Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Frack!


There are some warm and fuzzy childhood memories that are better left exactly where they are. Captain Crunch is a pretty good example. What used to be a delightful, sugar infused breakfast cereal for your elementary school mouth becomes a Guantanamo bay sanctioned torture device for adult sized gums, gently shredding them with every excruciating bite.

The original 1978 BattleStar Galactica is much the same way. What was amazing as a kid becomes painful when you are an adult because such fine details as horrible acting, cheesy plots and ridiculous dialog are lost on a young boys imagination, especially when there are really super cool spaceships flying around and blowing each other up! And make no mistake, the Colonial fleets Viper fighter was very, very cool. Almost as cool as the Star Wars X-wing fighter.

Which explains why I missed the boat entirely on BattleStar Galactica when it was resurrected by the SciFi Channel in 2004. I finally succumbed when I kept hearing "This isn't your fathers Battlestar Galactica" from various fans of the new show.

Of course, they were right and I was wrong and I quickly caught up on all the shows, watching them in order on DVD releases one after the other and usually late into the night. When I ran out of episodes on DVD, I found other means to watch the remaining shows. It was like having a drug addiction and I needed my fix on a weekly basis. The new BSG was not only superior to it's 1978 incarnation, but easily topped every TV science fiction show ever made.

What makes this show stand apart from the usual science fiction TV fare is the human factor. Most of the characters are deeply flawed, even irrevocably damaged, and yet they are people whom we like, understand and are rooting for. Even in the flawed Gaius Baltar, the weakest and most damaged of all the characters, we find something redeemable and likable and perhaps something recognizable as well.

And this human factor is not just restricted to the humans. Even the Cylons struggle with their 'humanity' and are continually rediscovering and redefining who they are as a people and where they stand in relationship with God. There is no mistaking that Cylons view humans as warlike, deceitful killers who would eventually self-destruct as a race due to these inherent flaws and it was this perception which justified the surprise attack that nearly wiped out all of humanity.

But as the Cylons have 'matured' we see them gradually behaving in exactly the same murderous manner, not just to the human enemy, but towards their own kind as well. Perhaps the greatest difference between the Cylons and humans is that the humans are painfully aware of their own moral shortcomings where the Cylons are mostly blissfully ignorant of their own.

This past Friday, the last episode of BSG season 4 has ended and fans must now wait about a year until the next season begins. I'd like to find a methadone treatment, a drug that can help wean me off the addiction that Battlestar Galactica has become, but I'm afraid modern science (fiction) simply doesn't have anything that compares.

1 comment:

David K Wilson said...

My love affair with the new BSG ended with season 2. Not that I don't still like the show, I just don't love it anymore. Up through season two the show was a gritty realistic drama that dealt with how people dealt with crisis differently. (The ultimate crisis, a.k.a The Apocalypse.) Different themes of war, religion, family, politics were all covered.

Take the whole Pegasus conflict and subplot. Adama was initially tempted to take the Galactica and wage a one ship war against the Cylons for the sake of revenge, but to do so, he would have had to abandon the civilian fleet (and thus all humanity) to its fate--which would have been destruction. Adama admitted it was his son, Lee, that influenced him to commit to protecting the fleet. Later Adama said it was Rosiln, the civilian President, who "kept him honest" preventing Adama from becoming a military dictator.

Compare the approach Adama took now to the Approach Admiral Kane took with the Pegasus. She took the hard as a knife's edge approach (razor). A purely military--whatever it takes attitude, bending and breaking rules of morality and even laws to attain her ends. Couching no dissent and no challenges to her authority in stark contrast to Adama's command style, who managed, through difficult circumstances, to broker deals with his own dissenting officers and the civilian govt. Kane even went so far as to raid civilian ships for resources instead of protecting them.

And that is only ONE of the several interesting themes pursued in season two. Seasons three and four have become a soap opera where instead of great writing punctuating gritty drama, we have a soap opera where increasingly incestuous relationships are the mainstay of the show, and ever more frequent plot "revelations" have become the driving force behind the story arc plotting as opposed to interesting themes of human nature and human conflict. I feel like telling the writers that a big surprise every two episodes is not a substitute for a real plot.

Also, the Cylons look like the staff of a fashion magazine, not the rulers of a mechanistic military empire bent on galactic domination. Who would be afraid of this latte-swilling bunch?