Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Battlestar Galactica Ep3: Saga Of A Star World (Part 3)

"Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny, the last Battlestar Galactica leads a rag tag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest---a shining planet known as EARTH."

Writer Bill Gordon's piece on Battlestar Galactica titled GINO, a reference and dig to the newly reimagined Ronald D. Moore series as Galactica In Name Only, accurately reflects on the themes and allure of what made the classic original Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979) so beloved and timeless in its own right.

He would write, "Battlestar Galactica created a fantastical universe where brothers of man fought to survive somewhere beyond the heavens. It is a timeless tale of good's triumph over evil, of courage in the face of adversity, and of hope in the face of hopelessness. It is a show that revels in the themes of family, honor and commitment" (GINO, So Say We All: An Unauthorized Collection Of Thoughts And Opinions On Battlestar Galactica, p.189).

Gordon would go on to admit, however mighty, it was an imperfect series, but, sadly, one cancelled "prematurely ad unceremoniously" after a single season.

By contrast, as much as I love the reimagined Moore version, he does succinctly point to the major difference between the two series. He starkly depicts Moore's show as one "that focuses intently on the very worst of humanity. It is a fleeting, small-scale, wholly depressing depiction of man's darkest qualities. It is a show that revels in the themes of deceit, paranoia, and betrayal." He sees Moore's version as a mirror to America, "a civilization unable to keep its pants on or rise above its own backstabbing greed, avarice, or lust (both for sex and power) long enough to focus on its pursuit of a lie." Of course this is not the sour taste of a fan, but a reference to the written word of Moore and of scripted characters throughout the series beginning with a reinvented and grizzled William Adama. Like it or not, Bill Gordon is accurate. And, to be honest, this writer doubts Moore would disagree, because Moore was definitively shooting for real in that series.

But both series are exceptional, and in general terms, Glen A. Larson's original holds true reaching for the light whereby Moore's version clearly embraced the darkness.

But (Felgercarb!) we look back now at the glory that was the arrival of the bright and shiny, gleaming example of hope, not despair, infused and found in the original Battlestar Galactica. It was indeed the best science fiction series to arrive since Space:1999 (1975-1977). Like that aforementioned series, along with Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969) and Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994), the original Battlestar Galactica finally received the full-on Blu-Ray treatment first with Saga Of A Star World in 2013 followed by the full series in 2015. Thank the gods! Though not a recipient of the special effects embellishments Star Trek: TOS and Star Trek: TNG were afforded Battlestar Galactica nevertheless looks fabulous and better than ever.

So here we are at the final part/installment of the lengthy three-part Saga Of A Star World.  Each of these distinct entries deserves their place under the umbrella title that is the epic, massive, influential tele-film Saga Of A Star World. Each holds its own distinct charms, driving themes as well as self-contained ideas that work on their own as separate and distinct science fiction chapters. Each installment offers a slice of television within the epic tale that, taken together as a whole, lends itself perfectly and a fitting place to the overarching look and story that was Larson's hopeful, epic saga.

(Finally). We turn our attention to the final installment in the motion picture event that rocked my world, my childhood, Battlestar Galactica, Episode 3, Saga Of A Star World (Part 3).

There is simply no way to fully articulate and capture the sheer magic this series held for me as a youngster. The best comparison to be made would be the magic this writer felt upon experiencing Star Wars (1977). It is not an overstatement that Battlestar Galactica had that kind of profound impact, which is no doubt why, despite its single season of science fiction adventure, it has endured for decades. It was absolutely not a failure no matter what they tell you. A failure by definition would not lead to an inspired reinterpretation of the series, comic books, spin-offs (Battlestar Galactica: Blood And Chrome, Caprica) and endless fan adoration that would last and swell for all of time. This little single season that could in fact spawned a franchise as potent as the one ignited by one Gene Roddenberry in the form of Star Trek. The original has continued to cultivate variations on a theme and new ideas as much as the film Stargate (1994) launched a similar cottage industry of beloved television beginning with Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007).

In the final installment, Part 3, Apollo (Richard Hatch), Starbuck (Dirk Benedict), Serina, Boxey, Boomer and other Colonial Warriors have been welcomed by the Ovions with little knowledge of Ovion intent. But humans are essentially slated to be incubators for the Ovions.

Adama is dubious of Ovion intentions on the planet below as limited quantities of fuel arrive from the planetary outpost, Carillon, and the rag tag fleet hangs in the balance as many warriors are lured to the recreation confines and escape of the planet's many entertainment offerings.

