Frak me. I know that’s totally cliche but this is a BSG post so I will be saying it a lot. Get used to it. I cannot believe I never watched this show before. It’s been on my list for ages but I confess that I’ve always been a little worried about it. See I’m a major Star Wars fan. Like read all the books, most of the comics, my board games are all Star Wars themed, know too many details etc. And as tends to happen, I’m not at all a Star Trek fan. I’m sure it’s a great world for those who have gotten into it but it really bores me. (I’ve heard many a trekkie say the same thing about Star Wars so clearly the two Star worlds appeal to different types of people). Anyway, I know I was a little nervous that Battlestar Galactica would end up being too much like Star Trek for me to enjoy. Plus as I’ve noted before, I like rewatching favorite shows. So for a number of reasons, I never got around to watching Battlestar Galactica. Until this last week.
Last week a few of my friends on Twitter started watching the show for the first time ever. We all did the same with Dance Academy several weeks ago too. I can’t speak for everyone but I jumped on board the BSG train because I found it to be a lot of fun to watch a show for the first time with other people who were also first timing it. Usually I’m watching while other people tell me how great something is or to look forward to a certain part (which is still nice) but there’s a sense of camaraderie about having others watching with you. So when I saw others were watching, I thought now was the perfect time for me to give it a try too.
What I found was a show that has taken over my life. I watch and love a lot of TV. I really really do. But through all the shows I watch, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has always been my favorite. It doesn’t matter what other shows I watch, or how much I love them, nothing reaches the level of Buffy. Those who have seen BtVS (especially grew up on it or at least watched it live) understand. The show isn’t perfect. It was incredibly flawed at times to the point where you wanted to scream and throw things at the TV. Happiness isn’t a given. In fact you can more likely predict that the minute a character experiences happiness, that will be ripped away from them in ways that seem utterly cruel. There are enemies that serve a clear purpose and bring about important growth in characters but are so horrible that you hate every moment they are on screen. Beloved characters make decisions that make you want to scream and your heart will be broken constantly. And yet. And yet, people keep fighting for good. The show fights for victory and for love and family and the idea that you never truly give up hope in something better. That’s conveyed to the audience in a way that I’ve never seen another show do. There’s a reason that BtVS fans bring it up constantly, obsess over details 10 years (or more) later, use lines in everyday conversation. The concepts, characters, and underlying themes are such that they become a part of your life.
I say all of this to explain why I’m about to gush over Battlestar Galactica. For the first time since Buffy, I’ve found a show that measures up. Now I’ve only seen the first 2 seasons of BSG, but I have no intention of changing my mind. Even if the show screws things up or has a bad season it will still have this quality for me. BSG is my second BtVS. It’s beautiful and warm and joyful and heartbreaking and painful and utterly depressing. Happiness barely lasts and its found in some of the worst possible circumstances. But these people keep fighting. Their methods aren’t always perfect, the people themselves are flawed, but giving up doesn’t run in their makeup. That’s a rare gift in a show.
There are a lot of shows that know how to be funny or dramatic. Plenty can give you a realistic look into one person’s life or make you fall in love with a particular couple. Hell, there are a lot of shows that do an excellent job of showing you exactly what makes up a certain type of person. But finding a show that understands humanity and can exhibit what it is that makes us human…that’s special. And Battlestar Galactica is one of them.
I could go on for a while in this vein. I really could. But the point of this post is to be about Battlestar Galactica so I’ll get into some of the things that I love. And yes, I’m going to do a lot of comparisons to Buffy characters or stories because it is the highest compliment I know how to give. There’s Laura Roslin, President of the Colonies and one major BAMF. She reminds me a lot of Giles in that I have the utmost respect for her and truly believe she wants the best for these people. But she’s also hardened in some of her prejudice, to the point that she will never see the good in a cylon, just as Giles could never truly see the good in a vampire. She might work with one and deal with them but she won’t trust them. And sometimes that causes her to make decisions that infuriate me. But I never lose my respect or admiration.
