ROUNDTABLE: Your Own Private Battlestar

Republibot 3.0
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Welcome to the Republibot Roundtable, the feature in which people you’ve never heard of (Like me!) discuss things you don’t care about! (Like Battlestar Galactica). Our guests today are MOATMAI, a German reporter and cartoonist; Neorandomizer, a frequent contributing writer to our site, and of course our old buddy Church, who occasionally contributes reviews. Thanks for being here, guys!

QUESTION # 1:

Let's say it's 2003, and you're the guy who gets the job of bringing back Galactica, rather than Ronald D. Moore. Which way would you go about it? Would it be a Reboot or a Continuation of the old show?

MOATMAI:

It surprises me a bit that I would say this, but: I probably would reboot the series. That was one of the few things Moore got right.

NEORANDOMIZER:

I would reboot the show, one of the things I really enjoyed about the new Battlestar was that the Galactica felt like a real warship and the crew was more like the people I served with when I was in the navy.

CHURCH:

I think neither, although Richard Hatch's concept intrigues me, and I would watch it. I suspect a decent approach at this point would be a comedy. An easy idea is "Joe's Bar" meets "Cheers." But that's just off the top of my head. I think I'd go with Sandeep(sp?) of "Legend of Neil" to direct. (And yeah, it'd probably have to be cable or web.)

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:

Continuation. It’s the only way to be fair.

QUESTION #2:

For those of you who said "Reboot," explain why.

MOATMAI:

The old show carries too much baggage; you'd have a hell of a time ret-conning stuff and trying to give meaningful explanations to things which are just bad (or rushed) writing. Also, you have to deal with the fact that all those youthful heroes from the old show now are...well, OLD. Yeah, Jane Seymour still looks fetching and everybody else is still in good shape for their age -- but again: for their age. Also, the gravitas of Lorne Greene was a crucial pivot point for the old show. You can't just recast him and leave the others be.

NEORANDOMIZER:

Well like I said before the feel of the new show was more realistic. The original had great ideas hampered by the light and sometimes campy style of TV in the 70’s and 80’s. The story of the survivors of the colonies needs to be a dark and gritty story. This allows the heroes to seem more heroic and the villains to be truly evil. It also allows the struggle to be a more shared experience with people being able to project themselves into the story of the fleet and their fight for survival. It recalls the spirit that must have been part of the shared experience of people that live through the Second World War, were the grunt on the front lines and the factory worker at home were of equal importance to the survival of the nation.

CHURCH:

It's a bit soon to do a reboot of a reboot. A different reboot is a different thing. We're getting to the limits of the english language here...

QUESTION #3:

For those of you who said "Continuation," explain why. And would Galactica 1980 figure into it at all?

MOATMAI:

If the old show were to be continued, one would have to continue it from the last episode of Galactica 1980. I think it makes little sense to say "we'll continue the old show" and then suddenly go "yeah, but we will assume that this hasn't happened... and that hasn't happened..." You can't pick'n'choose the past.

NEORANDOMIZER:

Now I know I said I would reboot but I am going to give you my two cents on a continuation. First I would drop everything that happened in Galactica 1980 it was bad story telling and a cynical attempt by the network to have its cake and eat it to.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:

Actually, it was a deliberate attempt to kill the franchise once and for all, but that's a story for another day…

NEORANDOMIZER:

I would start where the original show ended with the Galactica receiving the TV transmissions from Apollo 11. At the time that show was first aired it would put them about ten light years from Earth. I would make it take them about twenty years real time, a few months their time to get to Earth moving at sub-light speed but fast enough for time dilation. From there I would have the show be about how they try to integrate themselves into Earth’s society without interfering with the on going development. I would also have a core of people stay in space to defend the Earth from the Cylons.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:

So your version of the show is basically pretty similar to Galactica 1980, only minus the suck factor? Not bad. Here's the one thing I don't get: Why *wouldn't* they interfere with local culture? I mean, they're centuries ahead of us in most ways, and they know the Cylons are on their tail, so it's a choice between whip us up to speed quickly, or loose yet another homeworld to the bad guys. I mean, it's not like the English or the French gave a damn about local politics and rivalries when they rolled over all of asia and africa, right? They just took over and you either adjusted to it, or they killed you, end of story. If you're gonna' go gritty, going with a world that sees the Colonials as an alien invasion would be pretty cool, and none of this tedious namby-pamby 'non-intervention' Star Trek crap

