Battlestar Galactica: Season 1
Composed by: Bear McCreary
Distributed by: La-La Land Records
Reviewed by Jon Minners
Change is good. While I was skeptical, that is all I have to say now after seeing season one of the new hit Sci Fi original series of Battlestar Galactica. And just the other night, after watching the first episode of season two, I say keep the changes coming, including those made to the soundtrack, which is by far one of the most entertaining television soundtracks I have ever listened to; almost movie quality.
Based on the 1978 hit series by the same name, the new Battlestar Galactica may keep some of the same names we have grown and love from the cult series, but not much else remains the same. Starbuck is a girl. So is Boomer. The Cylons look different and they can even pose as humans, with multiple copies that retain the memories of the original. Baltar is a much more complex villain in the making and Richard Hatch plays a political prisoner who causes a great deal of havoc with his thinking that threatens to get in the way of Captain Adama’s relationship with his son Apollo. There is even a power struggle between the Adama and President Larua Roslin, a complex storyline that would have never been fully developed in the original series.
And while the premise is the same with the Battlestar Galactica trying to locate a fabled 13th colony of humans, planet Earth, to join with their brethren against the Cylons, which have destroyed and taken over their world, the stories are much darker. The character development is much richer and the story arcs last entire seasons with one show significantly affecting the rest. It is hard to miss an episode without missing a piece of the puzzle, unlike the original series, which had self contained episodes, which viewers could have lived without if they chose to. The executive producer David Eick and writer Ronald Moore do a good job of depicting a show where the characters are still dealing with a mass genocide of their homeland, struggling with water and supplies and entering a dire circumstance where no one can be trusted and nothing will ever be the same. Moore wrote many of the shows for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which was the best series from the franchise, with the most rounded out character development and storyline of any of the other Star Trek attempts, so Battlestar Galactica seems to be in good hands.
When you have a dark series where you need to convey tragedy, intensity, complexity and urgency, Bear McCreary is a good choice to pick as your composer. McCreary is a classically trained composer with a degree in composition and recording arts from the prestigious USC Thornton School of Music. He has composed over 30 independent films, including director Jon Chu’s musical short, When the Kids are Away, and the Discovery Channel’s miniseries, The 5 Coolest Things. McCreary was among a handful of select composers to have studied independently with the late film music legend Elmer Bernstein, of the Magnificent Seven. He has learned his lessons well. His music makes Battlestar Galactica that much more enjoyable to watch each and every week.
“With its unique combination of intricate character arcs, dark ambiance and gritty battle sequences, Battlestar Galactica afforded me countless opportunities for musical exploration,” said the composer. “Fans will immediately recognize all their favorite musical moments from the first season, including the lush orchestral works featured in the two-part season finale. I am extremely proud of this collection and look forward to continuing this musical journey into the second season and beyond.”
He has reason to be proud. Right from the beginning, the very catchy and attractive prologue and main title themes just pump the listener up in a way that the main themes for V, Twilight Zone and Star Trek have done for television viewers and on a much larger scale, Star Wars or Halloween has done for audiences in movies. As soon as you hear the tracks, you can just feel the show; remember the action and the characters. These two tracks are tracks that should be downloaded for a ringer or used to welcome someone as they turn on their computer. Gone are the epic pomp and circumstance fanfare associated with the original series and in its place is a much darker, military sound that gets your adrenaline going as the excitement of a scene builds up to its ultimate crescendo. Songs like Starbuck Takes on All Eight, Starbuck on the Red Moon, Battle on the Asteroid and Bloodshed, a song which even contains vocals that add to the dramatic feel, really become memorable, almost contrasting the scene, but adding to it with some pulsating percussion that just brings out an incredible beat unlike any television series ever. This really sounds like it belongs in the movies.
The most unique part of the CD is that it is as eclectic as the cast members. Battlestar Galactica is about a rag-tag fleet with a diversity of people, making up many different ethnicities and so on, united under one cause, to find a way to a new home. The CD brings those differences out and unites them at the same time. Influences from Celtic, Indian, Middle Eastern and African music all come together to develop a rich sound all unto itself that is both entertaining and exciting to listen to. Even the types of music used show the eclectic nature of the show with the action packed military sound, classical music, opera and even muzak put together in a way that works, giving listeners some space between all the drama and action before bringing them back into the thick of it. The music perfectly reflects the dire circumstances ahead of them, but also highlights the hope each character must feel if they are going to make it out alive.
This is the greatest television soundtrack ever created. That can be said without hesitation. Most people listen to these soundtracks and then get rid of them. Battlestar Galactica is a frakin’ keeper.