There’s Kara Thrace “Starbuck”, a character that I actually don’t consider myself to be in love with. Here’s the thing about Kara. On the one hand, I love where her story goes as a character. It’s real and heartbreaking and strong. But I don’t identify with her as strongly as others. What I do see her as however is the combination of Buffy & Faith. It’s long been known that Faith was the foil to Buffy. Two sides to the Slayer, both heroic when needed, but one doing it for selfish reasons and one for noble reasons. But what became interesting is that as Buffy grew darker, a little more selfish after being resurrected from the dead, Faith was slowly understanding those noble motivations and the need for a greater purpose. The two characters didn’t completely switch personalities, but they did both learn to understand the other a bit better, and grow into more rounded characters.
I look at Starbuck as both Buffy & Faith rolled into one (and yet she’s by far her own unique self). I’ve never been a big Faith fan and that’s who Starbuck starts out a lot more like. Which makes me understand why I didn’t immediately fall in love. But the Starbuck, really the Kara, who goes back to Caprica is a woman I vastly admire. She went to Caprica and managed to simultaneously end up more broken and yet more whole than when she arrived. Being a part of The Farm experiment though isn’t what broke her. And it’s not what made her whole either. I think The Farm, as horrific and awful as it was, is the thing that gave her a noble reason to fight. This war stopped being about killing a bunch of fraking cylons for her at that moment. She saw what they were truly capable of and it gave her a reason to fight for more than just a battle victory. I’m not saying it didn’t mess with her mind. I just don’t think that’s what changed her and gave her the quiet strength that she exhibits later in S2.
That comes from Anders. Kara is a woman who has struggled in love. We’ve seen that. She goes for the wrong guy because she can’t get the right one. And even her love for Lee Adama has so many issues with it. She was engaged to his brother, she looks at his father as another father figure, and even her relationship with Lee is so fraught with turmoil that as a viewer I struggle to see them ever being able to work out a romantic relationship. Their friendship alone has too many problems to count. And in some ways I don’t think that either Lee or Kara, for a long time, viewed themselves as worthy of being in a relationship. I think they expected to be unhappy because they didn’t deserve anything else. And then Kara met Anders. A man who understood her. There’s this idea in business that every person has a top level at which they can perform. It doesn’t mean that the barista at a coffee shop isn’t as smart as the Fortune 500 CEO. It just means that people have different skill sets and there’s a level at which they excel because they understand the situation and if you move them beyond that level, they fail.
I say this because Kara isn’t a top officer type person. She understands the purpose of a mission far more than she understands people. She’s great as a CAG because that’s about knowing the mission and succeeding even when people disagree or get hurt or get mad. But she wouldn’t make a good overall officer because that’s not who she is. Lee is the opposite. He would rather drop a mission to protect the people. Both viewpoints are valid but it also shows why they struggle even in their friendship. That’s where Anders comes in. Anders is very much like Kara. He’s been head of his sports team and now leads a small resistance movement. He also understands the concept of completing a mission, even when it means great loss. And underneath it all, just like Kara, Anders still feels the loss of every man or woman on his team.
And so I think that’s where we find what broke Kara and what ultimately made her whole (and will make her whole again). It’s not this romantic notion of finding true love. It’s that she found someone who understands her. Who gets her, in good and bad times, and who makes her a priority. She found someone to hold on to after she’d lost everything. And then even Anders was gone and Kara spent months trying to get back to Caprica to the person who understood who she was. This is one of those concepts that is hard for me to perfectly explain (which I think makes her such a great character) but at the end of the day, Starbuck found Kara again the day she found Anders.
This is getting absurdly long so I will finish with only two thoughts. (though they won’t be that short of thoughts). I greatly enjoy the way so many side characters are utilized and vital to the story. That too is something Buffy did well. She might be the star but so many little characters are important. In BSG, people like Dualla, Gaeta, Chief, Cally, etc, are all people who matter. They shape our lead characters in ways both seen and unseen. It’s easy to turn supporting characters into plot devices, only using them to further a lead character’s story. Battlestar Galactica makes the supporting characters people.
Actually scratch my second thought. Helo and Sharon deserve their own entry. I will simply leave you with the thought that if you haven’t watched Battlestar Galactica yet, you need to. Even if you hate sci-fi shows, give it a shot. Yes the lingo will take some getting used to but you won’t regret the decision. It will be one of the most powerful and thought provoking shows you will ever have the privilege of seeing.