Battlestar Galactica: Then and Now

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Battlestar Galactica TV Poster,

Battlestar Galactica: Then
I suppose this is my “when I was a child . . .” posting where I rant and rave about these “darn kids” and how the new generation is messing everything up.  It is isn’t really, but I do want to briefly talk about Battlestar Galactica (or BSG as it is referred to these days).  I am lucky enough to have seen the original as a child and (some) of the newer series (more on that below) as an adult and one can see how media can shift over a generation.  I love the idea of BSG.  Yes, it was inspired in that wave of “knock-offs” where TV execs of the time wanted a “Star Wars“-like show to capitalize on the popularity of the movie.  BSG was one of many such endeavors, but it stuck around because even though the stories are “hokey” by today’s standards, they still revealed a pathos and a sense of “fun” that was endemic in late 70s/early 80s TV.  This was the Sci-Fi equivalent to The Love BoatFantasy IslandQuincy M.E., Alice, and The Facts of Life to name a few.  Even though it was on in the early 80s, it was just before the “New Wave” of 80s show exemplified by Magnum P.I., and Miami Vice, both of which, while having fun plots, had a much harder edge to them at the time.  BSG‘s plots were mostly sci-fi in nature, but with a social tinge to them.  However, they were mostly about family (Boomer & Boxie) being the main giveaways.  They could go dark (I seem to remember a character died in the show), but for the most part they were fun stories that shows like Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda harkened back to.

 

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Battlestar Galactic: Now
However, BSG’s new series was critically acclaimed and lauded as one of the best shows on TV.  I watched the Mini-Series and was fairly impressed.  I knew that they would update the themes and the like, so I wasn’t expecting a “saccharine” version of the original.  I think the mini-series was very well done.  I could have gone without the fascination behind Baltar’s sex life or the rumination on Religion and the “Sins of the Father” that they use as a theme for the show, but the science fictional story/set-up was great and the music was exceptional (still influencing sci-fi shows and games to this day).  However, when the actual series started and season 1 began, it went downhill from there with me.  The science fiction lessened and the social, political, and religious elements took forefront in the stories to such an extent that I was only able to last midway through the first season.  I would periodically check in on the show by checking out various odd episodes, but I was never able to get back into the series.  The science fiction, when they focused on that, was top-notch.  Seeing the Galactica plummet in the atmosphere of a planet as it gives aid before jumping back out again is one of the strongest examples of sci-fi I have ever seen on TV and is seared into my mind.  Yet, in many ways, it helped to usher in the whole GrimDark idea that shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones took and ran with as there were many times when I saw Bad Things Happen to Good People on the show and while others might argue that is “sophisticated” and “realistic,” I argue that it is exactly the opposite, “churlish,” and in “poor taste.”

I happened to watch the Mini-Series again on Amazon Prime and was reminded of the potential that the show had–potential to really focus on the greatness of humanity.  While others will say that the potential was realized–to be fair, it has more Emmy wins than I even have publications.  However, based on the way the original BSG fired my imagination as a child and helped to mold me into the reader/writer/lover of Sci-Fi that I am today, I can’t help but wonder it that is really true.

Sidney




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Star Trek Voyager: Series Review

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The Crew of the Starship Voyager from Star Trek Voyager, Image Source: Tales of the Marvelous

So I finished watching Star Trek Voyager over the weekend.  I enjoyed it, but it seemed a little more uneven than Star Trek Enterprise.  There were some episodes that I really loved and there were some episodes that I had to fast-forward through in order to watch.  I think the problem is that the series had a tendency to focus on certain characters too much and didn’t always work to mix the characters together as well as they could have.  I think too, that the way STV used the “subplot” didn’t really ring as true as it did with other Star Trek series.  Sometimes the subplot was used to great effect and really enhanced the story and at other times, the subplot was barely developed or didn’t have as much effect as one would have hoped it would, which made the main plot seem lifeless.

