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Why your next TV binge should be... Battlestar Galactica

The smart, complex science-fiction series with not a laser in sight.

Your Next TV Binge is’s new Friday feature, recommending a box set for you to get stuck into over the weekend. This week: distinctly grounded sci-fi epic Battlestar Galactica. 

THE REBOOT OF Star Trek got a lot of attention when it came around as The Next Generation. But there is another space-bound sci-fi epic which never attracted the notice it deserved – outside, that is, of the rabid fanbase who never wanted it to end.

Running from 2004 to 2009, the re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica from the original 1978 series was a massive undertaking. The new version was eventually listed in TIME Magazine as one of the greatest shows of all time. That is some heady praise, but at the same time, very well deserved.

The show is set in a distant star system, where humanity is flourishing on a set of twelve planets. Many years previously, humans created a race of cybernetic organisms known as Cylons, and it wasn’t long before humans and Cylons were at war with each other.

In a massive sneak attack, the Cylons manage to kill billions of humans. Only approximately 50,000 people survive the onslaught, most of whom are civilians who weren’t aboard military ships when the attack happened.

Of humanity’s military arm, only the famous Battleship Galactica survived, with the fleet commander William Adama (played by Miami Vice’s Edward James Olmos) and President Laura Roslin (played by Independence Day’s Mary McDonnell) on board. They collect as many of the survivors as they can and head toward a fabled 13th hospitable planet, known as Earth.

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Over the course of the series they deal with the ramifications of surviving a genocide, with their entire race put through an apocalypse. And as with anything that ventures too deep into space and science, religion is brought to foreground here too, with one of the characters in particularly believing that he is contacting angels sent down by God itself.

Many people have drawn parallels between the show and real political events: Roslin is only sworn in as President after the devastation, and the swearing-in is practically identical to that of Lyndon Johnson following the death of JFK.

It’s also been suggested that the Cylons are an allegorical Al Qaeda, making the whole show a picture of America post-9/11 – with later seasons bearing a scalpel-sharp resemblance to the American occupation of Iraq.

SyfyAU / YouTube

Which isn’t to say that Battlestar Galactica has travelled up its own worm-hole: the Cylons are still chasing the ship. More than anything, this is a military drama, and one of the most grounded science-fiction series ever made. There are no lasers or transporters or time-travel. The ships fire bullets and missiles at each other. And there’s no endless parade of men and women in alien make-up or weird prosthetics. The only race other than humans are the Cylons, and they are in hot pursuit of the remainder of humanity to make sure they are killed off once and for all.

And then there’s Starbuck.

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Played by Dirk Benedict in the original show (the handsome fecker who played Face in the old A-Team series), in the reboot Kara “Starbuck” Thrace is played by Katee Sackhoff, who delivers one of the most original and brilliant TV series characters of the last two decades.

This new Starbuck is still the best pilot in the fleet, but her hard-drinking, hard-fighting, hard-loving ways makes her a bit of a handful to get a handle on. Plus she is on the receiving end of a prophecy that doesn’t bode particularly well – many believe that she is a Harbinger Of Doom, meaning she and she alone will result in the ultimate destruction of all mankind. Which isn’t great news, to be honest…

So it is complex, it is intelligent, it is superbly written, directed and acted. There is so much here to light up your brain that you’ll already be sad knowing that there’s only four seasons of it.

Plus there are big spaceship battles! So unlike the humans and the Cylons, everybody wins!

So where can I watch it? Battlestar Galactica is currently available on-demand on Virgin Box Sets.

Read all our TV binge recommendations here>

Why your next TV binge should be… Big Little Lies>

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