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REVIEW: 'Battlestar's' final launch is a blastoff

The show: "Battlestar Galactica" season premiere

Where/when: Sci Fi, tonight at 10.

Why you should watch: As one of the treasures of the small screen enters

its fourth and final season (10 episodes this year, 10 next), we've got two

giant questions: Who will be revealed as the 12th and final Cylon "model" amid

the humans; and will the latter find Earth? These may not be quite on the level

of "Will Tony die?," but for hard-core Galactites, they're bigger. Plus, it

all makes for cocktail party chatter that is vastly superior to "Who will win

'Dancing With the Stars'?"

Four more reasons to watch: Seasoned pros Edward James Olmos (Adama) and

Mary McDonnell (President Roslin), and exciting young actors Katee Sackhoff

(Starbuck) and James Callis (Baltar).

What it's about: I know, I know - "BG" (through no real fault of its own)

has cultivated this forbidding cultish "members- only" image - but the show is

simple as pie. The 24-word wrap: Remnant humans are searching for Earth and

hoping the Cylons - the human android models and those clanky silver guys -

don't wipe them out first. Mostly, though, it's about the search for God and

life's meaning. That's it! Now you're a member. In the season three finale

(March 25, 2007), Capt. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace appeared to have been killed,

but miraculously was not, and - better yet! - claims to have seen Earth.

Meanwhile, Baltar was exonerated at the end of his trial. Also, four more

"human" Cylon models were revealed (to the audience, and themselves).

The bottom line: Episode title is "He That Believeth in Me," which is a

reasonable clue about what to expect; first-rate science fiction isn't just

about "science" or "fiction," but also an exploration of the soul (sorry - just

couldn't help myself), and particularly souls fraught with doubt, fear and

moral quandaries. Also, what makes a human "human," and is there something

innate in our humanness or is it something we can learn (or unlearn)?

Tonight's episode is superb, and barrels - relentlessly - toward the

answers. Plus, miss the first 10 minutes and 3 seconds and you will regret it

(don't say you weren't warned). There's an early scene with Lee Adama (Jamie

Bamber) that's worthy (and reminiscent) of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space

Odyssey."

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