A Review by Noah Antwiler
As I sat in my Fortress of Bitterness, organizing all the love letters Morgan Webb has sent me into protective plastic covers, I grew troubled at the state of gamer movies today. Expectations are so low anymore that the announcement of a new comic book adaptation is met with groans rather than excitement. Video game adaptations are virtually ignored, and as Serenity proved, sci-fi doesn't sell. For a moment I felt irrelevant, as if my work was completed. But then I turned on the television and soon realized that there was much work yet to do! There is a scourge on this land, polluting TiVO hard drives across the country and wasting the collective time of millions-- time better spent lobbying for a new George Takei Star Trek spinoff series (I know that issue has been dead for a while, but God I wish I knew how to quit him). It's time someone finally shined the light of truth on this phantom menace, and I'm that light...shiner...guy. In this special Gamer's Rant, it's time you heard the truth about Battlestar Galactica.
I know where you think I'm going with this, because anytime someone bashes the new Galactica series they think it's because of the decision to change the character of Starbuck into a woman. I never even bothered to compare the re-envisioned series to the old one, but I'll play that game for now. Frankly I don't care what they did with Starbuck because it could only have been an improvement. News flash, fanboys: The new series sucks like an Aaron Spelling vampire drama, and the old show sucked too. Don't even send me your putrid, whining hate-mail about how it was a sweeping, epic space opera with complex characters and compelling stories. It was a kitchy, badly-scripted mess of a series that played more like a sitcom than a drama, with such award-worthy plots as the Cowboy Cylon and the planet of Nazi Terrans. Just think about it real hard before you pick a fight on this score, because I can crack out tapes of Galactica 1980 if you really want to rumble. Yeah, Galactica 1980, where the ship finally reaches Earth and the crew is completely flummoxed by common modern annoyances like traffic jams. "They must be excellent pilots to be able to stay in formation at such slow speeds."
It's my analysis that the new Galactica series is so popular because the first stage of grief is denial. Science fiction fans are so hungry for a good show that they'll latch onto the few that are available and fool themselves into thinking they're worth watching. After a few months the infatuation dies and the show's crippling flaws can no longer be denied (just look at Lost). The story is basic: in a far-flung galactic civilization, humanity created a race of giant robot slaves that (who would have thunk it) attained sentience and rebelled. During truce negotiations, the Cylons launch a Pearl Harbor attack and wipe out the 13 Terran colonies, leaving only a single Battlestar vessel and a large convoy of refugee vessels. The colonies sterilized, the government chain of command is shattered and so the Secretary of Education is depressingly the next in the chain of succession. It inspires about as much confidence as Margaret Spellings, current U.S. Secretary of Education and 16th in the line of succession being sworn into office. It's not a comforting thought to imagine Ms. Spellings commanding our military forces in Iraq, but then, look who's doing it right now.
The show is almost, almost saved by Commander Adama, played by the supremely awesome Edward James Olmos, whose badassery alone elevates every scene he appears in. He's changed quite a bit from his almost unrecognizable appearance as Gaff in Blade Runner, but even then you could see the sheer star power in that man. It helps that Olmos is the core of the ensemble cast, whose sublime acting carries every nuance of a battle-wearied senior officer with the weight of the entire human race's survival hanging around his neck. It's just a shame that the rest of the show fails to keep up so badly, both in acting and technical aspects. Adama holds down the fort, but it's with the pilots that the war against the Cylons is fought, and it's there that the show falls on its face.
The action focus of the show is Starbuck, the hard-drinking, cigar-smoking, authority-bucking-- dare I use the term?-- bitch who not only is the best pilot in the fleet, but everyone knows it. The problem with Starbuck isn't that the character is a woman, it's that she's so caustic and unlikable that she comes across as a boozing, ticking time-bomb of mental problems and irresponsibility who, while a good pilot, is so insubordinate and dangerously negligent that she's directly responsible for the deaths of more of her wingmates than the Cylons themselves. Her continued career on the Galactica is puzzling, as I don't know a military force in any galaxy that would tolerate an officer who would strike their XO and change flight assignments on vital missions because she's too hung over to fly. She's smug, condescending, antisocial, self-centered, and a borderline sociopath (like me, but I have better hair and look sexier in a sports bra). Her spoiled brat attitude is understandable in the sense that she's the only pilot in any fleet that's worth a damn, including Apollo, and the fact has gone to her head. The other Viper pilots are about as combat effective as Communists in a Chuck Norris movie. As much as it must pain Adama to admit it, the only way anything gets done out in space is with Starbuck flying.
