Thursday, April 03, 2008
MORE STAR TREK. All right. I'm hooked. I admit it. The Battlestar Galactica marathon is on, and I'm powerless against it. Why?
Certainly, no sci-fi premise ever had more going against it. The original series from which this one was conceived was nothing but a TV rip-off of Star Wars, featuring bad actors (Lorne Greene, for God's sake) and that blond dude who later made a fortune on the A-Team. They had some fuzzy relationship with Earth, which meant that fighter pilots wore pharaonic helmets and high-fived each other as if they were about to time-jump into Tom Cruise's Top Gun land.
So I gave the whole thing a miss when it resurfaced on the Sci-Fi Channel. I ignored all the glowing reviews. I never watched because I knew better. But I was wrong. Now I'm admitting it. Battlestar Galactica is one of the best shows on TV. A lot of you already know that, which makes my confession that much more humiliating. For those who don't already know it, here's the pitch.
Edward James Olmos. Let me repeat that. Edward James Olmos. He could make you believe that a colony of snails had to be saved because they were reinventing Michelangelo in slime and were just indispensable. He's the best TV actor. (We're already on record about the worst.) He was good in Miami Vice. He's great in Battlestar. The years have made him somehow beautifully ugly. He makes the difficult decisions of command in a life-and-death situation riveting. When he's on screen, forget every other competing show on television. This is where you want to be.
As pure sci-fi, Battlestar sucks Make no mistake about that. Except for their ability to "jump" at faster than light speed, the Battlestar crew has no interesting technology whatever. They have wristwatches, four-in-hand ties, jackets with wide lapels, contemporary military ranks, 20th century slang, cassette tapes, a quaint awe of stealth aircraft, and a becoming fondness for what looks an awful lot like WWII-era .45 caliber sidearms. They're also polytheists, clinging to the Olympian gods so fiercely that they expostulate, "Oh my Gods" when surprised. Their enemies the cylons -- read 'terminators' -- are monotheists. Possibly Catholic. That'll turn your head right around in a hurry.
And there's one other really annoying thing. They're suitably foul-mouthed but they think the word "fuck" is pronounced "frak." This may seem like a small quibble, but wait till you wade through an episode full of "frak me," "frak you,""Are you frakking her?", and "Who you looking at, motherfrakker?" It gets old in a hurry. Trust me.
Not to mention the feminist slant. The ace of aces is Starbuck, a woman of about 5' 5" who can beat up any other guy on the show. This also gets old. Very.
Still. Edward James Olmos. He's trying to keep a rag-tag army of survivors alive against formidable odds. He believes in duty, courage, loyalty, and honor. He has very hard decisions to make, something like those a Commander-in-Chief might have to make. Really hard. Sometimes he can even make you cry.
When the final season starts on Friday at 10 pm, we'll be there.
Frak Numbers. This is the place to be.