Marshall Simmonds emailed me that Battlestar Galactica just ended in the US. We’re about mid-way through season three here in the UK. I wasn’t sure we’d actually flow from the Pegasus turning up at the end of season two into more episodes and so thought about doing this post then, for others in the UK who might be BG deprived. Now it’s timely again. The short answer is: watch Babylon 5 and Space: Above & Beyond. The long answer requires reading through my long love affair with Battlestar Galactica, thoughts on the Pegasus then and now, plus why Battlestar Galactica could have gotten me killed. Read on? The choice is yours!
I was around 13 years old when Star Wars came out, and what a blessing that was for the young sci-fi fan. At the time, if you loved sci-fi, your options were limited. 2001 still got raves, but c’mon, it’s pretty boring. Whoever invented the effects machine that makes it seem like you are flying along a lighted tunnel should be cursed. Or more appropriately, directors who decide showing more than 15 seconds of that effect should be cursed.
Yes, we had Star Trek reruns and Lost In Space reruns. We had a ton of B-movies. I lived for sci fi novels, especially Heinlein — I read everything I could find by him. But how about something fresh, something new? Star Wars was like manna from heaven.
Star Wars, of course, begat Battlestar Galactica. I and my friends took to it immediately. For me, the biggest problem was that it aired Sunday nights around 8pm, if I recall. Why was that a problem? At the time, we had a cabin up in Big Bear, in the mountains of Southern California. My father would drive us up on a Friday night, and we’d have a great time running around enjoying nature for the weekend. But would we make it back in time to Orange County for Battlestar Galactica?
If not, it was a tragedy. There was no TiVo. A very few people had video tape machines, but those weren’t for the likes of most middle class families. In fact, I never had a video tape machine until I left home years later for college. We either got home in time for the show, or I wasn’t going to see it.
The countdown was always the same. If we left by 6pm, there was a good chance we’d make it. But if my father left later than this, then I’d be silently urging him on in my mind to drive even faster down those mountain curves, to pass cars when he really didn’t have enough room. I really didn’t need to do that urging, of course. He always drove like a maniac anyway. But it was an interesting change from my usual fearful state to one of reckless abandon about getting down the mountain.
There was also a major barrier between me and Battlestar Galactica heaven. The Moose Lodge. Yes, Dad was a Moose. The benefit of being a Moose seemed to be being able to pull into a conveniently placed bar to talk to other people about stuff I had no interest in. Please, please, please — don’t stop. If he stopped,
there was very little chance we’d make it home in time.
Along the freeway, I kept doing the math in my head. At 60 miles per hour, that’s a mile per minute — I constantly recalculated our estimated arrival time and silently cheered if the speedometer was hitting 65 or 70, giving us a better shot.
In the end, I saw most of the original series. I even caught some of Galactica 1980. But hands-down my favorite episode was when the Pegasus showed up.
It really was amazing. You’d gotten use to the fleet doing nothing but running away. Then here’s Lloyd Bridges turning up as Captain Cain, ready to kick some Cylon butt. And then they take on Cylon basestars. I mean, going on the offensive, fighting in a way the fleet must have done originally but we’d
never seen before. Wow.
Skip forward now to a few years ago. I finally caught the remake of Battlestar Galactica on Sky Movies (the miniseries was shown as a movie here). Like many people, I was amazed, stunned, grateful for how the characters and that universe were reinvigorated. Then the mini-series came, which I’d heard nothing about. In fact, miracle of miracles, we got it in the UK before the US did. Again, amazement, thankfulness. It came at an especially good time when stalwarts I’d depended on — Buffy, Angel, Voyager (yes, Voyager) had gone.
We finally got the second season in January, and there she was again, the Pegasus. And this time Cain was Michelle Forbes, who I’d loved as Ensign Ro in Star Trek: The Next Generation. And once again, the Pegasus was back and wanting to take on the Cylons.
I was thrilled with the entire two part episode except for the battle against the base stars. It didn’t have any tension or sense that they might not be able to do it. It was a walkover for the two battlestars and kind of felt like an afterthought to the episodes.
But hey, that’s a minor gripe. Overall, Battlestar Galatica remains something I look forward to each week, and I hope it keeps going strong. How about those jonesing for BG? Then finally, here are those other options.
Babylon 5 is terribly underrated by many SF fans — and unknown to plenty, as well. OK, so I didn’t get into it at first either. The first season was a little dull. But seasons two through four just build and build with the war against the Shadows. If you like the gritty, unpolished, realistic feel that you get in Battlestar Galactica, then Bab 5’s got plenty of that for you. Season five is a bit weak, but still plenty good to watch.
FYI, The Lurker’s Guide To Babylon 5 was one of the very first web sites I ever visited when I got on the web. I haven’t been back for ages, but a quick peek shows it’s still updated and probably an excellent place to come up to speed.
Another thing about Babylon 5 is that you’ll see the Starfury fighters do things that probably make you gasp when Vipers do them on Battlestar Galactica. In particular, Vipers often do that cool pivot, where they might keep flying in one direction but spin around to face opposite and fire. Starfuries were doing
this long before Vipers ever did. I know the production house that did Babylon 5 effects, Foundation Imaging, also does some work for Battlestar Galactica. That might have helped with this translation — or it might be a particular production effects artist. However it happened, it’s cool to have space fighters taking advantage of not having to be aerodynamic.
Space: Above & Beyond originally got dismissed by some as Melrose Space, because the cast was all supposedly super attractive. But the stories were gripping; the universe rich with good characters, twists and plots. It sadly only lasted one season. It was always especially a treat to see Tucker Smallwood
commanding the space carrier Saratoga. If you like the grit of BG, you’ll welcome getting the DVDs of Space: Above & Beyond.
What else, if you need more? Star Trek: Voyager is worth watching, really. OK, one of the treats in watching Battlestar Galactica is how everything isn’t all prettied up and nice-and-neat by-the-book clear-cut morality that the Star Trek universe typically aimed for. Well, Voyager has plenty of grit as well. If
you can’t stand watching the whole thing, pick it up from the end of Season 3 onward, when Seven Of Nine arrives.
When Seven Of Nine arrives, the stories get better, grittier and the entire show more interesting. Heck, the same is true for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from around seasons four or five onward. Plus, who can resist Dax anytime, much less when she’s dressed in an old-style Star Trek miniskirt. An excellent episode, Trials And Tribble-ations.
That’s it — some personal suggestions I hope fellow Battlestar Galactica fans can enjoy while they wait for new episodes. Or Marshall, you could just spend more time with Tabatha. Don’t you two make a cute couple 🙂 Hey, I met my wife on the first day of our jobs — what took YOU so long?