Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Expiration Watch: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA


Tick, tick, tick...

Somehow, one of the greatest science fiction shows of all time is expiring from Netflix at the end of the month. How can that be? By the gods, Netflix, have you no heart?

Of course, all of you have watched it by now. Right? Um, you haven't? Then it's time to get on it! Think you've got what it takes to binge your way through 75 episodes in just three weeks? That's only...let's see...a tad over 3-1/2 episodes per day, including a couple of weekends for extra-large portions. You don't really need all that food and air, do you?

Jamie Bamber as Apollo
I admit I was a latecomer to the 2003-2009 reimagining of Battlestar Galactica. But then, I'm a latecomer to pretty much all the cool shows (just ask me if I've seen Breaking Bad yet. Or The Walking Dead. Heck, I'm still happily hacking my way through Weeds). But by the start of season 4, in 2008, I was fully up to speed on Ron Moore and David Eick's edgy reinvention of the cheesy 1970s original—and then some, having spent the previous three months binging on DVDs of the show's first three seasons. Like a senior taking his daily half-tab of aspirin, every night with dinner I consumed an episode of BSG, sometimes two if there was an especially thrilling cliffhanger. (No, I did not suffer the fate of those hapless residents of Portlandia, but I deeply understood every dark step of their journey into madness.)

So by the time the final season began to air, I was fully versed in all things Cylon and could snarl "Frak!" with the best of them. Somehow, I'd become as vocal an acolyte as the most obsessed long-time fans. And why shouldn't I have?

Well, for starters, there was that cheesy 1970s original. You know, the Star Wars ripoff with Lorne Greene and a yapping mechanical dog named Muffit. And if embracing a remake of something already so cornball wasn't bad enough, there was the larger issue that it was science fiction—not an obstacle for me personally, except in that so much of TV sci-fi is, well, crap—but something the average viewer might reflexively consign to the ghetto of "non-serious" genre fare.

No, not those guys
After all, for most people, TV science fiction means transporters, laser weapons, warp drives, and bipedal aliens with frakked-up-looking heads and an insupportable command of English. Which can still be pretty entertaining, I grant you.

Sexy Cylon
But where TV sci-fi is concerned, there's BSG...and there's everything else. With its introductory miniseries in late 2003, Galactica quickly brushed off the limitations of its genre and entered a realm of dark, disturbing, character-driven drama in which not only are enemy robots (who look like us) trying to eradicate our race, they're also trying to love us. And mate with us. And teach us about God. (Wait...what?)

So there's a bit more on the show's mind than just flashy effects and good versus evil—despite ample helpings of sexy robots, awesome sets, and jaw-dropping space battles. First and foremost, BSG is about people, and how they define their humanity. As was often said at the time, it's a drama that just happens to be set in space.

Which is exactly what co-creater Moore—a veteran of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine—intended. While retaining the original show's premise (a ragtag fleet of survivors search for Earth after their home planets are destroyed by a race of robots called Cylons), Moore was determined to make every other aspect of the show as realistic and uncompromising as possible—"Blade Runner meets Black Hawk Down," as he put it.

Grace Park takes names
And boy, is it realistic. On this show, wounds take months to heal (if at all); fuel supplies get low; democracies unravel; people (even the heroes) do rash, unsympathetic things, while many of the bad guys are unexpectedly admirable. Hovering over that is the show's verité-like approach, which brings immediacy to a distant time and place that's clearly rooted in the here and now. As in our world, there are no latex-covered alien heads spouting perfect English. No "lasers." No positronic flux capacitors. (Okay, there are the equivalent of warp drives, but the show's premise kind of demands that.)

But it's more than just the gritty realism. As in the best dramas, this one isn't afraid to make you think and feel in ways that are not only contradictory but force you to question your most cherished beliefs ("What do I believe in? What's right? What's wrong?"). And the series' ongoing game of "Who's the Cylon?" adds a thread of mystery that remains a constant source of anxious second-guessing. It's provocative and exhilarating and can make even longtime Trekkies—of which I'm one—nervous about revisiting the comparatively cardboard antics of Kirk and Picard.

Sackhoff kicks ass
Most of that's due to the exemplary writing of Moore and his staff. But there's also inspired direction, brilliant cinematography, and some of the best—and most underappreciated—acting on television. (Has there ever been a TV character more damaged, self-destructive, and often unlikable—yet still painfully sympathetic— than Katee Sackhoff's Starbuck?) It's frankly a disgrace that none of the show's leads—which included Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos, for frak's sake!—never received so much as a single Emmy nomination.

