Saturday, August 29, 2009

BSG: Season 1 review

The first season of BSG was a definite improvement over the miniseries. Where the miniseries felt like change for the sake of change, the first season took some of those aspects and gave them proper life. Many of the things I complained about were toned down (the frantic zooming, and especially the lighting in the exterior shots). Other elements I'm still not happy with, but they aren't as bad. Developments like the organic components to the Cylons are enhancements, and things I really wanted to see from this show. At times though, I'm not sure they know how to write those elements. What about the Cylons is machine?

Boxey was introduced in the miniseries, but seems to have been a short-lived character. He briefly appeared alongside Kara (inexplicably) for one episode ("Act of Contrition"?), before dropping out entirely. While this is not necessarily a great loss, it troubles me. The one good thing about having a Boxey on the show was to allow generational relationships and few events from a different perspective. But just as Lost had to find a way to write around Walt, BSG found there wasn't really a place for Boxey. I just wish we were told what became of him. I hate when TV characters just disappear; like how both Family Matters and Step By Step lost kids and acted like they never existed. Boxey was supposed to form a kind of family bond with Boomer, but because she was involved in all that Cylon activity it seemed wrong. This is yet another reason that I feel they played the Cylon card too early. It's evident that they hit that note rather heavily early on, then it pretty much drops away for the rest of the season until the finale.

I don't really like the Caprica storyline at all. To me, it feels irrelevant and just an excuse to keep Helo on the show. I don't see how that stuff could go on for over a month with very little to show for it. I don't understand the Cylons' motivation. And since Boomer is a lead character, and we find out she's a Cylon, I've been pondering if that was a good idea. As I think about it, I've wondered if it wouldn't have been better to make Helo the Cylon and play it in reverse. What I mean is, Have Karl be "Boomer" and have Sharon be "Helo". She can still be the Cylon, but that way we don't drastically change who the original Boomer was. Doesn't Grace Park kind of look like a Helo anyway? Oh well. 

I'm glad that some of the socio-polital aspects have been better fleshed out. I am bothered though that we see little of any other ship in the fleet (I know this is due to budgetary concerns) or of civilians. In the original, we went over to the Rising Star a considerable amount. Civilians were a part of the show. Not that we need a Cassiopeia, but the series as it stands leans a bit too military/political. What about everyday people? That's an area Boxey could have helped. They talk about what civilians are doing, but we don't see it like we did on the old show. And how many ships are in this fleet? It doesn't look like 200 or so, so how many are there? Regardless, there are several thousand average joes and we barely see them. And so many of them are turning out to be Cylons!

Baltar is a good character, though still not a villain. Does this show have a villain? I suppose maybe Number Six, assuming she's not a manifestation of Baltar's unconscious. I hope they explain just what she is. She is definitely there in some capacity. She can cause Gaius physical pain. I've been wondering if maybe when the planet was nuked, her body died, and so she, unable to jump back to a new Cylon body, placed her consciousness inside Baltar. I don't want to see that dragged on forever until it gets silly.

Let's talk about the use (or overuse) of "frak" on the show. Firstly, I don't like the new spelling. Yes, I know people want to associate it with another four-letter word starting with F and ending with K. This is why it was made a four-letter word. But I think phonetically it really needs the "ck" at the end. When have you ever seen a word that ended in just an "ak". Besides maybe words like "kayak" which is of foreign origin. I think we spell it that way because it's a palindrome and looks cool. But black, snack, crack, jack, pack, track, flack, all these are "ck" words. And I'm no Henry Higgins, but I believe it's spelled that way because when you say it, you very subtly make two "ka" noises; one way in the back of your throat, and one a little further up. Contrary to what we teach children these days, there is a reason for all those letters being in our spelling, and I just think "frack" is more correct. Besides, how do you pluralize "frak"? People have been doubling the K which I guess is right, but with the original spelling you didn't need to. Anyway, I've rambled some. I do think that they go out of their way to make it an analog to the other word, and it goes overboard. Just as "f**k" has become ridiculously conjugated into meaning just about anything, so too has frak. And it got to where characters would say things like "Don't frakkin' tell me you two weren't just frakking in a frakked up way, you frak-wad! I mean, what the frak! Frak you!" To me, this makes it less fun, more funny. I think the word would have held some power had it not been SO used. Maybe we could hear "felgercarb" at some point? Just because these people do say "frak" doesn't mean it's the only word they know. When a word means everything, it has come to mean nothing.

I'm not liking the "All this has happened before, and it will all happen again" thing. Besides espousing the sillier modern ideas in physics that all time and existence is just repeating between creation/destruction singularities, it is reminscent of a certain children's book/play/film. Apparently their sacred scripture is Peter Pan.

The show so far has had some ups and had some downs. I like that the music has improved some. It's not all so morose. I like the addition of Celtic flourishes at times. The show has also gotten some levity which was needed. I still don't like Starbuck. She's not even a tough girl. She's very girly in the end, and just sort of acting tough. She's not so completely aggravating as she was in the miniseries, though I can still only take her in smaller doses. I did not expect that I would find any BSG episodes that I would willingly watch again, but I did. It's not so boring as I remember it, though maybe the boring stuff is yet to come. An improvement overall, but I'm still not blown away by the finale. I hope those elements are resolved soon.

Also, this is more of a criticism of the DVD, but I am incredibly annoyed that the Universal logo was put at the beginning of every episode. I hope this is changed for later seasons and the complete series box set.

Best episode: "You Can't Go Home Again"
Worst episode: "Act of Contrition"

Friday, August 28, 2009

Kobol's Last Gleaming parts 1 & 2

What the frack is going on in the teaser? Sparring I get. But Boomer suicidal with a gun in her mouth? She hasn't done anything remotely Cylon-like in some time, and last we heard she had been told scientifically she was human (we know it's a lie, but does she?). So her sudden suicidal tendencies make me feel I'm missing something. And what is with Gaius and Kara?? When did that happen? You can't just show them swapping fluid and not explain it! That's a shocker that needs set-up! Did she realize when she caught him dry-humping his desk that she secretly wanted him? Is he just drawn to blondes? Seriously, what preceded that hook up? Oh, and didn't the guy look nothing like Baltar until the reveal? Wasn't his hair shorter?

Baltar walks in on Boomer about to kill herself, and has a little chat with her. He seems to want her to go through with it on the one hand, but couches it because I'm sure he doesn't want that responsibility or blame laid on him. I don't think he wants to hurt her exactly, or he'd have told her straight away she was a Cylon, right? Anyway, he tells her to "follow her heart". But the heart is deceitful above all things! The greatest evil a man can do is what only he believes to be good. And what happens? She shoots herself in the face! So I suppose one could argue the show is saying that "follow your heart" stuff is not a good idea. That's refreshing, I guess. Oh, kudos for following through with the GSW to the face. 

The second episode of Galactica centered on a trip to Kobol (now, in my post on the subject, I spelt it "Kobul", because I could have sworn that's how I saw it on the computer terminal. Am I wrong?). So this is a nice follow-up of that idea. Of course, in that case Kobol turned out to just be an Egypt clone. Here, there are no Egyptian motifs. Instead, things tend to be more Greco-Roman, though not exclusively. Yet in both cases there is supposed information about Earth's whereabouts that I'm not sure could logically be gleaned unless those of the 13th Colony returned to Kobol, or the Lord of Kobol have some kind of prescience.

The priestess says that the arrow of Apollo is needed, and when taken to such and such a place on Kobol will guide the Colonists to Earth. So why is that arrow on Caprica? What would possess the Colonists to take it there? Wouldn't it be essential to leave it on Kobol? The only reason I can think of is if the separation was to prevent someone from finding Earth. To me, it really just seems like an excuse to send Starbuck to Caprica, and thus unite the main storyline with the Helo stuff.

The arrow is contained in the Delphi museum. Could we say then, since this arrow will give them direction to Earth, that they seek the oracle at Delphi?

Wait, Sharon is pregnant?? Is that even possible? I ask again about the nature of the Cylons. Are they machines or not? No matter how organic, I'm not convinced you can impregnate a machine. And this seems to be the whole point of everything. I find that exceedingly lame. Perhaps that warrants a separate post. Let me just say for now, that after 52 days or so with Helo on Caprica, I'm underwhelmed.

I like that the biological element carries through to the interior of the base ship. And what do you know, Boomer meets a number of her Cylon sisters. The guy in me has to ask was Grace Park actually naked shooting those scenes, or was there, as I suspect, some sort of body stocking or make-up apparatus to hide the naughty bits?

So Kara has the arrow. Check. She's met up with Helo. Check. Boomer is exposed as a Cylon. Check. ...How will Kara get back to the fleet with Helo? Is there room for both in the Raider? I doubt it. Will Helo just stay on Cylon-occupied Caprica? Surely not; I doubt he has enough anti-radiation meds. ...wait, did he even have enough for the fifty days?

