By Thomas Conner
© Chicago Sun-Times
Perhaps you, too, have condemned the lack of new ideas coming out of Hollywood in recent years (or decades). The endless sequels. Ghastly remakes. Movies that turn into stage musicals and then back into movie musicals.
But one corporate rehash actually hit the bull's-eye. The Sci Fi Channel's "Battlestar Galactica" not only improved on its original source material, it made it forgettable. People have even stopped mentioning the original 1979 series when discussing the current edition. I regret having brought it up now. Forget I said anything. There was no original show.
For sheer hot science friction, Sci Fi's "Battlestar Galactica" rivals ABC's "Lost." As both shows enter their third seasons this week, there are easy comparisons, not the least of which is that neither suffered a sophomore slump, and both still appear to have endless source material from which to spin creepy, conspiratorial dramas.
In fact, "Galactica" could hang on far longer than "Lost." Its Odyssian tale is a thousand times more universal than ABC's sadistic experiment. Season 3 of "Galactica" opens with timeless (and, given current world affairs, possibly timely) issues.
The humans ran from the insidious Cylons — manmade machines that rebeled, evolved into flesh-and-blood models and now want to make babies — and thought they'd found a hidey hole on a distant planet. Season 2 ended with the Cylons showing up and offering a truce.
Make that "truce." As with any dominant power offering to shepherd a weaker one (think Saddam and his Iraqis, Hitler and his Jews), the assurances don't go far when the barbed wire is unstrung. Season 3 finds an active human resistance at work. Cylon squads are "disappearing" innocent people (including the feisty Starbuck, whose cell mate is one highly twisted Cylon with a biological clock). Humans are recruited to police their own kind, and the word "collaborator" becomes an epithet.
Enhancing its populist approach, the new season brings side characters to the fore, making the crusty Col. Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan) into the series' most engaging and complex individual. Leading the resistance fighters, he has to make some hard choices, and his vision becomes compromised. (That's a crude joke, really.) While the Adamas — Cmdr. Lee (the normally hunky Jamie Bamber, whose softened character wears an unfortunate fat suit) and Adm. William (Edward James Olmos, whose part seems alarmingly diminished in the premiere) — are light years away from figuring out how (or whether) to rescue their brethren, the people on the ground face the religiously fanatic Cylons head on.
But what's encouraging is that once the two-part premiere passes and the dust from its action settles, the show digs right into fresh ground in the third show on Oct. 20. Lines between good guys and bad are further blurred, and still everyone blathers on about having kids. But with a new twist.
It beats the hell out of ABC's seemingly endless tropical weirdness. When you give up on that mind game — who's the lab rat in that show: the characters or the viewers? — climb aboard "Galactica." They need the population, literally and figuratively. If TV made more shows like this, all would not be lost.
8 to 10 tonight, then 8 to 9 p.m. on future Fridays on the Sci Fi Channel.
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.