Starbuck Rocks! This Show Rocks!!

Those of you who purchased copies of the Trenchcoat Farewell Project CD-ROM may be interested to know that I burned off your copies Saturday evening. I will be sending them off just as soon as I get some padded CD envelopes for them. So, possibly Tuesday…

I am hoping to package up another six or seven copies of the Farewell Project book before I head to bed tonight.

And now on with my post…

And the Best Show Currently in Production Is…

Galactica Logo

Allow me a moment to bask in the glory that is Katee Sackhoff and Edward James Almos.

Two weeks ago, I asked my mother how she was enjoying Battlestar Galactica, and she said that she loved it. She’s not one for war stories or battle scenes, but this show wasn’t about that. It was about character in conflict, and there were a lot of interesting characters on screen. Except… except for Commander Adama. Edward James Almos was putting on a strong performance, and there were nice touches of character in his troubled relationship with his surviving son (Captain Apollo) in the mini-series, but as yet there hadn’t been much to him.

This was, of course, deliberate. He was the captain of the ship, in charge of handling the worst crisis in civilization’s history. High up on his list of things not to do was show too much human emotion. This made for effective leadership from the character, but could leave the audience with the mistaken impression that Adama was coldhearted.

With the two parter Act of Contrition/You Can’t Go Home Again, we learned that this was far from the truth. Maybe it was a little soap-opera-ish, but now was the right time to bring up the history with Starbuck, Apollo and Adama and their relationship to Zack (Starbuck’s fiancee, Apollo’s brother and Adama’s son, killed because he followed in his father’s footsteps and became a pilot, even though he had no feel for flying and was only passed because Starbuck let personal feelings get in the way of her job). Doing this added considerable depth to the characters… and I must say that the actors rose to the occasion.

Up to this point, Battlestar Galactica had been about intelligent science fiction. It had been about conservation of momentum and in space, no one can hear your engines. It had been about how humans reacted to a devastating disaster. It was about the limits of human endurance. The actors lived up to the intelligence, and the direction was strong, but it’s not until the character story of Zach, Starbuck, Apollo and Adama that the main actors start surpassing the material. And with the material as strong as it is…

Where do I begin? I could start with Edward James Almos’ airtight control of his rage as he learns of Starbuck’s complicity in Zach’s death. I could continue with Katee Sackhoff allowing Starbuck to break down and cry and still remain as butch a character as she was from the pilot. The intensity that these two actors bring to their scenes together is a wonder to behold.

That intensity is maintained throughout Act of Contrition. The writers and directors are firing on all cylinders as Starbuck fights down her demons and agrees to teach hotshot new recruits how to fly (thus filling a pilot shortage) and ramps up further as Apollo and Adama risk the safety of the fleet as they stay behind too long to search for Starbuck after she bails out of her damaged fighter over a barren moon.

Battlestar Galactica is building itself into a remarkable ensemble show. I’ve already waxed on about the skills Grace “Boomer” Park has shown as an actor. The scene where the President comes to Galactica and reams out Adama and Apollo for risking the security of the fleet is wonderful for all sorts of reasons. The intensity between the four actors as Mary McDonnell lays down the law, and the subtext.

Meanwhile, on Cylon Occupied Caprica, the mystery surrounding Helo deepens, helped along by the appearance of two mechanical Cylons and some very effective direction that keeps these monsters in shadow, or behind frosted glass. The mechanical Cylons are scary, from the muted “clank! clank!” of their entrance, the sound of their roving eye, and the fact that they are so darn fast when they attack.

We’ve been given very little of Helo on each episode so far this season, but everything we’ve been given works, despite how disjointed the scenes are from the rest of the storylines. It’s all shaping up into a tremendous package.

The proof in the pudding comes from Erin. The scene where Apollo asks Adama if they’d stay behind if he was lost moved her to tears, as did Adama’s reconciliation with Starbuck. West Wing has not done that. Buffy has done that (see The Body) as has Deep Space Nine (see The Visitor), but only well into their runs after the audience has gotten to know their characters and the actors are truly comfortable in their roles. The fact that Battlestar Galactica could do this on its fifth regular episode is a remarkable achievement.

Which is why we have a new champion in the title of “Best Television Show Currently in Production”.

Random Galactica Points

  • The revelation that the Cylon fighter ship was an actual Cylon did not surprise me. The fact that the Cylon fighter ship was biological did. The revelation was exceptionally well handled, allowing the audience to dawn on the fact that the ship was bleeding. Holy cow. Of all of the Cylon models out there, I would have thought that their ships would be mechanical. They aren’t. Are the Cylon Swiss-Army foot soldiers biological as well? If so, this turns Battlestar Galactica’s original man-versus-machine storyline on its head. These aren’t machines out to replace their human masters, this is genetic engineering gone awry.
  • What impresses me about the subtext of the scene between the President, Apollo, Tigh and Adama? Consider: when Commander Tigh, the XO, questions Adama’s reasoning for pursuing the search for Starbuck long after her oxygen should have run out, Adama relieves him. When Adama learns that the President is coming over, unannounced, to talk with him, he sends Tigh to meet her.

    He’s got to know what Tigh will tell the President, but he sends him anyway. I suspect that he does so because he knows what the President will say. He knows what he’s doing goes against all sensible military strategy, but he can’t bring himself to call off the search. Instead, he maneouvers himself so that the President makes the decision for him.

    Except that she doesn’t. Instead she says “what you’re doing is personal. It’s risking lives. You should give yourself a shake and do the right thing.” And leaves the final decision to him. There is really subtle interplay here, and it’s carried off by a wonderful fusion of acting, directing and scriptwriting.
  • It gives me no end of pleasure to learn that Battlestar Galactica has been renewed for a second season (hat tip to Jon Blum). The new series will now have more episodes than the original.
  • You know, the original series is marked by the truly awful Galactica 1980, but the original show had a good idea at its core: the rag-tag remnants of humanity find Earth and discover it’s 1980. It hasn’t the technology to fight off a Cylon attack, and it isn’t advanced enough socially to accept the arrival of the fleet, or the rapid advance in science that they’d bring. So, the fleet is forced to try and obtain resources from Earth without letting the Earthlings know, and they have to find some way to keep the secret of Earth away from the Cylons. Good idea. Pity about the execution. Within three episodes, we’re back to those old sci-fi chestnuts: time travel and the Nazis.

    But if the new Battlestar Galactica gets up to five or six seasons, it may be worth Ron Moore’s while to remake Galactica 1980. The idea behind the show is good, and should provide enough material to generate at least a season’s worth of interesting storylines from the capable hands of Ron Moore and his team.
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