Category Archives: Fan Wankery

If I were making Battlestar Galactica this week…

An actual conversation over brunch today:

Bey: “If I were remaking Battlestar Galactica this week…”

Me: “As opposed to all the other times and ways we’ve talked about remaking it?”

Bey: “Yes.”

Me: “Ok.”

Bey: “The first season would be almost identical to the first season of the original show, but in the second season I’d have the Cylons following the fleet.”

Me: “They already were.”

Bey: “No, for a different reason.”

Me: “Ok, what’s the Cylon’s reason now?”

Bey: “They want to find earth for the same reason the Galactica does: They’ve lost their home and have nowhere else to go.”

Me: “Holy crap! Ok, what happened to their home?”

Bey: “Commander Cain. After he escaped from those three base ships and that planet..”

Me: “Gamoray.”

Bey: “Yeah. He just went straight to the Cylon homeworld and just devastated it from orbit, wiped out everything, completely glassed it.”

Me: “Cool! Isn’t that a little powerful for a battlestar, though?”

Bey: “Is it? We’ve only seen them fighting other ships, which have armor and defenses and maybe shields and stuff. We’ve never seen them just unload on completely undefended rock. I would imagine that’s different than fighting a ship.”

Me: “Fair enough.”

Bey: “And it fits with Baltar’s plan in ‘Lost Planet of the Gods,’ when he said that the homeworld was virtually undefended with the entire fleet out scouring the galaxy looking for the Galactica. He said that if the Galactica came back they could destroy the empire.”

Me: “Yeah!  But, wait, there’s a problem?”

Bey: “What?”

Me: “The Pegasus has no crew and no weapons. Remember? Right before his suicide charge at Gamoray he evacuated all his fighters and shuttles and all but the smallest possible skeleton crew to the Galactica, and he fired off every weapon he had at the base ships.”

Bey: “Ok, so how big is a skeleton crew?”

Me: “Dunno. I asked a friend how many people it’d take to keep an aircraft carrier going if all you intended to do was run in a straight line for a half hour or so. He said a hundred people or so.”

Bey: “Ok, so two hundred people out of a crew of 5000, and no fighters or weaponry.”

[Long pause]

Bey: “Got it: He flies back to the Colonies. They’re abandoned, there’s probably only a token presence there.”

Me: “And given Gamoray had been lying about the Pegasus, and the Imperious Leader never found out, and Baltar certainly wasn’t gonna tell anyone, the Cylons on the Colonies wouldn’t be expecting it.”

Bey: “Right. So he goes in, and simply salvages as many fighters and munitions and supplies as he needs, from factories, or abandoned bases, or whatever. There must be a lot left. He could get more than he needs. I have this picture in my head of the Pegasus with extra really large guns and missiles hanging off of it.”

Me: “What about crew?”

Bey: “There’s got to be some survivors, right? People who were in ships between worlds, miners, spelunkers, that kind of thing, hiding out?”

Me: “So he grabs them, and forces them into service?”

Bey: “Somewhat unwillingly, yes.”

Me: “I’m imagining anyone who was retired military would automatically be put back in service in their old positions. 50-60 year old fighter pilots, stuff like that.”

Bey: “Yeah. So their planet gets glassed, and only one Base Ship escapes, maybe with one of those single-disk old-model Base Ships”

Me: “And a buttload of tankers”

Bey: “Yeah. They run to Lucifer’s Base Ship, which has been following the Galactica, thinking, ‘well, they must know where they’re going.'”

Me: “So they’re attacking the fleet, or just hanging back and observing, or what?”

Bey: “Some battles probably ensue, but Lucifer is the new Imperious Leader.”

Me: “Makes sense.”

Bey: “He hasn’t had the operation yet, though, doesn’t have the afro. Maybe he’s had a little bit of it, just enough to justify a redesign and make him look cool.”

Me: “Ok.”

Bey: “And they’re actually trying to establish diplomatic relations with the Rag Tag Fleet.”

Me: “That’s brilliant!”

Bey: “Adama wants none of it, but the council overrules him.”

Me: “Adama was capable of empathy. There were Cylon civilians mentioned a few times in the show, and it was overtly mentioned that civilians and civilian targets were strictly off limits. The only people we ever met who went after civilian Cylon stuff were instantly sent to prison. Maybe seeing the ships full of civilian Cylon refugees makes him…I dunno….feel sorry for them?”

Bey: “Maybe, I dunno. Anyway, for whatever reason they realize it’s better to work together for the short term than fight each other to the death. Then the Pegasus shows up, and Adama has to order his own vipers to attack it.”

Me: “Wow. How are you going to do all this? It’s a lot to have happen offscreen, and just hear about later.”

Bey: “Helo plot. 5-15 minutes per episode, as required by that week’s story. 30-40 minutes of Galactica-as-usual, and 5-15 minutes of the unrelated adventures of the Pegasus and Cain.”

Me: “Man, you’ve gotten good at this. There’s a problem, though.”

Bey: “What?”

Me: “Cain is a far better strategist than Adama. They all-but say it in ‘The Living Legend.’ He’s openly referred to as ‘the best damn warrior in the history of the colonies,’ and nobody ever contests it or attributes it to ego. He really just is that good.  I mean, he kept an aircraft carrier – ”

Bey: “Battlestar”

Me: ” – battlestar fully functional behind enemy lines for five years, raiding the enemy for supplies and knocking over Cylon outposts and keeping his people alive with very few casualties. He told them they were never going home again, and they were ok with it. So Adama could *not* win in a fair fight.”

Bey: “So don’t fight fair.”

Me: “Also, Cain’s men – 2/3rds of the Galactica’s pilots at this point – would be vastly more loyal to Cain than Adama, just because.”

Bey: “Lock ’em up, put Cylons in the cockpits of the Vipers.”

Me: [laughing] “Ok. And humans in the raiders?”

Bey: “Mmm-hmmm. The fight isn’t fair because the fighters are behaving in super-crazy-no-way fashion, unlike vipers and raiders. Owing partially to them exchanging technology, and partially due to humans piloting Cylon stuff and Cylons flying humans stuff. That’s how they win.”

Me: “So do they kill Cain? Blow up the Pegasus?”

Bey: “Dunno. Don’t really care at this moment. I just want to come up with some way to remove the Cylons from the board as a threat so we can move on to some more interesting threat. Like the Seraphs, probably.”

Me: “I’m impressed.”

So what order do episodes of The Prisoner go in, again?

I recently forced my family to watch “The Prisoner” series. As even casual fans know, there’s not really an official episode order. The broadcast order, the production order, and the order they were written in are all different. Worse still, four separate writers were working on four separate scripts that *they* were told were going to be the second episode. It’s confusing, and people have been nattering about it for fifty years.

