Battlestar Galactica - An Objective Assessment (Part #2)
Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Now that I have gotten all that negative energy out of my system, let's talk positive!

Presentation: This is almost as important to a show as its story and characters. Battlestar does an excellent job presenting itself both through its CGI and camera work. I would be remiss, however, if I did not point out the origins of both of these styles. There once was a little show called Firefly. It aired for a very brief time in 2002 on the Fox network. It was, without a doubt, the very best science fiction has to offer. Part of what made it great was its use of a wonderful company by the name of Zoic Studios to create its CGI space scenes. They were able to do so with such style and realism that the viewer couldn't help but be drawn into their universe. Battlestar uses this same company, in a similar capacity, with much the same result.

Before I get into how this is achieved, I need to mention the camera work. Firefly also introduced the viewer to the 'shaky-cam'...scenes shot using the imitation of a hand-held camera to make the viewer feel as if they were in the room with the characters. Firefly incorporated this technique with their CGI space scenes as well as included zooms and focus corrections. Battlestar incorporates many of these styles into its own series and creates a similar 'viewer involved' feel. I should point out that Battlestar doesn't go so far as to incorporate the signature lens-flares that became almost a trademark to Firefly, so I would not go so far as to say that their style is outright theft...more like flattery though imitation. Despite this questionable originality, Battlestar does do an excellent job presenting itself such that the characters feel more accessible and its story that much more involving.

Continuity: This is something that I feel is more important than presentation, in a way. Nothing is worse than a show that either A. Doesn't go anywhere or B. Doesn't take into consideration events that have happened previously. I believe that much of these problems are the result of a screwy American program schedule that demands over 20 episodes from a show each season, regardless of the nature of the series involved. It is pretty darn hard to come up with significant and meaningful material each week that both develops your characters and furthers the overall story.

Let me exemplify my point by presenting Stargate SG-1. I was a late adopter of this show and even now, while I consider myself a fan, have very mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it has a great plot and intriguing characters that steadily evolve through the life of the series. On the other, there are only about 8 to 10 REALLY good shows each season, supported by about 5 to 8 enjoyable ones...with anywhere from 4 to 7 completely useless ones that are totally 'episodic' in nature. Any fans of the series doubt me? If so, I dare you to defend the 'Citizen Joe' episode which aired little more than a month ago.

Back on topic, my point to this is that shows tend to sacrifice continuity and development in order to meet their episode totals. Battlestar did an amazing job tying the series together in such a way that almost everything that happens has some significance later on. In addition, whereas the original Battlestar pretty much refused to take any meaningful steps towards achieving their goal of finding Earth/destroying the Cylons, each passing episode of this newest incarnation seems to progress the series towards some significant conclusion. I realize that the purpose of a TV show is to remain on the air as long as possible, so any REAL conclusions in plot are generally avoided like the plague or needlessly extended...but I have hopes that Battlestar will buck that trend and offer its viewers some sort of resolution in a relatively brisk time frame (say 5 seasons or so).

Of course, there were only 13 episodes for the first season. If future seasons are expected to play out to the 20-something length and its powers-that-be decide to follow the same tired route that every other show seems to take, my opinions about the show will become much more jaded.

Physics: I have a real problem with this subject in many of the shows I watch. Sci-fi (meaning television movies, & literature) is notorious for having some of the worst physics ever publicly demonstrated. Now, don't get me wrong, Battlestar has MORE than its share of problems in accurately depicting the physical nature of the universe. However, I have no intention of listing through these issues, since they are no better or worse than any other series to date.

Instead, I would like to point out my enjoyment in the use of attitude thrusters in the maneuvering and combat of the space fighters. These minor elements seem well thought out and implemented in many of the ships used in the show and are a welcome sight. Keep in mind, there are some glaring inertial/momentum considerations that the creators seem blissfully ignorant of, but for the most part, movement in space is rather well done. It is refreshing to have a show take at least some sort of serious shot at addressing the physical constraints of the universe we live in. They may not get everything right all the time, but I certainly applaud them for their efforts.

Conclusion 'What!?' You ask, 'Only three 'good' points and then a conclusion!? You say you actually liked the series! What kind of review IS this!?' My response: it's the kind of review that is already pretty long in the tooth and needs to be summed up before I get into anymore off-topic rants. My quick and dirty take of the series is this: If you are looking for the new Battlestar to mimic the old one in a significant way or to resolve any lingering plot points left from it, you will be disappointed. On the other hand, if you are looking for a solid show that develops both plot and characters throughout its course, then this is for you. Bare in mind, however, that while this first season was done quite well, there is the legitimate possibility that future seasons could devolve the show into episodic garbage. I have high hopes that this will not be the case, but consider yourselves warned.


Friday, May 13, 2005 2:57 AM


Ha! I loved that comment about the physics. It is exactly that which almost every sci-fi show has a problem with. Inertia seems to be a completely foreign concept to the writers of these shows.

Of course, if you start incorporating artifical gravity into your ships, who knows what other physical concepts it would affect? They have FTL afterall, so maybe they found loopholes in everyone one of the natural laws we have discovered up to this point?



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