Friday, May 14, 2010

The Saga of a Star World, or What Were They Thinking?

Rose-colored glasses refers to things that are remembered or generally perceived as better than they are or ever were.

That is how fans of the classic Battlestar Galactica series remember the show. I often fall victim to my own pare rosy shades, but upon viewing of any episodes from the series the glasses tend to slip down my nose and I see what I did not see at the young age of my first viewing.

Granted, Battlestar Galactica had its work cut out for itself: to bring the big-budget spectacle of Star Wars to a weekly t.v. network production.

As I mentioned before, the original series cost approximately one million dollars per episode. The reimagined version cost about the same. The difference is that decades of special affects advancement and inflation have changed what a million dollars can do for a network production. One million dollars today is far less than what one million dollars was decades ago, and with cheaper technology, you can actually stretch the budget a lot further. So, we end up with a reimagined Battlestar Galactica that looks far more realistic and has better editing than the classic series.

Another thing that has changed over the years is general scientific knowledge and what viewers think they know. When the original Battlestar Galactica was written, the "science" of the day was incorporated into the show. A lot of that science was wrong and has evolved so those classic stories appear somewhat ridiculous. There was also a general lack of military understanding and the strategies and politics involved were clumsy at the least. Again, the reimagined Battlestar Galactica made up for the lack of knowledge in spades by incorporating believable military strategy and political drama that the classic series simply was unable or unwilling to accept as good science fiction writing.

Classic Battlestar Galactica had abysmal editing in story and footage. Sometimes the characters are seen trading one-off cliches that have little to do with the main plot and even less to do with their personalities, as if the writers simply had nothing else to include in the dialogue.

Basically, what we had was a show with too much money, not enough time, and people who were more invested in the spectacle than the story. It could have been just enough money, but the producers did not know what to do with it, so they wasted it at almost every turn. The writers treated the viewers like idiots and did not really want to create an engaging sci-fi epic. Or maybe they were limited by the over-worked special effects team. Obviously, a story that depends on fantastic visuals will be limited by the visuals that can actually be completed in time and within budget.

I wonder how often the plot of an episode was changed mid way because a set went over-budget and/or ran out of time to be completed.

Sci-fi television will always have these problems. The crime is not expecting the problem and simply hoping it will go away. This leads to a crap story with awesome visuals most of the time.

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