And the cliff-hanger of the year... Adama has been shot! Certainly he won't die. But how will they save him? What will happen to Boomer now that she's an assassin? And might I point out that none of this would have happened if Baltar had just told someone weeks ago!!

Overall, I was somewhat disappointed by this finale. There were too many threads, and it seemed like stuff didn't all go some place. The excursion to Caprica seems like just a quick means to an end to resolve the Helo story. We don't really learn anything more about Earth. After some episodes that were really stand-out, the finale felt a bit by-the-numbers to me. 

Colonial Day

There's a lot going on in this show. It may not seem like it, but we gain a lot of insight into this universe here.

Does Colonial Day commemorate an actual day, or is it sort of an arbitrary date picked for celebration?

Mention is made here and in precedent episodes of the "Articles of Colonization". I'm sure this
is meant to emulate the Articles of Confederation which governed early America. But was this document written upon their exodus from Kobol? Was it a mass exodus, or were different colonies founded at different times? And if so, why choose 12 different worlds, when you could just pick one planet and divide it up? How large was this colonizing force? Am I thinking too hard about this?

It's good to get on a civilian ship for a change. I suppose I could argue the logic of a cruise ship having FTL capability and being in this fleet, but I won't. I do hope they have an agricultural ship somewhere though. The original show had a media presence as well, so it was good to see that here. I could have done without some of the shots taken at talk radio though. Nice knowing it exists I guess.

Hey! That guy Gray is Pusher from X-Files! He's an actor I don't often see. I think I last saw him in The Saddest Music in the World.

I am so glad we finally are dealing with this Quorum of Twelve. It's a nice continuation of the Council of Twelve from the original. Plus, I've been wondering all season exactly how the other colonies gain representation in this government that seems to be so fiercely Caprican. This show NEEDED this Quorum of Twelve and I'm glad to see it. Was there any doubt that Zerek would get on it? Baltar was kind of a surprise there. Is this also a subtle reference to the original? Wasn't that Baltar a member of the Council when he sold them out to the Cylons?

Zerek makes some good points, not the least of which is the call to elect a Vice President. I'm surprised that the same line of succession that chose the President doesn't have a means for selecting a Vice President too. What would have happened had Roslin died in this past month? I'm also very glad to see a democratically elected Vice President. That's one area where America needs correction. It's in our Constitution that we elect the Vice President (by electors, not popular vote, but that's another issue), but that's not what we do. We let Presidential candidates choose "running mates" and they just kind of get dragged along with the Presidential vote. This is completely wrong. The procedure is quite clear that our Vice President is elected. We need to get back to that. Actually there are a number of things wrong with the way we've been running our Presidential elections, but this is not the forum to vent.

I'm also glad to hear Zerek point out that there is no functioning economy anymore. Not that I espouse his socialist ideas, but perhaps they make more sense in a fleet like that. In any case, I was troubled and confused by the economics of the original series, and left a whole post on the subject. That's why it's refreshing to have Zerek note that and bring it to people's attention.

Why does everyone assume that Zerek is behind all the violent plots behind the scenes? Sure, he was a terrorist, but isn't that prison ship full of people? Couldn't ANYONE be responsible? Don't they limit their investigation by assuming Zerek is involved? And in the end, we learn he wasn't. Though a major problem with the episode is that the whole thread is left unresolved. Somebody was walking around with a gun, but for what purpose? Who was the target? Why was nobody caught?

I like dynamic Baltar! I can see why he might make a decent Vice Presidential candidate. Though isn't it odd that the only delegates who say anything are the ones who end up as candidates? Why don't we hear from the Cancerons or the Geminis? I also don't really see the need for Grey to step down in order for Baltar to run. Isn't an election better when anyone can run? I guess from Roslin's point of view she doesn't want to split the vote and thus let Baltar win. But I'm fundamentally opposed to this idea of a race against two. Might it have been better if each Colony submitted a candidate? Or would that have resulted in every colony voting for their own? And how do the votes work? Is each Colony a winner-takes-all election? So there were twelve separate votes, and then the winners for each colony were tabulated? This is how most Americans think our system works, but is in fact ultimately unconstitutional.

I probably shouldn't be so picky, but I can't think of a "parrallel culture" argument that would result in the phrase "cut to the chase" being used among the Colonials. I've seen no indication that they have a film program. I can let a lot of things go, but idiom usage should really be carefully looked at. Like that "meat's back on the menu" line in Lord of the Rings that people often complain about.
UPDATE: Since finishing the series, I've learned that there is indeed a film program in this universe, but it won't be seen until Lucy Lawless makes her appearance in season 2.

The Hand of God

Now the President is suffering hallucinations due to drugs for her cancer. I guess in a way this puts her in the same boat as Baltar. And her "visions" are now being seen as divine revelation! This is similar to some American Indian religion, where drugs play a part in vision quests. Does that lessen the truth of the vision? Is it any less divinely given if we know the method is chemical? After all, man has been interpreting dreams for millennia, and the presence of a "fever dream" doesn't necessarily lessen the portent of perceived omens. Maybe I shouldn't have watch The Matrix Reloaded last night; I'm starting to talk like Morpheus.

But wait, the Cylons are interpreting the scriptures to mean Baltar is the instrument of God. So who is right? Well, I guess whoever ends up leading them to Earth. As our scriptures say (I'm paraphrasing), you'll know it's from God if it comes true.

This is the first episode to share a title with the old series. Of course, that episode was completely different. The title also references the first line of the last episode, when Baltar noted he saw no hand of God in Six's eyes. 

We get a name for the fuel they use. And isn't this story's basic plot (a planet rich with fuel, but with a Cylon base that needs to be taken out) similar to one or two episodes of the original? I like when they are able to reuse the elements of Larson's show that worked. If it ain't broke, don't fix it I say.

Helo asks why there are no other humans on Cylon-occupied Caprica. Yes, where is everyone? Certainly they wouldn't have all made it off. Where are the survivors like Helo? Where are the remains of the dead? And why oh why is it over a month before he asks this question?

The nitpicker in me wants to know when the Vipers were hidden in the freighter without anyone knowing. Also, there came a point where the Vipers were given the go-ahead from the CIC, and only that's when they got the order for the pilots to get to their planes. ...Um, if this is a super important mission where time is of the essence, wouldn't if have made more sense to START with the pilots in the Vipers? Then they could just rush right out!

I worry a little about Baltar. On the one hand, I'm encouraged by television that tells you to embrace the plan that the One God has for you; on the other hand, I totally do not trust the Cylons, nor their god. So, now that Baltar has apparently embraced his role as "instrument of God", I wonder what will become of him.

I really love the music that ends this episode. It is fantastic, and the best I've heard on the series. If there's a soundtrack, and it has this on it, I would consider buying it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down

I'm not sure it was a good idea to bring Tigh's wife into the mix. I don't know that it really helps anything. Did he believe she was dead? Is that why he burned her picture? By the way, you can tell the picture scene in the recap was re-shot with the new actress in the photo, since in the miniseries he clearly burned right through her eye, and here it was a bit below that. Though I suppose they had to do that, didn't they?

This episode finally answered a question that's been nagging me for some time. When Baltar and Six have sex in his imaginary house, what actually happens in the real world? The audience (and Kara) find out all too well when he is interrupted essentially humping his desk. My suspicions of masturbatory incidents was correct.

This episode is permeated with goofiness throughout, as per the above scene. Of course, the free-flowing ambrosia (yay! ambrosia!) helps this along. I don't know whether it was entirely a good idea to go this high comedy, but it's still a lot of fun. 

Okay, I get that it takes hours, but why does Baltar have only one set-up? Could he not use the same nuclear warhead to run several different tests at once? And again, since he's now testing everyone officially, isn't this the opportune time to let people know that Boomer is a Cylon?!

Flesh and Bone

I recall an earlier Galactica which reminded me of Silence of the Lambs. This one does as well, what with the sort of interrogation moments. The Cylon plays mind games like Hannibal Lecter. Starbuck fills the Clarice role. But unlike Clarice, she quickly pulls out the big guns. 

All that water-boarding; look at us trying to be relevant again! Are we supposed to believe the Cylons are Muslims in this little analogy? I'm not sure it works. We are clearly told that the Cylons were created by man. I don't recall America creating Muslim extremist terrorists. 

