When Battlestar Galactica first arrived on our TV screens, it was a surprise. It took a really bad old show that for some reason we all fondly remembered from our childhoods and turned it into a really good show that took military authenticity and married it with misery, dystopia and authentic human relationships.
But as time went on, the clean, uncluttered hardness of BSG got a little dulled both by the weight of its own mythology and the occasional lapse into dramatic cliché. That's not to say it was bad - it was still one of the best shows on TV. It was just up its own arse a little bit.
Razor, an almost direct-to-DVD movie that aired on the SciFi channel over the weekend, is a distillation of the good and the bad of BSG. On the one hand, it's tense, well acted, gritty and has fantastic effects. On the other, it's more than a little bit pretentious, suffers from a few hackneyed plot strands and has yet more heavyweight mythology bundled on top.
The movie takes place in more than a few time zones. The main plot takes place on the Pegasus under Lee Adama's command, but there are flashbacks to times under Admiral Cain (Michelle Forbes)'s command and even back to the original colonial war.
Razor's aim is to show how the Pegasus became the somewhat scary vessel it became under Cain and the emotional tolls that it took on the people involved. It does this pretty well, showing how the humanity of the crew was slowly chipped away by events, although there are times when you wish the writerly metaphors and dialogue could disappear as quickly as the colonies.
If that had been the extent of Razor, that would have been good enough for a movie by itself, although somewhat a bleak one. So we also get the modern day story that ties into the colonial war, with a group of old school Cylons - complete with lovingly recreated raiders and centurions from the original series - guarding one of the missing links between the mechanical and human Cylons.
While this is where most of the outstanding pyrotechnics come in, it's also a source of somewhat derivative moments that we've seen before - the bomb that can only be triggered manually, the ruthless officer who kills one of her own to save him from a worse fate and so on. It also means a great big dollop of tiresome mythology that foreshadows events still to come in the fourth season.
The main BSG cast do as good a job as always, although only Lee and Starbuck's get a real look-in. For the most part, it's Cain's show as well her XO's, who's the central figure for this tale of corrosion of morality by war.
It's a movie you have to pay attention to and occasional stifle an eye-roll, but it's never dull and bears repeat viewing, I suspect.
Here's a YouTube vid.