REVIEW: HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES -SEASON 2

Starring

Adrian Paul (Arrow)
Alexandra Vandernoot (Pret-a-Porter)
Stan Kirsch (Shallow Ground)
Jim Byrnes (Sanctuary)
Philip Akin (Robocop 2014)
Michel Modo (The Troops Get Married)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Peter Hudson (Lockout)
Douglas Arthurs (Stargate SG.1)
Cameron Bancroft (Legends of Tomorrow)
J.H. Wyman (Sirens)
Geraint Wyn Davies (Forever Knight)
Traci Lords (Excision)
Andrew Jackson (Earth: Final Conflict)
Kendall Cross (Van Helsing)
Travis MacDonald (Cold Pursuit)
Frank C. Turner (IT)
Sheena Easton (Young Blades)
Andrew Kavadas (The 13th Warrior)
Callum Keith Rennie (Impulse)
Lorena Gale (Battlestar Galactica)
Michael Shanks (Stargate SG.1)
Elizabeth Gracen (Marked For Death)
Don S. Davis (Stargate SG.1)
Robert Wisden (Watchmen)
Mitchell Kosterman (Smallville)
Bruce A. Young (Jurassic Park III)
Mark Acheson (Elf)
Adrian Holmes (Arrow)
Roddy Piper (They Live)
Andrea Roth (Cloak & Dagger)
Bill Dow (Izombie)
Gabrielle Miller (Corner Gas)
Tom McBeath (Stargate SG.1)
Bruce Weitz (The Dukes)
Nicholas Lea (The X-Files)
Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad)
Lochlyn Munro (Scary Movie)
Michelle Thrush (Pathfinder)
Ed Lauter (Cujo)
Doug Abrahams (Sanctuary)
Roland Gift (Brakes)
Stacey Travis (Ghost World)
Roark Critchlow (V)
Jeremy Brudenell (Alice In Wonderland 1999)
Peter Firth (Spooks)
Angeline Ball (Keeping Faith)
Nia Peeples (Walker, Texas Ranger)
James Faulkner (Game of Thrones)
Emile Abossolo M’bo (Hitman)
Nadia Cameron-Blakey (Batman Begins)
Michael Siberry (Birdman)

HighlanderDuncan4Spring boarding from the pluses of its debut season, Highlander: The Series opens its second season strongly. Though struggling midseason with some of the same growing pains as Season 1; the 93-94 Season 2 handles character departures and the introduction of the Watchers in fine form- allowing Highlander: The Series to come into its own away from the film franchise.highlander16Immortal Highlander Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) becomes increasingly suspicious of Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes) and his Watchers- a secret organization who are pledged to observed immortals and never interfere. Someone, however, is breaking the rules and killing immortals, making life more difficult for MacLeod after the loss of his mortal girlfriend Tessa (Alexandra Vandernoot). Richie (Stan Kirsch), now also immortal, has problems of his own learning how to fend off evil immortals after his head, and mortal dojo manager Charlie DeSalvo (Philip Akin) grows more and more curious about his new boss and Macleod’s secrets.Adrian Paul and Geraint Wyn Davies in Highlander (1992)Highlander: The Series hits the ground running in this sophomore season with critical departures and the establishment of its own mythos from here on out. The premiere episode ‘The Watchers’ introduces the critical organization and Season 2 stays strong thru ‘The Darkness’ and the exit of Tessa. Unfortunately, midseason the show’s writers David Abramowitz and David Tynan flounder when Highlander: The Series once again returns to the action textbook crime of the week or immortal in the regular drama ho hum. Issues about racism, sexism, injustice, and abused women are indeed handled very nicely thanks to MacLeod’s wise and chivalrous immortal angles. But again, these debates are on every other show then and now. Drastic character changes and internal fantasy mythology are enough for Highlander.Adrian Paul and Stan Kirsch in Highlander (1992)After such fine framework, Season 2 need not fall back on these stock scripts and filler episodes. Smartly however, this season distances itself from the internal inconsistencies of the film franchise by dropping mentions of The Gathering. The development of the Watchers, their deadly rogue faction the Hunters, and the wonderful observations and angst both provide pulls The Series away from the films once and for all. Further examinations of mortals dying after having full lives versus immortals who are numb to life also establish great drama beyond the standard crime villainy. Grief, infertility, and child loss also add extra depth and dimension, again proving Highlander: The Series is at its best, nay superior, when it adheres to the quality of its own immortal design.Adrian Paul and Manuel Bonnet in Highlander (1992)Yes, it is a little weird when MacLeod suddenly starts bagging some chicks so soon after Tessa’s exit, and there’s still a touch of those nineties hang ups with plenty of sweaty, shirtless dojo training montages. However, it’s nice to see less Action Mac and more on the consequences of immortality. He’s had plenty of time to develop his strict sense of honor and justice, but he also unhappily warns those around him that being his friend is deadly. Paul handles the kick ass, the somber, and the tears wonderfully. We think just as much of him when he cries as when he beheads the bad guy. The loss of Tessa Noel is also very nicely done in character and performance. Even though the leaving was largely Vandernoot’s decision, I don’t wonder if the exit of Mac’s steady girlfriend would not have happened in the future anyway. Obviously, there are so many more women and immortal bachelor angles to explore. Sometimes, MacLeod may even seem to get over Tessa too quickly, but his new cynicism and pains of mortality make their presence well known during Season 2 and beyond. Vandernoot’s exit and subsequent guest appearance in the two part finale ‘Counterfeit’ may even have the audience missing Tessa more, but her mortality reiterates that nothing on Highlander: The Series is sacred.Adrian Paul in Highlander (1992)Returning favorites and guest villains raise Season 2 to a new level. The titular ‘Return of Amanda’ and ‘Legacy’ has Elizabeth Gracen’s immortal con visiting for some much needed humor and female familiarity post-Tessa. Forever Knight alum Geraint Wyn Davies also has some wicked fun in ‘Turnabout’, and rocker Roland Gift returns as Xavier St. Cloud to join rogue watcher James Horton (Peter Hudson, Cousin William) in the stand out ‘Unholy Alliance I and II’. Recurring regular Michel Modo as the bemusing and pesky French neighbor Maurice also provides some balance when the immortal life gets a little too heavy, and truly, I love the spooky Victorian joy of ‘The Vampire’.Adrian Paul, Jim Byrnes, and Stan Kirsch in Highlander (1992)Though still a little dated with the pleated pants and too much denim, the styles of Season 2 are much improved.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: SLITHER