We get a deeper discussion of "the gods" in this episode. We know for some reason the Cylons are monotheistic. Why? Meanwhile, the Colonials are polytheistic. While this was alluded to in "Bastille Day", here it is explicit that they worship the Greek deities. I wonder why they went with this. In the original, Kobol was more Egyptian, though the whole thing was sort of an amalgam of ideas. I find it easier to view them as Lords of Kobol than as the Greek gods. As the season goes on, the grecian thing follows through too; I wonder about the Egyptian element (which survives in the game of pyramid, and in some of the Galactica pyramidic interior corridors). It's interesting that Kara is a woman of faith. It's not often television gives us a tough girl (which I might argue Kara actually isn't, but let's go with it) who has a spiritual side. ...No wait, I take that back. I realize even as I type it that her name was Kira Nerys and she was on Deep Space Nine. Anyway, I'll still give props for it. Don't know if I like explicit idolatry involved though. Also it should be pointed out that greek gods in science-fiction is nothing original. The original Star Trek featured them as aliens in "Who Mourns For Adonais?" and C.S. Lewis gave them a more angelic nature in his space trilogy (especially Perelandra). Way to be original, Ron baby!

I gotta give Roslin some credit for blowing that guy out the airlock. Though, it does seem odd to reprimand Starbuck for her torture methods, then she blows him out an airlock!

Did anyone really suspect Adama as a Cylon? Come on.

May I ask how the Cylons have such prophetic knowledge? And how does that knowledge extend to the Six that is in Baltar's head? This only makes sense if she is NOT a figment of his imagination. So what is she?

Now that Baltar knows Boomer is a Cylon, how long will it be before he tells someone? Not that he should tell her right away, that might be a bad idea. But shouldn't he tell Adama right away?

Six Degrees of Seperation

Baltar is put on a no-fly list? Again, this smacks of just referencing recent American issues just to seem "relevant". I'm not sure anyone can really be put on a "no fly" list at this point...

Someone mentions that the Cylon Centurions or Raiders (I forget which) are "genetically engineered to be fighters". This yet again smacks of Deep Space Nine, as the Jem'Hadar were the Dominion's fighting force, bred to be killers. That puts the humanoid Cylons as Vorta, and the Centurions as Jem'Hadar. I guess then "God" would be the Founders. I'm troubled that I can see these connections so easily.

Poor Baltar. He finally submits himself to the Cylon God (whatever that is). I guess it's true that there are no atheists in foxholes. 

This was a tough little story. We knew that Baltar was innocent (pretty much), but he couldn't really say too much for fear that he really seem culpable. Who was that woman? Was it Six in a personified form, or a different Six? Does anyone else find it straining credibility that so many Cylon copies appear to be milling about the fleet? And then she mysteriously disappeared. Maybe that does prove my transporter theory.

I've blasted the exterior zooms, but I actually like the ones in this episode. The show opens with a zoom in, and closes with a mirrored zoom out. They function like bookends, bringing us into the story, then letting us out again. Just another day in the fleet. I like that.

I stand by my earlier assessment that Baltar is almost the protagonist of the series. It still bothers me that he is really not a villain at all. I like him, I do. And I like stories of people trying to had misdeeds; that's why I watch Breaking Bad. But these can only stretch so far before they become repetitive. I hope they don't drag this on for the entire run of the show. This was a decent episode though. 

Oh! I get it! I've been trying to ascertain the meaning of the title; was it a reference to the play and film of the same name? But then it hit me, duh... it references the character of Six.

Favorite line: "No more Mr. Nice Gaius."


Hey, there's civilians! It's good to see non-political civilians, even if it's just a line of people boarding the ship.

Boomer and the Chief meet up secretly (or not-so-secretly) in the water tank. ...Can I just ask, is it really a good idea for Boomer to be anywhere near the water tank when she knows that she was responsible for putting explosives in it last time? And why hasn't bad Cylon Boomer done anything "Cylon-y" recently?

A suicide bomber? Really? Where did he get that bomb? He came from a civilian ship. Are we to believe fleeing Colonists just happened to have a bunch of explosives lying around? I'm not objecting to a Cylon doing something bad. But they are still machines of sorts, right? Couldn't he have some kind of self-destruct? I know Ron wants it to be "realistic", but this seems like just an excuse to use the "suicide bomber" image we're all used to from the news these days regardless of the sense behind it. ...And in the end, what was the point of his mission? Just explode something in the hallway? That's it? To what end?? Doesn't that just further alert the Colonists to Cylon presence in the fleet??

I continue to be confounded by the Helo story on Caprica. What are the Cylons keeping him alive for? It's been a month, for crying out loud!

I mentioned this in the "Murder on the Rising Star" post; every series has a courtroom episode, and here's this one. It's pretty good for a court episode. All the investigative stuff is interesting, and I've grown to like the Chief, so it was intriguing to see him sweat. I think they intentionally write him as BSG's Miles O'Brien (even down to him being a non-com Chief). 

Whats-her-face in charge of the tribunal at one point says "Don't make me angry; you wouldn't like me when I'm angry." Um... did this episode really need a quote from the Incredible Hulk?

Sesinos (or however you spell it) ends up in the brig, and Adama says it's for his perjury. The Chief tries to get him out since he was just trying to cover for him. Did this remind anyone of the Clinton impeachment, when people tried to argue that the perjury wasn't the real issue? (btw, yes it was.)

You Can't Go Home Again

After "Act of Contrition" which I am just not a fan of, I am happy to report that the second part is so good! Here's a BSG I actually wouldn't mind watching again.

We haven't talked much about the use of "frak" on this show. It's certainly more colorful than on the original (and spelled differently). I may reserve comment on its use for my season one wrap-up. But when Adama tells President Roslin, "Frak the odds!" and she seems sort of shocked. He seems apologetic. Is it so bad to say "frak" around the President? That's certainly different from Boxey's "frack" getting met with a little smirk.

I take back my complaints about Cylons not being cyborgs. In this episode, we learn that Cylon Raiders are organic inside; that is, they are cyborgs! This must also mean that the humanoid Cylons are completely biological, and not "synthetic" as Baltar's lie in the miniseries indicated. That does beg the question just where does their "machine" part come in, though. The Centurions seem to be completely robotic. Is the organic tissue a recent development? In any case, I'm glad to see it, because it really calls back to what the Cylons were supposed to be originally. 

Question: if the Cylon Raiders are individual entities, and not piloted by Cylons, how do Cylons get from one place to another? Do they have some sort of shuttle? Do they sit in the guts like Starbuck did (unlikely with a brain in the way), or do they have some kind of transporter technology?

I'm no big Kara fan, but I thought they used her pretty well here. Also, is it just me, or does her storyline on the planet slightly resemble "The Return of Starbuck"? She crashes, along with a Cylon ship. She "befriends" the Cylon by fixing it up to help her survive. 

I know it makes me a bit of a killjoy, but... when exactly did Starbuck put her name on the wing of the ship? She wouldn't have done it beforehand, and I doubt that she got the ship flying, then went back outside and did it, then came back in. ...Plus her oxygen situation makes it unlikely. There's no seeming time for her to do it, and no good motivation to have done it. Kinda spoils the ending, doesn't it?

That nonsense aside, this was an enjoyable episode, and I have little bad to say about it. It may be my favorite episode so far.

Favorite line: "If it were you, we'd never leave." The Adamas' relationship is often strained and a lot is unsaid, but who can help but react after a line like that?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Act of Contrition

I knew it, I just knew we'd get a flashback involving the Zack death. Unfortunately, we don't actually see that, just him and Starbuck gettin' busy.

This is the BSG I remeber; boring. Sorry, I don't like Kara Thrace, and this episode did nothing to change that for me. The entire episode went back and forth in time too much, re-using the same thing half the time. I don't think we stayed in the same time frame for even five minutes. (Please don't leave comments saying you clocked each scene and I'm wrong.) 

Under all of that stuff though, is an element from the original, and that is the untrained becoming pilots. I wondered if they'd get to this. I do somewhat miss the "all girl" element to it though. Also, the lack of flight simulators. So much of it differs. Dirk Benedict's Starbuck was a good teacher. Kara is hard for no reason. Oh, because she's harboring guilt, right? Well, everyone's harboring guilt on this show. It's the driving theme. It's all every episode is about. And "Hot Dog" may be the dumbest nickname since Greenbean. 

One thing I should mention: I think this may be the first episode where I did not notice unnecessary zooming in the exteriors. It was so nice to see ships and just leave it at that!

Throughout the episode we are teased with bits of Starbuck's Viper going down in flames. We have no context for this scene. Finally, it comes at the very end. When the episode finally explains that stuff, we cut to "To be continued". REALLY? We finally find out what's happening, then you leave us hanging? Did this episode come up short, that we had to see the same thing so many times? Or maybe the resolution ran long, so they broke that off as a separate episode and padded this one out with repetition. In any case, I hate that the opening image of the episode is from a scene that doesn't resolve. I hope the next episode and its resolution are better than this one was. I was just anxiously waiting for it to end.

