There was a major blow in store for viewers at the end of “Battlestar Galactica”’s season-ending cliff-hanger earlier this year. And I’m not talking about the revelation of the final few Cylon spies. Or the suggestion that somehow Bob Dylan was behind the destruction of the human race. No, I’m talking about the information that we’d be waiting until January 2008 to see more new episodes.
Thankfully, producers have been easing us off our “Battlestar” withdrawal with a collection of “minisodes” and the promise of Battlestar Galactica: Razor, a spin-off movie designed to smooth the transition into the upcoming fourth season. Razor hits Sci-Fi this Thanksgiving weekend, and fans will be grateful to find no mere appetizer, but a full, rich, self-contained meal awaiting them.
Razor mostly charts the history of the Battlestar Pegasus, Galactica’s sister ship. Following the Cylon destruction of the colonies, gung ho Commander Cain (Michelle Forbes) leads her crew on a guerilla revenge mission against their inhuman attackers. The story splits its time between the Pegasus’ past and its more recent history when Lee “Apollo” Adama took over command of the ship in the wake of Cain’s tragic (if arguably justified) murder. There’s also a brief-but-crucial flashback, expanded upon in the minisodes, of a young Commander William Adama during the first Cylon wars.
Despite the fact that Razor consists largely of flashbacks, there are dozens of shocking moments. Without revealing too much, I will say that we get to see one of the reasons why the Cylon known as Number Six was so brutally tortured aboard the Pegasus. There’s also a jaw-dropping hint about the fourth season. And there’s that midpoint nod to old-school “Battlestar Galactica” fans that had me giggling like a 10-year-old nerd.
The main story eschews both Lee Adama and Commander Cain as leads in favor of a troubled (aren’t they all?) new character known as Lieutenant Kendra Shaw (the exotic Stephanie Chaves-Jacobsen). Through Shaw, we see the shift in command between hard-as-nails military leader Commander Cain and the more humane Adama. In both story arcs, however, Razor sticks with “Battlestar Galactica”’s thorny moral atmosphere.
The show has always functioned as a timely parable about America’s war on terror (and war in general). But Razor offers the most nuanced study of life during wartime. Razor centers around a singular, monumentally tragic event. Was this military action justified or a horrible abuse of power? Probably both, since the highly intelligent script spells out both sides of the argument with near equal merit.
Razor questions whether or not there is a greater good to be served during wartime, and just how much we might be willing to sacrifice in order to achieve that “good.” It’s a gripping argument, one that is only augmented by the show’s incredibly realistic sci-fi battle scenes and compelling cast. Thanks, Sci-Fi Channel. Now I really can’t wait until January.