I think the problems that I’m having with the series as a whole are more on the writers/showrunners side than on the actors side.  I really liked all of the characters on the show–both new and old.  Having watched the entire season in a short span of time, I feel that there are two parts to Voyager: Kess/Pre Seven of Nine and Post-Kess/Seven of Nine.  The Kess/Pre Seven of Nine stories focus more on Capt. Janeway’s desire to get her crew home, while the Post Kess/Seven of Nine stories focus more on recovering Seven’s humanity and socializing Seven into Voyager’s crew.  The quest home, while still very much a plot structure, gets subordinated to the ideas of what it means to be human.  And Seven isn’t the only character who goes through this storyline–The Emergency Medical Holographic Doctor is also a central figure when it comes to this plot line as well.

I want to be clear–I liked this series!  It is a more complete “conceptualization” of what Star Trek is as a series than Enterprise was, I think.   The fact that it ran for seven full years, however, hurts it when comparing it to Enterprise which ended in its fifth season because you can see the “choppiness” and “uneven” nature of the stories even more readily the longer the series goes on.  I “fast-forwarded” through many more episodes of Voyager than I did with Enterprise because the episodes lacked the necessary tension to drive the stories (and the series) forward.

OVERALL SERIES GRADE: B- (mainly due to inconsistent writing/episodes), B+ for characters and overall characterization (only for that aspect)

Sidney




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Star Trek Enterprise Redux

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Image Source: Memory Alpha

On Friday, I finished the entire 4 season run on Netflix of Star Trek Enterprise.  I have to say that once I got into it, I really enjoyed it.  My overall impression is that it is a good Sci-Fi show that probably ended too soon, Here are some general impressions of the show (with as few spoilers as possible as I will not be discussing specific plot developments, but rather general impressions).

Seasons 1 and Season 2: “Exploration” was the theme of the first two seasons and I seem to be in the minority as I actually liked season 1 and season 2.  Most of the critical reception notes season 1 and 2 as “uneven.”  Yes, there were several episodes that I didn’t like (they tended to be the ones that focused on social issues) in the first two seasons, but they considered themselves as “explorers” and there was an enthusiasm for the “wonder” of it all.  Time travel and time manipulation was a key ingredient in these two seasons.

Season 3: “Conflict” was the theme of season 3.  Apparently ratings, which had started strong from the pilot episode, dropped steadily as the episodes of the first two seasons ran their course.  The writers.producers tried to course-correct and this leads to a season long conflict.  To go into anymore detail is to approach spoiler territory, but season 3 is much more action focused.  While I generally liked the action episodes more in seasons 1 and 2, here I found it made the crew (the captain, in particular) as one note.  They are all driven by the ideals of war and conflict and that leaves little time for wonder.  I liked this  season about the same as season 1 and 2.  There was more action, so it was always tense, but the loss of the shows wonder balanced out the increased tension.

Season 4: “Alternate History” was the theme for season 4.  While not the primary focus of the whole season, 4 of the episodes were given over to alternate history tales with both of the plots being two-part episodes.  I did notice some new names as writers in this season, but after that season long “epic” of the Enterprise’s crew searching the Expanse in Season 3, I don’t think that devoting such a large number of Alternate History stories back into the series was a wise move and towards the end, we also see real-world parallels with the rise of an “Earth-First” movement.  It seemed a little to convenient a set-up to try to get to the idea of the “Federation.”  The Season Finale (which turned out to also be the Series Finale) was also not great.  I like the idea of it (in theory), but for this episode to have worked, the show would have had to have continued.  To end the way it did, seemed forced and anti-climatic.  I know the producers knew that the show had been cancelled and wanted to give resolution, but it was done in such a way that it seemed to demphasize the hard work of the crew of the Enterprise.  I liked this season least of all.

Final Grade for the Series: B- (Good acting, special effects, and characterization let down by questionable story and plot choices, especially in the last season).  While Enterprise may not have had a seven year run like the other major ST series did except the first (to my knowledge), had ratings not declined and/or had the network had more faith, I think we could have gotten to see the Federation “born” more concretely in this series and ST fans would have been the better for it.