Even though creator Ron Moore worked on multiple Star Trek series, sci-fi fans expecting the millennial re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica to have a similarly sunny outlook on the future didn't know what they were in for.
There's no Federation here; in fact, humans are alone, and after a genocidal attack by robots called Cylons, there aren't even that many of them left.
The expectations of the original series? Fans were subverted by a key casting change: the rogue pilot Starbuck, originally played by Dirk Benedict, would now be a woman (Katee Sackhoff), but she would lose none of her predecessor's bravado.
The smart casting also extended to the series leads: Oscar nominee Edward James Olmos stars as the military leader of the human fleet, while the acclaimed actress Mary McDonnell plays the civilian president.
As the human survivors try to battle the Cylons, who are led by the sexy Six (former model Tricia Helfer), they are also in search of Earth, which may or not be a myth.
Though the story of robots rebelling against their human creators has been told before, it rarely has as much grit, grime, and grace as it does with Battlestar Galactica.
Battlestar Galactica Original Series
In the deepest reaches of space, the fight to save all human life from extinction has begun in this science fiction adventure that launched the Battlestar Galactica phenomenon!
Hopeful for lasting peace following centuries of intense warfare, the Twelve Colonies gather to sign a treaty with their dreaded enemies, The Cylons.
But after an act of treachery on the eve of the ceremony, the Cylons launch a devastating surprise attack, destroying the Colonies' home planets and most of their military strength.
A lone flagship battlestar, the Galactica, remains to aid the surviving colonists on their epic journey for a new home to a far-off legendary planet -Earth.
They must survive the pursuing Cylons in a series of epic battles that will determine the fate of the human race in this non-stop action-packed classic filled with cutting-edge special effects by John Dykstra.
An Analytical Guide to Television's Battlestar Galactica
When the space drama Battlestar Galactica debuted on ABC in 1978, it was expected to be the most popular new program of the year. Instead, it was attacked as a Star Wars rip-off and canceled after a mere 17 stories.
The author acknowledges the show was full of dramatic clichs and scientific inaccuracies, but despite these shortcomings, Battlestar Galactica was a dramatically resonant series full of unique and individual characters, such as Commander Adama (Lorne Greene) and ace warrior Captain Apollo (Richard Hatch).
The author contends that Battlestar Galactica was a memorable attempt to make science fiction accessible to mainstream television audiences. The brilliant work of artist John Dykstra brought a new world of special effects to network television.
Battlestar Galactica also skillfully exploited legends and names from both the Bible and ancient mythology, which added a layer of depth and maturity.
Battlestar Galactica 2004 - Season 1, Episode 1: "33"
Having fled the besieged Ragnar Anchorage at the end of the miniseries, the convoy of refugee spaceships is relentlessly pursued and attacked by Cylon Basestars. The colonial fleet must execute a faster-than-light (FTL) jump every 33 minutes to escape the Cylons, who consistently arrive at the new jump coordinates approximately 33 minutes later.
After 130.35 hours and 237 jumps, the fleet's crew and passengers, particularly those aboard Galactica, have been operating without sleep while facing the strain of nearly constant military action.
Most of the episode focuses on the perils of the constant escape, but the daily business of life is touched upon: citizens trying to re-establish contact with loved ones, the spreading news that Cylons now resemble humans, and the deterioration of crews from stress and fatigue.
President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) has conducted a census of survivors and has the sum of 49,998 souls marked on her whiteboard aboard Colonial One.
Meanwhile, on Caprica, Lt. Karl Agathon (Tahmoh Penikett, call sign "Helo") fails to elude Cylon patrols and is captured and taken prisoner by a Number Six. Helo is "rescued" from his Cylon captors by a Number Eight in the guise of his crewmate Lt. Sharon "Boomer" Valerii.
Back at the fleet, the Olympic Carrier, a commercial passenger vessel with 1,345 souls aboard, goes missing during the 238th consecutive jump. With the ship assumed lost to the Cylons, the attacks unexpectedly cease, allowing the fleet some respite.
Three hours later however, the Olympic Carrier suddenly rejoins the fleet. Baltar, pushed by his internal Number Six, convinces President Roslin that the ship may have been infiltrated with Cylons and now poses a threat to the fleet's safety.
When the Cylon attacks resume 33 minutes after the Olympic Carrier's return, Galactica also detects active nuclear weapons aboard the passenger liner, which has begun to disregard orders from Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos). President Roslin and Commander Adama order Capt. Lee "Apollo" Adama (Jamie Bamber) and Lt. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) to destroy it.
After hesitating to fire on what is ostensibly a civilian ship, the colonial officers destroy the ship while the rest of the colonial fleet jumps away. Baltar's internal Number Six explains to him that God is looking after his interests, implying that a scientist on the Olympic Carrier, who had tried to contact Roslin, had knowledge of Baltar's unwitting collusion with the Cylon attack on the colonies.
After the fleet's last jump, the Cylons do not return, and the President's survivor whiteboard aboard Colonial One is updated with one additional soul (to 47,973) with the birth of the fleet's first child aboard the Rising Star—a boy.