Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Battlestar Wars

Some years back I had some particularly interesting conversations with fans of the original Battlestar Galactica. This was first before The SciFi Channel broadcast the initial miniseries, and then after, by which time I thought they would have calmed done some.

Instead they were even more incensed.

This had me confused. Hadn’t the miniseries stuck close to the three-part opener from 1978? You know; Robot Cylons launch a surprise attack on the human home worlds. Everyone gets the hell out and heads for Earth.

I even thought it had improved on the original by having a more logical through line and ditching the cheese. For instance, this time around the Galactica heads for a weapons depot to stock up and get back in the fight, instead of going to a disco. That’s got to be worth something?

They weren’t having it.

But it ditched the hokey Chariots of the Gods thread, the bizarre selection of names simply became pilot call-signs, and, best of all, the robot dog made out of tin cans and pom-poms went in the crapper. In their place was an enemy who could actually shoot straight, properly presented three-dimensional characters, and, a clear delineation between civilians, military, government and religion, which created its own tensions between the survivors. Surely that counted for something?

Nope, they still weren’t buying it.

Here was a science fiction drama, of which they were obviously fans, that treated the universe that had been created in an adult way. This was grown-up drama that happened to be science fiction. As grown-ups themselves, wasn’t this what they wanted?

Obviously not.

To me, story is always paramount. It became apparent that for these guys the accoutrements took priority. They didn’t like the new uniforms. Too dull. They didn’t like the fact that the characters were not only flawed but had normal names. They weren’t heroic enough. They didn’t like that units of distance and time weren’t called... well, whatever they were originally called. Yahrens? Whatever.

Science fiction to them was all about the tinsel and the glitter that came with it. They wanted the cutesy robots and flashing lights and stupid names and all the rest of the dreadful shit that gets slathered on. All the loopy, juvenile, cretinous, nonsensical shit that got trashed out of the new show to make it stand on its own two feet as drama was what they loved.

Eventually I beat a hasty retreat clutching the preview tape of 33 to my chest.

The first four episodes of Battlestar Galactica’s third season had been transferred to my external drive just before the weekend. But because of the party and the work leading up to it, and generally everything else going on since, I had been very good and abstained.

With Work Buddy down in London today photographing a presentation at the Houses of Parliament, I had the studio to myself. At which point I was very bad. But they were really great.


At 2:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One series you can genuinly say is an improvement on the original. Hurrah for BSG; we love it!

At 3:17 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

The third series is just phenomenal. Not just the writing but the acting and directing. There’s a line from Colonel Tigh at the end of the fourth episode, and Michael Hogan’s delivery is just utterly heart-breaking.

I just can’t understand people who object to it over the original on the grounds that it doesn’t have bright laser blasts and all the dressing of a ‘science fiction’ show: space cutlery and drinks the colour of radioactive badger piss and lights that flash for no reason at all other than it looks "science-fictiony". If that's their priority, they might just as well climb back into the cot and gurgle along to the bright and shiny mobile floating above their heads.

If they brought back the show and made it just like the original was, back in the late 1970s, it would look laughable. As it is, BSG can proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with the best HBO and the like has to offer.

At 9:41 pm, Blogger Brendan said...

Agree with your asessment of what makes the series great. But what is just as true is the incredible quality of the science fiction eye candy when it DOES take place - for example the 'Adama Manuever' in Exodus Part II. It's impossible to go back afterwards and watch shows like Stargate Atlantis or the average 'Escape From CGI Island' fare that gets offered on SciFi Channel. BSG has set the bar high: If you're going to deliver nothing but top-shelf, grown-up drama please make sure and bring the top of the line adult SFX too.

At 10:23 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Oh, I think the FX work on the new show certainly raises the bar, and then some. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe it. Especially since they have it complement the story. Too many other shows splash out on glitzy FX completely to cover the deficiencies in their stories. But they still can’t better BSG.

In Exodus Part II, the Galactica literally dropping into the atmosphere was utterly inspired. I watched the episode again, listening to the Ron Moore podcast this time.

He calls it “visual effects a-go-go,” then adds “we better win the fucking Emmy this year, I swear to God.”

He also mentioned that the fate of the Pegasus was a little bit out of style, by not keeping to the usual documentary style of the show, but it brought the drama and satisfaction that it rightly deserved.

That said, the key scene for me in the whole sequence was Lee Adama saying “Thank you,” just before he leaves the bridge. That is definitely up there with Tigh’s “Not all of them.”


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