Tag Archives: Mary McDonnell

When Worlds Collide: Battlestar Galactica Lands At The United Nations – And Some Finale Thoughts

[Don’t worry, there are no spoilers for the final episode of Battlestar Galactica in this post.]

The last-ever episode of Battlestar Galactica was broadcast in the US on Friday night. I couldn’t let this sad occasion – the end of what what has been one of the best-written, most intelligent and thought-provoking television dramas ever made –  pass unobserved. I’ll talk in more detail about it after the finale airs in the UK on Tuesday.

For now, I’ll only note that the last episode left me feeling very conflicted. In terms of wrapping up the characters’ individual stories, on the whole, I thought it did a reasonable job in giving us some sort of closure.

In terms of a convincing end to this amazing five-year journey, and satisfying answers to some of the questions raised by the show’s mythology – I’m not so sure.

Don’t get me wrong, as series finales go, it was one of the better ones. I’m just not sure that the destination quite lived up to the journey. But like I said, more about that later, after everyone in the UK has had a chance to see it for themselves.

For now, to commemorate the final episode, I really wanted to post Adama’s speech from the mini-series that kicked off the new Battlestar Galactica story, the “So say we all!” speech. But I couldn’t find it anywhere online – I think the Sci-Fi channel lawyers have been busy keeping clips of the show off the internet (incidentally, while copyright protection is obviously important for TV broadcasters, such a draconian approach is counter-productive, in my opinion, a subject I will expand upon at a later date). You can find a short clip of the scene in question here on the channel’s own website but, unfortunately, I can’t embed it here.

I wanted to post it not only because it is a great scene but because its impact crossed over into the real world a few days ago.

You may be aware that last week, series stars Edward James Olmos (right), who played Admiral William Adama, and Mary McDonnell, the show’s feisty President Laura Roslin, and creators/executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick were guests of honour at a special event hosted by the Economic and Social Council Chamber of the United Nations in New York.

It was a special two-hour retrospective of Battlestar Galactica, during which many of the contemporary social and political issues raised by the show were discussed. You can see a BBC news report of the event here.

Science fiction is often at its best when it is used as a prism through which the authors observe and comment on the human condition – and Battlestar Galactica took that to new heights, certainly in terms of TV sci-fi. It took a long, hard and at times painful look at what it means to be human, tackling such subjects as terrorism, torture, the relationship between politics and religion, the use of military might to enforce political will, human rights and much, much more.

Many of these subjects were explored during the UN session, the full two-hour video of which can be found here (it’s in RealPlayer format).

However, the session really came to life with the following speech by Admiral Ada-, I mean Edward James Olmos, when he reprised his “So say we all” Galactica speech to make an impassioned plea for an end to racial divisions. And, predictably, the equally passionate audience responded just as you might expect.

Say what you like about Battlestar Galactica– and the arguable populist and superficial opportunism the UN has been accused of for hosting this event just days before the final episode of the show aired – there are few TV shows through the years that have transcended their entertainment roots to earn such real-world relevance and legitimacy. Narrow the field to sci-fi TV shows and, I think, you are looking at a club with a single member.

Of course, although Battlestar Galactica is finished as a weekly show, the story isn’t quite over just yet. Later this year, we have one final hurrah in the shape of The Plan, a TV movie – directed by Olmos – that wraps up the story of the Cylons’ original plan that was mentioned in the opening credits of the early seasons of the show but then was mysteriously dropped.

And Caprica (above), a prequel set 50 years before Battlestar Galactica and dealing primarily with the creation of the Cylons, is due to begin early next year, with the pilot episode out on DVD next month. It promises to continue the trend of examining our own society through the Galactica universe, with Caprica depicted as a society very similar to our own, with technology, consumerism, greed and decadence running out of control.

The show sounds intruguing and I’m really looking forward to it – but will the Galactica audience be so attracted to a planet-bound show with no space battles or killer robots? Time will tell.


Filed under Current and recent TV shows

Hail To The Chief: The Top Five TV Presidents

In honour of Barack Obama’s inauguration today as the 44th President of the United States, the Choob thought a great way to honour and celebrate the occasion would be with a top 10 list of the best fictional TV presidents.