I had my own opinion going in, based on the last time I mainlined the series about a decade ago. Upon completing it, though, I realized that while I was wasn’t any more wrong than anyone else, and probably less wrong than most, there was a more pleasing order they could go in.

Here, then, is my opinion of the best episode order, and my explanations as to why.

1) “Arrival.” – This is the premier episode, in which our protagonist is kidnapped and shows up in The Village. It’s sort of got to come first, right? Duh.

2) “Dance of the Dead” – This is one of the weakest episodes, generally relegated later to the run of the short series as a result. It’s also one of the four “Episode Number Twos” that were being written concurrently. Despite its dramatic problems, this is definitely the number two-iest of all the possible number twos. Our hero is still very angry, and he’s introduced to several locations for the first time, all of which he’ll take for granted in subsequent episodes. Here they get special notice, however. Likewise, the rambling and somewhat pointless plot seems to be more about impressing Six with how inscrutable the place was than any other purpose. “We’ll weird the truth out of you yet, six!”

3) “Chimes of Big Ben” – This is one of the four “Second episodes,” and the one that most people consider to be the second episode. They’re wrong, of course, but that’s the consensus. This is one of the best episodes of the series, and Leo McKern is the absolute best Number Two. So good, in fact, that they brought him back twice more. Interestingly, this is also the closest the Village ever came to breaking Six. He actually starts to spill his guts. It’s also the episode in which they identify his one consistent weakness, which they’ll use against him for the rest of the run.

4) “Free for All” – This is the one where Six discovers he can run for the office of Number Two. I’ll be honest, this one could also be in the 5 or 6 positions. It has to be fairly early on in his stay, as he sort of half-believes he can genuinely get power.  It wouldn’t be that easy to dupe him later on.

5 ) “Checkmate” – There’s no solid explanation for this one going here, but logically it must take place pretty early in Six’s stay. He realizes that prisoners and guards can be told apart by their attitudes. He attempts to organize a mass escape using this to figure out who he can trust, but his own imperious attitude runs it aground. I place it early because it’s simply not the kind of observation it would have taken Six long to make, and it’s not the kind of mistake Six would make later on.

6) “A Change of Mind” – To be honest, this could just as easily go in the #4 position. Flip a coin. It’s a sort of meh story, so I just placed the better one first. Definitely it has to take place in the first half of the series, though.

7) “The Schizoid Man”  – one of my favorite episodes, despite it really not making much sense. Evil Twin stuff. In the end, Six manages to assume the identity of one of his clones, and as he’s being driven to the heliport, Number Two mentions “The General,” rather conspicuously. Six has no idea what Two is talking about, so he plays along and says he’ll “Report in to the General,”  when he gets back home. Two finds this a really odd for him to have said, since one doesn’t “Report in” to the General. “Well, you know what I mean,” Six says. Two realizes it’s actually Six, not one of his duplicates.  Given that, the next episode must logically be…

8) “The General” –  It turns out that “The General” is a supercomputer. There are seventeen “Number Twos” in the course of the series, but not all are created equal. “Arrival” starts with one in charge, and ends with another. “It’s Your Funeral” has four. Likewise, as I said, Leo McKern turns up three times. Then there’s this guy: Colin Gordon. He’s got two episodes. This is the first. He’s very self-confident.

Interestingly, the plot of this episode doesn’t really have anything to do with Six directly. They’re not trying to break him. The masters of The Village are simply trying out some new technology (IE, the General), and Six decides to ruin it.

9) “A, B, C” – Colin Gordon turns up as Number Two again in this one. How do I know this one is second? Because Two was confident and self-assured in the previous one, and in this one he’s a disheveled wreck with a peptic ulcer. The episode makes it very clear that he’s in a lot of trouble from The General debacle, and if he doesn’t break Six this time, he’s done. He doesn’t break six.

10) “Many Happy Returns” – Six wakes up to find The Village deserted. He builds a raft and sails back to England, where he contacts his old bosses. They don’t trust him because he quit and then disappeared without a word “For month,” but eventually stuff happens and he’s back in the Village again. “Gee, Gilligan, you think we’ll get off the island this week?”

Why did I place it here? Internal references make it clear he’s been gone for a long time. The overall feel of the episode puts it towards the middle of the run, and the plots to break him are getting more elaborate but less effective. Which is all doubletalk for “It just feels like it fits” to me.

11) “It’s Your Funeral” – Six has realized he’s stuck in The Village for the long haul, and he begins to take an interest in the other people who live there. The plot does not revolve around them breaking him. He discovers a plot to assassinate Number Two (Well, *A* Number Two. There’s four in this episode), and stops it in order to prevent reprisals against the other Prisoners.

12) “Living In Harmony” – a format-breaking episode that seems to take place in the Old West. Six is a sheriff who turned in his badge for unstated reasons, and left town. He gets knocked out and wakes up in a cowboy town called “Harmony,” where he immediately runs afoul of The Judge who runs the place. In the end it turns out to be Virtual Reality, and The Judge is Number Two.

Why did I place it here? As I said, the efforts to break Six are getting more elaborate and less effective. This is arguably the most elaborate.

13) “The Girl Who Was Death” – A terrible episode, and a terrible idea: Number Two hits on the idea that Six might let down his guard around children. It doesn’t work, predictably, as he spins a ludicrous Avengers-styled goofball story with Number Two as a supervillain. Why do I place this here? Because clearly the Village is out of ideas.

14) “Hammer into Anvil” – This week’s Number Two is a sadist who cajoles one of the other prisoners into suicide. Six swears revenge, and over the course of the episode he drives Two insane. This is one of the episodes in which no one is even remotely trying to break Six. I’ve placed it here because Six has grown stronger with each of their attempts. He’s now at the point where they know they can’t break him, but he can easily break them.

15) “Once Upon A Time” – Flag on the play. None of the attempts to break Six have gotten anywhere, so Number 1 stops trying. He recalls Leo McKern to The Village and forces them to undergo Degree Absolute, a psychological test of will that will break one and kill the other. It goes about how you’d expect. Nobody questions that this is the penultimate episode of the series, since it leads directly into

16) “Fallout” – the finale.

“Wait, wait,” you say, “There’s seventeen episodes, not sixteen.” That’s true. I’ve omitted “Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling.” It was shot during a scheduling conflict when the star was filming a movie and couldn’t get away. His appearances are confined to some sloppy voiceovers, a thirty second cameo at the end, and a whole lot of stock footage. The rest of the story involves his brain being transferred into the body of another, and being sent out into the world to capture a missing scientist. Along the way he visits his fiance.

You see why I left it out? Everyone hates it, it’s just stupid and poorly acted and poorly written. Everyone onscreen seems bored. The entire thing plays out like someone’s fanfic. I’m not the only person to just drop it from the canon.