NEORANDOMIZER:

Well yes you could have the Galactica go for world domination but I believe that would cause more problems for them than solving the integration problem. The six nuclear powers have the means to fight back and would. Even if Galactica could destroy all land based ICBM’s there are the submarines and sure they would win in the end but they would have a planet that is messed up and vulnerable to attack from the Cylons. They could also just announce their arrival but that would cause political, economic and religious disruption on the Earth. Again it would workout in the end but it would still leave the Earth vulnerable. No the logical way and the one I would think that Adama from the original would go is a covert integration with the colonials revealing themselves after they had prepared the population of Earth for the shock of one all we thought we know about our religion is wrong and two that alien bad guys are coming. From my prospective the not overt interfering is the best way since they do not know how far behind the Cylons are. It is also in my opinion more in character with the beliefs of Adama and Apollo. It’s a practical solution to their problem of needing a home and needing to defend against the Cylons the other options just have to many complications to try to do and still be in a position to fight. They might try to contact a government of a large nation and tell it the truth but that is a risk and how would they choose who to trust to them we all would look pretty bad. Anyway most viewers of the show would expect them to do it this way Star Trek has sort of poisoned the well for people to believe they would do it a different way. But now that you made me think on it more I think I would have them interfere but in a covert way. Maybe start a corporation in the US and slowly release their technology into the market place and become a defense contractor. That would give them an in into world politics and a way to employ their people. It would also increase the defensive strength of the Earth without having half the world freak out. They could have some of the ships of the fleet decoy the Cylons away from earth. The rest setup a defensive base on the far side of the moon with the Earth based company supplying it, building new Vipers etc. Yes this idea has a whole bunch of good possible stories in it.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:

I’ve kind of had it with Reboots. Once you start saying “This never happened, but that did, and that there might have happened because I might want to do a story about it later on, but probably it didn’t…” there’s just no end to it. I feel it’s cheating. I mean, people are invested in the original show, it’s sort of a slap in the face to say “We know you’re the only ones in the world who care about this, we know you lobbied for it’s return for thirty years, but we don’t give a damn, and our show will be aimed at people who can’t stand you freakin’ geeks.” Added to which, it’s just too damn easy. If you reboot every time your story hits a snag, then you’re limiting yourself to *never* having a complex story, never doing anything with any depth, and throwing away all the good stuff you did accomplish. There’s just no call for it. There were a lot of goofy TOS episodes, but TNG just accepted them and moved on. There were plenty of terrible Doctor Who episodes, but the New Who is a continuation, not a reboot, and it’s a much, much better show because of it.

QUESTION #4:

So what's your concept? Pitch it to me, explain how it would work and all.

MOATMAI:

My idea would be to try and recapture what I liked about the show. Cool space battles, check. Impassive enemies with a roving KITT eye, check. Robot dog, check (yes, I am the one person in the world who liked the daggit). The dynamics of the main cast should remain - likeable rogue gambler, by-the-book son of the commander, uber-father figure etc. Truth to be told, my "reboot" would probably have some similarities to the pilot of the actual Reimagining. Human-looking cylons would be the exception rather than the rule, though (the problem is how to avoid comparisons to the Terminator franchise). The destruction of the twelve colonies would not carry 9/11 overtones but rather parallels to holocaust. I would probably shy away from blatant rip-offs of existing mythology. I recently rewatched the Galactica 1980 episode with Starbuck stranded on an alien planet with a Cylon. In my memories, it's my favorite Galactica episode ever; I even drew it as a comic just to keep the memory. Seeing it again as an adult was quite a shock. The plot of the first half is excellent (when I saw "Enemy Mine" some time later, my reaction was "what a rip off!"). The timing is atrocious, though. It is like a Twilight Zone episode which just doesn't know when to end and when the woman turns into an angel I just thought "hold on, why did she need to be the damsel in distress in the first place?"

