The Plan and Caprica

Battlestar Galactica is one of my favourite sci-fi shows, I watched the entire series and enjoyed it a lot. So I was eagerly waiting for the side story “The Plan”, with Ed Olmos’ words resounding in my mind – “then you’ll have to watch again the series”. If you imagine that my expectations were high, you are underestimating them.The Plan, basically is the Cylon backstage, what you don’t see directly in the show, but you put together from evidences, tips and untold parts of the story.
Caprica, instead is the pilot episode the prequel series, set some 50 years before the beginning of BSG and, my thumb estimation, 20 years before the first Cylon wars. The goal of the show is to tell the … well the prequel, why things got so screwed up with robots and what is all that fuss with the single god vs. the BSG-universe pantheon.
I liked Caprica, although I won’t buy the show – it is not enough “space-opera” for my taste. I found characters believable and promising. “The Plan” left me quite disappointed with the bitter feelings I wasted my money. That’s mainly because “The Plan” doesn’t add anything to the story, don’t expect twists or mighty revelations… the backstage is very similar to what you can imagine. Or, put in another way the story is what BSG show is telling, you may consider “The Plan” a sort of deleted scene collection, glued together to make a plot.
Now, the anti-spoil warning, if you want to watch the shows, go and watch them, then return here to read below. If you swap the order you are going to ruin an amount of entertainment.
The Plan, the story is strictly tied to the first season of BSG, starting with the moments before the Cylon attacks up to when two preacher Cylons (can’t remind Cylon model numbers… apart from six, can’t see why O:-)) are discovered and thrown through the airlock.
The story browse the motivation of cylons in the attack and the evolution of the feelings of human form Cylons toward humans. Apparently there is just one evil toaster (one of the Preachers) that is able to fast talk the others convincing they are doing the right thing in wiping out the entire human race.
“The Plan” provides some behind the scenes explanation to some mysteries. You’ll know who let the paper with the cue of 12 cylon models in Cmd. Adama quarters, as well as where the Six who accused Baltar disappeared. Other misteries are left unanswered (how did Baltar survived the nuclear blast? Just by taking cover behind Caprica Six?!)
“Caprica” is a different show, it is about virtual realities, teen agers, families. At least, this is what I can say after having watched the pilot. There is this robot industry tycon whose daughter dies in a terrorist attack. He suffer immensely from the loss, so when he finds that a virtual reality contains a nearly perfect copy of his daughter, he decides to transfer that identity in a robot (guess what kind of robot).
On the other hand another father lost his daughter in the same accident, and suffers the loss in much the same way, but, after having experienced the virtual reality, decides to let go her daughter giving up the idea to have a surrogate experience. This man last name is… Adama and his little son name is William.
The plot also involves the unique god, in the sense that the girls and the boy who caused the bomb attack were believers of the unique god.
So why if I liked the pilot I won’t go watching the entire series? Because I feel this kind of sci-fi, too little “sci”. This is something more about family drama, mysteries (strange things turns out to happen in the virtual reality), quest for power… something that doesn’t really need the distant future or space opera setting. At least the show is not enough motivating for me to afford the expenses, of course your mileage may vary.

BSG-75

It is nearly a week I finished watching the last episode in Battlestar Galactica series. After reading the long interview to authors about the finale (thank you Jok), I decided to watch it again.As I wrote some time ago the show is damn good and I really enjoyed it from episode 1. A number of interesting topics and dilemmas are tackled during the 4 seasons of the show and the outcomes are never simple as black or white, or idealistic.
How does the finale work for me? (Spoiler warning, you may want to read below only after you seen season 4.5, finale included).
Well I am not sure, but it is mostly good, even if it didn’t fully convinced me. First there are basically two finales. The first is the rescue of Hera featuring the last battle of Galactica. This finale is epic, action-packed, 100% space opera. This finale explains the visions about the Opera House, provides the closure of the story of Gaius Baltar with a very satisfying full redemption and features the defeat of the evil Cylons (and the salvation of the good Cylons).
The second finale is the arrival on Earth and the decision of start anew, letting go technology, knowledge and science. This finale is poetic, romantic and aching. I have been nearly in emotional overload a couple of times.
There are two more closings, the first set today in NY featuring those I learned to be called Head Characters (i.e. Head Six and Head Baltar) chatting in N.Y. This finale is about hope, the head characters (angels or entities, no explanation is given) grow the confidence that this time the history won’t repeat because the loop has been broken.
Eventually there is a brief footage of nowadays robots. This is quite useless, and worse is completely dissonant with BSG, you can stand it only because it is preceded by the N.Y. scene.
Thinking on the finale I found that there are a number of quite evident “plot devices”, i.e. cheap ways for authors to solve complex situation. More precisely they employ the mystery. For example the Earth is found by Kara Thrace, setting as jump coordinates the notes of a melody her father taught her and the little Hera drew. Fine, but… the underlying explanation is totally missing from who/what is Kara Thrace (she just resurrect along with her Viper), what the melody is, who the Kara’s father was and so on. The best explanation is given by Gaius during his speech – there is an unknown Power at work. Head Characters are unexplained as well. Also the question why on this Earth there are humans compatible with those on Galactica, is left unanswered.
Also what I feel somewhat cheap was the total consensus about the decision of everyone to restart from blank. We are talking of about 40k people. A fleet that never agrees even about the most straightforward matters, now votes at unanimity to sink ships in the sun, to forget everything about science, medicine, technology, literature and, just to restart anew, to go toward suffering and die for something as stupid as a cold.
Not to talk about the choice of letting Kara Thrace just disappearing. Sounds like the authors: “Hum, what we have to do with Kara?” “Don’t know” “So let her just disappear!”
But don’t get me wrong, I really liked the finale, I found it quite balanced in the emotions that inspires and a good closing for the series. Being quite rational I would have liked some more explaining… (I have a question since episode 1 – how did Baltar survive to the nuclear blast? Just by hiding himself behind Six?)
Anyhow, authors promise some new revelations in the tv movie “The Plan” that I promptly pre-ordered 🙂