Did the show maintain its greatness through all four seasons? To be honest, no. After three nigh-on perfect years, its quality did begin to waver during the final one, as all its many threads were either brought together or left to drift into the solar winds. But if it did have trouble sticking the landing, especially in its finale (which I liked better than most, even with all its problems), then it still has the virtue of being one of the most riveting TV series to ever grace the airwaves, helping define binge culture and paving the way for future addictive programming like Breaking Bad and Orange Is the New Black.

Forget that it's sci-fi: if you like drama spiced with action, mystery, military realism, politics, moral gray zones and a touch of humor (not to mention those sexy robots, awesome sets, and jaw-dropping space battles), then rearrange your schedule, cancel your dinner dates, and stock up on No-Doz. Because in only three short weeks, one of the best things on Netflix will have its plug pulled, with no guarantee of resurrection.

Tick, tick, tick...


(Oh, and whether you're a new viewer or simply an impatient one, know that the BSG experience isn't complete without watching each episode all the way through the end credits. Surprisingly funny and sick.)

Missed the 9/30 expiration deadline? Never fear. There's always the monster Blu-ray collection, linked below. Or if you prefer to search for another version (I hear this cheaper All-Region Blu-ray box is pretty good), consider using the magic Amazon box over on the right. Why is it magic? Because like the below link, it helps support this site.


19 comments:

Wellesley72 said...

Help!! I thought BSG would run forever on Netflix so I am only on Season 1, Ep. 4. I may have to subscribe to Hulu Plus--where shows formerly on Netflix or Amazon Prime go to die--in order to finish the series.

David Speranza said...

Either that, or you could buy the DVDs. Good luck!

David Speranza said...

P.S. It's been pointed out to me that BSG is on neither Hulu nor Amazon Prime, although I suppose that could change next month.

mr9969 said...

I'd be surprised if Netflix actually let BSG go, but hey, they have never renewed their SVU contract so anything can happen. If you like the show, always watch Amazon.co.uk. They sometimes have amazing deals on the Blu-ray sets. I got the BSG series for $45.

Anonymous said...

my account is paid till Oct 3rd. I will not be renewing it.

David Speranza said...

That's a shame. You'll be missing out on a boatload of Woody Allen movies. Not exactly BSG, I know, but I'll bet Baltar was a fan.

duane voth said...

Wait, Netflix is just a glorified hard drive, are they running out of space??!

or maybe its just bait... !

Anonymous said...

Dang it - totally blindsided. Just started Season 3... and now it's gone!

FRAK.

(on a totally unrelated note, does anyone find it humorous that the captcha for posting here states: "please prove you're not a robot"... hahaha...

David Speranza said...

That is pretty funny. Clearly those captchas aren't accounting for the possibility that some of this site's readers are...Cylons! (Scared you, didn't I?)

Anonymous said...

it is on amazon prime a lot of shows that netflix has gotten rid of or they just never had it. like grim and true blood and more are on amazon prime iam about ready to go over there

David Speranza said...

The rest of what you say may be true, but I still don't see BSG on either Prime or Hulu. It's only available on Amazon's Instant Video (i.e., you can buy episodes) or DVD.

Jennifer Manley said...

where does one complain?

David Speranza said...

Good question. I suppose you could start with customer service? Although they've never seemed too helpful when it comes to content.

huin said...

I also wanted to know about complaining as asked above. Thanks for telling. They may not solve our problems. But at least we may try to better have our favorite best sci fi shows.

Zoni Jesus said...

Hey Guys!! I have great interest in watching sci fi movies and always look for good sci fi movies on netflix. Can anyone know which movie is going to release in November or any latest movies coming in this month?

David Speranza said...

When I know about 'em, I post 'em. ;-)

battlestar galactica jacket said...

Battlestar Galactica is a good TV series. I really enjoyed it. Viper Pilot had worn Brown Leather Jacket in this show.I like Battlestar Galactica jacket.

Anonymous said...

BBC America is replaying the reimagined Battlestar Galactica currently. which is why it may be off Netflix

Ted Smith said...

I subscribe to Blockless. It let's you change your region so you can get content from another place that may not normally be available in your country. I am now set to UK and Battlestar is available there. Happy because I found it by accident. Blood and Chrome is also available. I live in Canada and our Netflix offering is significantly less than what is offered in the US. That was the initial reason for me to get Blockless. I don't know why Netflix has it available in one location but not from another.