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From Nfl.com


Tuesday Morning Quarterback mentions Firefly/Serenity

Wednesday 5 October 2005, by Webmaster

This Week’s Galactica Complaint: Many readers including Cindy Maka of Wheaton, Md., insist I heed the new "reimagined" Battlestar Galactica, the No. 1 rated sci-fi show on television. Like Star Wars, Star Trek and Stargate, this series has the all-important word "star" in its title. Male readers have added that two Galactica regulars, actresses Grace Park and Tricia Helfer, recently posed wearing just shy of nothing for Maxim magazine. If only they’d undress on the show, I would tune in more often!

Spenser, my 10-year-old, refuses to view Galactica, asking, "Why watch a show about people who are dying and helpless, plus constantly arguing with each other?" Spenser has a point. Perhaps there is admirable boldness in producing a TV show in which everything that happens is bad; but if I want unrelenting gloom, all I have to do is turn on CNN. For those who don’t know, the premise of Galactica is that somewhere on the opposite side of the Milky Way, a society of sinister robots attacks an advanced human society. The robots slaughter billions of people; the last few thousand survivors are fleeing in a convoy of spaceships defended by one gigantic military vessel, the battlestar Galactica. This "reimagined" show is based on the 1970s series, which was campy and silly. The new version is dark, tense and violent; nothing good ever happens.

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.

In the most recent two-part cliffhanger, Galactica discovers that a second battlestar, Pegasus, also outran the robot attack. Do the two ships cooperate to improve each other’s odds of survival? No, their officers immediately start arguing and making threats, and at the cliffhanger ending, not to be resolved until January, Galactica and Pegasus are about to attack each other. Threatening each other is the single stupidest thing the crews of these ships could do in the situation depicted — but since the show’s premise is that there are no aliens and the Cylons are invincible, the only possible plots turn on people quarrelling amongst themselves. Perhaps somewhere in the universe there is a technologically advanced human society made up of incredibly stupid people who do nothing but walk into traps and argue with each other. But why would I find this entertaining?

Upside of Battlestar Galactica: great cinematography. Characters speak slowly, there are pauses in dialogue and even scenes when no one is speaking; movie-making techniques rarely seen on television. Plot quibble: the Pegasus episode begins with Galactica detecting an enormous star cruiser approaching. Immediately the captain radios, "This is the battlestar Galactica. Identify yourself or you will be fired on." But we’ve been told there are no intelligent beings other than humans and Cylons in this part of space, and Galactica believes itself the sole good-guy military vessel to survive the Cylon attack. So based on what is known, Galactica would assume the enormous star cruiser in the distance is a Cylon capital ship. Why does Galactica’s captain issue his ridiculous challenge to a superior vessel, exposing his location in the process? Battlestar Galactica producers, please hire a continuity director.

Meanwhile Jose Marquez of Somerville, Mass., commends the sci-fi series Firefly and its new theatrical release Serenity. Yours truly found it impossible to figure out what was going on in Firefly, other than that good-looking wisecracking people were zooming around the universe. Supposedly Serenity is comprehensible, and it’s produced by Joss Whedon, who did a slap-up job with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Marquez notes that Whedon’s sci-fi has the virtue of depicting outer space as silent. Usually in sci-fi the viewer hears engines, phasers and explosions echoing through the firmament.