Not your father’s Galactica

Today I finished watching season 4 of the new edition of Battlestar Galactica. I must say that the new edition is much more intriguing and compelling than the old one. All childish, naive stuffings are gone, giving the show a more mature and real tone. All characters are well developed and strong feelings mix well with politics, life and military discipline. The entire show is based on characters depth rather than sci-fi or special effects. The battlestar scenario is closer to a WWII battleship than to a spaceship. (Beware of the spoiling). Yes the show is over, they find earth, but many questions rest unanswered – who wrote the ticket in the first season stating that there were 12 cylon models? Who is the last cylon? How Kara Thrace survived the accident and returned to Galactica? How does Baltar survived the nuclear explosion on Caprica (yer the one in the opening titles)? What’s the purpouse of the final five? Why they had to undergo all the tribulation against Cylons when they were Cylons themselves?
Nonetheless the show is great. It is orchestrated to produce interesting confrontations and strong feelings in the watcher. Just keep in mind that the target audience is not the same of the original series. This time BSG is intended for a mature public.

Space 1999

When I was a kid, Space 1999, was not only my favorite Tv-series, but the synonym for future. I was so in love with Moonbase alpha, eagles and the adventures of Commander Koenig and his crew, that I started hating soccer because my dad and grandad had to watch soccer matches on a channel, while on the other Space 1999 was transmitted (of course we had just one black and white TV, with lot of tubes that took several minutes to warm up). Recently I discovered that all but one episodes of the first season are available on line for free. So I decided to watch, some 2^5 years later the show.
It is somewhat a strange sensation, to watch all those episodes. Before my critical 40-years-old eyes, characters and deadly-wrong-science take a very different taste. Today I find characters very underdeveloped and mostly uncharacterized. Koenig – the commander – talks in upper case and mostly doesn’t show any feelings, Helen – the doctor – is just a dull side, Bergman – the scientist -, despite being one of the most interesting character, is a scientist only by name revealing more than once an accommodating nature, Alan – the pilot – is an action man without dept.
Science in the serie is mostly risible. Even if you succeed in forgetting for a minute that the Moon, even if propelled by giant nuclear explosions, can’t cover interplanetary distance in tv-times, there are a lot of problems in all the causes and effects explained by scientific means.
What stroke me on the plus side is the special effects and the future architecture. Special effects of moon exteriors and spaceships are really good, even by today standards. This is from a pre-digital era, so do not expect many wow-effects, but what you see with eagle spaceships and launch pods, they give you a solid, credible look.
What is really credible is the MoonBase itself (well maybe travel tubes are a little exaggerated), with the modular architecture, the info-columns around, docks, airlocks, power plants, and so on. The commlock is also plausible (even if somewhat surpassed technology) – with the small display and the numeric keypad for personal video communication and door opening. It shouldn’t be hard to mod a real cell-phone into one of this gadget.

Galactica

Arthur Clarke has been reported to say that Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories. I find that in most sci-fi works there are lot of food for thought, be it the message given by Star Trek back in the 60s about common values of the mankind going beyond the exterior differences in race or sex, or be the capital letters warnings issued by Blade Runner in the 80s about a looming dark future.I just bought the first season of Battlestar Galactica and started watching episodes. The background is about a robot rebellion and the attempt of a bunch of survivors to seek for a new home while escaping the continuous attempt of the machines to destroy them.
So the scenario is this, the humanity has been mostly wiped out, billions are dead, there are just 50 thousands, grouping and recovering. The freshly named president is trying to figure out what are the best chances for surviving. Time for harsh choices, she has just opted to leave behind those aboard of starships not able to perform faster than light travel.
In the fleet there is a prison ship with 1500 convicts on board. Supplies are scarce and rationed, so the commander of the prison ship is asking what to do about his passengers. There could be plenty of good reason to save food, air, water and fuel. The president reads the requests, seems to ponder it for just a split second, and promptly dismisses by stating – No. We’re not going to start doing that. They’re still human beings. Tell the captain I expect daily reports on his prisoners’ well-being and if there are any “mysterious” deaths, the Astral Queen may find herself on her own and without the Galactica’s protection..
I think this is a profound message, we are all humans and we all deserves the same rights and duties. It is just sad to split humanity in those better and those worse purporting that the first has more rights than the latter.