While watching the lengthy spaceship dogfight that began the season 4 premiere of Battlestar Galactica, I realized one big reason I like this series: It rarely has lengthy spaceship dogfights. All that special-effects zapping as the heroes maneuver amid a hail of um, what, exactly? Laser rays? Glowing bullets? intercut with shots of our heroes encased in a TV studio somewhere, grimacing heroically while pretending to avoid being blasted by a Cylon attack? Boy, is that ever boring. I mean, it's like science fiction or something.
No, I watch Battlestar for three basic reasons: the marvelously pseudo-deep moral/philosophical/religious quandaries; the off chance that Edward James Olmos' Admiral Adama will change his stony-faced expression; and watching James Callis' Gaius Baltar fail to suppress his perpetual state of horny self-absorption.
So far, Battlestar now, alas, in its final season has paid off on two out of three. (Come on, Olmos, you have a grim grin in you somewhere!) Baltar has certainly come through for me. Here's a craven, ambitious, disgraced, yet irresistible horndog who manages to retain the interest of both the slinky-red-dress version of Cylon Number Six (Tricia Helfer) and a groupie eager to be groped by Baltar even while imploring him to save the life of a dying child. A British accent drives the girls wild no matter what galaxy you're in.
As for Battlestar morality, four regular characters (Michael Hogan's Tigh, Rekha Sharma's Tory, Michael Trucco's Anders, and Aaron Douglas' Tyrol) discovered last season that they're really Cylons, and possibly sleepers with one more to be revealed, thus completing the much-bruited ''final five.'' Now they're grappling with what it means to be the enemy they'd been fighting. It's as if you woke up and discovered you'd inherited the Spencer Pratt gene.
I daresay I'm in the minority on this, but I could do with less Starbuck; Katee Sackhoff's permanent air of disgruntled self-righteousness grows dreary. And I hope that the new season boosts Battlestar's best subplot: the gloriously loony mythology that predicts the path to Earth via the Arrow of Apollo, the Eye of Jupiter, the Tomb of Athena, and I think I saw this in some homemade webisode the Temple of Aretha Franklin. Battlestar is never more enjoyable than when Mary McDonnell's President Laura Roslin is spouting this stuff to a dubious but smitten Adama.
The series' brilliant conceit is that enemies are often sane and rational, and many good guys and gals are obsessed, flawed, and ruthless. Forget sci-fi: That's the world we've always lived in, made futuristic and shiny. With laser beams. A-