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GFFA with a twist, and a splash of ambrose.

I've been filling in the gaps of the TV series Battlestar Galactica recently, and watching the episodes I had missed from the first couple of seasons on DVD. I had only seen scattered episodes of its two season lifespan thus far and had a general idea of the storyline, but still really enjoyed each episode on its own.

Now that I've seen most of it all together in sequence I'm really impressed, blown away a bit in fact, and I have another TV show to look forward to (along with the Star Wars TV series) with season 3 due to air in October of 2006. This show is pretty frakking good, if not at least for the reason that it gave me a brand new swear word to play with that hasn't reached censorship status.

I highly recommend it to any Star Wars or sci-fi fan, or anyone who enjoys a good conceptual story that is well represented through its medium both visually and as written. Okay, the hand held camera shake effect can seem a little over the top at times. I guess that contributes to the overall unique style of the show, and is reminiscent of both the original Battlestar Galactica series from the 1970's as well as the whole genre of Flash Gordon through Godzilla type cinematography. I'm just not much of a fan of quick zoom and flash panning in lieu of well edited static frame shots. We have some great state of the art equipment and technology today, so why not use it.

I'll say one thing though, they did a great job with CG and SFX for a mere TV show. It gets a little retro at times, but since it's intentional, and actually looks intentional, I'll accept it. In that respect, they put modern CG tools to good use. It's also filmed completely in HD, so I guess it had to be dumbed down a bit to get the realistic look.

I did have a hard time taking the show seriously when I first heard about it, I think back in '03 or '04. A remake of the series I watched as a kid to fill the void left after seeing the new phenomenon of Star Wars in the theaters, which I quickly became consumed by (Star Wars that is), seemed like more of a novelty and I had doubts as to its success. To my amazement, the new Battlestar Gallactica "reimagined" won many awards and acclaim shortly into its first season, even though I wasn't all that surprised after having seen a couple episodes. It was nice to see something as cool as this (at least cool to me, and my version of cool is usually a bit outside the mainstream) gain such positive recognition even beyond its own sci-fi genre microcosm.

I don't remember much about the story of the original Battlestar Gallactica series, just images and feelings really ;). I suppose if I wanted to I could research it all through the websites (they do have a sufficient amount of stuff on the web to get immersed in), but frankly I have enough energy concentrated elsewhere in the online world of fandom.

The differences I've been able to see from the old to new series are that one of the main characters "Starbuck" has been transformed to a female role in the new series. The old series had Starbuck probably a little too close to a swashbuckling Han Solo 'come' X-Wing squadron leader type feel. Also, the old series had a fuzzy robot dog mascot named 'Tweekie' (edit - the name was Muffit. The "Twiki" I was thing of a robot from the 80's Buck Rogers), which would have been something like the equivalent of R2 with maybe some 'Chewie the side-kick' attributes thrown in there. There's no real mascot/side-kick character in the new series that I can say would fit into that role.

They used the same basic ship designs, especially for the Ast fighters which in the new series are museum artifacts they had to make use of after the unexpected exile from Caprica (this is the starting point for the series). They are a virtual flashback to the old series, where the Viper was certainly inspired by the X-Wing concept. But maybe it had something to do with Ralph McQuarrie working as the original concept artist for both the original BSG and original Star Wars.

There are some cool tie-ins to the old series too, from borrowed set designs to flash backs of the older model cylon troopers/robots (yeah... pretty much storm/clone troopers) that were used in the 70's show. The funniest thing I've found is the appearance of actor Richard Hatch as the character Tom Zarek in the new series. Richard Hatch played Apollo in the original series from the 70s and still has the same exact haircut. Talk about a tie-in! His new character is vastly different from that of Apollo, who is played by the young and broodish Jamie Bamber. The fact that Starbuck is now female, but Apollo is still male in the new series, puts an interesting spin on the two characters' relationship.

The new series is supposedly "re-imagined" from the original story "in which a 'rag-tag fugitive fleet' of the last remnants of mankind flees pursuing aliens (cylons - also from the original series) while simultaneously searching for their true home, Earth".

