Entertainment Weekly has the following article on Battlestar Galactica:
The return of Sci Fi's ''Battlestar Galactica'' -- The update of the original '70's series proves its worth with smart writing by Neil Drumming
BATTLE STARS Helfer, Callis, Sackhoff, Olmos, Bamber, McDonnell, and Park
Mary McDonnell looks miserable. It's only her first scene of the day for Sci Fi's Battlestar Galactica, and she's being asked to struggle up a muddy Vancouver hillside in a downpour, while her woolly red mane clings limply to her face. Even with studly costar Jamie Bamber propping her up, this would seem to be the beginning of a dreadful afternoon.
Yet just before the director yells ''Cut!'' and the fake rain blinks out, McDonnell — apropos of nothing — lets out a jolly chuckle. Word comes down from above, radioed from a producer to a grumpy third assistant director: ''Just a suggestion, Mary shouldn't be laughing.''
Well, why not? Sure, McDonnell plays Battlestar's President Laura Roslin, a schoolteacher forced to lead thousands of desperate, space-faring refugees after humanity is virtually exterminated by killer robots. As if that's not enough, breast cancer threatens to kill her in months. But amid all this cosmic gloom, McDonnell and the folks behind the gritty Battlestar remake have good reason to be giddy: The show — based on a 1978 ABC series starring Lorne Greene that lasted only one season — has quickly become the highest-rated program in Sci Fi Channel's 13-year history, averaging over 2.8 million viewers in its first season.
The updated series, which begins its second season on Friday, July 15, at 10 p.m., is not your typical tidy space opera: A civilization of humans in a distant galaxy creates a race of powerful robots (Cylons) who violently turn the tables on their masters. But the look of the humans is at odds with the futuristic setting — these highly advanced folks wear everyday suits, communicate via clunky old phones (with cords!), and travel in run-down spaceships.
''I wanted it to feel and look different,'' says writer-executive producer Ronald D. Moore (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Roswell), who, along with fellow exec producer David Eick, was charged with reimagining the '70s show as a miniseries/pilot that aired on Sci Fi in 2003. ''I did not want the viewer to be put off by space clothes, space hair, and wacky designs. There's so much artifice in science fiction that distances the audience from the drama.'' Edward James Olmos, who plays curmudgeonly Commander Adama, shares Moore's concerns. ''The first four-eyed monster I see, I'm going to faint,'' he says. ''And I am out of the picture.''
But while Moore's vision was more low-tech and alien-free than the original — not to mention glossy genre giants Star Wars and Star Trek — he stayed true to the first Battlestar in one key aspect. ''I was really struck by the dark nature of the premise,'' he says. ''There's this genocidal attack that wipes out the human race, and then your heroes are people that are running away. When you watch that pilot in the post-9/11 world, it has a completely different resonance than it did in 1978.''
Cast of 'Battlestar Galactica'
OUT OF SIGHT Lucy Lawless is prepped for a Galactica guest spot
Like most things sci-fi, the original Battlestar had a small but rabid core of fans. So even before the 2003 miniseries aired, Moore's rejiggering of favorite characters and plot points — cigar-smoking alpha male Starbuck is now a woman? Cylons that look like humans? — raised the hackles of the change-fearing online owls. ''When Galactica landed on my table, I cringed, a butt-crunching cringe,'' says Bamber (Band of Brothers), who plays Apollo, the character originated by Richard Hatch. ''It was so of its time. Why do it again? I had remake-itis.'' Sci Fi Channel president Bonnie Hammer, on the other hand, was itching to resurrect the title — and Moore's take was the first in years to jibe with her own. ''It wasn't campy,'' says Hammer. ''You can't create a series that deals with a civilization being threatened and have it be blue skies.''
The fans ultimately bought that logic. The two-parter did so well for Sci Fi — scoring more than 4 million viewers — the network picked it up as a series. Moore, who had previously spent 10 years toiling in the clean-uniformed Star Trek universe, dived headlong into Battlestar's grim alternative reality, weaving together stories of religion-fueled conflict, ugly wartime politics, and sex. ''We go at the same issues [as they do] on 24 or The West Wing,'' says McDonnell(Dances With Wolves). ''There's this docudrama reality brothered with fantasy escapism.''
But sometimes Battlestar's reality can get so intense, the cast longs for a little fantasy. During a ripped-from-the-headlines episode in season 1, Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) brutalizes a fundamentalist prisoner à la Abu Ghraib. (In one of the show's many sympathy-subverting twists, the humans practice polytheism while their Cylon enemies massacre mankind on behalf of the one true ''God.'') ''I was having nightmares for a week afterward,'' says Sackhoff. Jokes Grace Park, who plays Boomer, a sweet-faced pilot who periodically turns saboteur for reasons even she can't explain: ''This is entertainment? It's like watching a car wreck.''
And this week's pileup is taking a while to film. As the camera crew sets up a complicated shot, half a dozen costumed cast members, waiting to be marooned on the planet Kobol, form a rowdy circle beneath the damp leaves. Park wanders toward the noise.
''What the hell is happening here?'' she asks.
''We're playing the laughing game,'' says Tahmoh Penikett (a.k.a. strapping Lieutenant Helo).
Sackhoff lets out an impressive witchlike cackle. Jamie Bamber draws kudos for his maniacal bellowing. But Mary McDonnell trumps all with a throaty, pained impersonation of her husband.
''He laughs like he broke his rib,'' she giggles. Around here, it seems, any semblance of suffering makes for a good show.
Galactica also made a CNN/EW list of recommended things at #3.