Friday, December 01, 2006

Battlestar Galactica: I don't get it

So much hype for the show that even Slate has finally discovered it. After hearing about it for a while myself, I finally gave BSG a try for about three episodes, sometime during the previous season. (It was, if I recall, when Adama was convalescing, Tigh was mismanaging the ship, and a bunch of marines were planetside for some reason or other.) To put you in my frame of view, I really enjoy science fiction usually (and especially the character-driven post-new-wave stuff, ahem), and will cut a lot of technical disbelief for the service of a good story and interesting people.

But like I said, this show just didn't grab me. Some flaws I found:

Indistinguishable plots:
There were arcing threads in these episodes, which, to be fair were the engaging ones. I didn't resent being confused by these, as obviously they were works in progress. Each of the episodic threads was the same each time though, and less than compelling for their repetition. Marines on the planet go through some harrowing (yet strangely formulaic) ground combat (in one of the episodes I watched, it was fighter combat instead), and one character confronts some Scary Issues. Meanwhile cylons might be infiltrating the ship. Can the leadership effectively repel them? Ho hum.

- Plot-convenient threats:
Man, if those cylons really wanted to take over the ship, it looks like they could. They get in easily, lay some waste, and then get rebuffed at the last minute and at great human expense. Maybe they should send more than two next time.

- Confusing transitions:
Here they're on the planet, now they're on the ship. It's not clear why, when dirtside, they needed a ship to rescue them, nor is it clear why they ever needed to be walking around on an allegedly poisoned planet in the first place. Their modes of transport seem inconsistent in capability. What kind of drama can there be when they can scoot back up to the mother ship at a moment's notice?

- Unrevealing reveals:
The last episode I sat through ended with three prominent cylons (the blonde mindfucking one, the pretty asian one, and under the circumstances, I can't remember the third) somehow sitting together at evil alien HQ, after being dealt with convincingly in their plot-related locations (again with the confusing transitions), saying everything was going according to plan. Seriously, when after a setback, the evil overlords cackle over some counterintuitive plan, it usually means that they (the writers) have no plan. It's like the X-Files: too many grand dramatic twists and they eventually became meaningless. Evidently, it took BSG a season and a half to get to that point. (In this respect, it's a ballsy move to podcast the writer's meetings!)

- (I want to complain about the reversion to 21st century technology and mindsets when the writers can't think of something appropriately space-operatic (which isn't a complaint about war allegory, mind you, but more about poor technobabble generators and props). The setting doesn't get a consistent enough feel sometimes. I can't remember enough specifics for that one though.)

Good science fiction uses fantastic settings to pose questions that are difficult under normal circumstances, and then lets the consequences play out logically according to the premises as they're defined. It's not clear that BSG has managed that, and those three conniving cylons at the closing curtain was sufficient evidence of make-it-up-as-you-go-alongism that I was inspired to throw the remote across the room and re-devote my Saturday nights to drunken blogging. I'd be willing to give the show another shot, but at this point, I need to be convinced.


Elbo Ruum said...

I think you'd have a more gracious opinion of it if you'd seen all of it.

The problem with most serials is that you have story arcs that can last a number of episodes. There's a lot going on in this one, which is in diametric opposition to the original.

It's more like an HBO serial set in space than the typical episodic late '70s sci-fi serial.

switters said...

Hey, K.

Yeah, I had something happen to me that was similar early last summer. NBC (I think) rebroadcast about 3 episodes of the series on a Saturday night (I think). And while there was beaucoup confusion on my part, unlike you I was incredibly intrigued.

I expect these good folks are correct: Rent the whole series, which I plan on doing. It's just that lately I've had a lot on my plate and haven't had enough large blocks of time to devote to a drawn out series. Who knows? When I'm off during the holidays and can start drinking during the day, maybe I'll slam BG DVDs into the old player and just go to town.

So, you know, since you're not a father or husband and have plenty of free time, what's your problem, dude?

MsZilla said...

I loathe this show like poison, but that's because I was a fan of the original and can't deal with the changes.

I would need a whole bottle of wine before each episode just to make sure that when I lost my temper and threw something at the TV I would probably miss. ;)

Just so you know, the reason they had to revert was explained in the first episode. Anything from their time was too simple for the Cylons to hack into. That's why we're back to Bell phones on board ship and stuff.

MsZilla said...

Go ram it! Now I made a mistake and went and read the frickin' article!

Dumbasses don't even know that the materials shortages that they're trying to manufacture is all over the frickin' original materials. The very situation they're trying to set up as a deus ex machina excuse for something else was already up and running in episode 2 of the original series.

Didn't they at least WATCH the stuff they're tearing all to heck!?

Sorry. I'm going to go breathe into a paper bag and repeat, "There's No Place like Caprica" in the corner for a while.

Keifus said...

Silly dinosaur, that's what you get for reading the article.

I only skimmed it myself, but was left wondering (again) what the hell the big deal was. My reasoning was my own, based on the episodes I watched (which, as I mentioned, failed to intrigue).

(And about all I remember from the 70s series, besides the badass robots, was the much-bigger-than-usual microns. Their technobabble generators were in bad shape too.)

If there's an introductory miniseries dvd, maybe I'll give it a shot though. I don't want to ahve to watch 32 indistinguishable episodes. MsZ's explanation of the low-tech kludge is about as good an apology as I could expect, too.

switters: it's the quality of the free time that's the big problem. Can probably swing a rental if I try hard enough (and stay awake for at least a third of it).