For some reason, I'm late on the uptake on new SciFi series. There was a lot of buzz that surrounded this around the same time I was investigating Firefly. I decided to try Firefly first and was duly rewarded (Serenity arriving in theaters was the reason for that). The problem is that Joss Whedon's project was already canceled by the time I had discovered it. 13 episodes is all you get.
So, having gone through all of Firefly, I began seeing reviews for the series as "The best show on TV, period" (I'll try to track down those articles... ah, a Time Mag article). I decided to go download the first season of Battlestar Galactica and see what it had.
Battlestar Galactica was originally a series that aired in 1978. It looks like it only lasted a year, and it looks like something that wanted to compete with the original Star Trek (or Star Wars). There are supposedly many differences between the original and the new version, but those differences are all improvements.
BG started as a Universal/SciFi Channel mini-series production. The TV series starts where the mini-series left off and runs with it. I'm not going to try to explain the plot (for it is very complex), but that really is the beauty of it. The plot is complex, the characters are complex, and it deals with serious issues and that's the beauty. It is not Star Trek (or its many incarnations), although it is produced by a former Star Trek producer.
From the above Time article, here's a good summary of the plot:
Adapted from a cheesy '70s Star Wars clone of the same name, Galactica... is a ripping sci-fi allegory of the war on terror, complete with religious fundamentalists (here, genocidal robots called Cylons), sleeper cells, civil-liberties crackdowns and even a prisoner-torture scandal.
I've only watched the mini-series and the first few episodes, but I'm already hooked (ordered both seasons from Amazon). If you like science fiction at all, you'll love this. If you like it occasionally, at least check out the mini-series on a download. The acting is fantastic, and it features realistic space movement (i.e. when you thrust in a direction you continue in that direction... real physics. Sure there are science fiction inventions -- Faster Than Light drives, artificial gravity, etc. -- but nothing that flies in your face or sense of reality. The CG style (and some of the camera work) is actually inspired by Joss's Firefly -- zooms, handheld shots, etc.
All in all, highly worth checking out (and the bonus is that its already into Season 3 and still going strong)!