However: If you’ve gotta stick it in somewhere, I’d put it in between “It’s Your Funeral” And “Living in Harmony,” since it fits the whole theme of doing more elaborate stuff and getting less payoff.

Some of my order is pretty solid: The first two, the last two, the Schizoid/General/ABC troika, but some of it is pretty subjective, two. Episodes from the first half of the series have a different feel than the ones from the second half, so it’s pretty easy to group them accordingly, but *within* that grouping, my own order is based on what seems to me to flow best.

So there you go.

What do you think?

So how many people know about the Stargate program, anyway?

I’m an unabashed fan of the Stargate franchise. If you’ve never seen it, this discussion won’t make any sense to you, so turn back now. If you have, though, I’ll relate the highlights of a discussion my family had about the SGC over dinner tonight:

Me “How many people know about the Stargate program?”
Son “I dunno.”
Me “Well, let’s try to work backwards.”
Son “Ok. There’s 25 teams, so that’s 100 people there.”
Me “Right, plus medical staff. Honey? How many people on the medical staff would you think is appropriate given what we’ve seen?”
Wife “Maybe around 150, including doctors and nurses and corpsmen and so on. They’re kept pretty busy. Plus psych personnel.”
Me “Plus kitchen staff”
Wife “Forty or fifty”
Son: Plus Janitorial staff
Me: “Right. Because even they’d have to have a really high security clearance, and it’s a bit facility in use 24/7/365, so, what, probably another 40 or 50?”
Wife: “What about scientists?”
Me: “Most of the long-term research is done at Area 51.”
Wife: “How many there?”
Me: “Well get back to that. We mostly only ever see Dr. Lee and Sam, but they make it clear there’s others around. Let’s say 20 or 30?”
Son: “Plus at least one space shuttle crew. And the crew of the ISS. And whoever unloads the recovered cargo from a space shuttle.”
Me: “Good point.”
Son: “And let’s not forget the USS Nimitz and that entire carrier group. I mean, yeah, they’re all dead, and the Navy said it was meteors, but a lot of Navy people must have been in on the cover up.”
Me: “Again, good point. Now, area 51: Honey, how long does it take to build an aircraft carrier?”
Wife: “Pretty close to a decade, I think.”
Me: “With tens of thousands of construction workers?”
Wife: “Oh, yeah, totally.”
Son: “I agree the Prometheus and Daedalus class ships were probably about the size of aircraft carriers.”
Me: “They were working on the Prometheus for a while before we saw it, but they can’t have been working on the Daedalus all that long. How many F-304s are there?”
Son: “Daedalus, Odyssey, Apollo, Hammond, Sun Tsu, oh, and the Korolev, which got blown up almost immediately. How many crew for an aircraft carrier?”
Me: “About 5000.”
Son: “They never have anywhere near that number. It’s usually in the hundreds. What’s a skeleton crew for a carrier?”
Me: “If you just want to steer and go forward for a couple days? Maybe a half dozen. If you want to actually DO anything, a couple hundred at least.”
Son: “So they’re probably on skeleton crews.”
Me: “that makes sense.”
Wife: “So we’re guessing about 10,000 people in Cheyenne Mountain, and, what, 30,000 or so in Area 51?”
Son: “At least. Probably more since they’re cranking those ships out one a year.”
Me: “They might be constructing them in other countries.”
Son: “Unlikely. Russia had to beg for one. Probably China, too.”
Me: “Good point. This is increasingly implausible. I could buy it when it was just Cheyenne.”
Son: “Plus the governments of Russia, China, France, England, and Canada.”
Wife: “And all the signatories of the Antarctica treaty. AND what about the contractors and stuff who build all this crap?”
Me: “True. They did say some alien tech was slipping into commercial products by means of corporate espionage by the contractors.”
Son: “Heck, that one guy managed to clone an Asgard.”
Wife: “What about Atlantis? Or Icarus?”
Me: “Let’s ignore them for now. They’re comparatively small operations.”
Wife: “yeah, true. So what do you think?”
Me: “Well, when we started I was going to say maybe 30,000 people, but now that we’re all looking at it reasonably, I’m saying at least 100,000 people, and that’s probably a lowball number.”

So what do you all think?


The Cobra Emperor’s Brave Battle With Addiction

[Over breakfast]
Me: “Someone posted a meme on Facebook saying that Cobra was more racially diverse than the Republican party.”
Bey: “Cobra from GI Joe?”
Me: “Yeah. With the exception of Stormshadow, all of Cobra is white.”
Bey: “Cobra Commander is a lizard.”
Me: “Ok, wih the exception of Stormshadow and Cobra Commander, they’re all white.”
Bey: “What does Serpentor count as?”
Me: “A mean drunk?”
Bey: “No, I mean, he’s composed of the DNA of all these huge insane military leaders…”
Me: “And Eric the Red for some reason, who was none of those things. He just killed a guy in a bar fight, jumped town, discovered Greenla…”
Bey: “I know the story, Dad. Anyway, they’re all different races, so what does that make Serpentor?”
Me: “WHAT other races went in to making up Serepentor? The only one I can think of was Genghis Khan. So He’s slightly Asian.”
Bey: “No! Khan was the one they *couldn’t* get, remember? So they had to substitute DNA from Sargent Slaughter. So Serpentor is white.”

