Monday, April 6, 2020

Battlestar Galactica S1 E3: Bastille Day

"He's a criminal and a terrorist, people aren't gonna give him credence."
-Commander William Adama-

"Don't be so sure commander. Rebellions are contagious."

-President Laura Roslin-

ne man's terrorist or "butcher" is another man's freedom fighter or "prisoner of conscience" as two sides of the proverbial coin or argument fall squarely on the subject of political dissent for the third episode.

olitical dissent and the politics of the series in general is clearly the theme in play and on full display for Battlestar Galactica, Season One, Episode 3, Bastille Day. The title is a clear reference to the Parisian prison Bastille that was stormed, and the triggering events of the French Revolution (1789). The allusion echoes the tumultuous events aboard the prison ship Astral Queen in Bastille Day.

hile some of the writing in the entry definitely leans left on making its argument, on the whole both sides are represented. A sympathetic ear to the political dissidents is on display and the writers seem to justify violence as a means to their ends. Ultimately though a diplomatic resolution by Apollo, who represents the Hawks, results to the writers' credit. Nonetheless Apollo is sympathetic to the Zarek end, not the violent means, but toward free and open elections.

In Brian Ott's
(Re)Framing Fear: Equipment For Living In A Post-9/11 World in Cylons In America I don't agree with the framing of his argument regarding the episode, an essay that is clearly anti-George W. Bush yet it's always fascinating to see the views of the political left. It's well written and this episode seems to underscore and represent the leanings of the collegiate left.

or example, Ott compares Roslin's default appointment to the Presidency as illegitimate and not truly an appointment by the people (despite the appointment as legally binding according to Caprican law) to that of the election of George Bush. Speaking of argument framing, Ott suggests Bush was not elected by the people (not receiving the popular vote Al Gore allegedly received) simply disregarding the electoral form of government established by the framers of our Constitution and discarding the electoral vote total for George Bush. The founding fathers in their infinite wisdom have established a system that has worked for hundreds of years. Pray that it continues to serve the country well balancing population centers with geographic representation across a nation.

n Battlestar Galactica, the inmates are running the asylum on the Astral Queen led by the one and only Richard Hatch (formerly Apollo in Larson's classic Battlestar Galactica) as Tom Zarek who takes up arms against Adama's dispatch to the prisoner ship. Hatch makes a huge splash as the creators behind the new BSG pay homage to the now late, great Hatch in a major guest starring (and recurring) role for the third episode of the season.

atch, always a long time proponent of Battlestar's potential for a rebirth, is paid back handsomely. His passion for the franchise and his loyalty and commitment to the series that made him a star for its single season run way back in 1978-1979 landed him a terrific new character role.

Bastille Day enjoys a face to face meeting of the new Apollo, played by Jamie Bamber, with the original Apollo in Hatch. It's particularly rich to watch Hatch, the former Apollo, wax poetically of the God Apollo in his performance in good detail as a tribute to the character he once played. It's fun to see the baton handed off by Hatch as the new Apollo reveals himself to be one of the most principled and lawfully righteous characters in the series.

nce again the writers write for intensity and character and story and land another riveting entry in the first season.

ommunications between those who work for Commander William Adama (representing the Hawks) and those who work for Laura Roslin (representing the Doves) makes for a compelling debate.

hen terrorist Zarek takes matters into his own hands and extreme violence occurs it's difficult to get behind him as the hero.

n fact, Hatch plays the anti-hero as a mirror to his now classic role. He's far from the courageous, noble hero of Larson original in the form of Zarek. Though his character is intended to be complex and more indefinable as many of the ambiguous characters are in this series along with their often questionable motivations. Where characters in the original series seemed to be led by their best impulses, the characters here often seem lured by their worst. Like the mirror universe episodes in Star Trek the new BSG is seemingly all of that to the original. The bulk pessimism and despair in this survival tale is often palpable and excruciating, but the execution of its world is perfect.

Bastille Day examines the free society. Zarek questions the strict military oversight of the fleet, the rise of Laura Roslin's swearing in as an affront to free and open elections. Bastille Day asks us to reflect upon freedom and doesn't spoon feed us any easy answers, but in effect see the two viewpoints without preaching as the tendency is to do (see later seasons of TV series Homeland). Lee Adama pushes for democratic representation while Roslin considers squashing such opposition as elites in power can. Lee is the complex balance between William Adama and Laura Roslin and the two political schools of thought.

onald D. Moore noted "I saw this episode as an opportunity to really set up the politics of the show. I wanted the audience to know that politics were going to be an important part of the show..." (p52, Battlestar Galactica: The Official Companion). While a tricky proposition to take on politics in such a headlong manner it became a hallmark of this series and was handled by and large quite exceptionally regardless of your political persuasion. This is challenging material for both sides.

