By Stuart Mitchner
Flying mother nature’s silver seed to a new home …
—from Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush”
According to producers Ronald Moore and David Eick, Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009) is for people who hate space operas. I’ve never been a fan of the genre, but call it what you will, there’s something to be said for an epic production that weaves one of its central mysteries around Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” Although BSG ended its celebrated run in 2009, the series is no less timely today, with the 20th anniversary of 9/11 looming, the pandemic (both the human and Cylon races are stalked by viruses), the 1/6 insurrection, and an environment under siege.
Referring to “Watchtower,” Moore says, “It’s something that lives in the collective unconscious of the show, it’s a musical theme that repeats itself. It crops up in unexpected places, and people hear it, or pluck it out of the ether. It’s sort of a connection of the divine and the mortal — music is something that people literally catch out of the air…. Here is a song that transcends many different aeons and cultures … and was reinvented by one Mr. Bob Dylan.”
As it happens, Moore’s series is a reimagining of the 1978 Battlestar Galactica created by Glenn Larson. The original show, as described by Alan Sepinwall in his book The Revolution Was Televised (2012), “told the story of an Earth-like colonial civilization that suffers a devastating attack from a race of warrior robots called Cylons. The handful of survivors board a ragtag fleet of spaceships, led by the last military vessel standing, the Galactica.” Sepinwall goes on to quote Moore’s criticism of the original series, which was how “this great dark idea became this silly show.” Moore remembers “a haunting moment in the original pilot where we see the crew of Galactica reacting to the news of the death of billions during the Cylon attacks — and then how that emotion is quickly undercut by a trip to a resort planet” where its “roguish” fighter pilot Starbuck (reinvented as a roguish female in Moore’s Galactica) “can gamble and cavort with beautiful women.”
ABC canceled the series after one season. A quarter of a century later, the reimagined Battlestar was only nine weeks away from filming when September 11 changed everything, and, in Sepinwall’s words, “this escapist sci-fi adventure began to feel uncomfortably real.” The eventual result was “the unlikeliest, but best, millennial TV show inspired by 9/11.” Thus its appearance in Sepinwall’s book along with The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire, Breaking Bad, 24, and Friday Night Lights, among the 12 landmark series “that changed TV drama forever.” more