I had said I was going to do a series of five posts on my top 5 TV series of all time, so here we go. There will be some definite nerdiness coming at you in these posts, so brace yourselves. This list isn’t meant to be a “top five shows ever” post, because there are many good shows that I’ve never seen that are on my to-do list (House of Cards and Breaking Bad to name a few). Rather, this is only meant to be a thought experiment of sorts, picking the 5 shows that have really resonated with me over the years.
Checking in at the No. 5 spot is the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series, which aired on SyFy from 2004-2009. I’ve never seen the original series, so I can’t say whether or not I like it. But the reimagined series is incredible. In a nutshell, BSG tells the story of a thriving human civilization that inhabits twelve worlds (the Colonies), each named for a Zodiac sign. These humans eventually made robots, called Cylons, to perform the everyday tasks of running their civilization. Eventually, the Cylons became sentient, rose up in revolution, and attempted to kill their masters in a bloody war. The Cylons left the Colonies after striking a sudden armistice, but at the opening of the series, they have returned, and are able to camouflage themselves among humans. They detonate a nuclear weapon on each of the Twelve Colonies, wiping out most humans. The Battlestar-class ship Galactica is one of the few ships to survive the destruction of the Colonies, and the show tells the story of the humans’ search for a new home.
The biggest strength of this show (though it isn’t as strong at the end) is its storytelling. With each episode, the viewer learns more about the Cylons and humans, and what led each of them to where they are. It is a fascinating and complex storyline, and involves many twists and turns. Also, from the start, it is established that there are only twelve Cylons that look like humans, so the viewer is engaged in a series-long guessing game regarding which humans might be incognito Cylons. In addition, BSG is able to give some insightful political and social commentary that avoids some controversy because it takes place in a different universe. One interesting motif throughout the entire series involves religious differences between the polytheistic humans and monotheistic Cylons. As most Western viewers are more accustomed to monotheistic religion than polytheism, having the “good guys” be polytheistic challenges many viewers’ preconceived notions. Several episodes explore how different the nature and character of some political issues, such as abortion, become when humans are fighting for survival.
My favorite character in the show is probably Kara Thrace, known by her callsign “Starbuck.” Part of why I like her is that she’s a sort of Han Solo figure… she challenges the authority figures on the ship (especially Colonel Saul Tigh, whom I can’t stand), but clearly knows how close to the line she can step, without descending into open and destructive rebellion. The only annoying thing about her character is her constant sexual tension with crewmate Lee Adama, which even continues after both characters are married and eventually devolves into childishness. Another compelling character is Admiral William Adama, played by Edward James Olmos (who, cross your fingers, I will be seeing at Dragon Con this year), who represents an excellent but flawed leader.
Last but not least is the music. Many series on this list have great music, but BSG’s soundtrack is a masterpiece, blending classic songwriting with modern instrumentation. Bear McCreary does a great job of really tapping into the show’s DNA when writing songs for the soundtrack, and they perfectly capture what the show is about. Rather than gush on and on about the music, I’ll let it speak for itself. Here are my two favorite tracks, the opening theme for season 1 (which never should have been changed) and McCreary’s adaptation of “All Along the Watchtower,” which I believe to be better than the original version:
(Just search “Battlestar Galactica main title” on YouTube and click on the first result if you want to hear what they changed it to)
(Yes, music elitists, you heard right. I just said something is better than Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Embrace the new and stop being stuck in the past.)