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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 8, 2003

'Battlestar Galactica' gets better in its resurrection

By Chauncey Mabe
Knight Ridder News Service

Given that dramatic series on the Sci Fi Channel tend to be tacky and made on the cheap, it's a pleasant surprise that Sci Fi has become adept at the high-quality miniseries.

The two "Dune" productions were impressive, and last year's "Taken," with its Steven Spielberg connection, won an Emmy for best miniseries. Now comes the reworking of "Battlestar Galactica," at 7, 9:09 and 11:17 p.m. today and Tuesday on Sci Fi, and what sounded like one of the dumbest ideas of the season turns out to be close to a television masterpiece.

This miniseries weaves elements from two seemingly irreconcilable threads of classic science fiction into something fresh and surprisingly cheese-free.

First, it takes the flyboy heroics and impossibly grand scale of the overblown space opera, which has its roots in sci-fi's pulp childhood and its culmination in "Star Wars," and rethinks it to good effect by subjecting the heroics to something close to the laws of physics.

At the same time, the new "Battlestar Galactica" adopts the measured pace, life-size scale and set designs pioneered by Stanley Kubrick in "2001: A Space Odyssey," and adapted to brilliant effect by Ridley Scott in "Alien."

Die-hard fans of the original may not be pleased with the changes — yes, Starbuck is a woman now, and Baltar is no longer a villain, exactly — but the spirit of the 1978-79 series is well respected. In fact, the script is "based on a teleplay" by series creator Glen A. Larson. So the best element of the original — the dark story of humanity defeated and on the run from a superior enemy — is kept intact.

In the new version, 40 years have passed since the Cylon wars, in which humanity battled its own rebellious robots for dominance.

That conflict ended in a draw, and the Cylons vanished. But they haven't been idle, as the inhabitants of the Kobol colonies discover when the robots mount a surprise attack.

Amid the handful of surviving vessels, only one battlestar, the venerable Galactica, remains.