Thursday, 1 November 2018

Battlestar Galactica: The Mini-Series
The Caprica Experiment – The Prequel!

A number of years ago a couple of friends and I were talking at work about what acclaimed TV shows/films we hadn’t seen but wanted to. Some of the replies, ‘The Usual Suspects’ (from me – I’ve seen now, though), ‘Babylon 5’, ‘Fringe’ ‘Crime Traveller’ (only kidding, no one said that…) and the re-imagined 'Battlestar Galactica'. This last one was an admission from Aaron Small. He went on to explain that he’d bought the DVDs but not got round to watching them (not even a snippet of the mini-series).

A few weeks later a film night was arranged with myself, Aaron Small and Dan Barnes (who was also part of that conversation). We gathered to watch two of my favourite films that the others hadn’t seen, namely Peter Jackson’s first feature film, ‘Bad Taste’ and Ed Wood Jr’s ‘masterpiece’ ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space.’ (That’s a subject for a different blog!) Anyway, the night was a success with lots of sarky comments at the films.

Shortly after that we decided to do it again but watch something that was ‘good’ – that was to be the re-imagined 'Battlestar Galactica'. Perhaps even make it a regular thing and watch the whole four seasons. Dan had only watched the first season and for various reasons hadn’t carried on or got back to it. Both Dan and I wanted Aaron to experience the brilliance of the series’ writing/performances. I had watched the whole series 3 years before in a month-and-a-half-marathon with my wife Amy, so  I too wanted to share the brilliance of the complete series with my two friends. (And see what I’d remembered… or forgotten!)

I was slightly worried and excited at the same time when I heard that they were going to ‘re-imagine’ 'Battlestar Galactica'. Like most people my age (mid-40’s) in this country I had grown up watching the original series and 'Galactica' 1980 on ITV in the mid-80’s and then repeated in the 90’s on BBC2.

I had fond memories and a nostalgic love of it and could ignore the campier aspects of the series like Boxey, Muffitt 2, and Space Disco sets/costumes etc.

I did have hope though that Ronald D. Moore was behind it, who had written some of the best 'ST: TNG' and 'Deep Space Nine' episodes. This was a chance for him to show a civilisation-ending event in a ‘modern’ or ‘realistic’ approach which the original series never could (mind, it was still a bleak scenario back then, but the character’s couldn’t react like real people to the apocalypse as much).
So there was less chance of being camp. One other major change was changing the gender of Starbuck and Boomer. This made as most of the main pilots from the original were all male (yes, there was Sheba, played by Anne Lockhart but she wasn’t a major character like the pilot duo of Starbuck and Apollo). Changing Boomer, too made sense with the balancing of the main characters. Plus, the role of female combat pilots had increased since 1979.

Naturally, a lot of fans were opposed to the idea of Starbuck being ‘a woman.’ I was prepared to give her a chance.

I first watched the Mini-Series with my friends Andrew Crines and Kevin Hiley on DVD, shortly after the U.S. broadcast. It had got amazing viewing figures and feedback in the States, which meant there was a chance it would become a TV series. The three of us had grown up watching the original and were impressed with the look of the Mini-Series and how it was ‘realistic’ but still accessible and ‘felt like’ Battlestar Galatica.

Fast-forward a few years, Aaron, Dan and I us enjoyed the mini-series immensely. Aaron was glad that he’d finally been able to unwrap the seal on his DVD boxset!

Plans were made to arrange further evenings to continue with the series, but alas ‘real life’ got in the way and they never happened.

Over the next year or so, the three of us took redundancy from our employers, Dan moved away. But we stayed in touch. However, for practical reasons when I suggested to Aaron that he and I continued with 'BSG' on our own (with Dan’s blessing) it had to fit around my new job, my children’s bed time and his college course. This time I wanted to record Aaron’s reactions and thoughts to the enveloping story of 'BSG' against my half-remembered views from my marathon. I felt enough time had passed for myself to have forgotten certain scenes or shots or even plot-twists to enjoy a second time round.
That’s where the idea for this blog come into existence. I’d seen and read others detailing their viewings of series to newcomers and putting their experiences online and I’d enjoyed reading their new experiences (most notably ‘Wife in Space’ with the author watching all of the 'Doctor Who' Classic Series with his non-fan wife).

To keep the impetus going we decided to carry-on where we left-off and begin this blog from the first episode of the TV series ’33.’ We privately re-watched the mini-series in our own time to jog our memories of what had previously happened.

