A hard one to review this one...
Mainly because I'm still trying to figure out if I liked it or not!
I mean, it has all the ingredients that make up a cool sci-fi series and for someone like me, who grew up watching the likes of Star Trek, Farscape and Lexx, it should have had me at "hello". Having never seen the 80's Battlestar Galactica series, I wasn't really sure what to expect from this remake. After a viewing of the pretty decent TV movie, I was really looking forward to more spontaneous Cylon cruelty (Number Six snaps a baby's neck in the movie for crying out loud!) and more OTT space opera drama/action.
The first two episodes pick up where the TV movie left off: with the Battlestar Galactica valiantly... fleeing Cylon attacks and worrying about the amount of water the crew has left. It's pretty standard socio-political stuff but frankly they could have started the season with a plot bearing a little more "oomph". Thankfully Gaius Baltar (James Callis) is still having his Number Six (Tricia Helfer) hallucinations and occasionally brings some lols (or Cylon near-nudity) to the proceedings. Some of our main characters still feel rather bland: Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff), the strong-willed, rebellious tomboy, I still can't stand mostly due to her character being forced down our necks as the "cool" one of the group when in fact she comes off as douchy most of the time. Maybe it's her acting that seems a bit forced, I don't know. Then there's Boomer (Grace Park), a non-event for most of the season, she is given actually interesting subplots but again I really found it hard to care about her. Same goes for Apollo (Jamie Bamber), William Adama's son, whom I swear was meant to be important in this show but after watching the entire first season I just can't remember anything he said or did except that time he punched Starbuck in the face and got his ass handed to him by his dad.
Speaking of which, William Adama (Edward James Olmos) really is the driving force behind the show: a strong, intelligent character who convincingly keeps the ship afloat throughout every peril it faces. Annoyingly they do try much too hard to make him into this God-like entity as both Apollo and kind-of-sort-of-not-really pseudo-daughter Starbuck look up to him so much that a simple approving nod from the man is enough to make their year, hell, their lives. He, along with Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), the newly appointed dying President of the Twelve Colonies (can't believe I just wrote that), are good characters and make believable leaders.
This first season is pretty experimental in that occasionally it goes for an action-heavy episode but sometimes it just spends 45 minutes trying to develop a character or focusing on one boring aspect of the plot. Like episode 3, Bastille Day, isn't bad with the crew having to turn to convicts to help them with the water situation but obviously things go a bit pear-shaped almost instantly, but then episode 4 just involves Starbuck training new pilots. I'm sorry but who cares? Is every Cylon taking a shit while all this is going on? Sure this leads to a rescue mission episode but even that fails to make me care about the character. Things do pick up from episode 7 though as Baltar is finally given the opportunity to freak out and run around like a demented, sweaty mess. The focus finally becomes the identity of Cylon spies on the ship as Baltar is working on a machine which can tell if you are indeed one of them or not. Obviously, seeing as he's haunted by a sexy robot ghost who will mind-blow him at will, it turns out he's not the most reliable dude to be conducting these tests. Who is the Cylon? Adama? Well, we know who it is but obviously there's gotta be another. They could all be Cylons for all we know.
The season takes a weird turn as Roslin becomes this almost religious figure and talk of chosen ones, prophecies and visions start popping up. Like Lost, we end the season on a strange, mystical note which feels both creative and absurd. The final couple of episodes are silly and involving in equal amounts promising a more fun, goofier second season. I won't spoil it but we also get a pretty great, admittedly unexpected cliffhanger which just makes it impossible not to want to watch the next season. Damn you television...
Overall, this first season of Battlestar Galactica isn't bad, it's just uneven. The first half of it is really a mixed bag and has its share of tedious episodes, annoying characters and B movie-style performances/lines. Thankfully things do pick up eventually and it ends much better than it started. The second season should cement my feelings towards the show but for now: nothing amazing but decent enough.
Worth a look (but I still miss Farscape).