Saturday, 27 June 2015

TV – Battlestar Galactica (Miniseries, 2003)

This series passed me by when it emerged in the 2000s but I'd heard good things about it so I saw the first two 90 minute programmes which constituted a "miniseries". The first, that is, since the 1970s version which I had also missed. For those unfamiliar with the setting, a brief summary follows.

The time is the far future when faster-than-light technology has permitted interstellar travel. Humanity is settled on a dozen colony worlds, and to assist with further exploration of inhospitable environments has developed Cylons – tough, intelligent robots of humanoid shape. The Cylons had eventually rebelled against humanity and after a stalemated war had withdrawn from human space forty years before the story begins. But now they are back, on a war of annihilation – with the aid of a new form of Cylons who are almost indistinguishable from humans. Their initial attack is successful, leaving the only hope for humanity the last surviving Battlestar – a giant space warship named Galactica.

After the initial scenes most of the action in set on board the Galactica or its one-person "Viper" combat craft. There is a varied cast of generally well-drawn characters with many personality clashes driving the plot. Despite this, I found the whole feel of the series to be rather old-fashioned and unoriginal – a kind of blend of Star Trek and Star Wars, with just a few of its own twists thrown in. As a matter of personal preference, I have also never liked the "enemy within" kind of story, in which the viewer/reader knows which of the "good guys" is really a "bad guy" – but the good guys do not.

Overall I enjoyed the miniseries, but faced with a further 70 or so episodes I decided that Battlestar Galactica wasn't quite intriguing or likeable enough for me to want to devote that much time to it. I probably would have followed it to the end had I watched it week by week when it first came out, but as I get older so I become increasingly picky about what I'm prepared to watch or read, especially if that involves a major time commitment – too much to do, not enough time!


dlw said...

People kept trying to get me to watch that. I managed about ten minutes of one episode, mostly spent looking somewhere else, trying not to throw up. The camera wobbled, weaved, bounced, jerk-zoomed, and twitched like it was taped to a basketball being dribbled by someone with cerebral palsy.

Most television within the last 10 years is nearly as bad, and most movies within the last 5. Maybe someday someone will code a "software Steadicam" I can pipe .avi files through; until then, a great deal of modern video is a closed door to me.

I know why they do it - motion attracts the eye, and they figure it'll keep their viewers from pressing the channel selector on the remote for a little bit. Heck, they've probably paid for studies telling them how much camera jiggle will pay off in so many extra viewer seconds. But all this seems to have ramped up gradually, and modern viewers are so used to it they don't even notice. And having watched people operating the remote control, pressing the button seems to be a reflex unconnected with whether they're actually watching anything. Well, they're not actually "watching" anyway, not in the sense of following a story and expecting it to make coherent sense; they're so used to skipping around they don't *expect* whatever they're watching to make sense.

Anthony G Williams said...

You are right - I didn't notice it!

What I do notice is the infuriating tendency in documentaries to jerk the camera around all over the place, focusing on people's hands, or nostrils or something, all accompanied by intensely irritating music. However, that's off topic...

dlw said...

You know, back in the 1960s and 1970s that was one of my first clues as to whether I was watching an American or British movie. At least on this side of the pond, the British style was very noticeable; you'd flip channels until you saw something zoomed in showing someone's face from the upper lip to the bridge of the nose, and it was almost certain to be something made in Britain. It was a running joke, some places.

It seemed to be used more on stuff from the 1950s and early '60s, and almost entirely absent from the TV shows we got - The Avengers, Danger Man, or UFO. Those tended to have wider shots and more static camera work than American shows, but since a lot of video gives me motion sickness, I thoroughly approved.

Irritating music on American shows depended almost entirely on BLARING HORNS cranked up slightly past the threshold of pain; at least the Brits added some drums or strings on occasion for variety, and didn't crank it up so freakin' loud.