01/06/2003. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
Geoff asks can, indeed should, Battlestar Galactica be revived in the same way Star Trek was resurrected with the Next Generation?
A Splash Of Reality
Why Some Things Don’t Need To Be Resurrected
a summation by: GF Willmetts
(Less Serious) Thought For The Month:
I have to confess to not being particularly fascinated by the previous incarnation of ‘Battlestar: Galactica’. Spacious isn’t exactly the way I saw the original programme.
More like a Buck Rogers equivalent with its 70s styles costumes, cloaks and attitudes. I was commenting to one of my reviewers, ‘But there were only five fans anyway, is it likely to change with a new incarnation?’ Her reply (hello Stella), ‘I thought they only had two fans.’ To each our own and you can tell me how wrong I am on the e-letters page. [Me controversial?]
From SFCrowsnest editorial May 2003
In last month’s editorial, I commented that there were only 5 fans of ‘Battlestar: Galactica’ and one of my reviewers thought there was 2.
I stand corrected. There are in fact 11 active fans of the original series on the Net that read my editorial cos that’s how many replies I had, even if they chose not to use our e-letters page, and from the looks of things not regular users of our website.
I’m not including the chap from Sci-Fi Channel as he’s more in favour of the revival series for obvious reasons. One of you suggested I take my shoes off and count my toes for the number of fans. As I’m syndactyl, that would make 9 and that’s less than the number sent in!! Nor do I want my email box over-whelmed by people saying I’m wrong now.
I didn’t really ask for a straw poll of numbers, I was just making an observation under the category of ‘(Less Serious) Thought For The Month’ I wasn’t taking it that seriously but leaving an opening for you folk to express your own opinion there rather than at me.
Regular readers of my editorial column and I’m assuming you dozen weren’t and only picked up the piece through either a friend or trawling the search engines also tend to be aware that I tend to provoke thought in whatever I say, be it ‘Serious’ or ‘Less Serious’. Comes with the mindset.
Even my less serious thoughts tend to look unintentionally heavy.
A couple of you comment that there are 2200 ‘Battlestar: Galactica’ world-wide fans on the Net. Hardly an over-whelming force of numbers for a show revival when compared to when ‘Star Trek’ was resurrected, although it would fill a convention hotel wanting to see more of the same.
Likewise and realistically, I don’t think it’s a big enough number for the show in any incarnation either even if a fraction of you were willing to give the revival a chance. Apart from one of you from Portugal, the rest of you are American. That’s hardly a reflection of ‘International’.
Since I used ‘Star Trek’ as a comparison above, apart from the films no one thought to resurrect the TV series in quite the same way as the original. Apart from none of the key actors really wanting to return to TV, the new set-up would have to include consideration for changes and evolution in technology just in production, let alone what is shown on the box.
A ‘Star Trek’ done in the old way would have appeared so dated. The DS9 episode ‘Trials And Tribble-ations’ was also an indication of the differences created as well. You can’t go home again and there was opposition when ST-TNG started as well. Of course, ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ suffered the problem of the crew being too nice to each other and everyone else unless provoked was also an indictment of the times as well.
This legacy carried over to ‘DS9’ and ‘Voyager’ as well when a gap of a few years might have produced a different attitude rather than the ‘same old thing’ that has contributed to a decline or rather a lack of bringing in loads of new fans to these shows.
When the original ‘Battlestar: Galactica’ TV series came out, it was riding on the crest of the wave created by ‘Star Wars’. It even used the same effects man, John Dykstra, to make it competitive in looks and although very derivative, it was also seen as the future of TV SF. There was little SF on TV at the time and those of us interested in the genre would have a look at everything.
Despite the effects, it was even a little clichéd the first time around. These days, the competition is a lot tougher, especially when you look at the shows that are being ditched after a season for not living up to required viewing figure expectations. If anything, the typical SF fan tends not to look like a marketing statistic since our tastes within the genre can be so diverse.
The real problem then, as it is now, is the plot basics make ‘Battlestar: Galactica’ no more than a western in space and is indeed comparable to it. You have a bunch of ragtag settlers being forced to move off their land and pursued by the angry injuns out for their blood.
For ‘land’ read ‘planets’ and instead of ‘injuns’ we have ‘Cylons’. It might have a futuristic setting but it isn’t great SF but I can see its appeal to those who like watching escapism on the box. No doubt you or viewers like you watch ‘Andromeda’ for the same reason.
