Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Battlestar Galactica S1 E4: Act Of Contrition

"I'll be damned. What's got into Starbuck? She actually sounds like a real instructor for a change."
-Colonel Saul Tigh-

Pop rock icon Rick Springfield (remember, he's done everything for you and created some great music too) once played the cameo role of Apollo's brother Zak Adama in the classic Battlestar Galactica.

Maybe it's because he became a pop star but Springfield was instantly memorable in his brief cameo in Saga Of A Star World once upon a time. Here, the character is replaced by an unmemorable actor to serve the story in Battlestar Galactica, Season One, Episode 4, Act Of Contrition. Though the Zak character is given more depth here given he had a relationship with Starbuck in the Ronald D. Moore rendering as well as being son to Commander Adama and brother to Apollo.

In Larson's series he was just the young hot shot side kick brother of Apollo. A boy among young men.

Zak was the brother of Lee "Apollo" Adama, son of William Adama, lover of Lt. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace. Kara was Zak's girl (not Jesse's girl).

The story centers on Starbuck's guilt who once passed an inadequate Zak Adama in his basic flight training simply because they were lovers. As a result he was ill-prepared and was killed in action. Starbuck reveals this fact to Lee/Apollo in the Mini-Series. Her action indirectly resulted in his death.

Following an incident in the hanger bay and the death of seven pilots, Commander Adama needs his best pilot to train new recruits echoing a moment in the original series whereby Starbuck and Apollo had to train all new female recruits in  Lost Planet Of The Gods due to an on board illness striking its male crew of pilots. How about that a gender specific illness. #Metoo might revel in such a possibility.

In Moore's Battlestar Galactica, the funeral of those pilots is juxtaposed throughout the entry with the funeral of Zak Adama.

As an act of contrition Starbuck yields to the request in an emotional episode and one that really cemented the work of Katee Sackhoff for this writer in here role for the series. This episode along with her performance in the next entry, You Can't Go Home Again (the initial setup of which begins here in Act Of Contrition), made this science fiction fan a fan of her work for years to come including her supporting role on Longmire (2012-2017) and her new science fiction series Another Life (2019-present).

To that end and point, the penultimate scene in the entry between William Adama and Starbuck is emotionally raw as she unveils her guilt, emotion and unabashed contrition to the father of the late Zak Adama. What the viewer experiences here is something that will be different for everyone. William Adama's response to her contrition is powerful and brutal to watch. Each and every human being watching will have a different reaction to this moving exchange and it is the true highlight in Act Of Contrition.

With the pilot numbers depleted, the Galactica is desperate for new blood. Starbuck is unmerciful as the instructor as she punishes the recruits as well as herself for allowing Zak to pass ultimately leading to his untimely death.

In the final minutes of Act Of Contrition a group of Cylon Raiders returns damaging Starbuck's Viper II and sending her spinning toward the planet below setting the series up for one of the series most intense, focused stories of personal survival. Starbuck's story and thread of contrition To Be Continued in You Can't Go Home Again.

Writer: Bradley Thompson/ David Weddle. Director: Rod Hardy.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Noriaki Yuasa: On Gamera

"It's the children, after all, who say they watch Gamera films, not adults. For me, Gamera just bubbles over and flows straight out of my heart, ... and fills me with nostalgia."

-Noriaki Yuasa, 2001, Gamera: The Giant Monster, DVD liner notes-

(Gosh, me too.)

"The first Gamera was a B-movie, but that turned out to be a big hit, so the second one [War Of The Monsters] was promoted to an A-budget. I think Daiei thought I wouldn't be able to handle such an A-movie. It was the most expensive one; it cost $225,000. Return Of The Giant Monsters was about $167,000, the black and white Gamera was about $111,000. Destroy All Planets and Attack of The Monsters were about $67,000, and Monster X and Zigra about $97,000."

-Noriaka Yuasa, Monsters Are Attacking Tokyo! (p.75).

With it's bigger budget, Gamera Vs. Barugon (1966; aka War Of The Monsters), in the hands of director Shigeo Tanaka, was not the success Daiei likely intended despite its immense spectacle and fine production values for the genre. It's a much more impressive film than genre critics say.

As a result of the picture's poor reception, Noriaka Yuasa's (1933-2004) initial removal from the series, despite his novice credentials, was in effect reinstated for Gamera Vs. Gyaos (1967).

Perhaps this was owed in part to the man's sheer enthusiasm for Gamera as a character. Along with Gamera's debut film, Yuasa would direct the remaining Showa era pictures for the beloved turtle monster. His joie de vivre for the character genuinely shined throughout his run despite the dwindling budget from which he had to work for the underappreciated creature feature.

I've always been partial to the great terrapin over the big lizard. Gamera was always just kind of my kaiju. Maybe Gamera's lesser renown as a kind of monster underdog created empathy and some of us just connected. Afterall, he connected with the kids. That concept/ aspect of the Gamera series even carried over into the Godzilla pictures. Certainly he was beloved by this kid and still is today by anyone who is a kid at heart. I've got some decent collectibles of Gamera to prove my adoration for the character, but I wish I had even more especially of those X Plus figures.

This post serves as a bridge between the two aforementioned films. Gamera Vs Gyaos will be coming soon right here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic.

Additionally, despite having all of the Blu-ray releases for my favorite BIG G it's exciting to learn Arrow will be releasing a Gamera box set with a full color reprinting of the Dark Horse comic book series, an unprinted prequel and a proper critical book about the historic character.

This writer is looking forward to supporting that release for those books alone and hopefully solid prints of the films to boot.

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!