CAST

Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games)
Michael Rooker(Guardians of The Galaxy)
Don Thompson (Red Riding Hood)
Gregg Henry (Super)
Tania Saulnier (The Wicker Man)
Haig Sutherland (Valentine)
Brenda James (Stargate: Atlantis)
Lorena Gale (The Fly II)
Rob Zombie (The Devils Rejects)
Jenna Fischer (Blades of Glory)
Magda Apanowicz (Caprica
Lloyd Kaufman (Dead Love)
Ben Cotton (Staragte: Atlantis)

A meteorite housing a malevolent, sentient extraterrestrial parasite crashes into the town of Wheelsy, South Carolina. While frolicking in the woods with Brenda, local car dealer Grant Grant finds the parasite and is infected by it. The parasite takes over his body and absorbs his consciousness and memories. With the alien now in control of his body, ‘Grant’ begins to slowly change into a tentacled slug-like monster.

Many pets soon disappear, but Grant is not suspected. However, his wife Starla begins to question his health; he explains the initial changes in his appearance as an allergic reaction to a bee sting, saying that a doctor has already given him something for it, but Starla soon learns this is a lie. Starla contacts the police chief Bill Pardy – her childhood crush – who attempts to reassure and comfort her while not acting on his feelings.

Grant infects the lonely and neglected Brenda with hundreds of his offspring. He hides her in an isolated barn where she becomes massively obese to the point of inflating to the size of a wrecking ball as baby alien slugs grow inside her. Bill leads a small group of officers on a hunt for Grant; they find Brenda in time to see her explode, releasing hundreds of the alien slugs. Most of Bill’s group are infected by the slugs and become Grant’s puppets, speaking as if they were Grant and obsessed with bringing Starla home and holding her to her wedding vows.

Everyone in town is quickly eaten by others infected with Grant’s offspring, or absorbed into Grant’s hive mind except Starla, Bill, mayor Jack MacReady, and a teenage girl, Kylie, who had escaped from her family that were also infected by the parasites. She tells them of how she saw the slug’s memories; it moves from planet to planet, eating or absorbing all life it finds there. The parasite’s consciousness, however, is influenced by the real Grant’s memories and his love for his wife, Starla. The survivors try to escape detection and kill Grant. The townspeople attack their vehicle, capturing Starla and Jack. Bill and Kylie track Starla to her home, and find that the infected are melding into one giant creature. They must risk their lives to stop the infestation from spreading any further. Jack awakens in the house’s basement, where several of the infected are eating; he tries to escape but becomes infected by Grant as he reaches the top of the stairs and opens the door. Starla charms the monster by calling him “Grant” and telling him they can be together, but as they get close to each other, she pulls a mirror from her underwear and stabs him in the chest with the pointed handle. He slaps her with a tentacle and knocks her across the room.

Bill arrives; Jack begs to be killed, and Bill shoots him in the head. He tries to kill the monster with a grenade, but another tentacle knocks the grenade into the pool, where it detonates. The monster sends two tentacles to stab Bill and infect him; one is lodged in his abdomen, but Bill attaches the other to a small propane tank, filling Grant with gas, and Starla shoots the monster, causing it to explode, whereupon all the infected die. The three survivors walk away to find a hospital for Bill.

In a post-credits scene, a cat approaches to feed off Grant’s remains and is infected.

‘Slither’ is made unabashedly as homage to the ‘body horror’ films of the late seventies/early eighties. Think Cronenberg’s ‘Shivers’ and ‘Rabid’, John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’, the eighties remake of ‘The Blob’, ‘Society’ etc. It reminds us of the joys of physical special effects rather than CGI stuff. Slither has no unreasonable aspirations to greatness; but on its own modest terms it is a small masterpiece of B-movie fun

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE

CAST

Laura Linney (The Truman Show)
Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins)
Campbell Scott (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Jennifer Carpenter (Limitless TV)
Colm Feore (Gotham)
Kenneth Welsh (The Aviator)
JR Bourne (Stargate SG.1)
Henry Czerny (Revenge)
Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica)
Shohreh Aghdashloo (Star Trek: Beyond)
Julian Christopher (Elysium)
Lorena Gale (Battlestar Galactica)
Chelah Horsdal (The Man In The High Castle)