Me: So would their plan have worked if they’d gotten Genghis Khan?”
Bey: “I don’t think so. He wasn’t renowned for his patience.”
Me: “Yeah, but maybe there was some aspect of him that Mindbender needed for this big evil emperor goulash that he didn’t get, you know, like Khan would have been the salt in the soup, and Slaughter ended up being, like, sugar in the soup.”
Bey: “Ew. Maybe. Maybe he just offset other disabilities. Dude, just based on the number of Romans that went into making Serpentor, the guy must’ve been born with lead poisoning.”
Me: “Maybe Sargent Slaughter was a functional drunk? One of those guys who are kinda buzzed all the time, but can keep it together during business hours? It seems reasonable to assume most of his other ‘fathers’ were heavy drinker.”
Bey: “…and he didn’t have Slaughter’s ability just put that on the sheld.”
Me: “Exactly! So the episodes of the show we saw were all centering around his conflicts with the Joe team. What they didn’t show were the conflicts of his day-to-day struggles of coping with his alcoholism and anger issues.”
Bey: “Like ordering pizza!”
Me: [Laughing really hard]
Bey [Impersonating Serpentor’s voice]: “That’s right, I want two extra larges, with sausage and pepperoni and anchovies! And I want it in thirty minutes or less! THIS I COMMAND!”
[Now impersonating bored Dominos employee] “Serpentor, we’ve been through this before…”
[Serpentor’s voice again]: “Yes, I know it’s 3AM, and I’m on a tiny island in the middle of the gulf of Mexico and you’re hundreds of miles away. Your guarantee is thirty minutes or less! Now get it here. This I Command!”
[Employee]: “You tortured and killed our last delivery guy….”
[Serpentor]: “Because you failed to live up to your end of the bargain. Pray you do not disappoint me again.”
[Employee]: “The manager has informed me that you’re on our ‘no delivery’ list, at least until you give back Barry’s body. Sorry.”
[Serpentor]: “But you’re the closest one to my house! What am I supposed to do?”
[Employee]: “You’re the most powerful terrorist in the world, and you’ve got your own country. Don’t you have someone there who can make you pizza?”
[Serpentor]: “No. I had my snake-spears swallow their hearts in a vicious rage after they disappointed me by using canned sauce.”
[Employee]: “We use canned sauce, too.”
[Serpentor]: “Really? Because yours tastes fresh…”
[Employee]: “I’ve got other calls to take.”
[Serpentor]: “Don’t hang up on me! I am Serpentor! The Cobra Emperor! I am made up of the DNA of history’s greatest conquerors! And a WWF star. And also Eric the Red for some reason! Give me pizza! This I command!”
[Employee]: “I’m sorry, sir, no. Maybe try Papa Johns or something.” [Click]
[Serpentor, screaming] “Sound the alarm! Alert all our elite strike teams, we are attacking Corpus Christie, Texas! The Crimson Guard will take point! And prepare my hover-chariot! I shall lead the assault myself! THIS I COMMAND!”
[Tomax, sighing]: “I really miss Cobra Commander.”
[Xamot], “I know, right?”

I think The Prisoner was all about cloning.

“The Prisoner” is an allegory, so any attempt to interpret it literally will never fully make sense. If we insist on taking a stab at it, though, and if we pretend there was a “Grand Design” for the whole franchise (Which there clearly wasn’t), then I have a theory.
I think #6 was a replicant.
Or clone or whatever you want to call it. Think about it: The Village had much higher technology than the 1968 world. Higher than we have today, actually. They could resurrect the dead, and they definitely had full-grown-adult-clone-with-memories technology. We see it in the very first episode. We also see clones of #6 on two separate occasions: #1 himself is a clone (50 year old spoiler. Sorry.) and in “The Schizoid Man,” they bring in another one, who’s also a secret agent, as part of a convoluted and largely nonsensical plan to make #6 question his identity.
Unlike ANY of the other prisoners (up to and including the various #2s), they are not allowed to harm 6 physically or mentally. They want him broken, not damaged. Allegedly they want him to tell them why he resigned, but that never made much sense, as in the beginning of every episode we see him hand-delivering a letter that clearly says, “My resignation,” so really they already know. In the first episode, #2 even says, “Personally, I believe your story. Things have come to a pretty bad pass when a fellow can’t just chuck off a job because he wants to. But they like to be sure…”
Then there’s the opening narration:
“You are #2”
“Who is #1?”
“You are #6.”
By the last half of the series, the delivery on this has changed:
“Who is #1?”
“You are, #6.”
Of course by then we’ve stopped really paying attention to the opening, and no longer really notice it.
In the finale, it turns out that the Village is in a constitutional crisis, and need a new leader. #6, having weathered every trial, is to be that leader. In our brief meeting, #1 is clearly insane: he’s wearing a mask, with another mask under that (An ape), and his real face under that, gibbering like a lunatic.
So really the whole story here is that the Village needed a new leader, and only John Drake/#6 is fit to do it, for whatever reason. They tested him to beyond the breaking point (God knows how many other 6s they tried, and failed with) before finding one with the unyielding will they needed. And of course he immediately picks up a machine gun and kills them all.
I’m going to take this a bit further. #6 is clearly John Drake, the protagonist of the TV show, “Secret Agent,” and the other spy show, “Danger Man,” prior to that. There’s the unintentionally foreshadowing line in the “Secret Agent” theme, “They’ve given you a number and taken away your name.” However, there are some continuity errors in character between the two “Drake” series. Specifically, in “Danger Man.” Drake is American. In “Secret Agent,” he’s British.
My take on this? “Secret Agent” Drake is a clone of “Danger Man” Drake. Even “Secret Agent” Drake may not be the first. In the opening narration of every episode of “Danger Man,” Drake says, “the job falls to me, or someone like me.” There’s a vague implication that The Village has been around since the war. Assuming it can only be run by a John Drake for whatever reason, the original would have been in his 30s back in the 40s. So they clone Drake Prime, give his replicants fake memories (In the penultimate episode of The Prisoner, #2 seems to already know all about Drake’s life before Drake tells him), and different names and then send them out as spies to mostly get killed off by attrition (Evolution in action!) When the reigning #6 starts to break down or wear out or whatever, they start bringing in the more successful clones and testing them. Whichever one doesn’t break is the new #1.
That’s my longwinded theory. What do you think?

FAN WANKERY: How I’d reboot Space: 1999 if it were up to me

I’ve been watching Space: 1999 a lot lately.

As has been reported through many different sources now, there’s a new “Space: 1999” series in the works. Now, some people have bitched about how it should be a continuation of the original series, which is nonsense because the original series sucked, and because everyone from it is like 106 by now. It’s also a bad idea because part of the (Admittedly ludicrous) appeal of the original show was that it was set a mere quarter century in the future. The new show – the most common working title appears to be something like ‘Space: 2099’ – will presumably be set way further in the future, making it indistinguishable from Trek and B5 and Starlost any other number of space shows, so what’s the point? If it’s not a show about US, or our kids, why give a crap? Shows about our great-to-the-13th-power grandkids? That’s been done to death.

Added to which: The basic premise of Space: 1999 is beyond stupid. It’s a demonstrable physical impossibility. Any attempt to reboot it a’la Ronald D. Moore or whomever, is going to still be saddled with the same goofy premise, just with some other doubletalky explanation as to WHY the moon is lost in space. And it’s going to be saddled with dysfunction and bad lighting, and it clearly won’t have the cool-ass plastic Italian furniture in the Late Googie style, or the side-lit walls or anything neat like that. If Moonbase Alpha doesn’t look like a Bang Olufson store, what’s the freakin’ point? I mean, whatever many failings the show may have had – and trust me, they’re legion – set direction and cinematography were NOT among them. Not in the first season, anyway. The second season mostly sucked, even in that regard.

So I’m thinking that the fundamental premise of the show is what needs the re-imagining. Here’s *MY* pitch for a Space: 1999 reboot. Please let me know what you think in the comments!


It is the year 1999. It’s just like the 1999 we knew, with Clinton in the White House and all that other crap. There is, however, one difference: the US and USSR rivalry continued and accelerated all through the 70s. It continued (Somewhat friendlier) after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Apart from this, however, the parallel timeline is exactly like our own.

