Jumping back for its last batch of episodes, “Battlestar Galactica” continues its improbable ascent from a mediocre 1970s footnote to one of the more intriguing episodic hours of the 21st century. Brimming with paranoia, the series picks up seamlessly from last season’s jaw-dropping cliffhanger, where a handful of new Cylons-in-human’s-clothing were revealed. Crisp and tense, this Sci Fi Channel staple looks destined to make a headlong plunge toward the finish line in pursuit of that elusive place called Earth.
For those who haven’t been (or won’t admit to having been) waiting breathlessly since the last voyage, suffice it to say that things are a little unsettled with the Colonial Fleets since several crew members heard strange music and suddenly realized they were, in fact, Cylons. Meanwhile, Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) has returned from what appeared to be certain death, claiming she knows where Earth is, though Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) is perhaps to be forgiven for his skepticism as to whether she can be trusted.
Finally, the writers have dreamt up a strange new purgatory for the traitorous Baltar (James Callis), one with amusingly messianic overtones that Callis plays to the hilt.
All told, it’s a well-crafted tease of what’s to come, drawing suspense from the twisted nature-nurture conundrum of whether these Cylon sleepers can retain their allegiance to the fleet or if they will at some point snap, join the “toasters” and seek to bring about mankind’s doom.
Less a revival of Glen A. Larson’s original than a re-imagining, the series’ brilliance has stemmed from its thinly veiled parallels to the so-called war against terrorism — beginning with the Cold War era, body-snatchers-ish theme of Cylons among us. Throw in questions of morality versus security in time of war (after a devastating surprise attack, no less), the pitfalls of religious zealotry and, without sounding too pretentious about it, the very nature of humanity.
More than that, though, “Battlestar Galactica” has demonstrated that little accidents of birth — like a goofy title and airing on a niche-oriented cable channel — needn’t limit a TV program’s dramatic ambitions.
With its committed (bordering on should be committed) cult following, “Galactica” also helped chart TV’s advance into the realm of new media, from webisodes to downloadable toolkits to launching this episode early on Sci Fi’s website. Given all that, let’s hope the ending is worthy of what preceded it. The good news is that if the first hour is any indication, fans will be able to say, “Mission accomplished.”