Jennifer Carpenter in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)A 19-year-old girl named Emily Rose dies, attributed to self-inflicted wounds and malnutrition. After news of it spreads across town, a Catholic priest named Father Richard Moore is arrested and sent to court. The archdiocese wishes for Father Moore to plead guilty, in order for publicity of the incident to be minimized. A lawyer named Erin Bruner is provided to Father Moore to negotiate a plea deal, but Father Moore insists on pleading not guilty. Bruner takes the case, believing it will elevate her to senior partner at her law firm. Father Moore agrees to let her defend him only if he is allowed to tell Emily’s story.
Jennifer Carpenter in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)The trial begins with the calling of several medical experts by the prosecutor Ethan Thomas, and Judge Brewster presiding. One expert testifies that Emily was suffering from both epilepsy and psychosis. The defense contests that she may have actually been possessed but Bruner explains that Emily was suffering from something that neither medicine nor psychology could explain, and that Father Moore as well as her family realized this and tried to help in another way.
Jennifer Carpenter in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)Several flashbacks reveal the story leading up to the exorcism. Emily gets a scholarship to a university to study for a bachelor’s degree in education. After days pass, strange events occur. In her dorm room one night, at 3:00 AM, Emily smells a strange burning smell from the hallway. Attempting to investigate it, she sees a door open and shut itself several times. She then sees a writing material jar move by itself. Emily sees her bed covers roll themselves down, and a great weight pins her in bed along with a force which also proceeds to choke her and seemingly to possess her momentarily. Through these episodes Emily wonders if they are true or just a hallucination. She suffers more of these visions such as people’s faces demonically distorting, and being unable to eat. She is hospitalized, and diagnosed with epilepsy. Anti-seizure medications and treatment fail to cure her.
Kenneth Welsh, Andrew Wheeler, Tom Wilkinson, Joshua Close, and Jennifer Carpenter in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)A classmate named Jason brings her back home to her family upon her father’s request after finding her contorted and catatonic. He as well as Emily’s family become convinced she is not epileptic or mentally ill but is possessed by demons. Days follow where Emily attempting to fight back against the demons tries to sustain nourishment from eating bugs but to no avail. While possessed she starts to damage the house, and cause mutilations to herself. The visions continue, as do her severe bodily contortions. They ask for Father Moore to perform an exorcism, and the Church agrees. The prosecution counters that all this could be explained by a combination of epilepsy (the contortions) and psychosis (the visions).
Jennifer Carpenter in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)Meanwhile, Bruner begins to experience strange occurrences in her apartment at 3:00 AM, including strange smells and sounds. Father Moore warns her that she may be targeted by demons for possibly exposing them. He also explains that 3:00 AM is the “witching hour” which evil spirits use to mock the Holy Trinity, being the opposite of 3:00 PM, the traditional hour of Christ’s death. Moore then reveals that after the bishop gives him permission to do the exorcism, he also experiences the same strange occurrence on the night before the exorcism. Awakening to the scent of burning material, Moore witnesses religious imagery in the rectory bleeding and then encounters a black cloaked and hooded figure walking to the church, which he says is a manifestation of the demon possessing Emily.
Jennifer Carpenter in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)Seeing that the prosecution is putting up a seemingly solid medical case, Bruner decides to try to show that Emily may have actually been possessed. She calls in an anthropologist, Dr. Sadira Adani, to testify about various cultures’ beliefs about spiritual possession. Dr. Graham Cartwright, a medical doctor present during the exorcism, reveals an audio tape made during the rite. The priest is then called to the stand to testify. The tape is played and the movie then flashes back to the exorcism. It is performed on Halloween night because Father Moore believes it might be easier to draw out the demons on that night. Father Moore, Jason, and her father gather in Emily’s bedroom where she is tied to a bed while her family prays in the living room.Jennifer Carpenter in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)As Father Moore begins the rite and sprinkles holy water while reading various words from the Rituale Romanum, Emily begins speaking in Latin, German, Ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. The family cats run around the room, agitated by demonic presence and attack everyone. Emily breaks her ties, jumps out the window, and into the barn, with everyone following except for Emily’s family, who remain and pray. Inside the barn, they are subjected to more supernatural phenomena such as unnatural gusts of wind and demonic screams and voices. The demon inside Emily refuses to name itself after repeated demands from the Father Moore but finally reveals contemptuously that there are not one but six demons. With dual voices from Emily, they identify themselves in dramatic fashion as the demons that possessed Cain, Nero, Judas Iscariot, a member of the Legion, Belial, and Lucifer, each speaking with its own language.
Jennifer Carpenter in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)The film returns to the court room. The priest says that Emily refused another exorcism but also refused to take her anti-psychotic medication, having accepted her fate. She died a few weeks later. The prosecutor contends that her speaking in tongues can be explained by her having gone through Catholic Catechism, in which she could have learned the ancient languages, and that she had studied German in high school. The priest admits that it might be possible that she could have learned these languages in school. Bruner then calls Dr. Cartwright as a witness, but he does not show. She walks outside and sees him on the street. Cartwright says he can no longer testify, but he does believe in demons. Before he can explain, he is killed by a passing car. Later that night Bruner’s chief attorney threatens her with termination if she recalls the priest to the stand when he reveals that he heard of what happened.
Jennifer Carpenter in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)Bruner calls the priest back to the stand the next day. Father Moore reads a letter that Emily wrote for him the day before her death. The letter describes another vision she had on the morning after the exorcism. She walks out of the house and sees the Virgin Mary, who tells her that although the demons will not leave her, she can leave her body and end her suffering. The apparition reveals that if she returns to her body, she will help to prove to the world that God and the Devil are real. After Emily chooses to return, she then receives stigmata, which Moore believes is a sign of God’s love for her. The letter concludes with a statement saying “People say that God is dead, but how can they think that if I show them the Devil?”, but the prosecution counters that she could have received the stigmata wounds from a barbed wire fence on her property.
Jennifer Carpenter in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)When Judge Brewster pronounces Father Moore as guilty, the jury recommends a sentence of time served, to which she agrees. Bruner is offered a partnership at her firm for her success, but she declines and resigns. She goes with Father Moore to Emily’s grave, where he has put a quote (which she recited to him the day before she died) from the second chapter twelfth verse of Philippians on her grave: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”. Father Moore goes on to live in seclusion stating he would not appeal as God will be the only one to judge him in the end.Jennifer Carpenter in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)Admirably, the tone is not one of full on shocks and scares – there is a neutrality which gives you space to make your own mind up, and yet allow you to see events as the Father Moore and Emily saw them. It’s this intelligence towards the subject which sets this apart from most other recent horror movies and makes this worth watching.