My own personal peeve is the inclusion of Hot Blonde Cylon, so-called by myself because she's given no name in the show. She's a particularly transparent ploy to titillate the young male nerd demographic and satisfy their latent urge to mate with an anatomically-correct female android, because real chicks don't understand them. HBC is a nearly omnipresent figure in every scene, hovering as a hallucinatory faux-Rebecca Romijn in every scene featuring Dr. Baltar. Her role is particularly annoying because, as a robot, several copies of her exist. This fact makes her virtually impossible to eradicate, and by virtue of multiplicity, she can be involved in every damn story arc on the show. At least Rebecca Romijn's (the only reason anyone watched X-Men 2, let's be honest) seductive wiles were kept more subtle. Hot Blonde Cylon, on the other hand, spends every waking second of the show prancing around in skimpy clothes and performing phantasmal fellatio on Dr. Baltar. This means that Baltar is almost constantly looking completely bushwhacked and guilty at all times, and is often caught humping his own chair during important presidential meetings. HBC's involvement in the show is so pervasive that I've actually grown tired of staring at her breasts. Do you have any idea how long a guy can stare at boobs without interruption before tiring of it? Two years. (Divorced readers, look back on your old marriage and tell me that timeframe's not right!)
The sleeper-hit of BSG is Boomer (Grace Park) whose 1970s counterpart was also hit with a transgender ray and turned into a hawt pilot. She's undeniably beautiful, but much like Jolene Blalock, not much of a reason to watch an inferior turd of a space show. Can you imagine how many episodes of Enterprise they tried to salvage by padding it out with scenes of T'Pol getting smeared in ointment or meditating nude with that hillbilly bridge officer? Gag. Just Google Image Search her and find what Maxim photos smarter nerds have scanned already and save yourself the time. Why so many guys waste their time suffering through BSG is beyond me. I'm beyond such rude, base objectification of women. Besides, you want to talk hot chicks, I've done such foul things mentally to all the women in Firefly I ought to be arrested. I'll take Jewel Staite over anyone in television right now. Except Morgan Webb. She's mine.
Hey, don't laugh. I mean it. I'll sword fight you right now. Back off!
The biggest change that I can spot in the new series is the notion that the Cylons have remodeled themselves so that they look human, nearly indistinguishable from homo sapiens in every regard. Luckily, Edward James Olmos is well trained in retiring Replicants, even the tricky Nexus-6 Cylons. Not only could anyone be a Cylon, but some of them are sleeper agents who don't even know that they evolved from toasters. It's just a terribly frustrating idea to me because I know that at any time the writers can just sweep the rug out from under the audience by revealing a major cast member was a Cylon all along, and there's no point trying to predict who it is (but that won't stop Internet geeks). It's the writing equivalent of a kidney punch to sucker an audience like that.
The scripts are a shambles of half-realized characters and spontaneous romances of plot convenience. Melodrama plagues most of the subplots, such as Boomer's baby (Baby Boomer?), Apollo's dead girlfriend, Starbuck's bore of a dead boyfriend, Tigh's boozing, and Baltar's inability to stop playing with himself in public. The editing is some of the worst I've seen in television. The current trend in BSG is to shoot each episode in very chaotic staggered flashback sequences, where we start the episode at the climax of the action, and progressively flash back to the events leading up to it. It's unnecessary and harder to follow than trying to watch Memento stoned. Not a good experience, I can tell you. What's worse, I've noticed several scenes shown in the opening "previously, on Battlestar Galactica" sequences that were never aired! How can we make sense of the show when the editors can't?
I just can't take the bloody show anymore. Apollo is a complete wuss, Starbuck's very existence annoys me in a way that makes me pray daily for her death. I haven't done that since Boone & Shannon. Remember folks, it's only the best spacer show around because there aren't any others. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to write some Inara/Kaylee lemon and Mal/Book shonen-ai fanfiction for my website.