Saturday, January 28, 2006

Battlestar Galactica

Fleeing from the Cylon Tyranny, the last Battlestar, Galactica, leads a rag-tag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest. A shining planet, known as EarthNancy Franklin, the highly-talented TV critic of the New Yorker magazine, had a nice, thoughtful piece in last week's New Yorker on the new Battlestar Galactica, currently in its second season on the Sci-Fi channel in the States and giving Sky One at least one reason for its miserable existence on this side of the world now that Buffy is no more.

It's interesting too that Ms Franklin opens her discussion with an apology for discussing sci-fi in the first place, rather in the way one would begin a conversation, post the serving of the Ferraro-Rocher at the Ambassador's reception, with "I know none of you here suffer from boils but I've discovered the most remarkable cream..." Not the done thing, dear boy. There are few things certain in life, but one of them is that if you wish the girl of your dreams to melt in your arms, her becoming aware of your ability to name the captains of the Federation Starship Enterprise in correct chronological order of their commands is unlikely to do the trick.

And as such, Ms Franklin's thoughtful fifteen hundred words are rather a relief. Science Fiction fans may now relax during indeterminable debates about Brokeback Mountain or Desperate Housewives, and know that it's quite alright to concentrate their minds on speculating just what will happen when Commander Adama wakes up; if the President is the only last hope for the human race, or if she's some sort of nut-job, and you know, I thought I was Dirk Benedict's biggest ever fan, like Numero Uno, but hey, that new Starbuck - well, she's kinda hot. I don't know if I want her to kiss me or beat me up.

One of the many fascinations of the new Battlestar Galactica is just how much it's developed since the original show. Sky One repeated the pilot of the 70s Battlestar about two years ago and it was rather depressing to realise that what held the ten year old Spailpín spellbound was actually horse-manure of the worst kind. My poor parents. But it could be that, for children, it didn't really need to fill in all the pieces on the colouring book - all it took to fire imaginations of ten year olds the world over was the notion that the people that had built the Pyramids were not only still Out There, but they were Coming Back. That, and the fact that the Cylon ceturions' visors had little red lights that went back and forth horizontally. As a cheap little gimmick, it was more amazing than the digital watch Gemini Man used to use turn invisible, and on that an empire was made.

The new Battlestar is unrecognisable from its seventies progenitor, just as the computer at which I'm typing is unrecognisable from the Commodore 64 of fond memory. In the original, the only really thought-provoking questions were how they used to let Starbuck smoke in those small little vipers, and when was somebody going to beat the tar out of that awful young fella with mangy robot dog. In the 21st Century Battlestar, the flight from the Cylons is peripheral to what the show is really about, which is a discussion of what it means to be human. The Cylons, originally constructed by man as his servants, have over-taken him on the evolutionary tree, and this leads to all manner of fascinating questions about what it means to be human in the first place, now that humanity has rendered itself obsolete. Would it be morally correct and consistent to follow the dodo into oblivion? It's also interesting to note that that one of the reasons for the Cylon attack is that they believe their evolution better fulfils God's plan for the Universe than the continued existence of imperfect man. Fascinating, as I say.

Pardon? Oh, if I must - Archer, April, Pike, Kirk and Picard of course. God help me.

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