REVIEW: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004) – SEASON 2

Starring

Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner)
Mary McDonnell (Donnie Darko)
Katee Sackhoff (Riddick)
Jamie Bamber (Marcella)
James Callis (Flashforward)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Grace Park (Hawaii Five-0)
Michael Hogan (Red Riding Hood)
Aaron Douglas (Chaos)
Nicki Clyne (Saved!)
Tahmoh Penikett (Dollhouse)
Kandyse McClure (Mother’s Day)
Paul Campbell (Knight Rider)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)

Tahmoh Penikett and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Samuel Witwer (Smallville)
Donnelly Rhodes (Legends of Tomorrow)
Rekha Sharma (V)
Callum Keith Rennie (Impulse)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Matthew Bennett (Stargate SG.1)
Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap)
Rick Worthy (The Vampire Diaries)
Richard Hatch (InAlienable)
Lorena Gale (The Exorcism of Emily Rose)
Michael Trucco (Sabrina: TTW)
Michelle Forbes (Powers)
Graham Beckel (The Loft)
Leah Cairns (Interstellar)
Bodie Olmos (Walkout)
Luciana Carro (Helix)
Kate Vernon (Heores)
Alonso Oyarzun (Reindeer Games)
Jen Halley (Red Riding Hood)
Ty Olsson (War of TPOTA)
Aleks Paunovic (Van Helsing)
Malcolm Stewart (Jumanji)
Dominic Zamprogna (Stargate Universe)
James Remar (BLack Lightning)
Patricia Idlette (Ginger Snaps 2)
Benjamin Ayres (The Vampire Diaries)
Don Thompson (Watchmen)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
Sebastian Spence (First Waves)
Mike Dopud (Arrow)
Vincent Gale (Bates Motel)
Colm Feore (Thor)
David Richmond-Peck (Sanctuary)
Claudette Mink (Paycheck)
Bill Duke (Black Lightning)
Christopher Jacot (Slasher)
John Heard (Home Alone)
Kavan Smith (Staragte Atlantis)
Stefanie von Pfetten (Cracked)
Erica Cerra (Power Rangers)
Alisen Down (Smallville)
David Kaye (Beast Wars)
Colin Lawrence (Watchmen)

Some cynical individual, at some time, blurted out that “there’s always room for improvement” about an accomplishment or achievement that was fine in its own right. In the spectrum of film and television, it’s true that all material can be tightened, focused, and made even more compelling with practice; but oftentimes creative teams fall back into comfort zones and neglect to spit-shine where improvement is needed. Ronald Moore and David Eick, the creators of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series, understand this concept. They accomplished something intriguing, thrilling, and dramatically magnetic with their initial 2003 miniseries and, later, a full subsequent season that grappled the structure of the three-hour introduction — characters, mythos, and stunning production merits through striking photography and convincing computer effects — and ran with it. However, there’s always room for improvement, and Battlestar Galactica’s second season finds a deeper focus and more thrill-inducing pace that fully ratchets the series into the stratosphere of superb science-fiction creations.Nicki Clyne and Aaron Douglas in Battlestar Galactica (2004)The first season constructs a “reboot” of the highest accord, taking the original content from the 1978 television series and shaping it into an edgy and modern production in the vein of “West Wing … in space”. Grecian mythology, military-heavy hierarchal bickering, and the relationships between people on the space ship Galactica — both tender and volatile — are all sparked into action when the Cylons, humanity’s slave-like machines evolved into enlightened yet vengeful beings, attack their creators after 40 years of recoiled hibernation. These attacks, which left around 50,000 humans alive, wiped out sixteen of the individuals in-line for the presidency over the “colonies”, which left Secretary of Education Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell, Dances With Wolves) as the next in line. Somehow, this all gyrates around the weasel-like scheming of Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis, Bridget Jones’ Diary), who inadvertently fell for the whims of a blonde-haired Cylon (Tricia Helfer) and revealed humanity’s defense secrets — and, now, follows orders from the sultry “machine” in the confines of his own mind, with her as little more than an illusion reminding him of his “importance” as one of God’s pawns. Monotheistic God, not polytheistic, but that’ll become important later on.After its thrilling two-part miniseries and a handful of tense cat-and-mouse episodes at the start, the first season (which should be viewed before continuing this review, as the context here relies on the fact that you’ve seen the first season) coasts along a stream of dynamic back-and-forths between Galactica’s Commander Bill Adama (Edward James Olmos, Blade Runner) and President Roslin — leading to a point where Adama is stretched out on the ship’s command center deck, bleeding from gunshot wounds incurred by an assassination attempt. Season Two picks up directly after the shooting, showing how the military hierarchy moves its pieces around Adama’s incapacitation. His XO (second in command) Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan) wrestles with his alcohol addiction as he tries to juggle an unwanted leadership position, shrug off his wife Ellen’s (Kate Vernon) passenger-seat manipulation of the Galactica’s workings, and make the colonies understand why President Roslin has been arrested for subordination. On top of that, we’re also watching the way Adama’s ailment affects his son, Captain Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber), as his allegiance to the Colonial fleet sways between loyalty to his father and his belief in what the theologically-focused President Roslin is trying to accomplish.Richard Hatch and Michael Hogan in Battlestar Galactica (2004)But, as Battlestar Galactica veterans know, that core quarrel really only scoops up the top layer of the conflicts that lie underneath the Colonial fleet’s hunt for a safe, habitable planet — whether it be the fabled planet Earth, the newly-discovered planet of Kobol, or beyond. Season Two also finds a deeper focus on Kara Thrace (Katee Sackhoff, “Nip/Tuck”), aka Starbuck, as more than a novel imitation of the classic series’ character, concentrating on the depth of her belief in the gods, her bull-headedness giving way to a need for deeper connections with others, and a particular point where she’s, dare I say it, made hopelessly vulnerable in the episode “The Farm”. This happens on Cylon-occupied Caprica, the colonies’ once-thriving central metropolis, where she and Lieutenant ‘Helo’ Agathon (Tahmoh Penikett, “Dollhouse”) are attempting to locate a way off the planet and back to Galactica with the “Arrow of Apollo” in their possession. There, they interact with a second version of the “Sharon” model of Cylon (Grace Park), pregnant with Helo’s child and rebellious against her kind. Along those same lines, we also see how the cluster of Colonial soldiers stranded on Kobol — deck chief Galen Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) and his “knuckledragger” subordinates, as well as Vice President Baltar — find a way to survive until they’re able to make an escape attempt.Mary McDonnell and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Though the introductory season of Battlestar Galactica triumphs for establishing the storyline’s intricacies, a broad spectrum of characters, and suspenseful density, Ron Moore and David Eick still had a handful of creaks in the series’ bow that needed repair — such as tighter concentration on the political banter and more focused balancing between space warfare and non-CIC dramatics. Though intriguing to some, including myself, those elements also tended to bog down the pacing to a degree that could deter some from its deliberate concentration on policy. It’s important, and necessary, for a lengthy story to grow beyond its limitations, and the Moore / Eick team hone the introductory season’s successes into a poised, pulsating blend of drama and thrills that bolsters its initial successes forward two-fold. Everything that underscores the series’ quality — superb, straight-faced acting, slickly detailed cinematography ranging from cold and dark to acidic and overblown, and some of the best music on television, period — persists into the second season, now attached to a sense of obvious plot refinement.Jamie Bamber and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)