The specific differences are as follows:

Russia has some snazzy space hardware it didn’t have in our reality:
• Space Station Mir
• Two Ore Haulers
• An automated lunar-mining outpost w/ railgun
• A small space station in L2
• “Astrograd” a lagrange colony under construction in L5
• Buran-styled shuttles.
• N1 rockets.
• A couple inter-orbital tugs to haul people from Mir to Astrograd.
• Manned mars mission on the way back to earth.
Total population offworld at any given moment: 500 or so, mostly on Astrograd. Mir functions mainly as a way-station, and a hotel.

Meanwhile, the US has the following snazzy space hardware:
• Space Station Freedom
• Moonbase Alpha
• Space Shuttles just like the crappy one NASA really used.
• Saturn X cargo rockets (a superattenuated Saturn V design) capable of putting 220 tons into LEO.
• A manned mission en route to Mars
• Inter-orbital tugs called “Eagles” to haul people back and forth from Freedom to Alpha.
• The Meta Probe: A large manned expedition to Jupiter being constructed in LEO at Space Station Freedom.

Total offworld population at any given time: 400 or so. Permanent population of Alpha is generally around 311. There’s a hotel on Freedom and a hotel on Alpha, there’s always some traffic back and forth. Lot of Meta Project workers on Freedom.

Now, our story starts out on earth with more-or-less normal people, in Texas. One of ’em is a shuttle pilot, one’s a contest winner, one’s a n’ere’do’ell trust fund billionaire, etc. It’s early September, ’99. We see these people, their lives, etc, as they eagerly await their various whatever.

On Monday, September 13th, 1999, the Challenger lifts off, and *while* it’s actually in flight (w/25 passengers and crew), PeTA and Earth First release an incredibly virulent plague genetically engineered to target ONLY people. Everyone on earth is infected in a matter of days, Challenger is quite literally the last plane out, as earth is quarantined. Within a week or two everyone on earth is dead, and the population of the species has dropped from 6 billion to less than a thousand.

The first episode is called “I don’t like Mondays.”

Anyway: the premise of this version of “Space: 1999” is basically that: you’ve got a limited population, limited resources, rescue is not an option, going back to earth isn’t an option. You need to find a way to make a life for yourself. What do you do with the resources you’ve got? Do you keep Freedom and Mir, or do you salvage them for spare parts? What good is a shuttle in space? What happens if the Russians manage to launch one last Soyuz with people who *might* be infected? How do you shoot it down?

What do you tell the Mars mission to do? Turn back? Look for something specific that might prove useful like methane? What? Do you cannibalize the Meta probe, or do you use it in hopes of finding viable resources in the Asteroids?

As ongoing complications, the surviving offworld Americans and Russians are openly trying to cop as many resources as possible, and screwing each other over to get ’em. Also a few pEta types in biospheres on earth are still alive, and attempt to shoot down Mir and Freedom.

Eventually, of course, the small gene pool will be a problem, which will necessitate a mission to earth to liberate a sperm and ovum bank known to survive. Getting people back into space again is an interesting question.

The point is, I think we could easily get 110 episodes out of it *AND* use the same exact sets, *AND* the same music, but better uniforms. And it’s optimistic in its way. Fresh starts. Building a new future, etc. Just for the hell of it, each episode takes place 1 month apart, so the 5 year run takes place over the course of about 9.5 years.

No aliens. Keep it as real-tech as possible. Whadya’ think?

SPOILERS: In the final episode, we flash-forward 100 years. The plague has burned itself out on earth, and it’s safe for people to go back, but humanity has become so accustomed to life in space that earth seems bizarre and dangerous and frankly awful. It’s not our home anymore. So, ultimately, the show is all about our species becoming a truly spacefaring one, more at home in the stars than on the ground.
Seriously, whadya’ think?

FANWANKERY: All TV shows are a product of their times, but what if they were products of OTHER times instead?

Obviously all TV shows are a product of the time, place, and conditions under which they were made. Take a movie about the Shootout at the OK Corral made in 1950, and another made in 1960, and you can instantly tell them apart, even though they’re covering the same event. Even if they do it in the same way, with the same cast, there’ll still be differences because of changing mores, changing tech, fashion, etc.

Part of Star Trek’s inherent greatness is its inherent 60s-ness. Ditto: The Prisoner. Part of TNG’s inherent weakness is its lack of this 60s-ness, coupled with its reticence to adopt any inherent 80s/90sness. Part of B5’s inherent awsomeness is its overwhelming 90s qualities. Lost’s ‘slice of life’ quality made it immediately amiable to audiences, but would have been a hard sell in the ’70s. Part of what makes Firefly great was its post-9/11 misanthropy. That’s the same thing that made the RDM Galactica awful. Stargate would have fit just fine in the ’80s, so fine, in fact, that I sort of feel cheated it wasn’t made then.

The question, then, is: how would our favorite series have differed if they were products of an earlier or later time. If you had a time machine, and could ‘invent’ The X-Files in 1955, or *prevent* it from being invented in the ’90s, and cause it to be “Invented” now, how would that change the composition of the show?

Casting, obviously, but this is different. Star Trek has always been a vaguely leftist show. Not something we take issue with, it just is. Yet, being born in 1965 like it was, its brand of ‘leftism’ was more enlightened and pragmatic, and less reactionary. They actually came out in support of the Vietnam war, because opposing the war hadn’t become a liberal value yet Had the show turned up just three years later, it probably would have been far less military. Had it shown up a few years earlier, it probably would have been considerably *more* military, and likely would be a semi-forgotten artifact of the cold war, like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

So: some random speculation:

If Trek appeared in the late 40s, it probably would have been much the same show, but there wouldn’t have been a ‘one world’ government, or any of this Klingon/Romulan hoo-hah. It would have been the United States Space Force, the “Klingon” role would have been filled by the Soviets, and the Romulans (Eventually) would have emerged as Communist China. Earth is the Europe of the Future, with tensions between the US, Soviet, and Chinese empires in space, much like the ongoing tensions between the British, French, and German empires in their day. These threaten to blow back and start war on Earth as in Europe in the past.

Probably no aliens on the principle cast, Spock is just a really smart guy. Probably no vague atheism. Uniforms would look embarasingly gay now.

If Babylon 5 had appeared in the 1960s (Probably with James Garner in the Bruce Boxleitner role), it would have been a modest success, probably slightly more successful than the Trek of its day, mainly because it was a really economical show to make, and generally was pretty intelligent. Not a huge hit, but a consistently modest one. It’s got a narrow window of opportunity, though: If it didn’t exist from about 1965-1970, it wouldn’t have worked at all.

*FAR* less special effects. Uniforms would probably be slightly less gay than the ones we got on the actual show. Music would be considerably better.

