Sunday, November 9, 2008

Battlestar Galactica: Saga of a Star World

Excuse me, sir, but your matte-editing is showing.

Ah, nothin' beats the classics. Watching the remake of Battlestar Galactica has made me want to go back and see the original, so I have just completed the pilot of the original series, "Saga of a Star World." If I had only known how fracking long it was, I wouldn't have tried to watch it all in one night.

Many yahrens ago, this was a precious part of my childhood, so on this revisit I am disappointed to see it's a lot dumber than I remember and pleased to see it's not nearly as bad as I had feared. Still, it's weird to watch this while I'm in the middle of the gritty, drama-obsessed remake. I would say it's remarkable that they made something so serious out of something so campy, if only that weren't unusual in sf.

As soon as the opening narration began with, "Some say life here began out there," I knew I was in for something campy. And when I say campy, I mean campy: gold-trimed uniforms, Cylon butt-capes, overacting from the whole cast, the cute kid and his furry robot (who tag along on dangerous missions for no apparent reason), and the supposedly super-intelligent yet motive-free robot villains whose only battle tactic is to strafe everything with fighters. Want to blow up a battleship? Strafe it with fighters. Want to destroy a planet? Strafe it with fighters. One wonders what they have capital ships for. And why does it take three cylons to pilot a fighter, anyway?

You gotta love watching the heroes and the robots shooting flashlights at each other. And the little serrated bayonets on the Cylon rifles are just so darn cute. But the best thing about the Battlestar Galactica pilot is easily the part where Starbuck and Apollo blow up an entire planet--with their handguns. Yes, this is the realm of pure camp.

Fans will inevitably squabble over which incarnation of this show is the better one, but I see no reason the two versions can't peacefully coexist. The original is undoubtedly the more fun, but the remake is unquestionably better written and more carefully conceived. The remake also deserves some credit for its casual nod to real-world physics, though you shouldn't let it fool you: it still uses fakey artificial gravity, and real spaceships engaging each other at such close ranges would destroy each other with flying shrapnel.

It's interesting to see how the new series pays homage to the old, and also how it intentionally twists things. I hadn't realized how much the new Baltar's (James Callis) sweaty antics resemble the sweaty antics of the original (John Colicos). Also, the new show's heavy reworking of the original's religious undertones, and the transformation of the human-Cylon war from a pointless conflict into a religious conflict, is a smart move. And making the Cylons into human creations is an obvious but wise maneuver as well.

The other smart move of the remake is putting together a believable military jargon to replace the pointless made-up words of the old series, words like daggit, yahren, and socia-whatchamacallit. In fact, my only disappointment with the new show, as I've said before, is the extreme lack of Boxey and Muffit. I got all excited when they introduced Boxey as a sullen, punkish kid who follows Starbuck around, but it was just a tease. How dare they!

My priest tells me that liking the original Battlestar Galactica is an excommunicable offense, but I don't care! I'm living in sin! Buahahahaha!
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