does it differ? Well, this season knows when and how to play its cards, where the initial season struggles in knowing exactly what to do with the substantially impressive content that it’s generating. The thematic density that it crams into this season is staggering; the complications of martial law (military control of the government), delicateness around following an idealist (dying) leader with religion as their driving force, technology’s advancement and control over our everyday activity, the necessity of black market trade, and, eventually, the power of government-mandated control over population control. All of these elements are timely and meaningful, even allegorical to conflicts present in modern society, and they’re handled with a specific panache in this second season that remains vigilant throughout. But they’re not overtly heavy-handed; sly incorporation allows us to view these elements merely on the surface for service of the story or as deeper insights — whichever suits the viewer.James Remar and Jamie Bamber in Battlestar Galactica (2004)On top of that, Moore and Eick have set sights on how to tie these heady elements in with the bustling activity of operatic space battles, and they’ve succeeded in a way that maintains the series’ accessibility. The hyper-elaborate technobabble prevalent in other series — such as bits and pieces about a ship that “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs” and about “trionic initiators in the warp coil” — gets tossed aside to allow for a direct focus on human interactions, such as ebbs and flows between father and son in authoritative positions, the fear and fatigue within a crew that’s never given much of a chance to relax, and an affinity with Laura Roslin as she succumbs to terminal breast cancer. Emotion-heavy episodes, such as the excellent “Flight of the Phoenix” where Chief Tyrol finds distraction and a sense of hope in building a new fighter ship from scraps, are there solely for that purpose. They even work in cliché taglines like, “They can run, but they can’t hide”, and hokey plot points like a bona-fide love triangle to convincing degrees — well, with their own spins on the material. In that, the creators rope us into the emotional fabric as if we’re members of the crew, sharing their plights. We’re not forced to try and comprehend scientific jargon, aside from a few scattered discussions about firewalls, viruses, and FTL drives, but instead asked to unswervingly, and powerlessly, hold our focus on the shifts in power aboard the Galactica.Mary McDonnell, Edward James Olmos, Jamie Bamber, and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Then, with a flick of the writers’ wrists, they change the way that we perceive just about everything in the series with the episode “Pegasus”. Out of nowhere, another one of the colonial fighter bases, the Battlestar Pegasus, arrives unexpectedly within the proximity of Galactica’s location. Once both have confirmed that they’re friendly ships, we’re introduced to Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes) — a strong, bloodthirsty woman with a very tight, dictatorial grip on her ship. Unlike the Galactica, the Pegasus is competitive, hardened, chauvinistic and far more stringent on policy, which creates a world of conflict once the two commanders begin comparing notes on Galactica’s personnel issues, power rankings, and the lenience in handling a Cylon prisoner. More importantly, Admiral Cain is Adama’s superior officer, and her iron-fist reclaim of power decidedly tears the fleet apart. In a matter of forty-some-odd minutes, the entire power structure of Battlestar Galactica is rearranged and tossed into volatile disarray, left for our characters to plot around and sort out. And it makes for thoroughly gut-swelling television because of it, stretching over an impressive three-episode arc (“Pegasus”, “Resurrection Ship” Parts One and Two).Lucy Lawless and Patrick Harrison in Battlestar Galactica (2004)It’s at this point, once the dust clears from the Pegasus incidents, that Battlestar Galactica begins to really claim a place in the annals of science-fiction as one of its finest creations — even with a few stumbling blocks that it still fights against. Ellen Tigh’s manipulation of Saul while he’s in command of the Galactica borders on the unbelievable, though one can certainly understand the swaying power of a significant other. A few character moments feel shoehorned into the mix, such as Lee’s character history revelations in “Black Market”, where the desire to beef up each and every character overreaches their bounds. And, quite simply, one or two of the episodes still fall a tad flat, whether they’re because of an unattractive character coming into focus, such as the hot-rod stem junkie pilot Kat in the ho-hum filler ep “Scar”, or the show simply attempting to do things that it can’t pull off, like the meandering MTV reality show style footage in “Final Cut”. Each of these faults are minor blemishes on otherwise successful, and thought-provoking, installments into the story arc, proving that even weak Battlestar Galactica episodes can be compelling to a middling degree.James Callis and Tricia Helfer in Battlestar Galactica (2004)With its continual and newly-sprung ideas bubbling at the cusp, Moore and Eick reach a conclusion to the second season, the masterful two-parter “Lay Down Your Burdens”, that focuses on the much-anticipated presidential race alluded to in the first season. Restoration of complete democracy and humanization become the weighty element at play, as the candidates — surprises aplenty — duke it out with the fleet’s concerns of safe planetary habitat and population boom as key driving forces. The interplay between all of the individuals is brilliant; however, it’s the outcome, and the legitimately shocking twist at the end of the finale, that’ll likely send one on a contemplative tailspin. With no less than three cliffhanger episodes in this season, it’s only expected that the finale in itself would be a weighty one, and Syfy’s heavy-hitting series doesn’t disappoint in that regard. It’s a brilliant way to swirl the entire season together, even if everything is turned upside down once again. That’s part of Ron Moore and David Eick’s game, a sci-fi neo-political chessgame that’s well worth playing.