Bastille Day

I like how each episode has that little preview embedded in the opening title sequence. It hearkens back to the previews on the old show.

This episode begins as a kind of homage to "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero" and thankfully dodges every bullet that made that show a mess. That episode should have focused more on the prisoners, and this one does just that. Once more, the prisoners are chosen to help do things on the ice. But some of the similarity stops there. Thankfully, we don't get introduced to a bunch of people who will no longer be relevant; instead, the focus is mainly on one man.

In "Ice Planet Zero", the prisoners were chosen because they had knowledge in the field. They had skills that could be applied. But here, it's like the convicts are just cheap labor. I know they say it isn't slavery, but come on. By making them work for "freedom points", doesn't that make it indentured servitude? So that's sort of six of one, half a dozen of the other in my book. Freedom, real freedom, is an issue both in the original and in this one.

Hey, it's Richard Hatch! Throwin' a bone to the fans of the original! And he does a great job here in a role which is quite the antithesis of his Apollo. I also really like the discussion he has with Lee about the significance of the name Apollo. You can tell he says those things with kind of a wink.

I don't see why it matters the Hatch is a terrorist. Who cares what he did? It seems like the lazy writing that the show has been getting into in the name of "reality". They use easy buzz words: cancer, holocaust, terrorist. Chosen solely to provoke a response. It doesn't matter if he is a terrorist. Oh, and I never have understood the "we don't negotiate with terrorists" angle, and I'm glad they sort of throw it out here.

Tom makes some good points about the political structure. At first, it seemed he was annoyed that Capricans made all the decisions for the Twelve Colonies. This I agree with. But then his argument turned out to be about "democracy" and free elections. He wasn't against the government as a whole (which I kind of am, until I get more information), but against a President nobody voted for. So he's annoyed he's got a Gerald Ford on his hands. Boo-frickety-hoo. If this is supposed to have an American analog, it sort of falls flat. America does not now, nor has it ever had democratically elected Presidents. Apollo is smart to promise that there will be elections as dictated by law. Well played, sir.

There's no way Apollo was going to let Starbuck shoot him, not after the Olympic Carrier incident.

I hate that it started to become a "blaze of glory" story. Thank God Apollo talked some sense into him. That whole "blaze of glory" thing was also done on DS9, and I really don't feel like that's what this one was about. Glad they side-stepped it.

Despite some issues, this is a pretty well made take on an issue from the original series. It was exciting, had a nice guest star, and worked for me. I think it might be my favorite episode so far.

Monday, August 24, 2009


I've noticed that each episode so far has opened with something related to its title. "33" opened with the ticking clock, and here we see water dripping from Boomer's hands.

The two Boomers started making me confused at the beginning. I hope they find a way to differentiate them for us. Boomer claims she's blacking out, but how much does she really know? She seems to not want to believe she's the Cylon, but I think she knows she is. All this feels like it was a card played too soon. I'd have much rather Boomer's Cylon identity had remained a mystery for awhile, even while characters like Starbuck joke about her being the Cylon. That way it comes as a shock. Here, we're just biding time.

So... is Boomer responsible for their having been tracked before? Or was it the other ship?

Where is Boxey?

Helo and Sharon -- I'm calling the one on Caprica Sharon to differentiate -- Helo and Sharon reach her Raptor and find it crawling with Cylons. Um, since we know this Sharon is fake, and we know the real one took the Raptor, where did this one come from? Did the Cylons build it? Did they salvage it? Is it a hologram?

I'm glad they mentioned radiation medication, because I was wondering how long Helo could survive.

Here we learn conclusively that Baltar was lying about being able to detect Cylons. I'm confused as to what exactly they are. ARE they cyborgs? That is, is it an organic human frame with a computerized consciousness? Or are they in fact synthetic, as he implied in the miniseries? It seems to me there should be some easy metal detector scan or something to see if they are fake. We really need to know their true make-up here.

Oh wait! I've got it! Baltar can just have sex with people, and wait to see if their spines glow red! (tongue firmly in cheek)

It is becoming more and more apparent that the real protagonist of this series is Baltar. I don't know how I feel about that, but that's what I'm coming away with.

What exactly was Boomer's plan regarding that last explosive?

Am I really supposed to believe that the President's little note to herself even has the corners cut off?

President Roslin says Tigh was right about there being riots on other ships about water rationing. I'm disappointed that we always hear these things third-party. On the original, we actually SAW disgruntled civilians. I'd like to see the civilians again. It's a big difference between talking about something and actually seeing it.

Oh, the R & D animation changes every episode! Well, that's kinda fun I guess. It's like couch gags. I wonder how many they'll do.


The series begins! And it begins as if the miniseries were a pilot, which it sort of was.

Why are the Cylons attacking at 33 minute intervals? This is asked, but not answered. And from the use of "minutes" I guess they've thrown out the whole "centons" thing too. 

I really like the Base Stars! They pay tribute to the design of the old ones, but do away with the clamshell design. From above or below, they really would look like stars; like ninja throwing stars!

I still don't like that Baltar is crazy and daydreaming all the time. But they've introduced a new element here, where he goes to his home in his mind. I guess when he panics he goes to his happy place. I like this because it allows us those moments of brightness that I mentioned were lacking in the miniseries. The powers that be seem to have realized this as well, as the hangar bay also seems significantly brighter.

I like this Col. Tigh a little better. He's lightened up some. Maybe he's not drinking. Still, it's good to see that all those things that don't work in the miniseries are getting slightly honed here.

Why are the Cylons religious? What would lead a race of robots to believe in a supernatural power? All that stuff about Gaius having to repent seemed a bit forced for me, especially because I'm not sure what he has to repent of. He was played for a sap! It's just him trying to assuage his own guilt. Which again begs the question, is that Number Six truly just an expression of Baltar's unconscious or not? If so, then perhaps he is trying to convince his own rational mind to have faith.

When the episode began, I couldn't figure out how the Cylons were constantly finding them if they were always jumping. To me, it seemed obvious that there had to be Cylon infiltration on one of those ships. It didn't seem to be Boomer. So I wasn't surprised they had to blow up a ship. I can see people feeling guilty about killing civilians, but we don't KNOW that there were civilians on that ship! I for one believe there were not. Or at least not the 1300 there were supposed to be. 

I dislike that Helo is alive on Caprica. Why must we keep going back to Caprica? And now we've got an imposter Boomer there with him. This can't end well.

I like the little "R & D TV" animation at the end, because who doesn't want to bash in Ron Moore's head with a bat every now and then?

BSG: The Miniseries (last one I promise)

Is Number Six really there or not? She seems to be just in Baltar's head, but that quite a hallucination! Why is she there? Her presence got to be annoying after awhile. I hope it doesn't go on and on for the rest of the series.

I realized when watching all that stuff about how the Cylons could be anyone and we have to find a way to test for it that I'd seen this before. And I did, when it was called Deep Space Nine. Remember the Dominion War when the Changelings could be anywhere? Of course, it aslo calls back any number of "body snatcher" stories too.

In this movie, the President asks whether Adama thinks they should declare martial law. This is actually exactly what happened in the original version. Adama took military control, and it got to be something of a sticky issue late in that series. Essentially, I've come to realize that by introducing President Roslin, they have split Adama into two characters. Certainly the grandfatherly Lorne Greene would be out of place in this world. But it seems they've put all the softness (and political leadership) into the President, leaving Adama a hardened military man. I do like his stance against network computers and things like that. But I think they've also kind of crippled him. He's really not in command now, is he? He answers to someone else.

I like the flags of the Twelve Colonies.

There's something to be said for the way the attack came in the other version. It felt more dynamic. The nuclear explosions isn't bad, and in fact works better to devastate the entire planet, which was an issue for me in "Saga of a Star World". But we really don't see any devastation. Just some refugees in a field, a cloud, and later a flash of white light as a little girl will be killed. These sorts of changes make all the action feel more passive to me. In the other version, people were hopping on whatever ships they could find and leaving. Here, they are just waiting for ships already out there to pick them up. I also have to ask, did they destroy any world besides Caprica? There was not a single mention of it. The point of the series was that all the colonies were destroyed. I hope they were (that sounds terrible, and not exactly how I mean it). 

After nearly 3 hours, and all my previously listed aggravations, when Adama got up and asked "Where shall we go, what shall we do?" I wanted to yell "Frankly, my dear I don't give a damn!"

There's another little nod to Larson when Adama says the sacred texts begin with "Life here began out there."

Maybe part of my problem with this Starbuck is what a jerk she is. Benedict was a rogue of sorts, but he was never insubordinate. I can't imagine that Starbuck looking Tigh in the face and calling him a bastard.

