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In Case You Missed It—October 24, 2006

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’m just going to say it: I watch chick flicks. I maintain that I am still a heterosexual male, and I also maintain that I have good taste. But my mission here is to expose forgotten or overlooked gems, and I’d be lax in my duty if I didn’t briefly touch on the main reason most people will ignore a work of art: genre-phobia. Too often, people refuse to even consider a movie, a TV show, a book, or an album simply because they’re not fans of a certain genre—be it chick flicks, sci-fi, romance, punk, or any other category. I’ll skip the chick flicks this week, but genre-phobia is such a common cause for rejection that I’m going to have to address it. Behold one of the most recent, and most tragic, casualties of genre-phobia: Battlestar Galactica.

TV: Battlestar Galactica (Sci-Fi Channel)

Many of you ungrateful little whippersnappers are much too young to remember the original “Battlestar Galactica” from the ’70s. Just so you know, it was the height of ridiculous sci-fi. It had lasers, robots, barely a minority in sight, and characters so thin they blew away easily with the collective (and justified) sigh of the mainstream.

Since those days, sci-fi has been a pretty lack-luster genre. There have been a few real winners, but mostly it’s been populated with stories of futuristic technology, futuristic men, and futuristic women with futuristic boobies. The Sci-Fi Channel, for sure, has played a large part in this. Ever seen Battlefield Earth or Tripping the Rift? Don’t. And don’t even get me started on Stargate SG-1. Put quite simply, I don’t blame anyone for having a bias against sci-fi. Over the years, the genre has produced some of the most spectacular swill that’s ever seen the light of day.

But for the love of legitimately good works of art, don’t hold that against the new Battlestar Galactica.

Would you believe that this remake of the lackluster 1978 series paints a dark and chilling portrait of a futuristic galaxy where humans are fighting for their lives against evil robot clones? Well yeah, probably. That sounds like the opening lines for the cheesiest of cheesy sci-fi plots. But would you believe me if I told you that this new series is an intelligent and rarely cliché allegory of our post–9/11 world—rife with enemies we can’t identify, suicide bombings, and even issues such as (gulp) abortion? Well it is. It’s also one of the best shows on television.

The entire series is dark and unforgiving, grabbing you with its unorthodox filming angles and holding your attention with its complicated and involving plot. From the very beginning, when Captain Adama (Edward James Olmos) gives an impromptu speech questioning the meaning of man’s existence, it’s clear that this is not your usual sci-fi series. Battlestar Galactica shows very little interest in the nuts-and-bolts concerns that dominate other sci-fi shows. Very rarely is any futuristic technology like the faster-than-light drive or the Cylon Basestar explained clearly, and as disorienting as this might seem, it allows the show to focus on the characters and philosophical issues. This is a work of sci-fi intent on exploring every depth of the human soul in that uniquely imaginative way that only sci-fi can. It succeeds, for the most part, quite marvelously.

That’s not to say the series is without its flaws. The acting is sometimes a bit stilted, and the dialogue tends toward the melodramatic. The show keeps you on your toes, but there are often times when it is exhaustingly predictable. None of this ever stops the show dead, but there are a couple of times where you’ll have to suppress some chortles.

With all that it has going for it, I’m convinced that Battlestar Galactica could win over even the most virulent sci-fi opponent. For those of you who are already sci-fi fans: There are space battles and sexy human-looking Cylon babes. It’s pretty sweet.

That’s all for this week, just remember to give your girlfriend, or that creepy nerd whom you hang around with the benefit of the doubt when they recommend something. You might be surprised. As always, I’m constantly looking for suggestions. Just send them my way at [email protected]

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