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Great Space Coasters

''Battlestar Galactica'': Inside TV's next great cult hit. If you're already into this sci-fi series, you know it rivals ''Lost'' and ''24'' among TV's best. If you're not, catch up with our preview of the new season

'BATTLE' STARS (From left) Olmos, McDonnell, Callis, Sackhoff, Helfer, Park, and Bamber, ready for season 3's liftoff
Image credit: Battlestar Gallactica Cast Photographed by James Dimmock
'BATTLE' STARS (From left) Olmos, McDonnell, Callis, Sackhoff, Helfer, Park, and Bamber, ready for season 3's liftoff

In English, the word ''frak'' means...absolutely nothing. But in the not-so-faraway fantasyverse of Battlestar Galactica — Sci Fi Channel's critically exalted reboot of the 1978–79 TV series about space-faring humans fleeing genocidal robots known as Cylons — ''frak'' is similar to a certain FCC-unfriendly epithet that also begins with f and ends with k. Judging from a recent visit to the show's Vancouver set, the multipurpose word will be heard frequently when Galactica returns for its third season on Oct. 6 at 9 p.m. It will be used to express angst when married military man Lee ''Apollo'' Adama (Jamie Bamber) finds himself yearning for married fighter pilot Kara ''Starbuck'' Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) and mutters ''Frak me.'' It will be used to express awe once chief mechanic Gaelin Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) discovers a secret saloon inside the titular battleship and marvels, ''Holy frak!'' And it will be used to express rage after a high-ranking officer (nope, we ain't tellin') drives a pen into the neck of tortured traitor Gaius Baltar (James Callis) and screams ''MOTHERFRAKKER!''

Yep: There sure is a lot of frakkin' human drama on this sci-fi show. Sometimes there's more of it than there is actual science fiction — and that's exactly how they like it in Galactica's little corner of the cosmos. To be certain, the show has its fair share of far-out bits, like visually stunning F/X, trippy concepts (a half-Cylon/half-human baby whose blood has cancer-curing powers), and, of course, Number Six (Tricia Helfer), an immortal platinum blond Cylon partial to wearing crimson red dresses and high heels. But more than that, the show has distinguished itself as one of television's very best dramas — on a par with 24, The Wire, and Lost — because it so utterly transcends both its genre and its source material.

The original ABC series was a one-season wonder of Star Wars-era escapism that over time has attracted a nostalgic, multigenerational cult following. But this gritty new version has taken the same bleak conceit of its predecessor — the unceremonious obliteration of humanity on the peaceful planet of Caprica by cybernetic invaders — and rewired it with prickly, challenging post-9/11 relevance. No longer are the Cylons chrome-plated toasters with oscillating LED eyes — they've evolved into flesh and blood, which allows them to hide in plain sight, like, say, as a muckraking journalist (D'Anna, played by Lucy Lawless). Moreover, they're now motivated by their radical belief in one God to wipe out their creators from existence. Fortunately, the Capricans are as resilient as cockroaches.

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