'Battlestar Galactica' drama explosive

STEVE TILLEY - Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:22 AM ET

I wish I could get my mom to watch Battlestar Galactica. It doesn't seem right somehow.

This is the woman who introduced me to the likes of Robert A. Heinlein and Star Wars when I was just a pup, and who was a fan of the original Battlestar Galactica in the '70s -- feathered hair, space hookers, robot dogs and all.

Yet she says she can't wrap her head around neo-Galactica's Starbuck being a girl, and that she's not a fan of Edward James Olmos, who plays Commander Adama. Ay carumba! How can you not be a fan of Lieut. Castillo from Miami Vice?

Because my mom doesn't own a DVD player and lives way out on Vancouver Island, I can't even coerce her into getting caught up on the first season, which I firmly believe is enough to convince non-fans that Battlestar Galactica is one of the best shows on TV.

Yeah, it's about spaceships and robots. But it's a far more human drama than the likes of Desperate Housewives or 24 or even Lost. Actually, Lost is probably the show that has the most similar blend of well-drawn characters, cool plot twists, emotional gut punches and shocking cliffhangers. So you could think of Battlestar Galactica as Lost in space. Whoa, wait a minute. That didn't sound right.

Tonight's mid-second season episode of Battlestar Galactica, titled Pegasus (Space, 8 p.m.), kicks off a three-episode story arc which could be the best 180 minutes of TV you'll see this year. (Beware, Galactica fans, from this point on there will be some very mild spoilers. Stop now if you wish to remain untainted.)

Unlike your Star Treks or Stargates, Battlestar Galactica doesn't do aliens o' the week. So how do you stir things up in a series about a spacefaring aircraft carrier and its ragtag fugitive fleet, representing the sole survivors of an interstellar holocaust? You say, "Guess what, guys? You're not alone after all."

Michelle Forbes (24, Star Trek: The Next Generation) guest stars as Admiral Helena Cain, commander of the Battlestar Pegasus. It seems the Galactica wasn't the only military ship to escape the Cylons' Pearl Harbor-style attack on the human homeworlds, and now that Pegasus and Galactica have found one another, it's best friends forever.

Or not. Pegasus is the yang to Galactica's yin, a cold, militaristic, spit-and-polish vessel where executive officers are executed on deck if they fail to obey an order. And Cain might have even bigger cojones than Adama himself.

It would be too easy for Cain versus Adama to be clear-cut case of bad versus good, though. Seen from the outside, Galactica's a pretty loose ship -- a drunk second-in-command, a schoolteacher president, mutinous pilots and a Cylon prisoner who's pregnant with a crewman's baby -- and ultimately both commanders want what they believe is right.

And so as Pegasus and Galactica join forces to chase down a new and very important Cylon target, the series' most tense moments thus far unfold when the two crews clash, including homicide, rape, prisoner torture, assassination plots and more. The writing and acting are at their pinnacle here, and even the episode's strings-heavy musical score is especially good.

By the time the saga of Admiral Cain has been played out over the next three episodes -- including two nail-biting "to be continued..." endings -- nothing will ever be quite the same for these characters. Some will die, some will find a second chance at life, a new yet familiar face will be introduced, an unexpected romance will bud, the curse word "frak" will have been used more times than in every other episode combined, loyalties will be tested, wisdom will prevail, and Commander Adama will be no more.

Just kidding about that last one. Or not. You'll have to wait another couple more weeks to find out. Or, if you're my mom, until I get you a DVD player for Christmas.


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