Sunday, July 10, 2005

Battlestar Galactica

I admit it. I'm an SF geek. You've probably figured it out by my fairly frequently references to The Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who (both the classic series from 1963-1989 and the new version that started airing this year), Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5, and, of course, Blakes 7, a major character from which inspired my 'nym. (It also pains me to no end that there has been no Region 1 DVD release of Blakes 7, leaving me the choice of keeping the poor quality tapes I made 10-15 years ago when the show aired in Cleveland at 6 AM on Saturdays or buying a region-free DVD player and paying through the nose to have the DVDs sent from the U.K. I love the show, but I don't think I love it enough to go that far, although, come to think of it, a region-free player would be a nice thing to have regardless. Come on BBC America, release Blakes 7 in the U.S.!)

But I digress.

One show I hadn't much gotten into until recently is the retooled resurrection of Battlestar Galactica. I had caught it occasionally, but, because it was on Friday nights at 10 PM and because I'm frequently exhausted on Friday nights, I often fell asleep on the couch either before it came on or sometime shortly after it came on. It looked intriguing (from seeing the first 20 minutes of episodes). Well, this weekend, I lost my Battlestar Galactica virginity, so to speak. (Also, because my wife has been away visiting her parents for the last week, I was re-learning how pathetically bored and lonely I would be without her.) Besides NBC's showing the last three episodes of season one last night, I stumbled on the fact that a newly-added channel to our cable package, Universal HD (which offers HD programming from NBC and Universal Studios) is running a Battlestar Galactica marathon all weekend, all in glorious 1080i HD-TV. (Once you go HD, you don't want to come back, not to mention that UHD shows almost no commercials during the show. Of course, one disadvantage of HD is that you can see every crevice and pockmark in Edward James Olmos's face, but I'll put up with that gladly.) In fact, now that I know the show is shown in HD on this channel Sunday nights at 8 PM, I may skip the SciFi Channel's airing of it altogether.

Nahh, probably not. The series is too addictive, and, if I'm home on Fridays (and conscious at 10 PM), it'll be hard for me to resist checking it out. Waiting until Sunday will probably not be an option.

In any case, it's become clear to me as I've filled in most of the gaps in my viewing and finally watched the season finale that Battlestar Galactica is, quite simply, the best SF show presently on television. Nothing currently on the air (or even on the air in the last couple of years) that I'm aware of comes even comes close, with the possible exception of the new version of Doctor Who, and that show is only available to those living within broadcast range of the Canadian border. I was a fan of the original series. However, it should be noted that I was a teenager back then. I realize now that the series was pretty cheesy, although, having seen a couple of episodes recently, I still like it mainly for its campy fun.

The new Galactica is much darker and much richer than the original. Perhaps the biggest (and most effective) change from the past is that the Cylons are now capable of masquerading as humans and infiltrating the battlegroup. Their ability is so effective that it takes sophisticated tests to distinguish Cylon from human. Indeed, major character, Boomer, is revealed to be a Cylon infiltrator, even though she won't acknowledge it at first and, when finally forced to, tries to deny that she will in the end do what the Cylons require (which she does, but I won't tell you what it was). Also, in this version, Commander Adama believes that earth is a myth, but claims that he knows where it is to keep hope alive, and the civilian President, slowly dying of terminal breast cancer, is having religious visions that tell her she is the fulfillment of prophecy as the "dying leader" who will lead the people to the "promised land," bringing her into direct conflict with Adama. Another interesting change is that, while the humans practice a polytheistic religion, the Cylons actually appear to believe in a monotheistic religion that tells them they must destroy their creators, the humans. Finally, the production values on the series are top-notch, with a retro-tech, dingy feel.

The season finale was quite satisfying, with a number of major cliffhangers, not the least of which is the question of whether Adama will survive the wounds he suffered in an assassination attempt by an imbedded Cylon. I can't wait for the premiere of the second season this Friday to see how these all play out. I admit it; I'm now hooked.

Maybe next week, by which time I will hopefully have had the chance to watch the last three episodes of the new Doctor Who that my mother sent me, completing the season, I'll do a rundown on the new version and why it's as good as anything during the John Pertwee, Tom Baker, or Peter Davison eras of the old series. In the meantime, more of the usual skepticism, alt-med, creationism, etc...

16 example(s) of insolence returned:


At 7/10/2005 2:08 PM, Anonymous Paul said...

This is the kind of stuff that creeps me out. Only this morning I posted a blog entry about Battlestar Galactica, and I come here and find one from you. I suspect I'll come across two or three more within the next 48 hours. Things seem to happen that way. And we wonder why people are so easily swayed by the 'dark side.'

Of course, my entry was about the original movie, and TV series, and how bad it was. I, too, love the new series. It is something rare in science fiction television: a story that is about the people in it more than the technology they use.

 

At 7/10/2005 2:19 PM, Blogger Orac said...

I don't think it's anything creepy. The season premiere is coming up this Friday, and a lot of bloggers tend to post less serious stuff on weekends (as I do). It's not at all surprising that a lot of bloggers would be talking about the upcoming season premiere, particularly given that NBC showed the last three episodes of last season on Saturday.