SG1 really could have been made at pretty much any point from 1948-present, and it would have been pretty much exactly the same show, probably running forever like Dr. Who. (VERY low budget, generally good writing, good audience identification). Exception: If it had been made around 1968, it wouldn’t have been military at all. It would have been a hippie-dippie peaceful scientific exploration show with a lot of preachiness. It probably wouldn’t have lasted 22 eps.

If Eureka had been made in the 90s, it wouldn’t have been a damn bit funny. Well, check that, it isn’t a damn bit funny now, and the science would be just as bad, but it’d be intentionally non-funny: A tense, paranoid, ultimately rather pointless Chris Carter-styled series that would have run 200 episodes, jerked the audience along for no good reason, then just abandoned them without resolution. I think we got the better end of the deal on that one.

Battlestar Galactica would probably have been made as a ‘cautionary thriller’ in the early 50s, probably told through the eyes of an average family on Caprica (Identical to the US circa 1950) who survive a sneak attack, and are rescued by the Galactica. No civilian government angst, no self-loathing: It’s be the military was right all along, and the civilian leaders are fools. Not too much different from the original, really. There’d be no Kobol/mystical nonsense. Earth would be the mother world, long lost and abandoned, and they’re trying to find their way home again.

Interestingly, Dr. Who always comes up about the same, no matter how I fiddle with the time. If it showed up in the 1930s, it would have been a saturday morning serial, 15 minutes a week, and after 6 or 8 chapters, the story ends. A few months later, a new serial begins. That’s really not different from the actual show in the ’60s. It would have moved to TV in the 50s, been more-or-less re-invented to keep pace with changing times and formats, but, basically the same.

Ironically *the* show about time travel is the one that would be changed least by using a time machine to relocate its origins.

Thoughts? Pick a show and speculate irresponsibly! It’s fun!

FAN WANKERY: Assuming Paul McGann’s Doctor had been picked up for a series, what would it have affected in the present?

So last night, I had a dream that the current Who revival in the UK (2005-present) was ongoing, and exactly the same as it is in the real world (3 doctors, 81 episodes, five companions, etc), but that the 1996 American attempt to revive the franchise on the Fox network in 1996 had been a success. In my dream, the Eighth* Doctor (Paul McGann) did 110 episodes over 5 seasons. Despite this, however, the series had been all-but-forgotten by everyone but me, and when I talked about it, the only thing people remembered was the crappy TV movie. It was a dream, after all, that’s how these things work.

During the course of the dream, I realized several things: Byronesque was probably the wrong way to go; a British show penned by castoff writers from Star Trek: The Next Generation probably wouldn’t have the requisite sensibilities; actually having the Doctor have sexual relationships with human women is a bad idea from a character and narrative stance, and so forth; that the show would take a *long* time to find itself, stylistically; that companions *can* stay on hand too long (Well, we already knew that from Rose Tyler, right?); and so forth. All these became apparent as I watched the nonexistent series. The most interesting thing that I realized in the course of the dream, however, was this:

There would have been only one Doctor!

In general, in average, actors stay in the role for about three and a half years. Some do longer: the first and third ones, and David Tennant (Who, truth be told, stayed a bit too long). Tom Baker did *seven* years! Eccleston, did less than three. The average, though, is three and a half. Five years, and 110 episodes is a *long* time to spend with one iteration of the character. That’d end up being 24 more hours of screen time than Tom Baker had.**

When I woke up, I realized two things:

1) The show was on Fox, so even if it had managed to go to series, it would have been cancelled in 13 episodes; and

2) My sleeping mind was right: There would have been only one doctor.

Think about it: Would network executives or TV producers, or American Audiences accept the re-casting fo *the* star of the show? Would they accept a completely new take on the character, a new personality, after the re-casting? Ok, maybe PBS-watching mouth breathers like me would, but what about your average Trekie or X-files fan? Probably not. Far less likely still is the idea that casual SF fans would accept it, or even understand it.

Furthermore, the BBC leased the character to Fox, they didn’t *sell* it to them. They had no intention at that time to revive the series on their own, but even so, they must have been mindful of the character’s eventual worth if they decided to hold on to it. (Conversely, they sold their rights to “The Saint” and “The Avengers” and various other shows outright) If that’s the case, do you think they’d really want some upstart Americans burning through *their* Doctor’s remaining lives? Of course not! So: One life to live, and one life only.

The terms of the BBC contract with Fox have never been made entirely clear. Some say the period of licensure was ten years, and that’s why the BBC had to wait until 2005 to revive it; others say it was just five years, and it didn’t get revived until 2005 because the BBC simply didn’t care until Russel T. Davies forced it down their throats. After my dream, I’m increasingly of the opinion that the latter is correct. The preferred run for a dramatic series in the US is five seasons, after all. That’s why the original Enterprise was on a five year mission and not a six or four year one. That’s why Babylon Five had a story that played out over five years. Stargate: Atlantis was contracted for six years, but since they only did 20 episodes a season, the six would have added up to 110 episodes, which is the same as a broadcast network contract for five. Five seasons (And/or 110 episodes) is considered gold for syndication: Anything less is too short to really syndicate effectively under normal circumstances; anything longer is a case of diminishing returns.

And I just *knew* when I woke up that in that five years there’d have only been *one* Doctor. So, really, had the show gotten picked up, and had it survived beyond 13 episodes, it wouldn’t really have changed anything in the present.

*- “Eighth” is one of those words that just looks wrong, you know? I spelled it out three different times in three different ways until I gave in and let spellcheck fix it for me, and it *still* looks wrong.

**- Though about 64 fewer episodes. The show only ran a half hour in the old days.

How fast does Babylon 5 bleed resources?

Here’s an interesting question I never thought to ask before: How fast does B5 bleed resources?

The station was obviously intended to be as self-sufficient as possible, and it comfortably supported a population of a quarter million humans and aliens. However, it was a port of call, which meant that a lot of resources were coming and going all the time, a lot of people were coming and going all the time, sometimes there were far larger numbers on the station (Such as taking in Narn refugees, 20,000 Gropos, or various other refugees in the shadow wars) and no system is ever 100% efficient. Hell, the earth itself is gradually bleeding resources into space, albeit verrrrrrrry slowwwwwwwly.

They make it very clear in the course of the show that the station does have to import resources, though it’s as self-sufficient as they could make it when it was being built. This didn’t pose a problem until the civil war when the suply lines from earth were cut, and the station had to live off of only what they could grow, beg, or steal. Since the station’s allies had problems of their own, they weren’t (Apparently) bringing in shipments of food. They make it pretty clear that had they not cut deals with some smugglers, the station would have been in trouble.

This implies that the station was bleeding resources. The question is how fast? Can we figure it out, knowing as little as we know?


