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One More Episode! BSG’s Blood and Chrome Prequel Debuts, But Where’s the Great New Sci-Fi?

The prequel is fine—somewhere between the original BSG and the Portlandia parody. But at this point I'd much rather see SyFy making some kind of attempt to create intelligent, ambitious, original sci-fi series.

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IFC’s Portlandia once ran a classic sketch called “One More Episode,” in which Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen play Battlestar Galactica fans who become so addicted that they recruit a local man (whom they wrongly believe to be BSG writer Ronald D. Moore) and several cast members to make another installment of the show. The result is a hilarious, loving tribute, an imagined BSG with dialogue like, “I need you here! Now get out of here!”

Today on YouTube, the Machinima channel, working in concert with original BSG home SyFy, premiered the first two installments of Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, a prequel that’s been a couple of years in the works. For BSG fans and completists, the new material is an entertaining enough reminder of the old days. (The remaining webisodes will complete the “pilot” of Blood and Chrome, which will come out next year on DVD; it’s still unclear whether the project has a future as a regular series.) As an actual piece of television: let’s say it’s somewhere between actual BSG and the Portlandia version.

The premise and narrative are simple and straightforward. In the early years of the Cylon War, a young William Adama (Luke Pasqualino) enlists in the war effort, eager to fly a Viper and “kill toasters.” Instead, he finds himself first assigned to “drive a bus”–flying a clunky Raptor on errand missions–in support of a war effort that is not going as well as advertised. As he reluctantly heads off on his less-than-glorious mission, we see the horrors of the war through his eyes.

In a voiceover at the outset, young Adama says of the Cylons: “There’s a lot of debate about why they hate us, but in the end, does it really matter?” That captures much of the spirit of Blood and Chrome so far; unlike in BSG, the Cylon perspective is absent, and the story is much more action-oriented. Of course, in BSG, “why they hate us” mattered indeed; it was one of the things that made BSG among the most thought-provoking, brilliant sci-fi series ever made.

Blood and Chrome doesn’t seem bad, exactly, and maybe it’s reflecting young Adama’s no-time-for-philosophy mindset accurately. But as a result, though it has striking visuals and a similar feel for the grit of war, the webisodes feel a bit off-brand, weighed down with perfunctory dialogue like, “You’re a cocky son of a bitch, aren’t you, ensign?”

I’m still watching, of course, as I expect will a lot of BSG lovers, because it is a small treat to get to re-immerse myself in this universe. But frankly, at this point I’d much rather see SyFy making some kind of attempt to create intelligent, ambitious sci-fi series that are not BSG spinoffs. (And I say this as a fan of the moody Caprica, even if its ratings were poor.)

It increasingly feels like BSG was a one-off for the network, which since then has retreated to its comfort zone of light entertainments like Eureka and monster movies. (Alphas is decent enough, but it doesn’t have nearly the high reach of BSG.) Which is too bad. “One more episode” is a natural impulse, and I’m not immune to it. But I wish SyFy—or any channel with an interest in science-fiction series—would instead want to create one more great franchise.

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DavidPoticha
DavidPoticha

I think it's a little premature to talk about what perspectives are or are not missing from 24 minutes of webisodes, or even a 2 hour premier.  We didn't get much of the cylon perspective in BSG for quite some time, it was as the show grew on that both sides of the battle were given more and more airtime.  I'd like to see where this goes and reserve total judgment for the show, if they ever make it, after a few hours of airing and not 24 minutes or even 2 hours.  

gamgra98
gamgra98

The truth is that SciFi wasn't expecting such a breakaway hit that Battlestar Galactica proved to be. The evidence of this was that they gave the show 4 seasons, any executive in the right mind with any other network would of gave a show with this audience more room to grow and expand.

It's a shame and an example as well in Caprica, which was a very complex, different spirited show that appealed to thinkers and not those who just wanted to ride the entertainment train. 

I doubt we'll ever see another Battlestar, but maybe if the big dogs over in the corporate offices see that the audience for the Battlestar franchise is unparalleled, they will awaken to the slumber they've indulged in.

twtr_is_dumb
twtr_is_dumb

@gamgra98 Actually, as much as I loved BSG, I have to tell you that the show's ratings were dropping precipitously by season three. Your assertion that another network would have extended it past four seasons is utterly absurd given the ratings it was getting. For that matter, the show's quality was also dropping precipitously by then, so I'm glad the show ended before it could get even more ridiculous. This was one of those rare occasions when the ratings paralleled the quality of the show, IMHO -- as the quality dropped, ratings dropped along with it.

PaulFORegan
PaulFORegan

Eureka was cancelled over a year ago (though it kept airing until July). They still have Warehouse 13, which I've never liked as much.

poniewozik
poniewozik

@PaulFORegan I didn't mean to imply it's still on the air. I mean--since launching BSG--that's the type of series they have been focused on creating. In other words, refresh my memory if I'm wrong, but besides BSG spinoffs, they've attempted nothing with ambition similar to BSG.