I first saw this last December when it first aired on the Sci-Fi network. As a fan of the old series I was glad to see it back in production, and interested in the changes, since this was clearly a complete remake, and not simply a continuation (meaning that I have no problem with a female Lt. Starbuck). For some reason it was a year before the miniseries was released on DVD - I saw it yesterday at Wal-Mart and picked it up and tried it out in the new home theter.
First of all, this is not your father's BG - it is dark, gritty, and has had the mythological elements of the original removed, i.e. everyone has a first and last name (for example Apollo is just Captain Lee Adama's call sign, not his name), and no one is wearing Egyptian helmets or acting like pyramids are normal. The Galactica is no longer the best of a dozen battlestars, it's the oldest of 120, and due to be turned into a museum when the show starts. They do still say "frack" a lot, but they do it well. The costume design is not as flashy or good) as the original (I may be a little biased here) but in every other respect, the series is significantly better than the original. I don't mean that as a slam against the original, which was made in a different time to different production values, but this show is good on many levels. It even has a tiny bit of the original's humor - in one scene Starbuck is informed that she can't launch through the nearest launch tube because it's a gift shop. Her response is priceless - she just stares at the crew chief and says "frack me" in disbelief. Have no idea what it means, but I can guess. Another great moment is where Baltar tells his Cylon mistress (long story) that he thinks a reporter is a Cylon too. She looks at him and says "he doesn't look familiar. And I don't remember seeing him at any of the Cylon parties."
The entire show is pretty dark and realistic, meaning that the space battles look more like NASA footage than your usual space operas. The spacecraft themselves are extremely well designed - as much as I like the original battlestar design, I think this one does just fine by comparison. The cinematography is of the skaky camera, sloppy zoom documentary style, which works very well for the space battles - you really think you're watching something that's actually happening. No points for grace here.
But the best part of the show and I can't believe I'm saying this) is the characters. Lt. Kara Thrace (call sign Starbuck) is just a hell of a character - she steals every scene she's in, not through charm but just with an outsized swagger - and that's not necessarily a good thing - she's got a tenper that keep getting her thrown in hack. So even the show's top hero has flaws. So does Colonel Tigh, who she accurately observes is weak and a drunk - but is at least now trying to overcome it. Lee Adama is an uptight prig who has issues years of counseling wouldn't fix - not the natural leader of the original series' Captain Apollo. President Roslin (Mary McDonnell in a well written and very well-played role) is a midlevel bureaucrat with breast cancer who can't get through the oath of office without her voice cracking, but who has surprising levels of strength (especially to her) and presiding over this whole bunch of dysfunctional characters is Commander William Adama. Played by Edward James Olmos, this guy is a battle-hardened veteran who probably helped cause one son's death trying to emulate him, and who has no problems lying to the whole fleet about knowing where the legendary "Earth" is just to give them something to hope for. He's the best and strongest of the characters - he knows and tries to deal with his shortcomings - but even he has weaknesses and issues, something Lorne Greene's Adama certainly didn't have. And you notice I haven't even mentioned the villains - the Cylons, who can take human form, and may have sleeper agents in the human fleet? Who need villains when your heroes are this screwed up?
When I saw the series the first time I was thinking how much fun it would be to watch these characters in a weekly series battling their inner demons (and the occasional Cylon) and fortunately I think the series starts next month. But anyway, whatever you thought of the original series, this one is worth watching. Forget the space battles - watch Starbuck try to stop shooting her mouth off, Roslin try to avoid breakdowns, Apollo try to loosen up, and Tigh try to stop drinking and make a decision. This is going to be fun.