If you've watched either series, skip this paragraph. If you've never seen the old or new series, here's the setup: the 12 colonies of man have been destroyed by Cylons, the cyborg/robots created to serve man but turned against him. A handful of survivors escape to space in anything that will fly, protected by the last Battlestar, Galactica. In hopes of starting over, Galactica is searching for the lost 13th colony, Earth. Like all good Sci-Fi the stories are about humans and how they react to the situation they are in. The current series deals with things barely touched on in the original series: grief, survival, racial discrimination, love, religion, etc.
(Speaking of religion, in the new series the Cylons are monotheists, and some are quite fanatical about it, while the humans are polytheists. For three seasons I've been wondering what the heck this means!)
The new series has some wonderful twists: some of the characters who were originally male are now female (Starbuck and Boomer, for instance), which makes for a better balance of male and female characters, and adds a whole new dimension to Starbuck's relationships with Apollo, Adama and Zak.
Another amazing twist is that Cylons can now appear to be human. There are 12 models of Cylons, at least 7 of which appear to be human -- and no one can tell at glance who is human and who is a Cylon. At least one major character on Galactica is a Cylon, so viewers are constantly asking themselves, "Oh my God, is that character a Cylon?". There are multiple copies of each human model, so killing a "skin job" doesn't result in death; the Cylon's consciousness and memories merely download into another identical body. Imagine the complications for the poor humans fighting them, and the discrimination against the few "skin jobs" who are sympathetic to the humans.
It's wonderfully complex and interesting, which is why I am so disappointed to hear that the producers recently announced that the next season will be the last. The writers/producers have an actual ending planned, and since the end of the series is not unexpected I'm sure it will be stunning. Since the new series has lasted 4 seasons (3 seasons longer than the original) and the writing has been outstanding since the beginning, I guess we really can't complain that they have announced the end.
How do I think it will end?
*** SPOILER ALERT *** I'm going to mention the Season 3 finale. If you haven't seen it yet, stop reading now!
Season 3 ended with Starbuck apparently returning from the dead, saying she'd been to Earth, and she would lead the fleet there. I'm sure she will. I'm also sure they will not arrive in 2007/8. It will either be in our distant past (and they will end up being our ancestors) or the far future (and they will end up re-populating Earth after the Cylons destroy us). What makes me think so? A couple of things.
First, the "history repeats itself" theme of the new series. We are told repeatedly that everything that is happening now has happened before and will happen again in the future. This is often mentioned in prophecies about Earth and Starbuck's "special destiny" (foretold by a seer in season 1 or 2 and a prominent storyline in season 3).
Second, the opening and closing monologues from the 1978 series:
[opening] There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. They may have been the architects of the great pyramids, or the lost civilizations of Lemuria or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive somewhere beyond the heavens...This afternoon I saw two episodes of the 1978 series on the Ion (Independent Television) channel. It confirmed two things: the current series is much better and my ideas about the end of the series.
[closing] Fleeing From The Cylon Tyranny the last Battlestar, Galactica, leads a rag tag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest for a shining blue planet known as Earth.
One of the 1978 episodes, "The Hand of God," was about Galactica nearly finding Earth. They picked up a transmission from unknown source, possibly hundreds of years old but clearly from a NASA lunar mission. Of course it appeared to come from the Cylon basestar that suddenly appeared from behind a planet and this led to a spectacular battle in which the basestar was destroyed, thanks to Apollo and Starbuck using intelligence from Baltar. At the end of the episode Apollo and Starbuck just miss another transmission from Earth: "The Eagle has landed."
See how it supports my theory? The message from Earth may be hundreds of years old, the Cylons got there first, etc. I'm sure the current writers will make it edge-of-your-seat tense and unforgettable, with unexpected twists, but I still don't want it to end. Thank God for DVDs!