The word "alien" in this quoted plot outline from battlestargalactica.com has a much different meaning, and I question how appropriate it is here. One would learn this in the first few minutes of the introductory miniseries anyway, so it's not much of a spoiler, but the "aliens" actually originated as robot/computer/servants (another massive departure from the original series where cylons were in fact real aliens) that were created by the humans in the first place. The cylons, empowered by the intelligence instilled in them, rebelled and separated from the humans to build their own life, and to meet again many years later...

Earth, however, is more of a prophecy that no one is sure really exists. A lot of interesting and familiar themes are chocked up in the main concept here, especially relative to Star Wars themes (except of course the concept of Earth) which the original series was perhaps rightfully accused of spinning off. The plot revolves primarily around the commander and pilots and lead ship of the fleet, much like our X-Wing, Jedi and clone pilot aviation theme in Star Wars. There's definitely a lot of X-Wing pilot/Luke Skywalker moments. But at the same time, the series draws some of the elements from other popular shows today, like JAG and West Wing for example, with gritty realistic military life overlapped with a subplot of the intimacies of political leadership.

Another cool theme of the show is the spiritual aspect of these humans from another time and another place. It could be a long time ago in a GFFA (okay, look back at the blog title now if you couldn't read it at first glance - whatever, I thought it looked sorta cool), or is it far off into the distant future and still in the same galaxy.

If the relative timeline was specified in the show, I guess I missed that, but it seems to be a question begging to be asked as well as a big nod to Star Wars itself. The humans, for the most part, believe in the same pantheon of Greek Gods we know from the ancient mythology and the story of the Iliad. The cylons have a formulated beleif system of sorts too, but that of a single god.

But the question is as to whether these were the "ones" who brought these ideas to our Earth long ago, or are they remnants of our original Earth ideas projected long into the distant future? There is much borrowed from other Earth spiritual traditions we know on the show, but the main focus stays with the Hellenistic v. Judeo-Christian mindset, which I find really interesting. Not bad for someone who claims to not be the religious type. I guess it's the mindless philosopher in me, more than an actual practitioner. To keep this whole conceptual ball rolling, the idea that "this has all happened before, and will happen again" is frequently mentioned, suggesting that the events of the human drama are played out in a constant loop throughout infinity, and that our reality fluctuates in perspectives.

Star Wars seemingly spawned some thinking on the question of "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" and humanity's role in the cycle of time relative to our present lives on Earth. It brings me back to another one of my favorite shows from the late 70's called Star Blazers, which was an early anime series featuring another rag-tag band of human space travelers who had a mission to save the human race. Like BSG, Star Blazers made an attempt to bring the concept of the human role in the universe implied with the GFFA, into the context of Earth relevance.

I especially appreciate the notion that the two main spiritual/cultural perspectives differ in that one is a more dualistic view of good v. evil, and the other is more of a tragic view of humanity involving less defined contrasts. Okay, at least this is where stories like this take my thought processes, the same way Star Wars inspires deeper thinking. I am obviously attracted to the ideas of ancient mythology being embedded into the story, which BSG does, but in a different fashion than Star Wars. The whole cylon DNA cloning thing is another theme that is a big part of Star Wars and also relevant today, and straddles the ideas about what makes us human yada yada... We've got all of our other crucial character and plot elements here too: faulted heroes finding their way, family ties that can make or break the survival of the masses, scoundrels gone good, etc. However, nothing is an exact copy of the same scenario in Star wars.

Before the scroll bar gets too big, I'll tie this up and just end it with a high recommendation for the series. It's earned two thumbs up from this fangirl. And really, I never considered myself so much of a sci-fi fan as much as a good story and concept enthusiast. But then again, supposedly if you don't think you're crazy, you probably are.


A little edit here - Thought I'd post some links to a couple of the other websites aside from the one I included above.

As anyone could have probably predicted, theres a Wiki page for BSG: Battlestar Wiki. They actually have one of my favorite quotes up today from the miniseries...

Starbuck: I thought you were dead.
Apollo: I thought you were in hack.
Starbuck: It's good to be wrong.
Apollo: You should be used to that by now.
Starbuck: Everyone's got a skill.

Scifi.com also has thier own Battlestar Galactica site.

Note - If you plan on purchasing the DVD sets, only the first half of season 2 has been put to DVD as of the date of this blog. Season 1 was my personal favorite (especially since it includes the mini series in the set), and I probably wouldn't bother owning season 2 until the second half comes out on DVD, and if they compile it to one set.


1 comment:

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