Monday, July 10, 2006

Battlestar Galactica

I love science fiction, but for some reason, I never started watching the new BSG, even though I was a fan of the original. That was a mistake. John downloaded the first two seasons and I recently watched them all. This is probably the best show on tv right now (ok, I don't have HBO, but still). I'm a big Lost fan but BSG is now holding the coveted #1 spot on my tivo season pass list. There's so much to like about this show, I'll just make a list (Spoilers ahead)-

The reimagining - I know this was controversial, but it was genius. The humanoid Cylons, the Cylon origin, even the female Starbuck, it all works, and it fits together better than the original. And it gave them the latitude to create a new storyline for the whole series that they can now reveal bit by bit. In that way it's somewhat like Lost, you know there's something going on, you don't know exactly what it is, but you get bits and pieces through each episode.

The writing - It's been consistently good and sometimes great. It's as much character-driven as it is plot-driven maybe more so, which I think is usually a hallmark of great storytelling. The storylines are fresh and unpredictable, and often very exciting. I was literally shaking with nervous anticipation during the conflict between Adama and Kane. They strike a good balance between action and drama. They deal with tough issues, not just mirroring current events like prisoner abuse, but also dealing with problems you would expect to arise in a situation like theirs - military/civilian conflict, press freedom, rebellion.

The characters and actors - As mentioned above, the characterization is great. You really care about these people. I had a lump in my throat when Starbuck told Adama that she had passed Zak when he really shouldn't have passed. It felt like a real moment. And the way the relationships change. The fact that Lee lets go of his anger when he finds out that Zak's death wasn't his father's fault. The way the relationship between Adama and Roslin goes from rocky to mutual admiration. Sharon's realization that she's a cylon and her suicide attempt. It's all good. It would be easy to use a lot of stock cardboard science fiction characters, but for the most part they avoid that.

The special effects - They look great to me. I like the gritty look, which makes sense and I never find myself taken out of the story by some jarring effect. I also don't see them using the special effects gratuitously. But it does look awesome when Galactica is firing full throttle fighting off hundreds of Cylon raiders. I like the way they have a lot of very retro tech. No lasers, just bullets and nukes. About the only thing they have that we don't is the FTL drives. I think it adds to the realism. It makes it easier to identify with them.

The season 2 finale - Well, it's definitely different. I like it so far. As I said above, I think the strength of the series has been it's writing and characterization, I don't feel it's a formula-driven show. So, this breaking of the formula is ok with me as long as they stay true to the characters and keep the story interesting and original. I like the idea of Kara organizing a Cylon resistance on New Caprica (when are the webisodes supposed to start?) And the idea of the fleet running on a skeleton crew trying resist from outside. I think this could ultimately be a good thing for the series. Showing that they can do different things relatively early in the series gives the writers more room to work in the future.

All in all, great tv. As good or better than anything on the networks. If this is the kind of quality the SciFi channel produces, I'll have to start watching more of their shows.

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Toast said...

Can't tell you how happy I am to see the Brothers Howard have both joined the Colonial Fleet's Earth Auxilliary Brigade. And now that you're caught up, welcome to the Hell the rest of us are in: The Wait.

BTW, one note on special effects that you didn't mention: The physics of space "flight". The way the ships flip and spin and turn in zero G as opposed to merely mimicking the choreography of WWII aerial dogfights like most sci-fi shows do. Just fucking brilliant.

John Howard said...

What you meant to say was that I got the first season on DVD and DVR'd the second season, which you subsequently watched at my house.

I still like LOST better, but this is a pretty close second, and I think I may like it even more when I have to wait between episodes, since the anticipation factors in a lot with shows like this. Both shows did manage to cure cancer.

As for the reimagining, it's great. I originally wanted to watch the new show because I remembered liking the old show as a kid. But after recently watching some(as much as I could stand) of an old episode on the Sci-Fi channel one day, I realize that that show really, really sucked. It was literally painful to watch. My eyes hurt after. So, what they've done making the new show so well is even more impressive.

I like the special effects, especially considering it's a cable show, you wouldn't think they'd be able to do so well. And like Toast says, the space battles seem more like what you would expect in space. The one thing I don't like is the landings seem way too soft, but that's not a big deal.

I like the characters, and I think they got some good actors to play them. The relationships are great.

One thing that really bugged me was how they would always have like 10-15 pilots in any meetings or anything, then they go out and fight these big battles with way more ships. Reminds me of Coach, when they used to have that team room that could only fit like twenty guys in it for a college football team.

I really liked the season 2 finale. Mostly, because I don't know what's going to happen. I really hate predictable, and it would be easy for a show like this to be predictable.

I keep meaning to watch more Sci-fi channel to see if any of their other shows are any good, but somehow it doesn't usually register as I pass it when flipping around. I do definitely watch more cable shows now, though, they're really going to start screwing the networks soon. FX in particular has some good shows. HBO rarely puts on anything bad, and I've recently started watching some decent shows on USA. I watch way too much TV.

Chris Howard said...

The physics of space "flight".

I'm glad you mentioned that. I meant to include that but it was late. That really shows that they're thinking about these things. There's no reason spaceflight would be like airfighting. I love the way they flip the ships around with those little attitude rockets.

Chris Howard said...

So Toast, what was your take on the season 2 finale?

John Howard said...

I think Toast blogged about his take, you can probably check his archives. If I remember correctly, he was less impressed than I was.

Toast said...

I was a little put off by the season 2 finale. First off, I hate the whole "Let's skip forward a whole bunch in time" device when deployed in serial drama. Second... I don't know, it just seemed too neat somehow. As if the fleet would really take the Cylons detente at face value and conveniently settle down. This, after 99.999% of their race has been wiped out. No, I don't think so.

That said, these writers have earned a lot of slack from me, and I'm happy to give them time to prove me wrong and dazzle me again.

Chris Howard said...

As if the fleet would really take the Cylons detente at face value and conveniently settle down.

I had similar thoughts myself. But we've seen how they've really struggled with the rule of law. Adama particularly has gone through a lot, including staging his coup and sending Lee to the brig. Having gone through that, I think defying the legally elected president again would have been too much for him. His respect for the balance of power was hard-earned.

If anything was too easy, I thought it was the death of Kane. The writers clearly created a situation where she needed to be taken out of the picture. I'm glad Adama didn't have to do it, but having a cylon do it seemed a little too deus ex machina.

John Howard said...

One of the things I love lately in TV shows is that they don't feel like they have to mold the show to a real timeline. LOST is still in 2004, Alias skipped ahead a couple of times. I think as long as the story warrants it, I'm happy with it. If they screw it all up next season, I'll agree with you, but so far I don't have a problem with it.

As for eveyone settling down, I can't imagine the strain the life they were living must have taken on them, and I can imagine people would be willing to settle for even any illusion of stability.

They had to kill off Cain, that woman is way too busy. Right after I finished watching Battlestar Galactica, I watched 24, which she was in, then after that I started watching Alias and saw her there too. She was also in Prison Break. And she was in Seinfeld a long time ago.

Toast said...

She was also Ensign Ro in Star Trek: The Next Generation. (At least I'm pretty sure that was her -- Michelle Forbes -- too lazy to do an IMDB.)

It was very convenient the way they knocked her off. And disappointing, too, right after she proved she wasn't a total psycho.

Alias skipped ahead a couple of times.

Yup. And I HATED it when they did that.

Chris Howard said...

Yeah, she was Ensign Ro, that's actually where I recognized her from. she just needed that little Bajoran nose crinkle thingy.