Which means this first blog post is a summary rather than a commentary on the events on the mini-series. As our blogs/reviews continue we will contrast my memories and changed opinions (if any) versus Aaron’s newcomer’s surprises and guesses (however wild and inaccurate!) as to what could happen next or how things could develop for the characters.

Oh, a SPOILER WARNING… I’ve approached writing this blog on the assumption that anyone reading this will either have, like me watched the series already or like Aaron will have watched the episode(s) before we post the write-up. We’ll give people a heads-up to what the next blog will cover to give you time to catch up. This approach will allow us to discuss in fine detail what happens to CENSORED or how CENSORED ends up CENSORED.

Battlestar Galactica – The Mini-Series (2003)

Please note that I won’t be spending a lot of time with a synopsis that’s scene-by-scene of the episodes, giving just an overview of the story and will refer to specific scenes where our discussions lead to.

The 12 Colonies have had 40 years of peace after the war with the Cylons (as it says in the opening info dump). We’re introduced to Tricia Helfer as a new kind of Cylon that definitely haven’t seen before…

Q & A with Aaron:

John Isles: What was your favourite moment(s)?

Aaron Small: The space station blowing up at the beginning. ‘Boom!’ You can’t get a much bigger beginning. It easily establishes what the Cylons are up to. (continues) I also like the way the card game between Starbuck and Col. Tigh shows the tension and dislike between the characters that could be a great set up for future stories when the TV series starts.

JI: Who’s your favourite character?

AS: Chief Tyrol. I like the way that he’s a funny, smart, working class man. It shows the events from all walks of life.

JI: Yeah, the Original BSG featured only the officer class/military, even Tyrol is part of the military he’s not an officer and party to the big decisions.

Caprica Six whilst walking through the market on Caprica asks if she can hold a baby. She seems fascinated by it. She comments on how fragile it’s neck feels. When the baby’s mother is distracted, she snaps it’s neck.

JI: How do you feel about Six snapping the baby’s neck? I like to think that even though the scene is deliberately ambiguous, that she does it as an act or mercy because she knows what’s going to happen and doesn’t want the child to suffer from a nuclear war.

AS: I can’t make my mind up. It looks like she’s doing it to show her power over life and death. But you’re right it could be either way. That’s clever writing already.

Other highlights:

We both liked the ‘Colonial March’ played onscreen at the decommissioning ceremony is the original BSG’s theme tune. Clever way to work it in with it being respectful, but fun also (the Galactica is being retired as it’s the oldest Battlestar left in the fleet). In fact, they used this in the original series too when there was an award ceremony in the episode Take the Celestra.

It’s also nice to see the original Cylon’s (on display), next to the original series Viper.

AS: I like how they can’t use the 2nd launch bay because it’s been turned into a Gift Shop. Nice touch of humour.

JI: One thing that has changed since I originally watched this back in 2003 was that I wasn’t a parent. Seeing it now, the scene where Laura Roslin meets the orphan girl on the Agro-ship. I empathised more with the little girl this time. Especially, when the surviving civilian ships had to leave behind the ones that were with FTL (Faster than Light) drives, and the girl was going to be left behind to die.

AS: Great ingenuity from Starbuck when she ‘crashes’ her Viper into Apollo’s to enable them both to get back to the Galactica.

Edward James Olmos earns his fee in the scene that’s a funeral for the Colonies. Motivating them and giving hope with a lie about ‘Earth.’ Without bashing or comparing this re-imaging against the Original series this is another masterstroke about making it ‘realistic.’ It’s something that fits better with this post-9-11 world we live in. Something that I know will resonate throughout the rest of the series.

Also, it gave the world one of the series most iconic quotes, “So say we all.” Which I believe Olmos improvised.

Another point hinted at, but never explicitly apparent in the Original Series is one of needing children to carry on the Human Race. In that they knew that other’s survived a few possible worlds inhabited by people who left the 12 Colonies a long time ago and of course, the ‘13th Tribe – Earth.’ This time round as far as they are concerned they are THE LAST of Humanity.

Which leads me to comment on Laura Roslin telling Commander Adama that they have to ‘start breeding’ or the Human Race will die out.

I’m sure there are other things, which we’ll bring up during our viewing of the following seasons…
For now, “So say we all!”

NEXT TIME: Episode 1 – ‘Space Minutes!’ (A.K.A. ‘33’)