Review By Paul Mount, 4 out of 5 Forget everything you know about BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. This is easy for me because I know very little about it – apart from the universal truths that it was a cheesy late 1970s STAR WARS rip-off which ran for one brief series (before being reincarnated as the even more woeful GALACTICA 80) and that the BBC went through a curious phase a few years back of repeating it ad infinitum to the annoyance of the rest of us who knew it was taking up a valuable space in the schedules which could have been occupied by one of those alluring-sounding new American SF shows we? heard so much about in the genre press. But now I? rambling. A BATTLESTAR GALACTICA retooling has been on the cards for ages and now, at last, it? a reality. It? here in the shape of this two-part mini-series aired on Sci-Fi in the US recently and arriving with almost indecent haste on a budget DVD release in the UK. I? no great fan of space opera but I? here to tell you that I?e seen the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and I find it good.
The basic premise remains the same as the original. Mankind has spread out amongst the stars; Earth has long been forgotten. Man has created a new human empire but it? been enjoying an uneasy armistice with a ferocious robotic race called the Cylons, creatures which Mankind itself created. The truce ends brutally with a swift and sudden Cylon attack which wipes out the human colony worlds and most of the Battlestar cruisers. Only the Galactica remains, an old warhorse vessel about to be decommissioned. The Galactica and her crew set about gathering together the fractured survivors of humanity into a ragtag fleet and then face the ultimate decision; turn and fight the unstoppable power of the Cylons – who, handily, can now take on human form – or run away to fight another day.
The new GALACTICA is very much a creature of the 21st century. This looks as big as any recent major motion picture you may care to mention; the cast is enormous, the sets incredible, the special effects often breath-taking. Even the script is impressive, punctuated with some neat humour and some genuinely believable and interesting characters. You may remember the sub-Cybermen Cylons of the original series; they?e gone, thankfully, replaced by more TERMINATOR-like robots which appear in tantalisingly few sequences. Otherwise the Cylons can now make themselves human. What seems at first to be a cop-out budgetary decision eventually adds a new dramatic dynamic to the story, giving it an almost INVASION OF THE BODYSNATCHERS-style sense of paranoia as the Galacticans realise that there? a Cylon spy in their midst and that any human they meet could easily be the enemy. It doesn? do any harm to the story that one of the humanoid Cylons is a slinky girly who spends a lot of time spilling out of her dress and trying to seduce feeble-minded scientist Baltar (Callis). Other heretical alterations to the original format include the transformation of Starbuck (Richard Hatch in the TV series) to a feisty female (Sackhoff). This, of course, adds a new frisson to her relationship with Leo ?pollo?Adama (Bamber), estranged son of the Galactica? world-weary Commander (Olmos). The mini-series deftly creates four-square characters of its main protagonists and introduces the dramas which will power their relationships in the recently green-lit new thirteen part series due to enter production shortly.
There? really very little to fault in the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Rymer? direction is tight and inventive, Richard Hudolin? production design is fabulous and there are some really exciting space dogfights as well as some rather chilling sequences as Mankind is utterly routed by the Cylon spaceships. Perhaps most uncomfortable of all is the sequence where the Galactica is forced to abandon several ships full of survivors in the face of an imminent Cylon attack when they realise that half the ships aren? equipped for light-speed travel. It?l bring a lump to your throat, I swear it. Although I? no great admirer of spaceship shows, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA has got me genuinely excited about the prospect of the series still to come.
THE DISC: Available online for about a tenner this is a real bargain. Technically it? a bit duff, though. The picture has a tendency towards grain and the 5.1 sound-mix, oddly enough, works better in ambient sequences than in the battle scenes as you might expect. Only one extra in the form of a twenty-odd minute making-of documentary full of enthusiastic talking heads.