Galactica Ain’t Entirely the Bee’s Knees

All right. We admit it. Against our better judgment, we’ve been taken in by Battlestar Galactica. We dig the gritty feel. But, most importantly, we welcome a speculative fiction environment that has authoritative female presidents (played by Mary McDonnell, no less!), female fighter pilots who play by their own rules without coming across as token aggro-chicks and, from our inveterate male perspective, two very hot Cylon chicks. How often do we see developed women in these shows that aren’t horrible Katharine Hepburn clones? Not much, we’d say. We also like the executive officer — a raging alcoholic that’s an interesting cross between James Carville and Dick Cheney. The people on board this ship drink, smoke, have sex, and even jerk off (and are even caught with their pants down). In other words, unlike the bland folks in the Star Trek universe spouting off technobabble, they’re actually human. They even make bad command decisions. Plus, there’s interesting little design elements such as the paper with its edges cropped off, a general set motif of cramped physicality favored over glitzy computers, special effects shots that have a jerky documentary feel (a first, I think, on television), and some pretty cool Cylon Centurions (complete with a menacing mechanized gait reminiscent of Phil Tippett’s animation).

Even so, we’re mystified by the following gaping holes:

  • If the Cylons have a finite number of models, many of them reproducing themselves repeatedly over the 5,000 or so humans that are left, why is a Cylon detector even needed? Would it not make better sense to take a head count and track the duplicates?
  • Despite the “real” people portrayed, I’ve yet to see a fat person on board or someone with bad hygiene. Why does everyone on board Galactica seem so eminently fuckable, with their flawless teeth and perfectly coiffed hair? Further, would not the lack of sunshine or the outdoors make one antsy when confined aboard a cramped spacecraft? Wouldn’t the notion of the human race almost completely exterminated lead to widespread trauma, depression, and mental illness (so far unseen)?
  • In a recent episode, Starbuck was stranded on a planet for something like 30 hours. While her oxygen was depleting, hunger apparently was not an issue and her strength remained unwavering, allowing her to escape.
  • I haven’t kept count, but if there are only about ten to fifteen fighters on board Galactica, if two or three get destroyed every week, then some fanboy needs to do the math.
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  1. I heard they’re going to exhume Lorne Greene for an upcoming cameo in order to simultaneously tap into the Six Feet Under/Eminently Unfuckable demographic.

  2. “special effects shots that have a jerky documentary feel (a first, I think, on television)”

    Actually, it was on Firefly that I first saw this approach to space shots, and they went so far as to include shots that were out of focus or had lens flares.

    I’ve also been bothered by the way the show has largely ignored the civilian population in the fleet and their reactions to the trauma they’ve experienced. So far, the writers seem more interested in the Cylons’ religious beliefs, which strikes me as a topic that will burn itself out rather quickly.

  3. How many people outside Cmdr Adama know that there are only 12 Cylon models? I don’t recall him mentioning that to anyone, just that they know that Cylons look human. And there are about 50,000 humans left, not 5,000. Probably closer to 45,000 at this point in the season.

    I may have to go back and watch that again, but I don’t know that we ever saw him mention that to anyone, and to be honest I don’t recall where he got that note.

    Even the audience is only aware of 4 models… who are the other 8?

    But yeah, the never-ending viper parts mystery annoyed me when I realized it. It put me in mind of the never-ending bullets trick of many of the old Westerns, and some 80s action movies. As for how many they have, I was under the impression they only had 15 new ones left, but a larger number of the older ones from the museum display. Could be wrong about that one, though.

  4. Being part of the TiVo generation, I have just now started catching up on old(er) episodes. I do so love to have marathons. Interesting observations on the female characters — I was really worried about a Galatica sans Dirk Benedict, but the current Starbuck does just fine. I feel good in knowing that I will have forgotten all of your concerns by the next time I sit down to watch…logic should never get in the way of television.

  5. 1. Our heroes don’t know what all the cylon models look like, nor is there any guarantee that the cylons inserted more than one agent of a particular type into the fleet.

    2. You do remember that this is a television show, right? “Make them flawed” is good storytelling. “Make them unpleasant to look at” isn’t.

    3. It takes three weeks to starve to death. You would have been better off nitpicking about water.

    4. It’s not necessary for “some fanboy” to do the math. The producers keep track for you, just like they maintain a head count on the white board in the President’s office. The up-to-the-episode numbers are posted somewhere on the Sci Fi channel Web site, but I’m damned if I can remember where.

    I’m not sure I’d characterize these as “gaping holes.” I’d put them more in the class of “stuff somebody came up with because he went way the hell out of his way to look for something to criticize.” You should check out the commentary podcasts. In addition to just being pretty interesting, they help drive home the idea that this is television. It’s a story, a made-up story that some people are telling us to entertain us. When the choice is between doing something that’s technically realistic and doing something that advances the story, the story is going to win every time. Nitpicks, or even downright errors, are met with a heartfelt and sincere: “Yeah, so?”

  6. Okay, caught up. Hello, Richard Hatch! There are no ugly people in outer space. I’m going to say something very politically incorrect, but, man, was I happy when Apollo punched Starbuck. It’s about time! And, yes, I managed to ignore all reality (ie, Ed’s comments) while watching.

  7. Look, folks, don’t get me wrong. I’m still impressed with what Ron Moore’s done. (Did you completely miss the first paragraph?) But since my mind couldn’t stop racing with these particular concerns (admittedly only a handful; not a conscientious effort to nitpick) and Moore has gone on record numerous places declaring this a more “real” show, the nearly slavish fanboy praise had to be put into perspective. “Battlestar Galactica” is good, and I’m impressed that a cornball 1970s series has, by some miracle, transformed into something this good, even with Glen A. Larson on board as a consulting producer. It’s still a far cry from the beautifully fucked up characters on “Blake’s 7.” But it’s a step forward.

    And I concur, booksquare. That’s the kind of hard unsettling moment that human beings are known to do from time to time. In fact, the show’s general sense of political incorrectness is refreshing.

    Abigail: I haven’t seen “Firefly,” but will have to check it out one of these days. Thanks for the tip.

  8. I’m pretty sure the same SFX company that did the handheld-looking space stuff on Firefly does Galactica.

    I hadn’t connected him to Carville or Cheney, but the XO is my favorite character. He shows up drunk for work, and his underlings exchange knowing glances about it. Awesome.

    I can put aside all the other stuff you mentioned, but it still kind of bugs me that they dress in modern Earth clothes and have names like William and Laura, but then every once in a while they say things like “By the Lords of Kobol!” Kind of jarring. But hey, nitpicking.

  9. Okay, I recently saw the episode where they profile a leisure ship and have the guy who used to play Apollo come back for a second time. So they HAVE addressed the whole outside issue, as well as created a fun little political power play involving another major character. Still don’t buy this Cylon clone business, but I’m hanging in here.

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