But then I realised that while commanders-in-chief are 10-a-penny on the big screen, they’re in short supply on TV.

So, then, bearing that in mind, here is my list.

The Five Most Memorable (And, If You Don’t Count All The Other Ones From 24 and Jimmy Smits In The West Wing, The Only) Fictional TV Presidents:

5. President Mackenzie Allen, as played by Geena Davis in Commander In Chief (2005-06).

Television’s first female US President, I believe (and the only one, until the start of 24’s seventh season last week).

President Allen was initially the Vice President and was unexpectedly thrust into the hotseat when her predecessor died in office.

Unfortunately, her spell in the Oval Office was rather short due to voter (audience) apathy and the show was cancelled after a single season.

4. President Charles Logan, as played by Gregory Itzin in 24 (2005-07).

When presidents go bad!

In day five of 24, one of the show’s best seasons to date, they did the unthinkable – halfway through the season they revealed that the villain (or at least one of them) was the President.

It was a clever twist, one of the show’s best, given how strong and honourable former President David Palmer had been in previous seasons.

In contrast, Logan was weak, easily manipulated and self-serving.

Itzin’s excellently slimy, sleazy performance made the character all the more memorable.

3. President Laura Roslin, as played by Mary McDonnell in Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009).

Okay, so technically not a President of the USA – in fact not even human, although the Galacticans are either descendants or ancestors of the human race (or both! The jury is still out on that one).

Roslin was the Education Secretary of the 12 Colonies and the only surviving government minister after the Cylon attack. Despite suffering from terminal cancer, she assumed the role of President and, fuelled by visions that led her to believe that she was the chosen one spoken of in prophecies from her religion, she came to believe it was her destiny to lead the few survivors of the 12 tribes in the search for Earth, where a mythical 13th tribe set up home thousands of years ago after leaving the 12 colonies.

Along the way, she veered perilously close to fascism and dictatorship in her single-minded pursuit of her goals but, guided by those around her, her own failings and vulnerabilities ultimately made her more sympathetic to and understanding of those who challenged her.

The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica is is much of a contemporary social drama as it is a sci-fi adventure. It has been brilliant at filtering issues and concepts affecting us, the viewers, through the sci-fi prism of the show. For example, the role of church versus state, the question of whether terrorism can ever be condoned, worker’s rights, the role of the military… all this and much more has been explored with an intelligence and thoughtfulness rarely seen on TV in general, never mind on a sci-fi Tv show.

And although occasionally a very frustrating character to watch, given her entrenched beliefs and single-minded pursuit of her goals, President Laura Roslin has been one of the high points in a show full of high points.

2. President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet, as played by Martin Sheen in The West Wing (1999-2006).

Surely the President we’d all like to see in the White House?

Yes, the Republicans might bristle at some of his wishy-washy, liberal ideals but the fact was that Bartlet never shied away from doing what was best for the country as a whole, even when it jarred with his own personal beliefs.

He’d often do what had to be done for the good of his nation, not is own agenda, and agonise later over what it meant for his own spiritual – and political – survival, not the other way round, a refreshing change from real-world presidents of recent years.

A very charismatic president – but also a very human one, as he battled multiple sclerosis to continue to serve the people as best he could. Whether you agreed with his political agenda, few would disagree that he set standards that any real-life president, of whatever political colour, would do well to emulate.

1. President David Palmer, as played by Dennis Haysbert in 24 (2001-06).

Haysbert has gone on the record as saying that he believes his portrayal of President Palmer helped pave the way for Obama’s election success.

And who’s to say there’s not an element of truth in the idea that a popular fictional character in an unfamiliar role can perhaps make people more open to the idea of such a thing happening in real life?

In any case, Palmer was one of 24’s great strengths and has been sadly missed since his offhand exit from the show at the start of season five.

He was strong, principled, moral and righteous – and yet, like, Bartlet, never shied away from the tough decisions that made him uncomfortable and conflicted with his own personal beliefs, if he thought they were for the good of the people.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Choob salutes you (except Logan, you swine). Obama has a lot to live up to.

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Filed under Classic TV, Stuff