With the reveal that Boomer's a Cylon, I literally yelled, "Is nothing sacred?"

Overall, I feel a lot of the urgency went out from this story. Some of this action took forever. And ultimately, Larson's Galactica was about hope. Our world may be destroyed, but we will survive. We'll look for Earth. There are more of us out there. This series feels utterly hopeless. Earth is a lie. The major theme of this miniseries was spoken by someone when they said "You can't hide from what you've done." It's humanity's fault that the Cylons are out there because humanity made them. Everyone must live with the guilt over the deaths of the people they left behind. Baltar is responsible for giving Cylon information, and must watch his world be destroyed. Curiously, the whole "lie in the bed you made" thing seems to apply least to Baltar. He didn't consciously do anything. Everyone else is yelled at for the lives they let die. Adama is chewed out for Zack. Tigh is chewed out for the guys in the fire. The President is chewed out for the little girl on the botanical ship (and by the way, if that ship is gone, where will they get food?). I hate this kind of everyone to blame message. It's all part of this modern school of philosophy that there are no absolutes. All our heroes do bad things, and our villains are misunderstood. The original had goods and bads with a couple of grays. This one has almost nothing but grays, with a few dark grays thrown in. It's the same issue I have with Wicked, which I won't rant about here, but when a Wicked Witch is not in fact wicked, there's a problem. I don't feel any hope from this scenario. This isn't realism; it's nihilism. The fate of humanity is hanging on false hope and I simply do not respond to that.

Maybe it's those ideas that permeate this thing so much which are why I ultimately don't like it. That's not to say there aren't good things about it. Despite some of the blandness of the costuming, it's certainly not the silly "space in the '70s" look. The doofy helmets have changed. We do have that silly no-cornered paper, which seems impractical to me, but may in fact be a subtle homage to the pyramid imagery from the original; it reminds me of the octagonal playing cards. Nobody is equipped with "laser guns"; all ammunition is something tactical that needs to be reloaded. Physical bullets and missiles of sorts are a good change. Still, a show can't exist solely on weaponry. I just feel like the soul isn't there. This isn't about how humanity hopes to survive; it's about how the Cylons are slowly killing them. And no matter how much we make the Cylons into Blade Runner-style replicants, or make them seemingly immortal, they are ultimately still just robots, and I think that may be the most disappointing thing of all.
Here's hoping the series is better than the miniseries, because if not this is going to be a miserable experience.

BSG: The Miniseries (continued)

The "documentary" shooting style just doesn't completely work for me. Television just doesn't shoot like television anymore. It's either an overuse of "oners" and steadycams spinning around, or it's this kind of overused shaky cam stuff. Now, for the most part the interiors aren't too bad. I do get annoyed when I start to realize that everyone is almost exclusively seen from the waist-up. I'm not totally against this shooting style, mind you. I like it when done well. Even The Office, though, is doing things these days that betray the logic of someone there shooting. The exteriors are a nightmare. Say what you will about wanting it to feel "real". To me, the more the camera becomes a character, the less real it feels to me; it heightens the artiface and makes it harder for me to get past it. The scenes are far too dark a lot of the time. I know that there's no light in space, but I'd like some more lighting on the ships themselves so I can tell what's going on. It's like just when I'm starting to get my bearings, we zoom in for no reason. Are we supposed to believe there really IS a camera crew out there filming? If not, why shoot in that style? I already know all the ships are fake. I already know that the shots are all CG. But the more we zoom around and around so that the action is incoherent, the more I want to scream at the guy who made the shot. And if I'm thinking of the guy who made the shot, I'm taken out of the world. It's not that you can't have dynamic shots. And I'm not saying there have to be big sweeping exteriors. But hold the image for once! If an actual news crew or documentarian swish-panned and snap-zoomed half as much as these guys they would be fired. A zoom can be effective, but it feels like EVERY shot has a zoom in it, for no real reason. There's nothing wrong with having a static camera once in awhile. 

I realized that there is almost an overuse of women on this show. Now, maybe it is a good idea to vary the roles and nix the "hooker with a heart of gold" that the original had. But the show seems obsessed with the women. Starbuck and Boomer are both women now. The President is a woman. The Cylon Number Six is a woman. All the men seem to do is be angry or be sad. I definitely felt like female roles were intentionally being placed wherever they could. Not saying this is all bad, but it felt like a lot at once. 

Okay, we know Cylons are bad because they kill babies, is that it?

I'm not against some sexual content in science fiction. Maybe it was just the way it was all cut so close together, but we got Baltar hooking up with Number Six, Boomer getting steamy in the back room, etc. It started feeling like Grey's Anatomy. Again, not that there's necessarily something wrong with heroes coupling off. But sometimes it makes it feel like they are nothing but bottles of hormones with guns. I have the same problem when it's done on say ER. I'd like a little love tempered with the lust is all. Or maybe just not so much at once. Starbuck clearly had sexual relationships on the original show, and I'm not saying everything needs to be played super-coyly. 

Baltar's character is completely changed in this version and not entirely for the better. While I don't think we needed the moustache-twirling megalomaniac that John Colicos was, this Baltar bothers me because he's not proactive. Baltar should be somewhat opportunistic. Number Six even questions whether he's selfish, but I don't really see him as selfish. He should be selfish. He's a scientist here, and the only reason he "betrayed humanity" was that he was duped! It all comes down to him thinking with his penis, and that bothers me. I like the Baltar that was a politician who had an active hand in the trouble that ensued. Baltar is barely culpable here. He's just a pawn, a stooge. And it plays into that horrible stereotype about men that if you just throw a hot blonde their way, they'll spill everything. I do like that he seems genuinely regretful, something you were never sure of with the other Baltar. Ultimately, I guess my question is, is Baltar still a villain? Because I don't really get that sense anymore. He's more like a Lando Calrissian.

Lee Adama is a dumb name. I know "Apollo" sound kind of silly, but I don't like that his name is Lee. I'm mad that we don't get to see Zack's death. At least they kept that story there. But in this version, it happened years ago, so we lose the shock factor of it, and it becomes just a way to have father and son estranged (like we've never seen THAT before). In the original, Apollo blamed himself for his brother's death. Here, he blames his father. I guess it sort of works, but for me the drama is always heightened when we are involved. Zack's death was jarring in the first version because we SAW him, we were just getting to know him. Here, the whole storyline is okay, but just window dressing. It's like backstory; we need to know it, but we aren't as involved in it. Think of it this way: X-Files would not have been able to exploit the missing sister angle if we hadn't had flashback to it. Because we saw her, because we heard what happened, because we were able to identify with Mulder's loss, it meant something when she came back. The Zack story doesn't mean anything yet. Maybe we'll get more on it as the series goes on. Oh, and the reveal that he's dead because Starbuck was in love with him? Lamer than the guy begging alms outside the temple.

I like hearing the original theme music during the ceremony. I think the show could use a little more upbeat music. The percussive stuff is fine, but there are moments I think it should be beefed up. It keeps the viewer involved. When the music is all pretty morose, and half the characters are whispering most of their lines, and the show is so dark, it adds up to boring me. Little things like music can keep me from falling asleep. Not that the percussive stuff should be totally thrown out; I just think there needs to be a bigger theme now and then. 

These issues are not entirely BSG's fault. It is a flaw of many television films and miniseries that they get boring because of their look and sound. But I do think BSG is too dark. ALL the interiors are dark. Even the exteriors felt dark, and that was daylight! There needs to be some light to break it up. Every good "dark" show had some. The only seeming light on this show was Caprica (which I've said was dark), and that blew up!

So in this version, there are 12 different Cylon models (in mockery of the 12 colonies, perhaps?), and each of them has a sort of series of clones. When they die, they are just downloaded into another body. This strikes me as being terribly similar to the Vorta on Deep Space Nine (and let's remember folks, Ron Moore worked on DS9).

There is one point that I do want to praise this new show for. In the original series, there were no Asians. Not one. These were the sires of the entire human race, and there were no Asians. Were we supposed to believe that all the Asians of Kobol went to Earth? Not only do we get Asians on this show, but we get a lead character who is Asian (okay, technically there is no "Asia" in the twelve colonies, but what else am I supposed to call them?). As Galactica is about humanity, I think it important that all races be represented. Kudos to BSG on this.

I don't like the new Cylon ships. The integration of the red-eye is fine. Does that mean the ships are autonomous? The design also strikes me as very similar to Romulan vessels. There's definite Trek in the appearance.

I hate when television tries to force a woman president on us. That is not the case here, however. President Roslin only became such in an emergency. She never expected to be President, and I like this dynamic. It makes you wonder, in a massive emergency, how far does our order of succession go? Who would be our 43rd in line? She is Caprican. Yet the President seems to preside over all the twelve colonies. Is the President always Caprican? I'm not sure I like the political structure for this world being so American. Having a Council of Twelve seemed to make more sense to me. I do like that a priest is needed to swear her in, thus carrying over the weird religio-politics of the original series.