You're right about the new series. It's character- and story-driven, with believable compelling characters and stories. That's why it's so good.

 

At 7/10/2005 2:27 PM, Blogger Tim said...

I on the other hand have avoided the show. Reading about the changes it just seemed to me they pretty much genericised the show, and threw out the bits, however cheesy they were, that made the original interesting.

 

At 7/10/2005 2:31 PM, Blogger Orac said...

I sort of thought that way too (which is probably why I didn't get turned on to the show until this late time), but such thinking was a mistake. This show is anything but generic and improved it in many ways. It should be evaluated on its own merits. I encourage you to check it out.

 

At 7/10/2005 2:54 PM, Anonymous Lynn said...

I thought the BBC had promised to make Doctor Who available somehow in the U.S. and I was wondering why I couldn't find information on any cable channel here playing it.

I'm sure the BBC will make DVDs for it though...at least I would think.

 

At 7/10/2005 5:59 PM, Blogger Tim said...

As I understand it the BBC wanted the new Who on a major network, but that the US majors weren't interested. Its certainly done very well here in Canada on the CBC, which has already comitted to showing the second season of episodes next year.

 

At 7/10/2005 7:45 PM, Blogger fdfs said...

I just surfed here from Greg's blog Delenda Est Carthago and I'm glad. It's great to see a rational, articulate mind at work covering a variety of subjects (your sidebar of salient posts is a good idea). I'm adding you to my bookmarks.

 

At 7/10/2005 8:12 PM, Anonymous Martin Wagner said...

I suppose I'll have to rent the DVDs of the new Galactica, though I still admit to being cautious about it. After all, everyone I knew raved to the skies about Firefly, which I found so-so. Still, hope springs eternal for good TV SF, so I'll add Galactica to my Netflix queue next time I update it. I personally have always been more of a literary SF fan (as my site [link above] might indicate).

 

At 7/10/2005 9:10 PM, Anonymous Lynn said...

I really don't get why Sci-Fi didn't pick it (Who) up. They're supposed to be the porthole (wormhole?) to Geekdom of cable, I thought.

A few years back on a trip to England I got the Tom Baker autobiography. He had been a monk and was married to Lalla Ward (the second Romana) for awhile.

 

At 7/10/2005 11:03 PM, Anonymous Martin Wagner said...

It's possible the BBC wants to hold on to Doctor Who's rights and broadcast it on BBC America.

 

At 7/11/2005 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, what about the early "Red Dwarf"?

 

At 7/11/2005 1:26 PM, Anonymous Martin Wagner said...

What about it?

 

At 7/11/2005 2:28 PM, Blogger Brent McKee said...

I know for certain that Battlestar Galactica has at least one vote in the Emmy nominations for best drama. It won't win - probably won't even be a nominee - but is certainly deserving. The producers have changed a typical Universal product of the late '70s, a space opera with a heavy reliance on stock footage from the pilot/movie, into a highly tension filled character based drama. Well worth the effort to see.

Not sure when we'll see an R1 DVD release of the current Doctor Who. I would expect that the BBC would like to see a first run on some US network, even if it is BBC America, before putting it out on DVD.

 

At 7/11/2005 7:20 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

I really, Really liked the early episodes of the new Battlestar. The cool drum music and silent explosions during the battle scenes really impressed me, as well as the very dark storyline. I haven't seen the original so I can't compare. Anyway, I was quite turned off by the last couple of eps in the first season. I can't remeber too many specifics of my displeasure (I watched it when it originally aired on Sky in the UK) but I know I got the strong impression that there was a new director and that their use of music and dreamy sequences was more like a bad rip-off of LoTR than the great early episodes of Battlestar. Also, I am really displeased when decent SF starts using the tired old plot device of prophecy and destiny- this stuff should be used lightly or not at all. It was nicely subtle in earlier episodes, but in teh season finale it was laid on thick.
Still, I'm looking forward to the new season, and I hope reason will reign and the fantasy stuff will take a backseat to the grittiness I loved in the begining.

 

At 7/12/2005 10:38 AM, Anonymous James said...

as I understand it BBC America took back the right to Dr Who years ago when they started up with the promise that they would play it. I know my local PBS station lost the broadcast rights to BBC America.

But then BBCA never actually broadcast any of them.

Dr Who doesn't need a major network, it just needs to be broadcast where someone whos interested can tune in.

Oh, and I always wondered if you were the same Orac as in Blakes 7 :) Watched that religiously when it was broadcast while I was in high school in the 80's.

Ad far as HDTV, I figure the longer I wait to actually buy a new TV the more money I can spend when I DO! So sometime next year I think a lot of money around here is going into a new TV... (I apply the same logic to my cellphone which is about 6 years old now, I've been waiting for a decent multi-purpose device that whole time and still dont see anything I just have to have to replace it with)

 

At 7/13/2005 2:55 AM, Anonymous Paul 2 said...

Gads. Awake at 10pm? Haven't you been TiVoed yet?

 

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Links to this insolence:

Create a Link

<< Home