October 04, 2005


Gregg Easterbrook, in his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column today, unloads on Battlestar Galactica:

One of my problems with Battlestar Galactica is that the men and women in the show are depicted as so astonishingly across-the-board stupid, it's tempting to root for the robots. The military officers are stupid; the politicians are stupid; the civilians are stupid. In the pilot, we learn that the entire defense network of the human society could be deactivated by one single numeric code. The evil robots, called Cylons, obtain the code, transmit it, and instantly all the human society's military equipment shuts off. Planets are left defenseless as the Cylons bombard them with nuclear bombs; numerous powerful battlestars are shown hanging in space helpless, their engines and weapons shut off, as the Cylons smash them. (The Galactica escapes via plot contrivance.) Now if you were an advanced society capable of building gigantic faster-than-light outer-space battleships, would you design them so that one single numeric code renders them all totally useless at the same time? Plus the numeric code that instantly shuts off every military device in the entire human society has been entrusted to a psychologically unstable computer scientist, who accidentally gives it to the Cylons. Halfway through the first season, the computer scientist became vice-president of the survivors' government, and everyone -- including military intelligence -- is so astonishingly stupid as to never realize that since scientist was the only one who had the code, he must have been the one to give it to the Cylons.

Next, the show has premise problems that appears unsolvable. One aspect of the premise is that there are no other intelligent beings in this part of the galaxy -- just the beleaguered humans and the malevolent Cylons. This means there are no aliens to meet in various episodes, no alien societies to depict. True, it must be hard at this point to come up with new alien ideas for sci-fi. You can imagine the scriptwriters' conference: "Okay, how about they find a planet where people can only speak when the sun is out?" The other premise problem is that the Cylons are depicted as having become so powerful, Galactica cannot hope to defeat them. If the characters can't overcome the Cylons and can't meet interesting aliens, to create dramatic tension the scriptwriters are forced to have the humans fighting each other, which is what happens. Almost every episode concerns internecine fighting inside the human fleet: plots, mutinies, martial law, claims of treason, everything but people accusing each other of witchcraft. Galactica story lines have become so similar that I have trouble telling whether an episode is new or a repeat.

Indeed. He also has a fair bit to say about the season cliffhanger ending involving the meeting between the Galactica and the Pegasus. All I've got to say about this is that Lloyd Bridges is the legendary Commander Cain and I refuse to accept any substitutes.

What? Isn't Gregg's column supposed to be about football (and cheerleaders)? Absolutely. And Gregg is pretty unkind this week to a certain Buffalo football team that just so happens to be facing a certain (cough) other team this weekend that (cough!) is coming off its bye (ahem!) leading the AFC East.

Posted by Robert at October 4, 2005 02:21 PM | TrackBack

//All I've got to say about this is that Lloyd Bridges is the legendary Commander Cain and I refuse to accept any substitutes//

I bet you drive a Model T too. ;-)

Posted by: Dan at October 4, 2005 02:38 PM

I did not see the Pegasus episode on the new BSG. Was there a Sheba or some facsimile thereof? I'm with Robbo--no substitute for Lloyd Bridges. Making him a her is as persuasive as turning Starbuck into Stardoe.

Posted by: LMC at October 4, 2005 02:58 PM

So the Battlestar fleet runs on Windows servers too?

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at October 4, 2005 04:10 PM

Not only that, but the entire Human military runs off a network with but one password. Only the crappy old computers survived the virus.

If there was any ludite message in that, I must have missed it ;-)

Easterbrook's analysis is pretty much spot-on. I have not been able to watch but a few episodes of the first season, and none of this one. Pretty good show, but it rubs me the wrong way.

Long live Firefly!

Posted by: TheRoyalFamily at October 4, 2005 04:44 PM

One of the saddest days of my life was when Firefly was cancelled. Joss Whedon makes the best TV on, well TV.

Serenity now!

Posted by: LB buddy at October 4, 2005 05:13 PM

I never saw Firefly but I know how much everybody raves about it. Indeed, Serenity is just about the only thing in theatres now I'd really like to see.

Posted by: Robbo the LB at October 4, 2005 05:22 PM

Joss (sure we are on a first name basis) is a Wesleyan graduate, as are all great minds. No Scottish Dwarves in his writing though. Yet.

Posted by: LB buddy at October 4, 2005 06:01 PM


I got the first DVD via Netflix last week and it hooked both my wife and me (a rarity, as the missus is not a science-fiction-fan-type). Instead of waiting for the next one to come through the mail, I ran out to BestBuy to get the complete set.

I never really drank of the Whedon KoolAid before (unless you count Toy Story, which is one of my favorite movies of all time). Buffy just kind of made me go "eh".

But the Firefly universe is my kind of 'verse. A place for rugged individuals. A place that most of Heinlein's characters would feel at home in. And the characters are what drive the action. They make sense, and their actions are consistent with who they are. The special effects serve the story, not the other way around.

We have one DVD (of four) left to watch, and I am already saddened that their stories are about to end. I really want to get to know these people better. We are planning to see the movie after we finish the DVDs. It would be nice if there's enough interest in the movie to lead to a sequel or maybe another season's worth of episodes.

Highly recommended.

Posted by: JohnL at October 4, 2005 08:18 PM

I'm looking forward to seeing Serenity to see how well it tracks to Gunfighter Nation and The Fatal Environment, two classic works by Wheedon's mentor at Wesleyan Richard Slotkin. Wild wacky stuff.

Posted by: Steve the LLamabutcher at October 5, 2005 07:56 AM

Lawd almighty, tho - I hope I never reach the stage where I look at Sarah Michelle Geller and go "eh".

Posted by: Robbo the LB at October 5, 2005 10:50 AM

Not surprisingly Easterbrook didn't like Firefly either. What a dope.

Posted by: Dan at October 5, 2005 10:54 AM

I saw the original version of BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA and as we all know BALTAR was a traitor

Posted by: spurwing plover at October 11, 2005 11:02 AM