Bastille Day offers great, textured writing zeroing in on the politics of Battlestar Galactica yet remains mercilessly entertaining and brutal while doing so. At the end of this day, Bastille Day is a powerful, effective piece of science fiction television with no shortage of provocative reflection.

ith Bastille Day Battlestar Galactica once again moves from strength to strength and barrels along in its first amazing season going three for three.

Writer: Toni Graphia. Director: Allan Kroeker.

Friday, April 3, 2020

The Sci-Fi Fanatic BIG 5: Science Fiction Franchises

In this short life of ours, no matter what science fiction has to offer and throw my way, this writer tends to have his go to series that he enjoys returning to time and again.

Some science fiction concepts, stories, ideas come and go never to register in the synapses again, but there are those that are faithfully returned to as some of the best science fiction comfort food a man or woman could wish for.

The concept of exploration is key and never grows old. Many of these franchise properties have that variable in common.

This is my personal Sci-Fi Fanatic BIG 5: Science Fiction Franchises or properties that seem to have a life of their own and continue to provide enjoyment to me years after they completed their runs as evidenced here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic.

1. Star Trek. The most obvious choice for a science fiction fan. The franchise for Star Trek is like Star Wars in terms of abundance. There is just no shortage of material. ST: TOS (1966-1969). ST: TAS (1973-1974). ST:TNG (1987-1994). ST:DS9 (1993-1999). ST: Voyager (1995-2001). ST: Enterprise (2001-2005). ST: Discovery (2017-present). ST: Picard (2020-present).

Like Star Wars, it's fairly relentless and yet in terms of story quality, particularly at this point, Star Trek is head and shoulders above Star Wars for this writer.

Take your pick in terms of television runs and there is plenty for the franchise fan. Star Trek is currently clocking in at eight (8) official TV series. Gene Roddenberry's vision seems infinitely interesting. Sadly, the world of George Lucas has become a rather messy spectacle.

2. Battlestar Galactica. I can't be alone in this camp, but the two TV versions of Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979; 2003-2009) remain treasures. I love them both for very different reasons. One is filled with inspiration and hope, while the other is more often pessimistic, brutal and internally grim when it comes to the human heart. Yet the Glen A Larson original and the Ronald D. Moore reimagining both have their moments of despair and hope.

Without the original we wouldn't have had Moore's work which is important, but without Moore we might not have had this wonderful franchise that makes this list.

Meanwhile, Caprica (2010) and Battlestar Galactica: Blood And Chrome (2012) are good, while not as memorable, but it's time for a return. The books and comic books are excellent as well. Still, I'm ready for a new series or that much fabled, heralded would be film that always seems to be shelved.

Did I mention Galactica 1980 (1980)? OK, maybe that was intentional.

3. Stargate. Ten seasons of the original series, Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007), based on the Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich film coupled with a solid adventure spin-off in Stargate Atlantis (2004-2009) and capped off by the darker, more atmospheric and even cerebral Stargate Universe (2009-2011), this is a property that just got better and better.

There are no shortage of books and comic books to worm your way through either.

4. Space:1999. Just two seasons (1975-1977) of stimulating mind-fucking sci-fi greatness and then nothing. What a shame. But the series has endured and lived on in the form of some wonderfully creative book stories (Powys Media) that any fan of the original series would want to pick up and have on their book shelf resting next to their run of The Expanse. There are some great comic books to seek out there as well.

Alongside Battlestar Galactica the franchise continues to deliver some of the greatest toy collectibles on the market to boot. The Gerry Anderson classic has also been in the mix for a TV remake, but that Eagle has yet to lift off. Nevertheless, when it comes to those Gerry Anderson/ Brian Johnson designs and the series production work it's tough to mess with perfection.

5. Gatchaman/ Battle Of The Planets. The original Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (1972-1974) was one of the best in anime. Simple in its focus, but executed with seeminly uncompromising artistic perfection. The Japanese super hero team adapted from American superhero concepts was then adapted in the USA for Battle Of The Planets (1978-1980).

Gatchaman II (1978-1979)and Gatchaman Fighter (aka Gatchaman F) (1979-1980) followed. A Japanese live action film (2013) was made. Others have been announced and dropped. A reimagined anime OVA (1994) was created from the property. Gold Key comic books (1979-1980) happened. Still, I'm waiting for something as good as the Top Cow comic books (2002-2003) in live action or animation form again. This one remains my dream. Keep dreaming right? Thus it fills my number five spot.