 

REVIEW: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004) – SEASON 1

Starring

Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner)
Mary McDonnell (Donnie Darko)
Katee Sackhoff (Riddick)
Jamie Bamber (Marcella)
James Callis (Flashforward)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Grace Park (Hawaii Five-0)
Michael Hogan (Red Riding Hood)
Aaron Douglas (Chaos)
Tahmoh Penikett (Dollhouse)
Kandyse McClure (Mother’s Day)
Paul Campbell (Knight Rider)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Samuel Witwer (Smallville)

Mary McDonnell, Edward James Olmos, Jamie Bamber, James Callis, Aaron Douglas, Michael Hogan, Grace Park, Katee Sackhoff, and Tricia Helfer in Battlestar Galactica (2004)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Nicki Clyne (Saved!)
Donnelly Rhodes (Legends of Tomorrow)
Callum Keith Rennie (Impulse)
Matthew Bennett (Stargate SG.1)
Richard Hatch (InAlienable)
Kate Vernon (Heores)
Lorena Gale (The Exorcism of Emily Rose)
Leah Cairns (Interstellar)
Bodie Olmos (Walkout)
Luciana Carro (Helix)
Alonso Oyarzun (Reindeer Games)
Connor Widdows (X-Men 2)
Brent Stait (Blade: The Series)
Jill Teed (Godzilla)
Tobias Mehler (Disturbing Behavior)
Terry Chen (Jessica Jones)
Dominic Zamprogna (Stargate Universe)
Eric Breker (Stargate SG.1)
Camille Sullivan (Unspeakable)
Robert Wisden (Highlander: The Series)
David Kaye (Beast Wars)
Alex Zahara (Horns)
Patrick Gallagher (Glee)
Malcolm Stewart (Jumanji)
Jen Halley (Red Riding Hood)

Edward James Olmos and Michael Hogan in Battlestar Galactica (2004)When you try to reinvent a popular TV icon one of two things can happen. It will fly, or crash and burn. Back in 2003 the SciFi Channel took a huge gamble and aired a mini-series that took the original Battlestar Galactica concept and turned it on its head. It was a risky undertaking considering how revered the 1978 version is by science fiction fans. Would they accept it? Would this new show find a following? The answer was yes.Jamie Bamber and Richard Hatch in Battlestar Galactica (2004)SciFi’s gamble paid off big time and the new Battlestar Galactica has provided the best ratings numbers that the network has ever seen. It has become an icon for science fiction yet again and the new series stands shoulder to shoulder with other giants in the genre. When it originally aired cult followers of the franchise were critical about the differences between the two (of which there are many), but to the untrained eye there was little to gripe about. The basic concept of the original show, Cylons and Humans fighting against each other in a never ending war, is still intact. You still have the same 12 colonies, same major characters, same Battlestar. Everything else has been overhauled to the nth degree.Edward James Olmos and Jamie Bamber in Battlestar Galactica (2004)In a far distant quadrant of space, the war between Cylons and humans has been over for forty years. Every year, humans send an ambassador to a remote space station to meet with the Cylons and sign a peace treaty, but nobody ever shows up. Then one year they finally appear and begin the eradication of the human species. The twelve colonial home worlds are nuked into oblivion and all that is left of mankind are those that were lucky enough to be somewhere else on a ship. All together, less than 50,000 people.Grace Park and Tahmoh Penikett in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Fortunately for those remaining, the Battlestar Galactica is still functioning and even though it’s archaic, it is up to the task of protecting those who escaped. Led by Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos) the military takes control of the fleet and begins the necessary steps to ensure the survival of our race. He can’t lead the people alone though so he reluctantly teams up with the new President, Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell). The two characters are at odds almost immediately and while Adama wants to storm into battle with guns blazing, Roslin, who before her battlefield promotion was the Secretary of Education, would prefer to make a run for it and start having babies.Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)The future of mankind is also put in the hands of Galactica’s officers such as the alcoholic Colonel Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan), the tomboyish Lt. Kara Thrace “Starbuck” (Katee Sackhoff) and Commander Adama’s son Lee (Jamie Bamber) who goes by the call sign Apollo. Every character adds something to this show even the treacherous Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis) who sees visions of a human/Cylon model Number 6. Fans of the original will also be pleased to know that Richard Hatch (the original Apollo) makes an appearance on the show as a political terrorist known as Tom Zarek.Edward James Olmos and Jamie Bamber in Battlestar Galactica (2004)This ragtag group of survivors teeters on the brink of annihilation throughout the entire season. As if dangers like running out of fuel, death by dehydration, or suicide bombers aren’t enough, the Cylons are never far behind. But throughout the course of this season we do see characters grow closer together and we learn more about their previous lives. There are so many personal conflicts that put everything on the line and you can almost cut the tension with a knife at times. The biggest change in the new Galactica is that the Cylons have “evolved” themselves and now appear completely human. The old “toaster” models are still kicking around (with a slick CGI upgrade) but the human models are the ones pulling all of the strings and carrying out the orders of God. This little change adds huge elements of distrust and paranoia to a show that is already weighed down by overwhelming obstacles.James Callis in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Several minor details in the show have also been tweaked including the forty years of peace to updated weaponry and vehicles. Several character changes have come about as well in SciFi’s new creation. The character of Adama is more militaristic and his relationship with his son Apollo is more than a little rocky. Starbuck and Boomer have gone through sex changes and are now female characters in this new version. Overall many personality traits are true to the original characters but there are quite a few disparities.After undergoing such radical changes, it’s understandable how fans of the original may have been skeptical when the show first started airing. However, it is quite clear this show was careful constructed to appeal to both die hard fans of the original and those looking for a new spin on an old concept. It is important to keep in mind that this version is a reinvention of the classic instead of a continuation. That means that a new audience can get into it without being lost in the mythology. In fact, the only way you will get lost in this new Battlestar Galactica is if you miss an episode or the introductory miniseries. Those of you who have already purchased the miniseries when it was released (like I did) may be a little irritated with the double-dip here, but it’s essential in order to understand what’s going on in the show.James Callis and Tricia Helfer in Battlestar Galactica (2004)It’s very rare in a show that every actor clicks with the material but that is defiantly the case here. The team that was responsible for casting deserves a big pat on the back because they nailed every character perfectly. Of course the real heart and soul of a show comes from the script. That’s another area that Battlestar Galactica has covered thanks to a team of veteran writers. The developer of the show, Ronald Moore (of Trek fame), was responsible for penning the mini-series as well as some of the tenser episodes of the first season. His scripting talent sets up the beginning of the season and closes it on such a high note that it will leave you dying for more.Grace Park and Tahmoh Penikett in Battlestar Galactica (2004)In the case of this show, the visual aspect has a big impact on the overall mood. Everything is cast with stark contrast between light and shadow which keeps the dark tone front and center. Another interesting look comes from the filming technique since the camera is constantly in motion. Angles are slightly skewed and there is a sense of urgency to the picture even during the simplest of conversations. This is undoubtedly one of the more unique looking sci-fi shows around and trust me when I say that’s a good thing.Everything about Battlestar Galactica proves that it is the anti-Star Trek. There is no exploration, first contact or light hearted comedy episodes. Daily problems on board Galactica include finding food, finding power sources, and constantly running from an enemy that outnumbers and out guns them at every turn. Even on Star Trek’s worst day they never had it as bad as the team on Galactica. This is easily one of the darkest science fiction tales I have encountered as nothing seems to go right for our heroes. They are dogged at every turn by the Cylons, are forced to make difficult decisions for the good of their race and treachery threatens to tear the fabric of their very existence. But make no mistake, this is quality television that fans of the original or science fiction in general should definitely not miss out on.

