Rare is the futuristic sci-fi show that can transcend the limits of a time period and setting so far removed from our own. So far, a unique blend of classic science fiction tropes and contemporary moral quandaries has made Battlestar Galactica, financially, at best a modest hit with die-hard Trekkies and newcomers to the genre. But if you're not watching it, then you're missing out on one of the few shows to take hot-button issues such as abortion and biological warfare and unflinchingly explore them with subtlety and grace.
Battlestar Galactica isn't all heady issues and political metaphors-it's also an engaging drama with interesting, if not always likable, characters. An update of the 1978 series of the same name, Battlestar Galactica was reimagined as a miniseries in 2003 and went on to become one of Sci Fi Channel's signature shows. The plot centers on a ragtag fleet of aircrafts on the run from Cylons, the morally ambiguous robots who nuked the 12 colonies-each one on a different planet, because this is a space show, after all-that humans had founded. So the survivors float through space, fighting Cylons and their own personal demons (the latter more than the former, naturally) and looking for the fabled 13th colony, Earth.
Okay, perhaps that isn't the most scintillating plot twist ever, but here's one that's interesting: the Cylons were created by man, to serve man, and then rebelled. Imagine how much trouble humans would be in if our iPods suddenly became sentient and banded together to overthrow us. Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz would probably be elected Supreme Leader of the Galaxy.
The show is at its best when the human (and robot) dramas upstage the "We're in outer space, yay!" gimmicks. And for the most part, they do. That the Cylons occasionally look like, live among, and have romantic liaisons with humans adds to the intrigue. And Battlestar's humans make choices that are sometimes commendable and sometimes appalling, just like the modern, terra firma model.
If you want to jump right to the episodes airing currently, there are plenty of comprehensive Web sites-both official (www.scifi.com/battlestar) and unofficial (www.battlestargalactica.com, www.battlestarwiki.org)-to catch you up if you don't mind being spoiled. But Battlestar Galactica is an intricate show, and attentive viewing is always rewarded. The miniseries and the first two seasons are all available on DVD, so catch up and then tune in to the most realistic show to feature self-aware robots since The Transformers.