Meanwhile, Starbuck's love triangle with Athena and Cassiopeia hits full tilt at the casinos. I was always worried for Starbuck as a kid. Even then I knew he was smack dab in a tangled web of his own making yet I still cared about him even while I was star truck by the ladies he fancied.

An elevator sequence follows that is entirely unnerving as humans are, in effect, carted off to their deaths in Ovion mines. The doors open to the horrors of the mines. Women scream and the unimaginable is left off screen to the imagination. It was frightening, good stuff.

Most interesting is Adama's meeting with the Council of the Twelve. The crux of the meeting couldn't have echoed the nightmare that is contemporary politics more soundly. The politics points a mirror directly upon the Obama administration led by Secretary Of State John Kerry's and an administration's desire to actually negotiate with Iran and an Iranian leadership disinterested in cooperation. Disregard those Cylon death threats behind curtain number three. Many would tell you the actions by an administration once upon a time would have been deemed treasonous. At the very least it seems poor judgment and to the long-term detriment of US interests. My how times have changed.

Adama, here, is incensed to discover the council wishes to negotiate with the Cylons for justice. Adama is stunned the council could actually imagine justice from the Cylons. Adama reminds them they have submitted they will not rest or "stop until every human had been exterminated." Sound familiar? This echoes the mantra of Iran and its chants of "death to Israel" and "death to America." The parallels are astonishing yet such actions are not actually considered foolish by those in charge of American leadership today. It's stunning. But once upon a time America understood the significance of such clear and present dangers and such associative language. It was not taken lightly. Now we actively engage in diplomacy despite hostile declarations.

Here Adama must muster every ounce of his hawkish stance against the Cylons to protect the rag tag fleet. Not only must Adama protect the fleet from the Cylons but from his very own council. It's incredible just timely the original series remains.

As the scene continues it sounds even more frightening as a harbinger of things to come with today's Democrat party. The council wishes to "destroy our arms to prove we're willing to live in peace." Of course without their only "means of defense," as Adama notes with alarm, humans would of course be signing their death warrants. It is this naïve pacifism that plagues the Council of Twelve as much as it plagues the ideology of the Obama administration. At least we know, based on Battlestar Galactica, such naiveté is going away anytime soon. This is profoundly frightening and worthy of timely reflection.

The Council wishes to see the Battlestar Galactica take a neutral stance---mind its own business like Sweden. In fact, consider the Battlestar Galactica herself as an embodiment of America here. And thus the Cylons will leave them alone. Our friends, our allies, our neighbors---they are on their own. Turn a blind eye and the problem will simply go away. How's that approach working with ISIS? Incredible. Adama is disgusted by the lack of will and principal these spineless men display and he courageously shows them all his contempt.

Upon his exit the men suggest the Colonial Warriors (or military arm) will hardly embrace their own policy of hope and "change." Larson---ahead of his time to be sure. "Peace begets peace and love begets love." But if such men succeed with a philosophy of lollipops and unicorns the fate of man would be extinguished forever. Adama provides the tough, hard leadership required for humanity to survive. Clearly America could take a lesson from the original Battlestar Galactica today. Certainly God knows the reimagined series was more in keeping and step with the so-called transparent but ultimately unprincipled leadership of today. The Moore series was much more the indictment of the George W. Bush years and Iraq.

Certainly Larson's Battlestar Galactica could hardly predict the events of the Obama years or have the foresight of events beyond 1978. But the series is instilled with the resolve and principles that forged a nation to greatness and those values still endure today. This is why current events resonate so profoundly within this series. Who knew a single season called Battlestar Galactica would resonate so resoundingly into the 21st Century, but it most assuredly has done so. Adama is like the hawk's guide to American foreign policy. It was a different era and the classic version of Adama was embraced. Sadly, today, it's conceivable that classic Adama would not be the perceived, esteemed hero he once was once upon a time.

Most interesting in this third component is the issue of trust and betrayal that is discussed. These concepts in play are not the result of Baltar, but of the council and their disarmament plan with the Cylons. This is politics yesterday and today. The matter is so significant there is a scene whereby Adama calls his loyal excutive officer Tigh to meet him in the Viper bay where they discuss the seriousness of what's at hand within the privacy of two Vipers and an internal com system. This is significant for televised science fiction in 1978 and portrayed rather credibly at the time. No it wasn't cheesy.

These ideas of betrayal and trust were in evidence in Larson's original vehicle. They were tapped by Ronald D. Moore and magnified or amplified to greater effect following 9/11 within his own reimagined Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009) also infused with politics to great effect. Of course, betrayal and a skeptical view of man is at the heart of Moore's series. Still, those ideas were certainly seeded in the original.