 

REVIEW: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2003)

 

CAST

Edward James Olmos (The Green Hornet)
Mary McDonnell (Independence Day)
Katee Sackhoff (Riddick)
Jamie Bamber (Pulse 2)
James Callis (Flashforward)
Tricia Helfer (Two and a Half Men)
Callum Keith Rennie (Legends of Tomorrow)
Grace Park (Hawaii Five-O)
Michael Hogan (Red Riding Hood)
Matthew Bennett (Stargate SG.1)
Paul Campbell (Andromeda)
Aaron Douglas (The Flash)
Barclay Hope (Paycheck)
Lorena Gale (The Butterfly Effect)
Kandyse McClure (Sanctuary)
Connor Widdows (Dark Angel)
John Mann (The Tall Man)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Nicki Clyne (Saved)
Tahmoh Penikett (Dollhouse)
Ty Olsson (Izombie)
Ryan Robbins (Arrow)
Erin Karpluk (Ripper 2)

After a 40-year armistice in a war between the Twelve Colonies (the homeworlds populated by humans) and the Cylons (human-created robots), the Cylons launch a surprise nuclear attack intended to exterminate the human race. Virtually all of the population of the Twelve Colonies are wiped out. Most of the Colonial military is either rendered ineffective or destroyed due to malware in the military computer network that renders it vulnerable to cyber attack. The malware was introduced by Number Six (Tricia Helfer), a Cylon in the form of a human woman, who seduced the famous scientist Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis) and exploited their relationship to gain access codes under the cover of an insider contract bid.
The Battlestar Galactica, an aircraft carrier in space that fought in the earlier war, is in the final stages of being decommissioned and converted to a museum when the attack occurs. During her decades of colonial service the Galactica’s computer systems had never been networked so the Galactica is unaffected by the Cylon sabotage. Its commander, William Adama (Edward James Olmos), assumes command of the few remaining elements of the human fleet. He heads for the Ragnar Anchorage, a military armory station where the Galactica can resupply itself with weaponry and essential supplies.
Caprica under bombardment during the Cylon attack.
Secretary of Education Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) is sworn in as President of the Twelve Colonies after it is confirmed that the President and most of the government have been killed (Roslin is 43rd in line of succession). The government starship carrying her (Colonial One) manages to assemble a group of surviving civilian ships. When a Colonial Raptor shuttle from the Galactica lands briefly for repairs on the Twelve Colonies’ capital world of Caprica, the two-person crew, Sharon Valerii (callsign “Boomer”) (Grace Park) and Karl C. Agathon (callsign “Helo”) (Tahmoh Penikett), offer to evacuate a small group of survivors. Helo remains on the stricken planet, giving up his seat to evacuate Baltar, whom he recognizes for his celebrity status as a scientific genius.The Cylons locate the human civilian fleet, and Roslin is forced to make the decision to order all of the ships capable of faster-than-light (FTL) travel to “jump” immediately to escape. Unfortunately this means abandoning many of the survivors who are aboard ships without FTL technology, and as Roslin and the FTL ships jump away, the Cylons launch an attack on the remaining ships.
At the Ragnar Anchorage space station, Adama is attacked by a supposed arms dealer who claims to be simply bootlegging supplies, but who is clearly being affected by the radiation cloud surrounding Ragnar, which humans are immune to. Adama deduces that he is facing a new type of Cylon that looks, sounds, and acts human.
As the civilian fleet joins the Galactica at Ragnar, President Roslin appoints Dr. Baltar, who has not disclosed his suborning by the Cylons, as one of her scientific advisers to combat the Cylons. Number Six reveals herself to Baltar in hallucinatory form while attempting to direct his behavior. She suggests that she may have planted a microchip inside Baltar’s brain while he slept, allowing her to transmit her image into his conscious mind. Responding to one of her suggestions, he is compelled to identify Aaron Doral, a public relations specialist, as a Cylon agent masquerading as a human. Despite his protests and the lack of any evidence to support the accusation, Doral is left at Ragnar when the Galactica departs.
As the Cylons blockade Ragnar, the Galactica and its fleet of Vipers engage the Cylon fleet in order to allow the civilian fleet to escape by “jumping” to a distant, unexplored area outside of their star system. The Galactica and the colonial fleet make good their escape. Adama then attempts to lift the morale of the surviving humans by announcing plans to reach a legendary thirteenth colony called “Earth”, whose existence and location have been closely guarded military secrets. Roslin is skeptical and later confronts Adama and makes him admit that Earth is simply an ancient myth. Returning to his quarters, Adama finds an anonymous note has been left for him stating “There are only 12 Cylon models.” On Ragnar, Doral clearly appears to be suffering from radiation poisoning that has been shown to affect only Cylons. His identity as a Cylon is confirmed when a group of Cylons, including the metallic Cylon Centurions and several humanoid Cylons consisting of multiple copies of the Number Six, Doral, and Ragnar arms-dealer models, come to retrieve Doral. In a twist ending, one of the group appears to be Boomer, indicating that her counterpart on the Galactica is a Cylon as well.

