turned on us and tried to destroy us (because we, after all, tried to destroy them first)?
3. The Schizo Paranoid Scientist
I think James Callis's portrayal of Gaius Baltar is, in a word, brilliant. Pulling again on the old tropes, Galactica gives a new and charismatic look to the classic mad scientist. Gaius is a bit of a Judas as well, having unwittingly betrayed the colonies by providing defense information to his lover, who turned out to be one of those sexy soulful cylons. (Indeed, the sexiest and most soulful of all.) He lives out season one in absolute terror that his treason will be discovered, and tries to dedicate his superior intelligence to helping the remnants of human civilization survive, though he is constantly waylaid by tantalizing hallucinations of his Cylon lover, who somehow continues to manipulate him even though she's not really there.
2. Tension Between Military and Civilian Forms of Governance
All my favorite stories have this thread, in one form or another. Galactica sets it up beautifully through the characters of Commander Adama and President Roslin.
On the day of the attack, Adama is preparing for his own retirement and putting his old ship to rest. Roslin, a low-level member of the presidential cabinet, oversees the Ministry of Education and is 42nd in line for succession. When the Cylons attack, Adama's ship is the only battlestar to escape, and all other 41 members of the cabinet who would have assumed the presidency before Roslin perish. Adama and Roslin are forced to work together in order to lead their people to safety. Each comes to the table with different, often conflicting perspectives not only on governance, but on the basic plan for survival.
I particularly love the grace and mastery with which Roslin, portrayed by Mary McDonnell, assumes her new role as leader of a people in exile. She is an amazing female character: complex, able, and intelligent, one of many in the series, which brings me to the last (or first) thing on my list:
1. Kara Thrace (call sign: Starbuck)
Despite the rocky start with Galactica purists, Thrace, played by Katee Sackhoff, quickly established her place as one of the best woman warriors yet to appear on the SFF scene. Gritty, complex, sexy, intelligent, hotheaded, and with a gift for defying authority, she takes control of the screen every time she appears.
Looking back, they probably should have recast Apollo as a woman, too. (I mean, let's face it: Apollo the man just couldn't keep up with her!) But oh well. Maybe we'll see a woman Apollo, along with other interesting changes, when they film the 2035 edition of Battlestar Galactica.
That's my list. Now I'd like to hear from you. Whether you saw this particular series or not, tell me about your favorite old tropes, and classic characters, remade in new and exciting ways. In books, series, or movies -- everything is fair game.
posted by Karin Rita Gastreich