Report Card: Battlestar Galactica miniseries

Read all of the Battlestar Galactica Miniseries in chronological order.

The miniseries represents the best that the reboot has to offer. Its story is contained, the characters fill their roles, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. The miniseries even ends on a solid cliffhanger: Will humanity survive?

Battlestar Galactica also picked a rarely chosen theme for its run. The well-used and anachronistic technology was in direct opposition to the Star Wars Prequels being released at the time. After getting my feet wet with my previous reviews, this was an entertaining choice because of its difficulty, detail, and setting.

I was constantly reminded during the review process that this miniseries represented—and this can’t be stated strongly enough—the end of human civilization.

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Sci: A (4 of 4) How believable are the interfaces?

While there are usability concerns for most of the interfaces, they all feel like they belong on the Galactica. The low tech of the buttons, controls, and screens all fit the world. The interfaces aboard the Galactica also feel quite military in their severity and practicality. The interfaces aboard the non-military ships feel quite civilian.

The characters accept their tech for the clunky anachronisms that it is, and you can often feel them yearning for the newer tech that is likely prevalent in the rest of the human fleet, even though it’s the low tech that spared them from the same fate as the rest of the colonies.

Full marks for the believability of the interfaces in the miniseries.

Fi: A (4 of 4) How well do the interfaces inform the narrative of the story?

Battlestar Galactica is two stories. The first is of the characters and their fight for survival. The second is of their technology: Both the sophisticated tech that has evolved beyond all ken and come back to kill them, and the creaking, older technology by which they survive that assault and the hazards of space.

The interfaces support and inform the narrative to a degree not seen in other properties. Without the Galactica, and her tech, Battlestar Galactica would have been a lesser show.

Interfaces: C (2 of 4)
How well do the interfaces equip the characters to achieve their goals?

Here the interfaces don’t fare as well. Captain Adama and his senior staff spend the entire miniseries interacting with other characters through the interface of the CIC.

These interfaces are blunt and simple, befitting their role of unhackable state machines, but often go too far in their simplicity. They force unnecessary effort onto users. They’re poorer models for us in the real world, even as low-tech, because it doesn’t concern itself with usability. Take caution when looking to this series to inform your own work.

Final Grade A- (10 of 12), Blockbuster.

Low tech doesn’t have to mean low usability.  We have access now to research and methods that can improve even the simplest of tools (see: SMART Design’s ergonomic needle).  The Galactica reminds us that, ultimately, people are the ones using our interfaces and who will struggle with them for years (or decades) after their introduction.

While the 4-season series might have its critics, the 2003 miniseries remains a classic of science fiction. Battlestar Galactica is a look into a used future that any of us might be forced into designing, because of a crisis.

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