For fans of the original series this will be an initially unwelcome show, it makes so many changes to so many aspects of the show that it will be hard to adjust at first. But give it a chance, watch this through and there’s good odds you’ll be sold. In conclusion, this is three hours of pure gold. It’s gripping, thrilling, compelling and just plain entertaining from start to finish. Once you finish watching it you’ll be heading strait to the first full season, and trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

REVIEW: STARGATE SG.1 – SEASON 4

Starring

Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver)
Michael Shanks (Smallville)
Amanda Tapping(Sanctuary)
Christopher Judge (The Dark Knight Rises)
Don S. Davis (Twin Peaks)

Amanda Tapping in Stargate SG-1 (1997)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Colin Cunningham (Elektra)
Gary Jones (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Teryl Rothery (Travelers)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: DS9)
Anne Marie DeLuise (Love Happens)
Kyle Cassie (Deadpool)
Laara Sadiq (Arrow)
Vanessa Angel (Kingpin)
Musetta Vander (Wild Wild West)
Peter Wingfield (Highlander: The Series)
Ron Halder (Antitrust)
Kirsten Robek (Cats & Dogs)
Andrew Jackson (Sea Wolf)
Robin Mossley (Elf)
Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: TNG)
Tom McBeath (Bates Motel)
Dion Johnstone (The Core)
Jason Schombing (Tin Man)
Steve Bacic (Andromeda)
Brian Markinson (Izombie)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Kim Hawthorne (Greenleaf)
Willie Garson (White Collar)
Matthew Bennett (Cold Squad)
Steven Williams (Jason Goes To Hell)
Peter Williams (Catwoman)
Anna-Louise Plowman (Black Sails)
Ben Bass (Bride of Chucky)
Lorena Gale (Traitor)
Douglas Arthurs (The Butterfly Effect)
Daniel Bacon (Brain of Fire)
Paul Koslo (Robot Jox)
Christopher Cousins (Breaking Bad)
Obi Ndefo (Dawsons Creek)
Lawrence Dane (Scanners)
Ronny Cox (Robocop)
Dion Luther (The Net: The Series)
Erick Avari (The Mummy)
Michelle Harrison (The Flash)
William deVry (Earth: Final Conflict)
Yee Jee Tso (Antitrust)
Elisabeth Rosen (Cult of Chucky)
Hrothgar Mathews (When Calls The HEart)
Bill Dow (Izombie)
Michael Kopsa (Dark Angel)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Belinda Waymouth (Meet The Spartans)
Ron Halder (Antitrust)
John DeSantis (Legends of Tomorrow)
Carmen Argenziano (House)

Stargate SG-1 (1997)The Replicators. The Russians. The Aschen. These are only a few of the new enemies presented this year, in Stargate: SG-1 (okay, so technically, the Replicators were introduced last year). These new baddies made a lot of trouble this year for the SGC in what is definitely the best season yet. We learn more about the Replicators this year when Sam (Amanda Tapping) is brought to an Asgard-controlled planet to help defend the O’Neill, the Asgard’s newest and most advanced ship ever. Also, the Russians retrieve the Giza gate from the bottom of the ocean from when Thor’s ship, the Beliskner, crashed, while the SGC is now using the Antarctica gate. And, 10 years in the future, an advanced race, known as the Aschen, are quietly wiping out the human race by making humans infertile.Richard Dean Anderson and Teryl Rothery in Stargate SG-1 (1997)These are just a handful of the amazing new stories that occurred this year. It seems that Col. O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson), Maj. Carter, Dr. Jackson (Michael Shanks), and Teal’c (Christopher Judge) can never catch a break. This year, not only have their alien enemies become more powerful than ever, especially Apophis (Peter Williams), their enemies on Earth have truly become a threat. Senator Kinsey (Ronny Cox), the man who tried to shut down the SGC in Season 1, has been linked to the rogue sector of the NID, the civillian organization responsible for the theft of numerous alien technologies over the last few years.Richard Dean Anderson, Vanessa Angel, Michael Shanks, and Amanda Tapping in Stargate SG-1 (1997)The stories this year are better than ever, especially with an increasing number of arcs occurring. Episodes like “Crossroads” and “The Serpent’s Venom” were expertly executed, and had immense emotional effects on our heroes. However, I have to praise the stand-alones this year, especially “Window of Opportunity” and “The Other Side”, which have never been better.Some other great episodes are: “Small Victories”, “Upgrades”, “Watergate”, “Point of No Return”, “Tangent”, “The Curse”, “Chain Reaction”, “2010”, “Absolute Power”, “Double Jeopardy”, and “Exodus”.