I don't like Colonel Tigh at all. I didn't mention it before, but one of the great solidifying elements of the original series was Terry Carter's Colonel Tigh. That Tigh was rational, commanding, but also had a sense of humor. This Tigh bears no resemblance whatsoever. He's just an angry drunk. I wonder why we always have to sacrifice everything for the sake of these few embellishments. Moore is again playing against what he views as the "convention" of executive officer. I think you can give a man flaws without taking away his appeal. When did intensely flawed become synonymous with interesting? There's something to be said for stabilizing elements and characters.

So all the other names get changed, but Boxey they keep? Couldn't they have called him Troy?

I don't like having a Boxey without a Serina. Here was an opportunity to explore a relationship with Serina and such that didn't have to end right away. But no, Boxey has no family. This does Apollo a great disservice, as I have no idea what he's here for on this show. Boomer becomes Boxey's sort of parent. Should we be terribly concerned then, since Boomer is a Cylon and we know Cylons kill babies?

I see no reason for the storyline about Roslin having cancer. It comes out of nowhere and goes nowhere. How is this really relevant to anything going on? It felt like just one more complication thrown in because mentioning cancer provokes an immediate reaction. Isn't there enough drama without a sick President?

Still more to come. I'm kind of surprised I have this much to say!

BSG: The Miniseries

Now it comes to it; the Ronald D. Moore Sci-Fi Channel re-imagined series that everyone praises.

After viewing this first three hours of BSG I must report... I still hate it. In fact, I think I might even hate it more now after watching the old ones and developing an affinity for them. I don't know if my feelings will change. Maybe I'll be able to put a lot of this out of my mind and accept the show for what it is. But at present I dislike the kind of show that it is. Now let's break it down.

I was all set to look at this objectively, but then the first thing on screen was the caption "Cylons were created by man," and I flinched. No they weren't. Once you change that, you change the entire dynamic of the conflict. Now we're back to that "artificial intelligence will rise and kill its makers" thing that we've seen a million times. While that was an element of the story that we got in "Saga of a Star World", where the Cylon robots overthrew their reptilian makers, it was never the point of the conflict with humanity. And that story point as it is was a concession after the cyborg element was dropped. I'd have much rather they did the show proper with a cyborg enemy, though maybe Ron didn't want to rehash the Borg. Anyway, humans and Cylons were meant to be separate warring races; making humans their creators is aggravating, and leads to the themes of the movie that I patently disagree with. More on those later.

Several elements of the original series are paid homage to. The Battlestar has a similar design, the Vipers are similar, if a little less Star Wars. The original Cylon Centurion design is present, apparently that's what they looked like during the war. There's an old suit on display in the Galactica museum. I like that the new Centurions are of similar design, with the blinking red eye and the mouth vent, though developed differently. I do think they are a little too top-heavy though, making them somewhat impractical.

I mentioned in my Galactica 1980 posts that I like the idea of human-looking Cylons. To me, it makes perfect sense tactically. It also allows them to be a little closer to the idea of cyborg Cylons. If the robots look human, do you still feel great watching them blow to smithereens? The credit should go to Larson though, who used the idea first. I think the premise was milked a little too much here as well to riff on Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Thing. But then, in science fiction, there is nothing new under the sun.

In this version of the story, the humans and Cylons have been at peace... at least that's what Moore says on the commentary. He's wrong. I know he wrote the thing, but he's wrong. There was no peace; there was a sort of stale-mate. There was no diplomacy between humans and Cylons for forty years; when they finally show up, they start killing. That doesn't strike me as a peace accord. It strikes me as a ploy to buy more time and catch the enemy with their pants down. It's like the Korean War; there was no resolution, and no peace. It ended in a cease-fire. But that didn't stop the belligerent North Koreans from building their war machine. 

There are other places where I completely disagree with Moore's commentary. I used to like him, but now he's coming off worse and worse to me. He takes a number of unfounded digs at Star Trek, biting the hand that fed him. And it proves that he's a writer who tries to make everything the exact opposite of convention. The result? A mess.

Anyway, so with the humans at "peace", the Galactica is the last Battlestar of its kind. It is being decommissioned. It is now a museum. For me, there is something very absent about this scenario. I much preferred that the Galactica was the last survivor of a surprise attack to this story. There was a suddenness and urgency about the original Galactica's approach that I respond to. So much of that is lacking here. I know I took shots at the original's attacks and such, and I stand by those, but the ideas differ from execution and this story is kind of dulled to me. Plus, for all Moore's whining about Star Trek, doesn't this feel like the same "haul the old ship out of moth balls to save the day" story that most of the Trek films followed?

I HATE Starbuck. HATE her. I hated the idea of her, and I hate the execution. Firstly, there is no reason to make her female. I'm not averse to female pilots as it is, but the original had that! Why is there no Athena in this version? Watching the original, I realized I would be open to a female Boomer. And we have one, and for me it works (though she turns out to be a Cylon, so frack that). But I don't like BOTH Starbuck and Boomer as women. I also don't think the elements of Starbuck's character work when transported into this woman. On a side note, everyone's old-school names are used as "call sign" nicknames here. While it does temper some of the silliness (thank God there's no Greenbean), it lessens something for me. And that name is put on the Viper, so does each pilot have his own ship? Getting back to the point, Starbuck's name is Kara Thrace. That just doesn't roll off the tongue, does it? And I wonder if they chose Kara as a nod to the original Supergirl. All the other characters I can see and appreciate as characters. I may not like how they've been changed (Col. Tigh really bothers me), but I feel a sense that these people are real. I get none of that from Starbuck. She always seems like a poser to me, like this is some odd act and it grows stale for me quickly. The best analogy would be Sofia Coppola in Godfather III; there's actually nothing too bad about her performance in itself, but it doesn't gel with the rest of the piece. She sticks out like a sore thumb because she's on a different level. That's how I feel about Kara. She brings the whole thing down. Oh, and her seeming crush on Apollo is unnecessary. Save it for your slash fiction. The only woman nicknamed Starbuck that I like is Dana Scully.

It's getting late, and I have to go to work soon, so I'll have to continue this in another post. There is MUCH more to come.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Last Thoughts on Galactica 1980

Galactica 1980 is for the most part every bit as bad as you've heard. All the sillier elements of the first series were magnified here. With the budget slashed, they turned to other ways to find drama, but often this resulted in silliness. The show was more slightly goofy procedural than science fiction, and belongs more in the category of Highway to Heaven and The A-Team

Though some of the creative force behind it was the same, and some of the cast remained, much of the show was significantly retooled, owing little to its predecessor. While the presence of the Cylons and the date for the show do in some respect reflect continuity, the magnified alien nature of the Colonists is in flat contradiction with the established mythology. 

The only real saving grace is "The Return of Starbuck", though even that was substantially derivative. It's almost worth the price of the DVD, but not quite. Who knows what this series could have been if given the chance. I don't have any idea, and honestly I don't think Larson did either. I don't think he expected the show to go very far. So many elements are cast about like window dressing; children are present when needed for story, and otherwise pretty much disregarded. How long can twelve kids be left alone invisible in a park sitting in trees? I can respect some of the ideas, notably the humanoid Cylons, but much of the execution remains flawed. Great seeing Starbuck again. Otherwise...

Frack Galactica 1980.

The Return of Starbuck

One wonders if this episode's basic story was left over from plans for a second season of the last show. It's so good to see Dirk Benedict again, and he gets a great story here. Despite the fact that it is not exactly original (the basic story had been done before, notably in Enemy Mine, and would be again on other series, such as TNG's "The Enemy" and "I, Borg"), it's engaging and fun. Starbuck never gets out of character, but he gains added dimension. 

I mentioned "I, Borg" above, and thinking back on it there are a lot of similarities. A robotic killing machine is found injured, repaired, and reprogrammed to befriend humans. Ultimately he becomes a weapon against his own people. This is quite literal in Cy's case who shoots his fellow Cylons at the end.

I would like to know why we have Starbuck narration. Who is he narrating to? Is he keeping a log? We never see one. The story is being told by Dr. Z, who dreamed it. At one point Z narrates. So why is there not a consistent narrator for the whole show?

I was a bit disappointed with the appearance of Angela. It felt like an intrusion on the Starbuck/Cy story. Maybe it would have worked better as a two-parter. Where did she come from? Her name obviously refers to "angels". Is she one of the Holy Kryptonian people from the last show? It doesn't seem so since they had no bodies outside their ship. Who impregnated her? Z refers to Starbuck as his father, but this isn't really true. Angela calls Starbuck the "spiritual father". I wonder if the original story was to have it really be Starbuck's baby, but the censors nixed it. Maybe not, but that seems to make more sense to me.