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:

I’m told that would have had a payoff in the second half of the season, had there been one. Starbuck was going to return in ‘ascended’ form, as the Seraph’s agent among the Colonials…

MOATMAI:

So I would probably do have an episode where humans and cylons would have to co-exist due to a common enemy or what have you, but I would find a better solution (for instance, make sure that the lesson learned by the lone Cylon would eventually reach his peers, possibly leading the series to a close). For me, Galactica would have to appeal to teens as well as adults. Moore's folly was ridiculously difficult to follow. I'd do mini-arcs, but never something as over-reaching and ultimately unsatisfactory as what was done to this show. It's just too off-putting for new viewers. I have no problem with the show having an overarching theme, but watching Galactica 2004 from, say, the second season onward just makes you go "huh".

NEORANDOMIZER:

I would reimagine BSG with updated characters and set designs but following the basic story arc of the original minus Boxy and his daggit. It would take place in our time not the past or the future. I would also want it to be three or four four to six hour mini-series not a weekly show. I would end the last mini with the fleet coming into orbit around Earth.

CHURCH:

The Joe's/Cheer's thing was the obvious one to me (especially at the time.) Before that I was wondering what kinds of weird stuff must have been going on in the other ships, the ones without the 'teeth' part that the military (who pretty much ran the show most of the seasons) would care about. Aside from the Tylium ship and the Daisy girl, we didn't get much of that. I'm thinking the civilian POV but without the horror that was Black Market.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:

I’d have it start out very similarly to the pilot miniseries for the RDM Galactica, but instead of being set in The Colonies in The Remote Past, I’d have it set on earth in the present. Humanoid aliens have been infiltrating earth for some time, and they manage to sabotage various defense systems, then they attack and invade. The Galactica and some of The Fleet, which have been stashed on Mars or whatever, manage to escape. Up until this point, like at the end of the first hour or episode or whatever, I wouldn’t have even mentioned the Galactica, and I wouldn’t have used anything “Galactican” in the title, it’d just be like a standard alien invasion TV movie until they spring the Battlestars on you unawares, *Well* into the story. We’d find out through stock footage, flashbacks, and newly filmed dubbed scenes involving lookalikes, that the Galactica did, indeed, find earth in 1980, and the Colonials have been living quietly in our midst since then. The various governments of the world know about it, and the Colonials are actually the reason the cold war ended so abruptly: To gear up for a greater common foe. So we’d do a few episodes similar to the “New Caprica” arc, in which the Galactica manages to rescue about three million people off of earth - some Colonials, some earthborn of Colonial descent, and mostly just random Earthlings like us - and then escape into deep space. After they make good their escape, I’d have them meet up with the Pegasus and Cain, who’d explain that there’s been a Cylon Civil War, with the organic cylons supplanting, and then exterminating the mechanical Cylons. The machines didn’t want to die, and some made good their escape, so the Pegasus is traveling in tandem with Baltar’s old baseship, now captained by Lucifer. Of course Apollo wants none of this, they get into a fight, the Pegasus and the Baseship head off on their own again. The big hook for the show would basically be “Well, what do we do now?” They tried fighting a war with the Cylons, and lost. They tried running away to a mythical refuge, and that turned out to be a dead end as well. Now what? On the one hand, all roads are open to them, on the other hand, all roads are uncharted and pretty scary. The fleet would start to fall apart, things would get worse and worse, and eventually Cain and the Baseship would turn up again and more-or-less assume leadership of the fleet from Apollo. Apollo would be a great ship captain, but he’s a disaster as an administrator. I’d have Baltar - the John Colicos Baltar, mind you - eventually become the new president of the fleet, but I’d play it as a tenuous balance of power between him and Cain, who only barely tolerates him, and I’d make no bones about Baltar’s clear sociopathy, but the situation actually *calls* for a sociopath, so that’s a plus.. I honestly don’t know how I’d end it, but given how locked-in the ending of Galactica has always been, I think that’s rather refreshing. Oh, and I’d probably explore the notion that the “Ship of Lights” folk, the Seraphs, had been deliberately misleading the Colonials all along, for some purpose of their own…

QUESTION # 5:

Taking both shows into consideration, what's the aspect of the Galactica Franchise as a whole that bugs you the most? I don't mean a particular character or individual episode, I mean what part of the concept bugs you most? Explain.

