It’s hard to believe a decade has passed since the first episode of the revamped Battlestar Galactica aired on the Sci-Fi Channel (now known as Syfy). It’s even harder for me to believe, since I didn’t watch it when it initially aired. It took me until just a few years ago—well after the show had ended its run—to catch up with it.
And believe me, I feel stupid for having taken so long to get into it, so there’s no need to shame me further. But if you haven’t watched it, it’s my turn to shame you.
Battlestar Galactica wasn’t just popcorn entertainment on a station devoted to Twilight Zone reruns; it did something. I think it helped change nerdy television in a way we’re still feeling. I wonder if we’d have Game of Thrones or Jon Favreau’s upcoming Shannara series on MTV if it weren’t for the groundwork laid by Battlestar.
But there’s a reason Battlestar Galactica—which revived the short-lived 1978 series about human refugees in space searching for Earth—was something big and important, and why you heard about it, even if you weren’t watching it. There’s a reason you still hear about it even if you haven’t seen it. It’s simple: Battlestar Galactica was fantastic from start to finish.
But the more remarkable thing about the show is that it still holds up. Too often we go back to things in the world of nerdiness and find that they don’t stand up to our nostalgic memories. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is a good example of watching your love disintegrate in your fingers as you revisit it. It’s not a good feeling.
On the other hand, I can assure you that after 10 years, Battlestar Galactica holds up with a timeless quality you don’t usually find in television. Science fiction that’s deeply entrenched in the era and culture that it developed has an easier time finding that kind of longevity—and if Battlestar was anything, it was completely immersive.
The revival of the series brought us a world where the fate of humanity was at stake, where the bad guys were truly bad (but began to show shades of gray as you got to know them) and where the good guys could turn traitor at any moment, whether they liked it or not.
The characters grew and changed in a way that, at the time, seemed unusual for television. Take just about any character on the show from those first episodes of the miniseries, and after a season or two, all of your expectations and judgments about them had turned around completely. And after another couple of seasons, your initial assumptions about characters are proven to be even more misguided. The show offers a world where everything is at stake, and every character is expendable and unpredictable. And the Cylons are some of the most nuanced and intriguing villains television has ever seen, thanks to the new human forms bestowed upon them by this version.
Battlestar Galactica is some of the most thrilling and dramatic storytelling ever committed to the small screen—and that’s what makes the SyFy channel so much more frustrating these days. They used to produce some of the best sci-fi drama on television; these days, all we get is kitschy crap like Sharknado. I know Sharknado has its fans, but who wouldn’t trade a hundred Sharknados for another crack at a series as revolutionary and well put together as Battlestar Galactica?
SyFy once had the best show on television. Why should they leave the best television genre work to AMC or HBO (or, soon, MTV)? Clearly there’s only one explanation: They’re all a bunch of frakkin’ skinjobs.
We can’t let the Cylons win. Go back and watch Battlestar Galactica, and do it for the survival of your race. You’ll love it for the first time or you’ll love it all over again.
So say we all.
Bryan Young is the editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.