Common variables within these series that draw me back to them beyond the characters is their ship and production designs. Each and every one of these is a feast for the eyes. Space:1999 and Battlestar Galactica may be at the top in this area for me. Science Ninja Team Gatchaman is a close second along with SGU.

This writer wishes he could have included Thunderbirds for its design work and Irwin Allen's Lost In Space. Sadly, the original series of the latter property is the only one that matters and counts for this fan of science fiction. All other iterations including the Netflix series simply pale in comparison. Yet all of the other franchises continue to create varied series or books that remain relevant and stimulating in terms of science fiction adventure.

If I had to choose a franchise ready for reintroduction Space:1999 would be at the top. But I'm just as ready for some more Battlestar Galactica or even another animated Battle Of The Planets. In the meantime, these remain the five best for this writer thus far. G-Force!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Ronald D. Moore: On Battlestar Galactica Reimagined

"The roots of the original show are embedded in our show. Our show's premise is the same as the premise they had in 1978. Hopefully, what we're doing with our show is embracing that premise and trying to be honest with it. We're asking what would really happen in that situation. What would really happen if your world was destroyed? What would really happen if you were trapped on these ships? What would really happen to people---rather than archetypes---if this happened to them? I've always felt we were trying to really embrace the core that is Battlestar Galactica."

-Ronald D. Moore, Battlestar Galactica: The Official Companion, p.155-

There's so much to love and appreciate in both versions of the series, the first from its original creator Glen A. Larson to Ronald D. Moore's reimagined work. They are both exceptional top flight science fiction sagas.

I'm not sure why it has to be one or the other for some people.

For me, these are two exciting, unique, throughtful, thoroughly realized and colored series worthy of your reflections. They are both refreshingly different.

This writer never tires of returning to both. How lucky we are to have them. Of course the latter wouldn't have existed without that original and yet the new series gave the franchise new life.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Battlestar Galactica S1 E2: Water

"There's a reason why you separate military and the police. One fights the enemy of the state. The other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both then the enemies of the state tend to become the people."

-Commander William Adama-

With the beleaguered remnants of humanity on the run following the fall of Caprica, the pressures to survive mounts. Humanity labors in who to trust making efforts to distinguish between humans and Cylon sleeper agents. Compounding those issues are the harsh realities of rationing the basic necessities of sustenance and resources in space. Moore's warship carrier the Galactica is indeed in a crisis situation as the series moves forward.

Battlestar Galactica, Season One, Episode 2, Water sees the Galactica making efforts to share its water recycling system with other ships within the fleet when the tanks are unexpectedly ignited by a saboteur. Was it a Cylon? A Cylon sympathizer? A human traitor? Moore would challenge our perceptions throughout the series.

In science fiction, humanity always battles the odds when it comes to resources in the new frontier of space. With BSG not only was the Galactica facing a shortage of water, that shortage is compounded and made worse by sabotage and detonation of existing tanks upping the dramatic ante.

Water and resource issues plague space stations and New Terra in the series The Expanse (2015-present).

Stargate Universe (2009-2011) endured its own resource issues includiing a water shortage aboard the Destiny in a first season episode of its own also called Water. In these aforementioned entries in sci-fi all are excellent and handled with nail-biting credibility within the genre.

Battlestar Galactica's Water is particularly gripping as the fleet's inhabitants must ration and fight a two-prong war against the Cylons and/or thirst and starvation. You'll recall similiar dire days in Saga Of A Star World from the original Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979. Have you seen grocery stores the world over during the Coronavirus pandemic of late?

Battlestar Galactica makes for a thrilling exercise in survival with its Water entry into the resource story book of science fiction.

Despite these fairly straightforward storylines in the first two episodes, what is most fascinating is every small, interpersonal interaction on board the Galactica. Every episode digs deeper into character and the complexity of human behavior, the responses to circumstances as well as the environment and politics.

The triangle of William Adama, Laura Roslin and Lee Adama is established with an almost natural maternal leaning for Lee toward Roslin. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace and Gaius Baltar are introduced to one another. Number Six and Baltar continue to intrigue psychologically. Motivations by all involved are complex, credible, natural and evolve with great intricacy throughout the series.

Additionally, through Sharon Boomer Valerii the writers present inner human struggle within the Cylons that would become part of the series. Boomer clearly is tortured between a Cylon mission and her realization of self-determination and free will and what it means to be a human.

This is what makes this new Battlestar Galactica such a riveting experience---believable crisis in character and events aplenty.

Writer: Ronald D. Moore. Director: Marita Grabiak.