Though the placement of the 21st century edition of Battlestar Galctica (aka BSG) on BBC America still seems a bit off, I have to admit it got me watching the show again in earnest. Previously, I'd only revisited a handful of episodes, mostly early ones I’d purchased on DVD. Watching it in sequence again, aided and abetted by purchasing the final season so I didn't have to wait for BBC America to get to the final episode, has been a real treat.
Some movies or TV shows feel impressive on first viewing but don't hold up to a second look. With BSG, the episodes that impressed the first time around feel just as strong while others that initially felt lackluster now fit better into the overall tapestry of the series. This was especially true of the latter part of the third season, where some of the episodes felt like they were just marking time between key plot developments but on further review laid the groundwork for key events later in the series by showcasing certain supporting characters or teasing future conflicts.
In particular, it was good to give the finale, Daybreak, another look. Despite wrapping up nearly all the key plot-lines in sensible ways, Daybreak somehow didn't feel quite right on first viewing. The balance between the concrete setting and the mystical overtones was off-kilter and the end result didn't feel quite satisfying. Three years later, with the series as a whole fresher in mind, the ending now feels like the inevitable destination of the path the 70-some previous episodes had paved. While there are elements that still seem out of place (including the modern-day epilogue), the mysticism now feels like a sensible complement to the more poetic portrayal of both the flashbacks and the current happenings that bring the key characters individual stories full-circle.
The finale also reaffirms that, as good as Edward James Olmos and the rest of the cast were, the best performance over the course of the series was James Callis as Gaius Baltar. Almost all the key characters changed and grew over the course of the series, but none experienced quite as many twists and turns as Baltar who struggled as much with himself (and his own conflicted nature) as he did with other the characters. Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck came close, though, being one of the more heroic characters from the start she was generally more sympathetic and had more of the other characters sympathetic to her at any given time.
Performances like those and the scripts that provided the blueprint for them are the key reason that Battlestar Galactica is the prime example (along with the early seasons of the revival of Doctor Who) for why the term "science-fiction drama" isn't an oxymoron. Many shows fall into the trap of seeing science-fiction as if it's a method of storytelling in itself rather than just a setting in which to tell stories. By keeping its focus on the people inhabiting the spaceships rather than the spaceships themselves, Ronald D. Moore and the other writers made a strong case for BSG being the best American TV drama of the past decade. I think I'm almost ready to start watching it again.