Adama informs Tigh that Carillon is a trap. An impending Cylon attack may be inevitable unless Viper Colonial Warriors can be recalled quickly. Adama and Tigh launch a plan to circumvent the naivete of a council hell bent on handing over the fleet to the Cylons. "The Cylons lured me into their deception once---never again."

With a ceremony about to commence on Carillon, Starbuck and Apollo suspect something when a number of individuals are spotted from their squadron they do not recognize. And the unnamed individuals are part of Adama's plan to counter the "trap" in play with the council and the Cylons.

Below in the mines a Cylon meets with an Ovion who has counted roughly 200 warriors in attendance. The Cylons see the rag tag fleet as vulnerable and implement their strike.

For those who endlessly slighted Battlestar Galactica unfairly as a Star Wars clone or rip off (the comparisons are a stretch), look no further than the events on Carillon as a harbinger of what would one day offer an echo to the events that would commence on Cloud City in a film called The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Scenes here play very much like the back door dealings between Darth Vader, Storm Troopers and Lando Calrissian.

The jig is up when both Apollo and Starbuck spot the Ovion and Cylons in collusion. In this sequence deep blues, pink and purples are used creating a very distinct atmosphere. It's worth noting that Saga Of A Star World makes tremendous use of its budget in sound, effects, color and photography throughout moving from deep reds on the bridge to dark greens in the engine rooms to purple and blue on Carillon or blue to accent the Cylons and Cylon Raider cockpits to ominous perfection. There is no shortage of a creative application of color throughout the three parter or film.

Boxey is nearly cut down by a Cylon sword as he exits the elevator leading to Apollo and Starbuck transforming their off world excursion into warrior mode firing their blasters and escaping with Boxey.

Apollo and Starbuck happen upon a chrysalis room where humans are cocooned in an unsettling scene. Even a larvae stage Ovion appears to have fed or incubated off a skeletonized human. Creepy stuff to a kid! Truly, this was nightmare stuff. Cassiopeia is rescued in a nick of time.

A Cylon Centurion reports to the Imperious Leader who commences an attack on the rag tag fleet and the Galactica. The Imperious Leader was such an imposing scary alien presence. No wonder a toy figure was made in its honor even if it wasn't a very kind likeness. What actually happened to that creature? I'm very unclear about the Leader's departure only to see Baltar take his place for the ongoing series. I would have enjoyed a season that included the Imperious Leader at the helm.

But according to TV lore, the Imperious Leader was a reptilian creature, and one of the most impressive realizations of such a concept. But television would not allow for the death of living creatures and thus Cylons were born of their reptilian creators. In the end, legend has it that the reptilian creatures were overwhelmed by their own technology and were eventually wiped out.

With the Cylon attack moving in on the fleet and the Galactica, the Colonial Warriors wage a ground war against the Cylons with no help from the naïve moronic Council. All hell is breaking loose on Carillon.

Escaping the Cylon threat below the Colonial Warriors load their Vipers and make their way to the Galactica surprising the Cylons and their Cylon Raiders. Meanwhile, civilians load shuttles to escape.

In the final climactic minutes Apollo and Starbuck take down a Cylon Base Star, a memorable piece of Cylon hardware from our youth, by forcing it to Carillon's surface where it and the planet explode in a fiery blaze of glory. The End! Indeed!

Well, it does sort of end abruptly, but Saga Of A Star World makes for a thrilling, character-infused epic of space opera filled with heart at its finest. In fact, truth be told, this writer may have enjoyed those space battles as a child, but what allows the series to endure today are these timeless characters and Starbuck is surely all that. It's the character moments in Saga Of A Star World and throughout the series that give us cause to return time and again. "Some home, a piece of metal in the middle of nowhere," decries Starbuck referring to the Battlestar Galactica as they return to her. The ever optimistic Apollo replies, "beats just plain nowhere... at least until we find Earth." Starbuck, with great sincerity in Dirk Benedict's voice responds with hope, "do you think we'll ever really find it?" Apollo believes, "we'll find it, some day." No lies. No deception. Sincerity of hope and a belief in humanity to prevail. These were among the values at the heart of the original, hopeful Battlestar Galactica that made her great. Ah, those were the days---they truly were.

For easy access to the previous two installments click here for Saga Of A Star World (Part 1) and here for Saga Of A Star World (Part 2).

And with our look back at the gorgeous (how about those mattes?) three part Saga Of A Star World complete we move forward into the adventures of Apollo, Starbuck and the Battlestar Galactica in its one and only season. Our quest continues....

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