Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Battlestar Galactica Ep2: Saga Of A Star World (Part 2)

"10,000 light years from nowhere. Our planet's shot to pieces. People starving. ... I tell ya, well, may as well live for today, we might not have many left."
-Starbuck waxing poetic on life in the moment-

The reinvention of the original series, Battlestar Galactica (1978), in the form of Ronald D. Moore's Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009), caused quite a stir of conversation. One such stir was the move of Starbuck from male to female, but then these adaptations always create internal debates within the fan community.

As a result of many issues, a plethora of literary books arrived populating book shelves (including my own) and on-line stores everywhere analyzing the reimagined series in a fashion that may only be rivaled by publications for Star Trek. Titles focused on the Moore series included: So Say We All: Collected Thoughts And Opinions On Battlestar Galactica (2006), Frak You!: The Ultimate Unauthorized Guide To Battlestar Galactica (2007), Cylons In America: Critical Studies In Battlestar Galactica (2007), Finding Battlestar Galactica: An Unauthorized Guide (2008), Battlestar Galactica And Philosophy: Mission Accomplished Or Mission Frakked Up? (2008), Battlestar Galactica And Philosophy: Knowledge Here Begins Out There (2008), Battlestar Galactica: Investigating Flesh, Spirit And Steel (2010), The Science Of Battlestar Galactica (2010) and the four official companion books for the new series. Whew! That's a lot of reading on the Moore series and just one subject mind you. Reading all of them could take considerable time and time many fans would certainly love to have. You'd have to be one avid fan to stock the shelves with all of those books. Over in the Classic Battlestar Galactica corner we have An Analytical Guide To Television's Battlestar Galactica (2005) by author John Kenneth Muir, a loyal advocate and analyst for the best in science fiction and horror with a genuine respect for the classics, which I fully appreciate here. So yes, right, just one book dedicated to the original series. That's a 12:1 ratio. Undeniably respect is hard to come by when it comes to the original Battlestar Galactica and it certainly deserves it and maybe that is changing.

Here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic we do our best to right that ship and contribute to the conversation on the classics in science fiction. So, yes, once upon a time, long before Moore revived the Battlestar Galactica concept and apparently got science fiction fans talking there was the one and only original Battlestar Galactica. We continue to look back at the short little series that could - that clearly generated something epic and special and created a legacy all its own next to the franchise heavy Star Trek and Stargate. That twenty-four episode series pushed some significant concepts and ideas in its short stay on TV in the 1970s. The late Glen A. Larson (1937-2014) has done very good.

Our look at the epic saga continues with Battlestar Galactica, Episode 2, Saga Of A Star World (Part 2).

Fans of the classic model effects would be in heaven when it came to the efforts of Battlestar Galactica. After all, "this was before state-of-the-art CGI and twenty-four frames per second high-definition cameras, which have made it possible to film faster and integrate special effects more effectively and less expensively" (Richard Hatch, So Say We All, p.1) Thus these cinematic and essentially cost prohibitive mini-films had an impact on moving the series beyond a single season. Though critics were harsh, fans loved the series. Though ratings were not stellar, they were not poor, yet they were not enough to secure the series on ABC.

One of the fruits of our beloved but expensive series was the terrific models that were built and employed. Another was the glorious bridge of the Galactica herself which seemed to dwarf just about any other in science fiction television history. Actor Richard Hatch called it "one of the most extraordinary bridges in SF history" (Hatch, So Say We All, p. 259) and it remains so.

So for those looking to enjoy all of the modeling effects and one of their favorite sci-fi adventures transferred to high definition the wait is coming to an end. The newly remastered Battlestar Galactica The Definitive Collection will be released in 2015 on Blu-Ray and should provide sharp images for us here in the future as we slowly (emphasis on slowly) cover the series. The folks at Universal put their commercial feelers out in 2013 releasing the entire Saga Of A Star World on Blu-Ray in celebration of the series 35th Anniversary of the show. Larson, who passed away in November of 2014, had to have been proud of the final product. Additionally, those fans of all of the original model effects work will be happy to know there are no plans to monkey with any of it a la George Lucas and Star Wars. The series will be cleaned up but unmolested and likely more the result of budgetary restrictions than a lack of desire to do so. Thus, Battlestar Galactica will see the light of day in high definition and will remain essentially untainted by contemporary tinkering. Thus praise ye gods.

When I first began a look at this classic, beloved series with a full on analysis of Saga Of A Star World (Part 1) here, the Blu-Ray release was unavailable.