Firstly, we know the station was 5 miles long and 2756 feet wide. It’s not a perfect cyllender. In fact, it’s needlessly irregular, but for sake of argument assume it is: This give us an internal space of 5,965,520 square feet, or 136 square acres. They make it clear on the show that nearly all the space in the internal atrium is used for growing food, and it’s grown on the surface, one layer only. We know they don’t grow animals, since they talk about importing steaks (Which are insanely prohibitive) and there’s no mention of farms, chickens, fish, things that actually would be pretty easy to grow, oddly. In fact, we never see fruit trees (Odd since…well, wait on that for later). We do see what’s obviously grain being harvested.

So let’s assume they’re using every internal acre to grow wheat. They’re not – they have some buildings, a garden maze, a zen garden, a baseball diamond, etc, so not all the space is used, but let’s pretend it is.

Wheat gives us 4 million callories to the acre. That means B5 grows 23 trillion, 862 billion, eighty million calories of food a year. (Conversely, apple trees can generate 23.6 million calories per acre!)

Now, the standard population of the station is a quarter million humans and aliens, divided about 50/50. Just as a starting point, let’s assume (For no reason whatsoever) that all those biologies have roughly the same caloric needs as humans (Demonstrably many of them don’t, but this is a rough assumption here). Nobody on the station appears to be starving, few appear fat, and those are mostly tourists, so figure 2500 calories a day x 250,000 people = 635 million calories a day.

My thinking is that we’d subtract the annual caloric need from the maximum caloric production, and the difference would be the rate at which the station bleeds resources. That is to say, how long it could continue to function until its food production facilities fall apart.

This is where my inadequate math abilities break down: I assume if I divide the big number by the little number, that should give me the number of days the people on the station can survive from that one harvest, right? The answer I keep getting is 38,179 days, or about 104 years.

So whatever the smugglers were bringing in, it damn well wasn’t food.

All these numbers are over-generous, since the actual atrium space on the station is considerably narrower than the external dimensions, and I’ll try to get more accurate numbers later on. This’ll do for an absolute-upper-end extimate, however. A theoretical maximum.


My Own Private Battlestar

Originally written August 8th, 2001. Obviously this was written before the RDM reboot.

Of all the ephemeral, frothy, stupid, worthless things I’ve ever written, this is absolutely the most feculent. I won’t blame any of you if you turn back now, rather than read on. I wouldn’t waste anyone’s time with this, except that this came to me as a dream, and it’s been burning in my brain for two days now. I notice that even though I’m trying to retain it, I’m losing some of the details and some of the nonsensical dream sensibilities of it. Hence, I wanted to write it down before I lost it entirely. But I’ll be the first to admit that it’s useless, fanboy tripe, and, really, you’d all be better off doing something more cerebral, rather than reading this, like, I dunno, betting on the dog races, or staring at the sun until you go blind.


Any of you remember Battlestar Galactica? (I told you to turn back.) For those of you unawares, or who have forgotten the pertinent details, it was a ludicrously expensive Science Fiction series, back during the ’79/’80 TV Season on ABC TV. Its premise: far off in space, at some undisclosed time in the past/present/future, there are twelve earth-like planets in the same solar system. (The Script says the show is in our past, the series itself seems to maintain that the show took place in our present, and, of course, the novel said that the show took place in the year 6999 AD.) Anyway, all these worlds (named after the Zodiac) are heavily populated by Humans – an exact number is never given, but say about four billion to a planet. Collectively, these worlds were known as “The Colonies.” There was a heavy biblical allusion running through the show, clearly its producers were trying to equate the twelve colonies with the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Anyway, the Colonies have been at war with The Cylon Empire for one thousand years. (Though in the show, ‘Years’ are called ‘Yahrens’, which is a phonetic spelling of the German word ‘Jahren’ which means ‘Years.’ Lots of wonky terminology on this show.) The Cylons are a species of intelligent machines, most of which were kind of stupid, but were chrome plated and looked cool. Also, for no explainable reason, these Cylons spoke English, and carried swords.

Humanity’s only apparent weapon in this millenium-long war were the Battlestars, which were kickass outer-space aircraft carriers that look vaguely like Alligators. Actually, like Alligators on skis with cropped tails. There don’t appear to have been too many of these things. The only ones we ever saw were the Galactica, the Atlantia, the Triton, the Kobol, and the Columbia, four of which were destroyed in the first thirty minutes of the first episode. Later on we stumbled across the Pegasus, and they made reference to the Rycon, which had apparently been destroyed prior to the first episode.

In the first episode of the show, the Cylons have decided to open negotiations to end the war, but big surprise, they’re lying. At the Peace Conference, the Cylons launch a sneak attack which devastates the Colonies and their military. The only ship to survive the holocaust was the titular Battlestar Galactica. It’s commander, Adama (Lorne Greene, best known as Pa Cartwright on Bonanza), quickly organizes a fleet of 220 civilian ships, carrying as many refugees as they can carry, and they haul ass away from the colonies, trying to find some place of refuge, before the Cylons slaughter the whole of humanity. There’s no word about what became of the forty-eight billion other people who lived on the colonies. Presumably they were killed. Certainly a lot of them were killed, based on dialog between Baltar and some Cylons, but really we don’t know. Anyway, shortly thereafter, Commander Adama announces that their destination is the mythical planet ‘Earth,’ which seems to be regarded about as realistically as most people regard ‘Atlantis’ in the real world.

All this happens in the first episode.

Lorne ‘Adama’ Greene became a Moses figure, a spiritual and secular leader, shepherding the ‘Rag Tag Fleet’ on it’s ‘Lonely Quest, to a shining planet known as ‘earth.’ Jane Seymour, Dirk Benedict, Richard Hatch (no, not the gay one), John Colicos, Anne Lockhart,  Jonathan ‘Dr. Smith’ Harris, and a bewilderingly large ensemble cast were along for the ride. Lloyd Bridges, Ray Bolgers, Lew Ayres, Patrick MacNee, Wilfred Hyde-White, Rick Springfield, Fred Astaire, and many, many others did guest starring bits. They really had the budgets and the big names. They even had the guy who played ‘Devon’ from Night Rider. He played an angel.

The rest of the show consisted of run-ins with the Cylons, various failed attempts to find earth, power struggles within the ‘Rag Tag Fleet’, Spirituality, sports, disco, murder, the emergence of new enemies, other than the Cylons, and, most interestingly, a series of episodes in which the Galactica et al became pawns in a supernatural battle between Angels and the Devil. The episodes involving Sports were rather embarrassing. Oh yes, and there was an episode about a planet of Cowboys. That was pretty awful, also. Ultimately, after one last battle with the Cylons, the show was canceled abruptly. In all, there were just seventeen episodes produced, however, owing to the almost completely random lengths of these episodes, those seventeen episodes comprised twenty-four hours of TV.