When Angela stands on that little hill as Starbuck cradles his fallen enemy/friend and she says, "He is good, very good," it makes me think of "Arena", the Trek episode with the Gorn. It's just like when the Metron stands there and praises Kirk for showcasing mercy, then disappears.

I wonder why Starbuck can't just rebuild Cy again. Maybe he feels it wouldn't be the same.

"The Return of Starbuck" is easily the best episode of the series. We learn why Starbuck is absent; he's marooned on some planet! He may very well still be alive too. We get a bit more background on Dr. Z. Knowing he has an alien origin helps explain his intelligence, and the fact that he's Starbuck's "son" indicates why Adama may put so much faith in him. This show is just more interesting than super children getting into wacky trouble in Los Angeles. It's sad we don't get more resolution, but at least the series ends on a high note. 

Lessons of the week: You can make friends in the most unlikely of places, Starbuck is very good

Space Croppers

There was a Lost in Space episode of this same name. It was about a ship full of hillbillies, one of whom was a werewolf. Part of me wants to say that that story is less silly than this series, but that's mean.

This is the one episode of 1980 that Larson didn't write.

It's good to see Cylon base stars again. And there are three of them this time! 

They modified the helmet design for the Galactica pilots. At least, we see some helmets here that are different.

This story, and another before it, mention the issue of illegal immigration long before the topic was en vogue. It makes me wonder why nobody is trying to deport the kids. How long can they keep them here just pretending they are scouts? What does Jamie do with them at night? They have no papers, they have no parents, they have no address. Isn't it just a matter of time before the government finds them out? How will they get away with assimilating all the Galacticans onto Earth without publicly declaring themselves?

There's not a lot to say about this story. It's the Galactica refugees saving themselves through farming, and helping minority farmers on the way. It all feels kind of Highway to Heaven at times. And the horse named Satan leads to some funny dialogue.

Lesson of the week: Prejudice is bad, honest farming is good

The Night the Cylons Landed parts 1 & 2

Cylons are back! These stories are so much better than Superboy playing baseball stuff.

This episode opens like the old Galacticas used to, with Vipers vs. Cylons and all.

I like that they are watching This Island Earth. I wonder if there's any significance to that choice of film.

This episode contains a thwarted skyjacking, and features a line I almost included in my "favorite lines" section. Dillon says, "Huh. I wonder what someone would do with an aircraft once they seized it." This is one of those lines that reads completely differently after 9/11/01.

I am so glad they moved the action to New York and out of Los Angeles for this episode. The change of scenery helps some of the drudgery of this show. Though it does make Troy and Dillon seem even more like Mulder and Scully.

Okay, why does nobody know that that skyjacker in a dress was a man? Did they all know, but think it impolite to say anything? Are there usually cross-dressing homosexual couples with babies flying L.A. to NY? To me, that "disguise" immediately signals something is up; why did none of the airport personnel at least look into it?

This episode features Cylons newly designed to look human. First of all, that's a great idea. There's no way (besides Halloween of course) that a Cylon Centurian can go walking about Earth. It will also confuse the Galacticans. But that's the one thing that I was ready to praise Ron Moore's reboot BSG for! From what little I saw of it, I thought, "Well, having humanoid Cylons is an interesting twist." Now I find it was undue praise, since Galactica 1980 did it first! Score one more for Larson!

I love William Daniels, and seeing him spend the whole episode in clown makeup is terribly funny. Also, what sort of clown has a moustache?

The floor show that Troy and Dillon stumble into obviously had music added later. The "Good Ship Lollipop" sequence seems to have been made for that song, but no one seems to be singing it. Is it prerecorded? It certainly seems like the "shirley temple" girl is supposed to be singing it, but you can clearly see she isn't. Aside from that, I'd like to know why Hanna-Barbera characters like Scooby-Doo and Hong Kong Phooey are dancing to "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah" which is a Disney song.

I love Wolfman Jack's presence in this episode. It's great to see him here and he is a pretty good actor. My favorite bit is when he's waxing philosophical about Marconi and the invention of radio. It's a great juxtaposition; "Hey man, that Marconi dude got the vibes, you dig?" that kind of thing.

In this episode we learn that Cylons can be done in by microwaves. Gotta say, this lessons their threat a tremendous amount. If a Cylon's chasing you, just run into the kitchen and turn on your microwave! 

The whole kitchen goes up in flames. People sort of evacuate. But there's no sprinkler system, no smoke alarm, no fire alarm, and no one seems to call the fire department. At some point, they do happen to show up though. Why do fire alarms never go off on TV except when pulled by delinquents?

The guy who played Colonel Briggs famously guest starred in "The Neutral Zone" episode of TNG. He was probably the only good thing in it.

I wonder what becomes of the Cylons in the garbage. They are just left there. Do they get compacted? Do they live to fight another day? I bet had the series gone on we would have seen them again. Kinda reminds me of how Billy Miles the supersoldier met his end in a garbage truck on The X-Files only to rise again.

Favorite line: "Happy Halloween, little people."

Lessons of the week: Never pick up hitchhikers on Halloween, even if they have really cool costumes, microwaves defeat evil space robots, Wolfman Jack is the coolest


I wonder if Mel Brooks had this in mind when he named his movie Spaceballs. Could it be he was spoofing Galactica with that name?

We are told Xavier has returned to our time frame. So wait, was he successful in changing history? Why is everyone so blase about it? And if he wasn't successful, why did he return to the present? 

Sheesh, nobody ever watches these kids! Is Jamie just expected to always cart 12 kids to her assignments with her?

Are we supposed to believe they are all super intelligent too? I thought that just Z was a prodigy. Gravity certainly doesn't allow kids to read super fast. 

I know I'm not saying much about the episode's main plot, the stuff about baseball is pretty dumb and standard. I find it curious that this guy running the baseball camp has only one arm. I guess that would limit one from being a pro ball player.

I suddenly realized this... if there were really 200+ ships floating about very close to Earth, wouldn't SOMEONE notice? You'd be able to see some by telescope, right? At the very least some astronauts should know.

Lessons of the week: It's okay to cheat at baseball if the other team is mean and/or it will save a farm/camp/school.

The Super Scouts parts 1 & 2

The series proper begins again, and they have thrown out all that silly time travel stuff. I guess they don't want that to be the focus. Instead, the show becomes part procedural, part fish-out-of-water with the hapless exploits of our Galacticans. Now with kids! The addition of the twelve children (any relation to the 12 tribes of Israel, or the 12 apostles?) cements this more firmly as a chldren's series.

Was Dr. Z recast? And if so, why? At the very least he seems to be using his own voice now, where before he sounded overdubbed.

I commented a bit on the school situation in "Greetings From Earth", but there's are some new developments. Now we learn they have a separate schooling ship. This certainly wasn't the case before, and I wonder what ship they decided to rechristen this way. The kids each have computers now. They raise their hands; the question indicators are gone. There are still few children, but perhaps there are simply few in this age range. I wonder if there is a high school equivalent on the schooling ship. We never see teenagers on this show. They are either 9-year-old kids, or adults.

We are told that the force of gravity differs on Earth, and that as a result the kids will be able to run faster and jump higher. There was no indication of this in the last episode! Besides that, since they are all human, wouldn't EVERYONE be able to do that? Adapting to thinner air is one thing, but the force of gravity doesn't change. Throughout this series, the Galacticans will be made more and more alien, negating the point of their trip to Earth in the first place. The gravity explanation is just an excuse to give the kids superpowers, and indeed this same explanation was used by Siegel and Shuster in their original Superman comics (he doesn't fly in the early ones; he LEAPS tall buildings in a single bound). But even they were smart enough to rely as much on his alien physiology as on gravity. When you stop to consider it, it doesn't make any sense at all. Still, I like when they are asked to define gravity and the kid answers "an artificial force generated to keep us from floating around the ship."

Hooray, there are Cylons! Dr. Z was right! Though in this episode, they all act as if Dr. Z had told them flat out that he tracked the Cylons to Earth, when in the prior episodes it was just a theory. I don't really understand the push to plant kids on Earth quickly. Doing so out of necessity after a Cylon attack is one thing, but I don't see why they stay there like that.

I've got to say, I was ready to chastise the show for presenting cops who were fooled by  the old "hide behind the large roadside billboard" routine. But the cops were NOT that stupid, and spotted them right away. It was only after they cloaked that they lost them. I respect this small defiance of convention, especially in a series that usually defies all logic.