The good news is all of the images found in this exclusive look at Saga Of A Star World (Part 2) are extracted from the Blu-Ray edition. The images and colors are notably sharper and quite satisfying for a science fiction series of this vintage.

The second installment of the film is noteworthy for some terrific performances from Dirk Benedict, Richard Hatch and Jane Seymour. Their turns are so sincere and infused with such genuine emotion one is immersed within the Colonial fleet in the midst of real crisis. Larson and company literally transport us to their universe. Starvation and hunger are juxtaposed with the gluttony of the privileged without preaching. Food and water shortages, health issues and actual despair permeate the second phase of the film and one is truly carried into this world. Cinema often lacks the kind of raw emotion and intimacy as a result of time restrictions and the will of producers, but Larson conveys the human suffering and emotional trials beautifully here. Battlestar Galactica's Saga Of A Star World delivers it and yet does so with epic style. Every penny that was spent on this expensive pilot film is on that screen and it is clear seeing it again that a believable universe was formed with genuine heart and soul. It is this core to the series that has assured it durability and strength to stand the test of time.

There are so many genuine charms and moments that will still bring a smile to your face. This is truly a well-balanced space opera that holds its own beyond the earliest and knee-jerk Star Wars reactions and comparisons.

The second installment sees the introduction of the daggit dubbed Muffit II, Boxey's robotic replacement of his real dog, Muffit, killed in the first installment of Saga Of A Star World as families made efforts to escape the Cylon tyranny. The concept of a robotic dog may have been a concession to lure in the kid set, but it worked. As kids we loved that daggit. Even today as an adult I find the sweet, affectionate charms of these daggit sequences still as involving. Further, I finally get to provide my own snapshots of the daggit. The web is crawling with terrible shots. We finally have some Blu-ray gems to offer fans of the delightful daggit. And while the replacement captures Boxey's heart, Jane Seymour's character works on Apoloo played by the Hatch. And elsewhere Starbuck gets busy with Cassiopeia. I remember feeling just terrible for Athena because Starbuck was such a dog himself. For whatever reason I was always in the brunette camp behind Athena.

Saga Of A Star World is a terrific mid-section to the film further capitalizing on character development and inter-fleet relationships. The script is well-paced and the characters all so colorful that it makes for a solid bit of science fiction storytelling and character development. In just two exciting entries the principals and the creators are bringing the characters to life.

A good bit of tension rounds out the episode as a trio of colonial warriors in the form of Apollo, Starbuck and Boomer (remember when Boomer was such a good guy - and a guy) must protect the Galactica. The Viper pilots must clear a path through a minefield for the Galactica and the fleet in a treacherous sequence that keeps things interesting for fans eagerly waiting for a bit of space craft action as it makes its way toward the planet Carolan.

There's a terrific land craft sequence that reminisces of the Lost In Space Chariot and a long legacy of great science fiction terrain vehicles. It makes its way to the gambling and pleasure resort of Carolan which would establish a good portion of Saga Of A Star World (Part 3). Sure it reminisces of the Cantina scene vibe from Star Wars but Battlestar Galactica takes the concept into new directions by setting it up as a kind of feeding ground for the Ovions. The comparisons end with the musical festivities but that's not exactly new to Star Wars.

And what has four eyes and two mouths combined to make a total of six mouths and twelve eyes? It's Love, Love, Love. That's right the freaky alien female trio that delivered one of the catchiest, grooviest little pop gems to shoot down the launch tube since The Supremes. Yes, J-pop girls eat your heart out. These girls can shake it. Saga Of A Star World (Part 2) is also notable for that freaky and unforgettable ensemble that left us just a little weirded out as children. Those alien chicks have great figures though. No wonder Captain Kirk wasn't picky. Still, where do you kiss them?

The mid-section sets things up beautifully with an effective piece of jeopardy as Boxey runs off to find Muffy. Trouble is in the air as an insectoid hand abducts our fearless Boxey. Nothing like child abduction to have folks tuning in to the final part of the pilot trilogy. With a seeming homage to First Men In The Moon (1964), Saga Of A Star World (Part 2) ends in intriguing fashion as this space epic continues to lure viewers in with its fully articulated concepts and driving cinematic story.

Saga Of A Star World (Part 2): A. Writer: Glen A. Larson. Director: Richard A. Colla.
This post is dedicated in memory of Glen A. Larson (1937-2014).

Click here for Battlestar Galactica, Saga Of A Star World (Part 1).

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