"The interior of the Battlestar Galactica is a warren of shadowy, angular hallways and spare functional chambers split over two sound stages situated on the semi-industrial fringe of Vancouver, British Columbia. The Galactica is a spaceship, but it does not feel particularly space-age. The communication panels on the walls were scavenged from a Canadian destroyer; the desk lamps are from Ikea. If you have seen ''Battlestar Galactica,'' which began its second season on the Sci Fi Channel on Friday, you will know that this Galactica only vaguely resembles the ship that previously bore that name, when ''Battlestar Galactica'' first flew on prime time in 1978, square in the shadow of ''Star Wars.'' And it certainly does not resemble the Enterprise, the ''Star Trek'' vehicle that has defined the visual and thematic vocabulary of television science fiction for four decades. On the Galactica, there is no captain's chair; there are no windows full of stars. The command center is busy and dark, protected deep within the ship the way it would be on an actual military vessel. As the actors move from room to room, hand-held cameras swoop behind them, closing in on them claustrophobically. The characters do not travel heroically from planet to planet, solving the problems of aliens. There are, in fact, no aliens at all.
To be fair, though, there are androids. As in the original show, the humans of the Galactica and its fleet are relentlessly pursued by evil robots called Cylons. But in the current version, conceived by Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, most of the evil Cylons look like people and have found God. Ruthlessly principled and deeply religious, the Cylons have been compared by fans and critics both to Al Qaeda and to the evangelical right. And the humans they are relentlessly pursuing are fallible and complex. Their shirts are not clingy or color-coded; the men of space wear neckties. They are led by Edward James Olmos as the Galactica's commander and Mary McDonnell as the president of the humans, and their stories revolve as much around the tensions within -- between the military and civil leadership of the fleet -- as they do around the Cylon threat. As Eick described the show to me last month with evident, subversive pleasure, ''The bad guys are all beautiful and believe in God, and the good guys all [expletive] each other over.'' Moore, who is also the show's head writer, put it more simply: ''They are us.'' - John Hodgman