TV When the first proposal was muted for a new series of Doctor Who in the early nineties, it was going to be a remake not a continuation. The barebones were that The Doctor's dad, Borusa was going to be his companion and The Master was his brother turned evil and the mission was to stop him screwing up the timeline. When you have that horrifying synopsis it suddenly makes the eventual 1996 film not half bad. At least it was a continuation. With this knowledge I can see why fans of the original Battlestar Galactica could be up in arms at the changes. A female Starbuck? Cyclons created by humanity and which now look like us? Apollo's a callsign not an actual name?

I quite liked the series when I was very young, but not having seen the original in years, I could go to this new mini-series with fresh eyes and was absolutely amazed. It doesn't re-invent any wheels and fundamentally it's still quite derivative (the same plotline as everything from Ullyses 31 to Red Dwarf) as a piece of genre television it's extra-ordinarily involving.

Immediately striking is how bleak the piece is overall. Despite the idea, the original series was startlingly comical in places. Starbuck was largely the comic relief and I remember there being an android dog for no readily apparent reason. Here although there are moments of humour, they're a relief from the larger story going on around -- the destruction of humanity. Time and again characters have to make decisions for the greater good which lead to the deaths of others -- quite heartbreaking in places.

Some of the acting is also extra-ordinarily downbeat and naturalistic. Many science fiction series have been ruined because the performers have decided to go for larger than life characterisation because that's what the material deserves (Brian Blessed). Here, for a change, there is a believability to the way the material is performed. Mary McDonnell in particular comes at it with same seriousness she would to a John Sayles project -- the burden of responsibilty obviously frightens her to bits. But that can be said of everyone in a cast of largely unknowns. The only exception is when the cylons are about, but here the creator Ronald D Moore pulls off the clever slight of hand of making them a both visible and unknown enemy, the only potentially camp performance could have been from the most visible Cylon Tricia Helfer (number 6) who only really needed to vamp it up but turns out to be truly evil.

There are nods to the old series. The old design of the Cylons is repeated here as the one everyone remembers fighting in the war. The original theme tune becomes some form of comemorative anthem. I defy anyone to at least chuckle that the original design of Viper is being used in the series as the best defence because the computers aren't good enough to be effected by the Cylons big weapon (one of the main themes of the piece is how scientific development in some areas is not always a good thing). But it's that kind of show, using the bare bones of what went before to create a new series to capture new fans, and with a twist ending which just begs for a new series I think it will do just that.

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