Monday, January 19, 2009

Starbuck's Revenge

I haven't watched the new "Battlestar Galactica" series for a number of reasons.

I really liked the old one. Yes, it was cheesy and corny, low-budget and juvenille, and an attempt to cash in on the success of "Star Wars", but damn! It was a space opera! On TV! The second ever, if I'm not mistaken, following the first: "Star Trek". (No, I don't count "Lost in Space" or various cartoons and serials.)

The design was quite good: The Battlestar looked cool. The Empire's ships looked cool. The Cylons looked cool, at least at the design level. (I mean, yeah, they looked like guys in cheesy costumes, but the floating red eye was great, and the different robots for different tasks was evocative of an interesting hierarchy.

It broke from the sterile "Star Trek" mold, and referred to hookers as "solicitors". Come on! How can you not like that?

They may have been the ancestors of the Egyptians or the Toltecs or the Mayans! They were looking for Earth! OK, the screwed that up with Galactica 80, but at least it got one of my school pals a couple of weeks of work.

Right, we were talking about the new series which I've avoided even with Kelly bugging me about it. This article by Dirk Benedict, the original Starbuck (and star of the weresnake movie Sssssss), reminded me both that I'm not watching it, and some reasons why.

Probably the first reason is because the Cylons don't look like Cylons anymore. But...but...that was the coolest part of the original series! Not just that, but I find it ultra-super-extra-cheesy when shows do this "they're alien/robot/monsters that LOOK JUST LIKE US!" It's just a cheap tactic to reduce the budget. If I want intrigue between humans, I'll watch a soap opera.

Second, moral ambiguity. You know, I'm as morally ambiguous as the next guy, but one of the other great parts about the series is that you had these completely evil enemies. Long before the SatAM cartoon guys figured it out, BSG realized you could have endless carnage as long as you're killing robots. The humans were the underdogs but you could root for them without reservation--just 'cause they were humans fighting machines.

Really, the two big things the new BSG things are two things I don't really care for in my weekly space opera.

Benedict goes on to talk about the fact that BSG's strong characters are all female, while the men are wimps. I don't know if that's true, and I'm certainly not against strong female characters--the original BSG had Apollo's sister Athena as a fighter pilot, and even the solicitor was a strong female character, even if in a traditional female role--but isn't the tiny female superwarrior kind of hack at this point?

I don't buy Benedict's premise that this is just some cynical exploitation of a franchise. I'm sure the creators of the new series consider this an improvement, and I don't think people like it because of PR. Whether because a fundamental shift in viewpoint makes the new show more accessible, or maybe just because the "re-imagining" has the benefit of better production values all around and that compensates for other objectionable parts, people like the new show.

I'm just not among them. At least not yet.


  1. The first season was really fun. Each episode had its own story line within the larger search-for-earth concept. The crew was always up against the cylons or there was some other interesting conflict.

    The first half of season 2 was so bad we stopped watching. It became very soap-opera-like where it was all about the personal lives and relationships, with much less action. Worse, there was a lot of "ripped from the headlines" nonsense. Moral ambiguity is annoying enough on my sci-fi show. But when my sci-fi show starts making statements about torture, incarceration, terrorism, etc. I'm gone. It had some great characters and great potential but instead of just making a great fun show, they got too big for their britches and tried to be important. I mean, I assume that's what happened. Either way, it ruined the show.

  2. Sci-Fi is often referred to as "escapism" with disdain--as if it were easy to make truly escapist entertainment.

    I disagree: You have to sell the audience on a bigger fictitious problem than the real ones they have. That's not easy, even for 100 minutes.


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