This doesn’t mean I deem great SF as being a profound statement about the universe and everything just that at its heart, ‘Galactica’ isn’t likely to change no matter what re-imagering is done to it. If Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly’ - another somewhat western approach to space no matter how good he writes characters - couldn’t succeed then ‘Galactica’ is aiming for the same space graveyard.
From a British perspective, the series has ‘cancelled’ written all over it no matter what hype is given. You should tell how under-impressed we are by the lack of material in the UK media mags for either new or old series.
The most successful cult SF shows of recent years, including ‘The X-Files’, ‘Buffy’, ‘Farscape’ and ‘Stargate SG-1’ came about largely as surprises to the TV companies and networks that bought them.
The first three was because they had a new attitude - which can be used for the framework for a different article - and the last because it was only a variation on a tried formula although it hasn’t prevented the series evolving a little.
Engineering a winning TV series is far more difficult than to do a scattershot and let new ideas in and see if it gets a following. Giving an old series new clothes like ‘First Wave’ which was little more than a re-vamping of ‘The Invaders’ or even an attempt to re-image ‘The Time Tunnel’ that thankfully died a death before getting on the box shows TV managements thinking like film executives that retro sells when it really doesn’t.
What the TV company really wants is a return for their money and can no doubt use any of the four shows indicated above as ones that sell without observing that they sold because there was nothing like them at the time.
Half of them were considered last-minute replacements and not considered to succeed against what was considered better choices. If ever there was an example that executive decision-making is flawed...
There are so many space-ship shows, which are all variants on the ‘Star Trek’ theme that one should really question that there should be something different out there. No doubt with the upsurge in super-hero films and the success of the forthcoming ‘Matrix’ films, we’ll no doubt see clone variations coming out as TV product anyway.
Whether they’re successful or not depends on the show-runners and their passion for the material. The above four shows mentioned have or had producer/writers who really gave their best shot at the material. To just produce a series as a marketing exercise is doomed to failure.
As to ‘Battlestar: Galactica’? No one is denying your right to wallow in nostalgia for the old times, least of all me. I’m a fan of co-producer Leslie Stevens’ earlier 1972 spy-tech show ‘Search’ not to mention some of Glen Larson’s other shows, so it’s more a dislike of the show’s idea than any of its production staff.
I’m old enough to have seen all the shows from the early 60s to the present - at least when they appear on terrestrial television - so could hardly be classed as a new-comer. ‘Galactica’ was conceived by a TV executive as a means to cash in on the ‘Star Wars’ craze that was hitting the world at the time.
Both Larson and Stevens were brought in because of their track record to make things work and were under contract to the studio. They made it work to some extent and probably why those of you enjoy the original series like it so much.
From a presentation point of view, no matter who makes the new ‘Galactica’ series, some changes would have to be made. Rather than choose between actor Richard Hatch or even Glen Larson’s plan, the TV company chose a third alternative. If nothing else, one can at least applaud US Sci-Fi Channel for realising a new attitude might be a prime ingredient.
This still doesn’t affect why it will still fail because it’s still a western stuck in a space setting. When was the last time you saw a successful TV western series in the past 40 years? Why should one set in space be any different to that? We’ve moved up or down the scale of appreciation, depending on how you look at things.
My comments regarding fashion design can’t be disregarded. Compare the fashions between ‘Buck Rogers In The 25th Century’ to ‘Galactica’ and it’s very 70s-ish and would certainly be laughable if repeated today.
The Egyptian motif has even been done better in ‘Stargate’ for Illuminatii’s sake. Although I don’t believe every futuristic series should go the black leather option, I doubt having space pilots parading around in cloaks would be taken that seriously today either.
Once when change is made, others are bound to follow but they are all superficial. You might want the past and you’ve got it in re-runs and on video or DVD but part of being interested in SF is looking towards the future.
As we’re also a public service SF website and if you have a bent for nostalgia, since these people have given me a selection of ‘Battlestar: Galactica’ websites if you want to beat a path to their door to swell their numbers, far be it from me to dampen your enthusiasm. The main sites are listed below.
As our pages are bound to be around for years and I doubt if petitions will mean diddly-squat when something is in production anyway - they won’t stop the new series being made, folks, you’ll have to find those through these sites.
Original Battlestar: Galactica series:-
New Battlestar: Galactica series:-
Just in case you want to know what ‘Search’ was about, look up:-
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