What's the deal with Jamie? She shows up suddenly, still a television reporter, as if she had been living a normal life. I thought she was with the Galactica? Did they ever go back in time again? How long was she missing from Earth, and when she got back, did everyone act like it never happened?

In every episode, it seems someone points out the strange wrist computer the guys wear. I was just thinking... on the one hand, it is more effecient a tool, but on the other hand, the silly calculator watches (seen in "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero") they used to wear would blend in better. 

When the kids start getting sick and are rushed to the hospital, the nurse says she can't do anything to help the kid herself; she can only assist a doctor. Was this ever really true, and is it still true? If so, this seems like a very bad policy to me. A nurse should be allowed to perform basic medicine if life is in danger.

So Troy, Dillon, and Jamie each took a kid to the hospital. And they just left all the other kids alone on a strange planet with superpowers. Sadly, it becomes a running theme that the kids are constantly abandoned without supervision. Even if some of the older ones watch the younger ones, this is a dangerous world that is completely unfamiliar. It seems so wrong. If I were one of those kids' parents, I'd steal a Viper, go down to L.A. and take my kid back home to space. ...which begs the question, do these kids have parents?

At the close of part one, it is suggested that the children might have gotten ill from the bacteria on Earth. This is an issue that was dealt with properly in "Greetings From Earth", but which no one seems to think about now. Yes, disinfection is very important. It's a little disappointing that they were poisoned by a chemical plant.

Now the Galacticans have different blood cells? What exactly makes these people human, again?

So under the brilliant leadership of Dr. Z, the Galacticans have been building... flying saucers? REALLY? Isn't that really lame??

With Barry Van Dyke and all, this episode reminds me some of Diagnosis: Murder what with the investigations into who got the kids sick. He even calls it murder. ...or was that Troy?

I really like that Adama calls Troy "Boxey" in that one scene.

I like the little girl that plays Starla. Does the little blonde girl remind anyone else of a young Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter movies).

Now Jamie is responsible for twelve kids? How is she ever supposed to work? How is she not fired for galavanting around like this? I thought she only got hired in the first place to give UBS the story about Troy and Dillon, which it seems she never delivered!

I like the kids in uniform, but why did NOBODY question why there are girls in the BOY SCOUTS?

Many episodes end with a disclaimer of sorts about how the US no longer investigates UFO sightings. Is that tongue-in-cheek, or were they asked to put that there?

Lesson learned this week: Chemical plants are bad

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Galactica Discovers Earth Parts 1,2 & 3

The opening 3-part episode of 1980 feels like another extended pilot. There are a number of elements that seem to get thrown out afterward.

The first big question when watching is what's the time frame? How far into the future is this from when we last saw it the show? We know this must be 1980, since the title says so. That would imply that the Apollo 11 transmissions we saw in "The Hand of God" were essentially real-time and that this series picks up 10 or 11 years after the last series. Not sure why that means no Apollo, Starbuck, Cassiopeia or Colonel Tigh. But it must be the future because Adama's got a Santa Claus beard, right?

Having the fleet finally reach Earth is good, but it just happens so suddenly. It's the first thing we get. Couldn't it at least have happened at some point during this episode? It's so abrupt. Since the point of the last series was the quest for Earth, it makes you stop and go, why am I watching this then? They got there! Of course, the smart thing about the series is it allows us to say, yes you got there, but now what? Did they think they'd just drop down to the planet and everything would be fine? They had no plan, and this series shows it. I still wish it weren't "modern day" though, since I don't see how that jives with all that Terra stuff from the last show.

Thank God they never appear again, but when I saw them I said to myself, "Oh no... TWO daggits!"

Larson does himself a favor here by telling us that "Boxey" was a nickname (the whole time, his own mother never used his real name??) and that his name is Troy. Good masculine name. And if we're not going to have any other leads, making Boxey the lead character isn't the worst thing. It's like "Galactica: The Next Genereation". Too bad more of the screen time seems to go to Barry Van Dyke.

The flying motorcycles are really silly. Pop some "wings" in the back and you can fly! The effect doesn't look all that great either. However, I would very much like to praise the effects in the computer-simulated Cylon attack on L.A. There are some VERY good matte shots in there, and its quite impressive for 1980 and on television. And Dr. Z brings up a good point; why was Adama so stupid as to not think the Cylons would just follow them to Earth?

Who is this Dr. Z anyway? We have a child genius, so suddenly he gets to make all the decisions? Adama is barely in command anymore! What makes Z a doctor? He's smart so we gave him an honorary degree? If he's so great why doesn't he have a full name? We never see the Galactica bridge anymore; nearly all ship scenes occur in Dr. Z's Warholian black room of TVs and colored lights. Does he eat? Does he sleep? Have his legs atrophied from sitting so long? And Adama's leadership concerns me. He runs to this kid like a magic 8 ball:
Adama: "Oh please, Doctor Z, will the Cylons attack Troy and Dillon?" 
Dr. Z: (in snobby child voice) "Ask again later."

This episode is a LOT like Star Trek IV to me. There was the "cloaked" ship in the field. The girl who gets swept along in the story, the professor who gets groundbreaking science typed into his computer for him, the environmental concerns. I was going to say at least there's no time travel, but then there was time travel!

Why exactly don't they have fingerprints? I thought they were human! That was the whole point, wasn't it, that they were human just like those on Earth?

They can just travel through time? So why don't they travel to the FUTURE when Earth is hopefully unified and a lot more hospitable? Or travel to the distant past and join the Colonists who just landed there? Time travel is one element this series never needed.

I hate the wacky music in this episode. It's all goofy '80s electronic stuff. I'm glad it was toned down as the series went on. 

I thought Vipers were one-man craft; how come there's room for Jamie in one?

Does anyone else think Robyn Douglass (Jamie) bears a remarkable resemblance to Julie Bowen (from Boston Legal, and Jack's ex-wife on Lost)?

It's good to see Boomer again, and I'm glad he appears in most of the series.

Jamie explains World War II by saying "It literally involved ever continent on Earth". ...Well, I've never heard of the Battle of Antarctica, so I'm going to say no it didn't.

Nazis. Why is it always Nazis when there's time travel involved? It's such a lame story point. But I guess I will give them points for originality in one regard; this is the first time I've ever seen a plan to HELP Nazi Germany. Usually it's "We have to stop such and such or the Nazis will take over the world and we won't exist!" Here, Dr. Z suggests helping the Nazis get the bomb will end the conflict, unify the world, and have better immediate results. This is why that kid shouldn't be in charge.

With Part III, they decided to drop Galactica 1980 and just go back to calling it Battlestar Galactica. This is sensible since the first was a stupid title in the first place, and would date the show immediately. What do you do for season two, keep changing the date? It's the dumbest TV title since Match Game '73. I guess this technically means there have been three different series with the name Battlestar Galactica.

Okay, all that build-up to travel through time and go to Berlin in 1944. And in the end... nothing. Most of the screen-time was spent on Nazi stuff and it was ultimately inconsequential! They decided NOT to help Germany and just went home. So what was the point??

I don't get why Xavier is so evil. He just wanted to get to Earth quickly, and suddenly he's working for Nazis and trying to undermine everything Troy and Dillon do. What does he gain by this? He wants to rule the world? What's his motivation? And whatever became of Baltar? Perhaps Xavier is related somehow.

I understand now that it's their family's field so it sort of makes sense, but I was surprised that the school bus picks up Willy in the middle of a field.

This whole episode follows Troy and Dillon and their misadventures in scouting Earth. But we were told there were other groups sent out to other nations around the globe. So what were their results? Didn't they have massive consequences? Why aren't we told about this at all? 

It's too bad the Robert Reed stuff never returns in the series. That was a fairly interesting (for this show) story line about clean nuclear energy and what not. 

The end of the episode really screams that it's a pilot. The set-up is that Xavier is going to keep jumping through time, and they will keep trying to stop him. This seems to be what the show will be about. Like Superbook (the second series where they follow the dog through the computer. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, check this out It's all pointing to the next episode being set in the American Revolution. Jamie is now part of the Galactica team (never mind how her sudden disappearance will effect things on Earth). I was so not looking forward to Galactica does the birth of America. And how exactly would Xavier be able to stop American democracy?

Jamie seemed FAR too excited at the prospect of being groped by Ben Franklin.

This series is much more a children's series (or at least family series) then its predecessor. From the pilot, I gathered that it was essentially going to be a means to teach history. We got lessons in World War II and the Holocaust (grossly oversimplified) in this one. I thought the series would be like the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in that regard (though it's already far inferior). This turned out not to be the case, but more on that later. Anyway, as a children's series, I thought I'd end each post with a kind of "what we learned" moral of the story.

Lessons of the week: Nazis are bad, the Holocaust was bad, nuclear energy is not as bad as it sounds