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TV Series Review

After Star Wars blasted onto the scene in 1977, TV writers hopped aboard the sci-fi gravy train. A year later ABC debuted Battlestar Galactica, an action-adventure series starring Lorne Greene as Cmdr. Adama, whose eponymous flagship provided the sole military protection for a forlorn fleet of human refugees scouring the galaxy for their lost 13th colony—Earth. Hot on their heels were chrome-plated baddies called Cylons, which had just annihilated the Twelve Colonies of Man.

Galactica has received a face-lift courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel. Most of the core characters are back … sort of. Cmdr. Adama (Edward James Olmos) still helms Galactica but answers to a reluctant female president. Son Apollo (Jamie Bamber) commands the fighter squadron as before, but Dirk Benedict’s cocky Lt. Starbuck is now a she. Katee Sackhoff inhabits the role as a cigar-chomping tough girl in tight T-shirts.

As for the evil Cylons, there’s a robotic version as well as a new incarnation that can pass as human. In fact, some Cylons don’t know they’re not human; they’ve been planted among the human fleet, ready to be activated at a moment’s notice, which is how they wiped out mankind in the first place. The brilliant Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis) allowed himself to be seduced by a sexy mole (former Victoria’s Secret model Tricia Helfer), who convinced him to share military secrets. She routinely wears provocative outfits and skimpy negligees. Quick-cut flashbacks peek at their sexual trysts.

The new Galactica features sharper writing, better acting and more interesting story lines. But the timeless void of outer space now reflects distinctly modern mores. Despite plenty of heroics and self-sacrifice, viewers have been subjected to masturbation jokes and rats munching on a human corpse. The series’ language has evolved over the years, too. The euphemism “frack” is joined by mild profanity.

Increasingly, spiritual issues have been thrust front and center. Characters talk of seeking forgiveness for sin from “the gods of Kobol.” The human-looking Cylons speak of the need to pray to “the one true god” while the good guys make oblique references to polytheism, specifically the Greek gods of antiquity.

It’s hard to tell where this series is going. Because it’s written by a team, the content can vary from week to week. One thing is sure, though. With its edginess bound to remain, families should think twice before taking a nostalgic journey aboard Battlestar Galactica.

Episodes Reviewed: Jan. 14, 21, Feb. 18, 25, 2005

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Tom Neven

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