MOATMAI:

Robot warriors should have well-honed targeting computers. It makes no sense for the Cylons to miss as many shots as they always have, old series or new. There needs to be a reason why they would miss all the time. The weak allegorical nature of Galactica bugged me even as a teenager. The episodes that were most fun were invariably not those where they would be looking for The Deeper Meaning Of It All, but where exciting things were happening. The whole mytholocical mumbo-jumbo seemed badly conceived and poorly executed. I hate it when "Deus Ex Machina" is taken to literal extremes. I have no problem with the 2003 Cylons believing they're following God's mandate. I hate the fact that there actually turns out to be such a God, which IMO cheapens the whole thing. (My religious beliefs are tenuous at best, but even I realize what would happen if any religion had a direct, verifiable connection to God.) I hated the fact that the more recent Galactica failure: arbitrarily reassigned genders. The idea of Cylon sex might have made more sense if, for instance, Starbuck had remained male and he'd become attracted to a female Cylon. I could write more, but I broke a thumb on Monday which significantly cramps my style. (The operation went well, apparently, but typing hurts like a mother.)

NEORANDOMIZER:

The major problem with the remake of BSG is that it is an epic story. Epic stories need to have a beginning middle and an end. It does not really work as a weekly show you end up with to much filler and not enough meat to fill all the time you are given. The original idea of a series of TV movies of the week would have worked much better. This format would also force the writers to have a plotted out end game so as to avoid the disaster that the final episode became. I also hated the idea that it was set in the past and we are the descendents of the fleet, it just does not work as well as the original. My only major complaint with the original has more to do with the style of story telling that was 70’s and 80’s TV. It was not until Michael Mann’s Crime Story , Miami Vice and the show Hill Street Blues that TV once again started to tell serious dramatic stories with none of the cheese that was slapped into most TV shows. If I could rewrite TV history I would have the original 70’s story arc with the character and set designs from the 2003 mini-series. I would also keep the modern casting I thought when they had good scripts the actors worked vary well. I really believe BSG would have worked better as a few TV movies or mini-series and if they wanted to tell the more mundane story of what happened after reaching Earth then that would have to be in a spin off show. CHURCH: The huge disadvantage is the initial concept. Seriously, it sort of works if you can do a movie, or a mini-series, or a monster-of-the-week, as the original did. And the RDM version did some serious shit with it, but it's no surprise that 33 (the initial series episode) is universally considered the best one they did. Progress dillutes or stagnates in this case, and while they made some wild saving throws (the human suicide bombers, even though that was essentially a dumbed-down version of their cylons-kept-alive-against-their-will original idea) the concept was stretched pretty thin by season four (and that's not even four proper American seasons.) Which is why my sit-com is a serious idea. You can roll with that MUCH longer than a simple 'they're coming to get us' idea. Compare the respective seasons of Cheers and BSG.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:

I think the biggest problem is that the show always ends up being about finding earth. Ok, that’s a good hook, I grant you, but then what? And why is Earth even a good idea? Put it in contemporary terms: our enemies nuke the US into oblivion, but the USS Nimitz and a few passenger ships survive, and then the captain of the Nimitz says “Hey, gang, our only hope is to rediscover the probably-mythical continent of Atlantis.” Why would anyone believe him? And even if there was *possible,* who’s to say it’s a good thing to do? I mean, in Galactica 1980 it turned out they’d spent 30 years on a fool’s errand. So once you introduce Earth into the mythos, it all becomes *about* earth, and that limits you considerably. I’d like to move past that, get it out of the way, you know? I’m also a little annoyed that the bad guys are *always* the cylons. They tried to introduce new villains in the original series - the Eastern Alliance, for instance - I’d like to see some other foes turn up. The idea of having the Humans and Cylons team up against some greater common foe is a really good one: What could scare a Cylon so much that friendship with humans looks good by comparison? What if the Seraphs are bad? What if the Eastern Alliance managed to, say, reprogram the Cylons to do their own bidding? Why not some new, huge thing that’s completely new to the story? By having it be *always* about finding Earth, and *always* about fighting the Cylons, you’re really limiting the kinds of stories you can tell, and I have to believe that’s a mistake.

INTERLOCUTOR:

And that’s it. I’d like to thank everyone for taking part today. Please tune in next time when we discuss the secret, disturbing true purpose of Aglets are. Good luck with the broken thumb, MOATMAI!

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