5 Frakking Reasons to Start Watching Battlestar Galactica
Battlestar Galactica is unequivocally my favorite television show of all time. Most of my friends can attest that I have tried to convince them to watch the series at some point in our friendship. I don’t always have the greatest success rate – in part because of the unfortunate and mocking relation to Dwight Schrute from The Office (I specifically cite this as a negative because multiple people have outright refused to try watching the show because of this affiliation) – but almost everyone whom I have convinced to try the series has ended up loving it in the end.
Alas, here I am again, singing the same tune.
If you have not watched Battlestar Galactica (BSG) you need to do yourself a favor and watch now. There will be minor spoilers from the mini-series (which essentially functions as the pilot episode(s) for the show), however all major plot and character spoilers have been avoided. Below I have 5 reasons why you should give this amazing work of science fiction a shot:
1. They have their own swear word.
In the universe of BSG the characters have some of our standard swears, but more importantly they have their version of the F-word: Frak. At the outset this seems like a silly gimmick to slip an “f-word” through sensors. Being on the SyFy network rather than a major network meant that had they genuinely wanted to swear they could have. However I believe that the use of frak was both a nod to the original 1978 series (where “frak” originated) as well as a means of helping to build the world we are experiencing in BSG.
One of the greatest strengths of the show is how it has reflections of our own world. There is love, betrayal, murders, illness, and even a crew that curses like sailors. There is a sense of realism rather than the fantastical or spectacular. In the series bible written by showrunner Ronald D. Moore he states:
We will eschew the usual stories about parallel universes, time-travel, mind-control, evil twins, God-like powers and all the other cliches of the genre. Our show is first and foremost a drama. It is about people. Real people that the audience can identify with and become engaged in. It is not a show about hardware or bizarre alien cultures. It is a show about us. It is an allegory for our own society, our own people and it should be immediately recognizable to any member of the audience.
Despite BSG being a sci-fi show, the reason it succeeds and the reason it resonates is exactly because of this. Because the stories told are instantly recognizable to the audience at large. And the use of frak plays into that.
It’s not our F-word, but it is an F-word; and the meaning is quite clearly the same.
2. The female cast
The whole cast of BSG is phenomenal, but in 2003 you would have been hard pressed to find a more diverse ensemble of women in the same TV show. Hell, even in 2015 it can be difficult to find such a nuanced female cast as is found in BSG. Let’s do a quick role call of the big players:
Lt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace (Katee Sackhoff): The insubordinate, self-destructive, Viper starfighter pilot that can fly better, faster, and crazier than anyone else. She carries a lot of scars from her past, is fiercely loyal, and has deep reverence for the Gods.
Pres. Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell): In the miniseries we see Roslin diagnosed with terminal cancer, go to the Galactica in her capacity as Secretary of Education, and then become the de facto President of the Twelve Colonies when President Adar and the other handful of government officials ahead of her in the line of succession are wiped out during the cylon bombing of the Colonial homeworlds. It’s a whirlwind ride to take with her, and it really is only just the beginning.
Number Six (Tricia Helfer): One of the twelve cylon models that has a human appearance (she is model #6). There are many iterations/copies of her model, but it is important to note that each copy is individual. As Moore puts it, “[The cylons] are not the Borg”. There is no hivemind or collective will. They are unique, can make their own decisions, and have varied and nuanced motivations – just like the human characters on the show. As a note of praise, I find it amazing how Helfer transforms the different Six incarnations through her acting. Before there was Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black, there was Tricia Helfer as Number Six.
Lt. Sharon “Boomer” Valarii (Grace Park): Also one of the twelve human cylon models. She is revealed as a cylon at the end of the miniseries, however she herself is unaware of her status as a cylon. Sharon is a sleeper agent and her purpose aboard Galactica is a mystery, even to her.
There are a number of other amazing female characters, such as documentary/film journalist D’Anna Biers (played by the ever-lovely Lucy Lawless), or Viper pilot rookie Louanne “Kat” Katraine who gives Starbuck a run for her money as Galactica’s top gun, and that only scratches the surface.
3. The music
The detail and care placed into the crafting of the music on this show is nothing less than reverential. The scope of the music runs from soothing to dissonant, from invigorating to tragic, and hits every thing in between. The miniseries score was primarily written by Richard Gibbs, but it was Bear McCreary (who worked with Gibbs on the miniseries) who wrote the music for the series and really took the score from interesting and well done to absolutely stunning.
With most TV shows I’ve watched, there is a main theme and maybe one or two other reoccuring themes. Mostly though it is the main theme remixed into different variations. In BSG, McCreary has leitmotifs (musical themes) for nearly every major character, as well as conceptual themes for moments which parallel each other – for example having a specific theme which frequently plays in scenes which coincide with forshadowing future events. There is even a theme which utilizes Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower” as a part of it’s composition. Genuinely it is a masterful collection of work and I could not imagine the show without the music McCreary has created.
(yes the UK title theme is better than the US version for sure)
4. It’s a genuinely high stakes show.
Unlike some shows which will remain nameless (*cough* OUAT *cough*), the show doesn’t simply claim to have high stakes, it follows through on that claim. There are no pulled punches in the BSG universe. The series starts with the nuclear genocide of nearly the entire human populace. There are 50,000 human survivors left and on the run. And that is just the beginning. As Moore states “This series is about a chase. Let the chase begin”.
Throughout the series you will see important (and sometimes beloved) characters die. You will see villainous characters have good moments, and your heroic protagonists make decisions that are horrifying. At times this can be completely harrowing to watch, but delivering on these high stakes pays off for the show in a major way.
Again, this is where the show parallels the real world. Our world is not black and white. Our world and lives may be drastically different from those in BSG in that we are not being hunted by a race of homicidal robots, but we all experience high stakes moments; whether that’s in regards to family, our education, employment, friends, or the future.
5. It might just change your life.
This is not necessarily going to be a selling point for everyone, but I can say with certainty that watching this show changed my life. It was crucial to me questioning and finding answers about life during a very tumultuous time. I was a 16 year old high school junior when I started watching this show. The first 3 seasons had already aired and I binged watched the episodes by downloading copies my dad had found onto my old video iPod and watching the episodes whenever I got a chance. At this in point in my life I was grappling to understand who I was, beginning to question my religion (essentially questioning my entire worldview), all the while struggling with depression and anxiety.
Battlestar Galactica did not solve any of these problems, or give me immediate answers. There’s simply no TV show that is going to be able to answer the question “does God exist?” It did however present me with a framework wherein I could escape and explore concepts that mirrored my own real-life struggles. In giving me that framework, it allowed me to begin also exploring and questioning things in my actual life. If someone as strong and fierce as Starbuck prays to the Gods for comfort and peace, then maybe it’s okay for me to have spiritual beliefs but not belief in an organized religion. If characters I love can betray the ones they love and later find forgiveness, then maybe I can learn to forgive my parents for all the secrets they kept. It didn’t answer the questions I had, but it made me realize that I could ask those questions myself.
Not everyone is going to have this type of connection to the show, and that’s okay.
If you are still on the fence about watching, this is my recommendation: watch the mini-series and the first episode of season 1, “33”. Starting with “33” could work, but there is a lot of set up and backstory for the series in the miniseries. Frankly I just don’t recommend that option. Before you know it, I’m sure you’ll be hooked, just like these guys:
Now that I have most definitely convinced you to watch Battlestar Galactica where can you watch? Unfortunately Netflix took the show down a while back but you can still view episodes digitally through Amazon and YouTube. Both services services charge per episode/season.
Credit for all gifs in this article: sharonvalerii.tumblr.com