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Monday, January 17, 2005
TV Round-Up
Battlestar Galactica: 33 & Water
When I was little, I remember watching and enjoying Battlestar Galatica--a lot. I even had several of the toys, including the Vipers that I'd play with in the backyard, making up all kinds of great adventures for the cast and crew of the Galactica. I will even admit I have some vague recollections of seeing Galactica 80, the much-loathed spin-off to the series. Looking back, I'm always amazed the series only lasted one season--it seemed like it was on so much longer back when I was a kid.

Over the years, I've drifted away and not watched the original series that much. I'd heard about Richard Hatch's attempts to get the series back on TV and keep the dream alive, but I never got caught up that much in it. Then, Sci-Fi announced they were doing a new mini-series that wasn't a continuation so much as a re-imagining. I tuned in for the first half but due to circumstances beyond my control, missed the second half until it was repeated late last week. The mini-series set the storyline in motion for a new series. I have to admit, after the mini-series I was hooked. I was also hooked by the fact that our friends in the UK, who also footed some of the bill to get the new series on the air, got to see it first and were giving the new series rave reviews.

So, I have to admit, part of me went into Friday night's premiere of the new series wary. Could it be as good as I hoped and expected based on the rave reviews and hugely positive buzz?

The answer, thankfully, is yes. Now, I've gone back and rewatched some of the old Battlestar Galactica on DVD and it's a fun little show that, quite frankly, doesn't take itself or the situation all that seriously. Yes, this is humanity's last hope, fleeing from an oppressive empire who is out to destroy them at all costs, but we still have time for some wacky fun and family learnin'. Oh yeah and we have Daggett, who the less is said about that the better.

But the new Galactica embraces the situation our heroes face. They are facing a desparate situation, they are facing a relentless enemy. But instead of the attacks coming just from without, there's a new found, almost X-Files like paranoia in the show since the new breed of Cylons can create duplicates and sleeper agents who look and sound human. It's a bit similiar to what we saw with the Psi-Corp on Babylon Five and it really helps drive the first two installments of this series.

Of the first two hours of the new show, "33" is the stronger entry of the two, but only just by a hair. The crew has been on the run for five days from the Cylons. They are forced to jump every 33 minutes in order to keep one step ahead of them. But because of the stretched-thin nature of the defense crew, everyone has been awake for the past 33 days. Sure they might get a ten-minute cat nap or a stimulant or two, but everyone is exhausted and nerves are wearing thin. Ron Moore does a superb job of setting up the tension and showing just how exhausted the crew are from having to face an unrelenting attack every 33 minutes .

Also of interest is Six's manipulation of Baltar--that he can make this all stop by repenting.

It all comes to a head when a commercial transport, the Olympic Carrier, doesn't make a jump with the group and all aboard are presumeded dead (the white board with the total population left is chillingly well done). When the ship arrives late, after the 33 minute deadline the crew must destroy it for fear it might contain Cylon tracking devices. In the course of just a few moments, the crew goes from hope to despair at realizing what they must do. I also like the fact that Apollo is having an issue with this and it doesn't just magically go away at the start of the next segment.

(Also of interest is Ron Moore's blog over at Scifi.com. He discusses why he chose 33 minutes).

The next episode, "Water" while not as strong as "33" was still intriguing. The water supply containers on board Galatica are sabotaged, causing the ship to lose a large portion of its water supply. Instead of having enough to make it through without too much trouble, the crew now faces a desparate circumstance--a necessity is limited. We must find more. The resulting episode unfolds as the crew struggles to find out who did it (they don't yet, but I can see this is building to something with Boomer) and how to find more water. The Cylons threat is felt but not seen (well, we see it on Caprica) but it's still there. The episode also provides some great character work for Adama and President Roslin, seeing their working relationship come to a new understanding. We also see Apollo accept a role of helping Roslin understand his father and the military so she can lead more effectively. And we continue to see Baltar's manipulation by Six, which I have to admit his asides and flashouts to talk to her are almost Crichton and HarveyScorpius like.

What I like most about these episodes is that the answers aren't so cut and dried. We also have real, three-dimensional characters and there's an emphasis on just how desparate this situation is. Yes, there's time for some fun such as Baltar's game of cards with Starbuck and company. But that's only a ruse for Baltar to play for time so his role as a Cylon agent won't be detected jut yet. Also, the Cylon's manipulation of Baltar based on his beliefs is compelling and I am hopeful we'll see this continue to develop as the season goes along.

So, I will admit it--I'm hooked on the new Battlestar Galactica. Just like the first one hooked me so many years ago. (Only this time I doubt I'll be making up nearly as many adventures in the back yard for the Galactica crew!)

Enterprise: Daedulus
I guess it was only a matter of time before Enterprise came back to earth a bit. After seven stellar episodes in a row, we get an episode that was good, but just not great with "Daedelus." Meeting the inventor of the transporter should have been a lot more fun, more intriguing and more interesting than what we got here. The script felt like it was cobbled together with strong portions of other Trek shows over the years, but it failed to really do anything new or different with the material. We didn't really cover any new ground and that left the entire hour feeling a bit hollow.

Part of it is that the audience knows this whole project is doomed to failure since we don't have the transporter technology being tested here in the future Trek that we've seen. That either means it's going to fail spectacularily or the inventor is up to something. Turns out it's the latter and while his motivation could be interesting--guilt over losing his son in the initial tests and possibly a way to get him back--that gets lost in the script's complete lack of focus. On the one hand, we have a genius dealing with his reputation and trying to live up to it while deceiving his good buddy, Jonathan Archer. We've also got in there--wacky area of space threatens the ship and crew. It doesn't take long to jump from point a to point b and see how these things are connected. In fact, I guessed that they were trying to rescue Embry's son the first time wacky distoration person appeared on screen, thus ruining the turning point of the entire episode for myself.

Meanwhile, I have to admit this episode did have a few redeeming qualities. I liked how Enterprise is exploring the affects of previous stories on character--namely the Trip and T'Pol relationship. Those scenes actually carried some weight and were intersesting. As was Archer's single-minded obsessiveness at helping Embry fulfill his experiments. For a few minutes, I thought that Tripp and T'Pol were going to mutiny on him, but alas they don't. An interesting question I found myself asking--were this not a personal friend of Archer's would he have been as single-minded in his quest to see the experiments fulfilled?


posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/17/2005 11:02:00 AM | |
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