Ok, I’ll be honest. This was not one of the high pointsof television. It was a sprawling train wreck of a TV show. It was rushed into production before they were really ready, episodes ran in multiple, contradictory directions at once,  the writing was occasionally good, but frequently quite bad, and a lot of the episodes seemed suspiciously like re-treads of old movies. (“The Living Legend,” parts I & II are suspiciously like “Patton”. “The Gun On Ice Planet Zero” is a dead rip-off of “The Guns of Navarone”. “The Long Patrol,” is essentially “High Noon” in space.) The show’s blend of bush-league acting, Star Wars special effects, and whacky-ass Mormon theology (Thanks to the show’s creator, Mormon Bishop Glen A. Larson), and inherently cowardly fundamental premise (“Run like hell from the bad guys!”) all combined to form one of the most memorable disasters in prime time history. Ultimately, it resulted not only in its own cancellation, but it also caused ABC to go from being the number one rated network, to number three, a position it did not recover from for another decade.

Harlan Ellison, who’s made a career out of being the angriest man in Science Fiction, simply dismissed the show as “Battlestar Ponderosa,” an opus so inherently derivative that he subsequently referred to the Series Creator and Executive Producer as “Glen Larceny,” and left it at that.

All that having been said, though the show was ultimately a wretched failure, it really was one of the most entertaining wretched failures in TV history. It’s really kind of hard not like a show that is so extravagantly clueless. It tried soooo hard, and it had so much ambition, and even a bit of potential, (which is unusual in TV SF) that, dammit, you really just want to like the show. It has a strange feeling of giddy excitement and foreboding, a kind of devil-may-care dread that no other show has ever captured, and I doubt any ever will, because, frankly, who would ever greenlight a mess like this again?

Obviously, I’m a fan.

Hell, I was a twelve-year old boy in 1979. I practically have no choice in the matter.

Periodically, over the last twenty-one years, there’s been some interest in resurrecting the show, and resolving its storyline, as nebulous as that was. The show actually was brought back in a bastardized fashion for the ’80/’81 season under the title ‘Galactica: 1980’. It lasted eight very bad episodes, starred Barry Van Dyke and Kent McCord, and only three people from the original series. Wolfman Jack guest starred in one episode. In my opinion, and the opinion of every other right-thinking Science Fiction Enthusiast, it is best to ignore it and pretend that it never happened. It was a bad, bad, evil series, and I will speak no more of it here.

Anyway, so there’s been periodic interest in bringing the show back as a series of TV movies, but the disastrous Galactica ’80 show pretty much killed that idea, as it was probably meant to. There was some vague talk of resurrecting it as a series of movies in the early ’80s, a’ la Star Trek, but then Lorne Greene died, and that kaiboshed that. At the time, I really wanted the show back. In the early 90s’, there was a revival of interest in the show, which I think the Fans took a little more enthusiastically than was warranted. After all, in the early 90s there was a general revival of interest in all things 70s. Sure, Galactica was hip again, but so was the Bionic Woman and Fantasy Island for God’s sake.

The end result of all this was an ambitious, and well-thought-out, but poorly written and badly drawn Comic Book from Maximum Press, which picked up the story fifteen years later, when they finally found earth. Then Richard “Apollo” Hatch – who seems to have been generally rather disinterested in Galactica while he was actually working on the show – discovered his old meal ticket was making money again. Since he really hasn’t done squat since then, he started hawking the idea of a reunion with renewed vigor. He has written three very bad Galactica Novels, and, with several other washed up Galactica Pals, made a fifteen-minute ‘Trailer’ film to show at Science Fiction conventions. It’s called “Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming” and it’s apparently pretty good, though there’s no movie or real story to back it up. Though I’m not a fan of Richard Hatch, I had to be impressed by his moxie, and such an aggressive grass-roots attempt at Science Fiction film making really was ballsy, if not particularly realistic. A friend of mine was attached to the project for a couple weeks, contributing his time, free of charge, to develop Computer Models of various ships in the Rag Tag Fleet.

This begat renewed interest from Glen Larceny, who decided he wanted to make a big screen Galactica movie, and talked to Universal Studios about it. Though Universal doesn’t appear to have taken him seriously, Larson seems to really have believed he was gonna’ make the movie. His ill-conceived project battled it out with Hatch’s ill-conceived project in the generally rather addled minds of the Fen, despite repeated set backs on both sides. No studio would take Hatch seriously. Meanwhile, Universal wouldn’t let Larson have the rights to Galactica, so his story could only use characters that weren’t copyrighted by the studio. Thus, Larson’s Battlestar Galactica movie would not have involved the Galactica at all, but rather the Battlestar Pegusus and Commander Cain (Lloyd Bridges – who doesn’t ever seem to have been approached about reprising his role).

Encouraged by all the interest, Maximum Press asked Richard Hatch to write a four-issue mini-series of their Galactica Comic, and they apparently gave him carte blanch to do whatever he wanted. This was a real bad move. His generally incoherent story had nothing to do with the several years worth of issues they’d already put out, involved time travel, angels, the return of Jane Seymour, re-living the destruction of the Colonies, and, in the end, fundamentally re-writing the rules of the universe in which the story was set. This was not a good thing. Not only did it invalidate anything that had happened in the comic series up to that time, it also invalidated the TV series upon which it was based! The Maximum Press comic series folded immediately thereafter. There was a better comic series from another company – I want to say ‘Antarctic Press’, but I’m not sure – that came out afterwards, with better art, but no real stories to speak of. It folded after three years, from lack of interest.

Interest in the movies waned around this same time, and Richard Hatch still didn’t have a movie deal. Once Glen Larson realized that Hatch probably wasn’t actually gonna’ get a movie made, he lost interest in his Battlestar Pegasus project, and went off to make ‘Wing Commander: The movie’ instead. And there it sat, after five years of fighting and effort, and work, exactly nothing was accomplished. Everything was just where we left it in 1981.

Somewhere in that period, I lost interest. I didn’t stop liking the original show, but I stopped wanting it to come back. I liked watching the old episodes, though I’ve mostly memorized them. I enjoy discussing it, but I stopped wanting new episodes. Lorne Greene is dead. John Colicos is dead. Dirk Benedict is old as hell. Perhaps it was simply because the books and comics and movie ideas I was hearing just weren’t very good.

I realized the truth of the old saying that you never look at the same river twice. What I want is the ’79/’80 season of Galactica, but since it was never made, I’m not going to get it. The best I could get is a new show which was based on  the one season of a TV show that wasn’t terribly popular to begin with. I want more of the giddy, anarchic, mess that I watched as a kid. Now, if I get anything, I’ll get a professional, finely crafted, polished, soulless product. There comes a time when you realize this. If a beloved TV show is like a favorite pet, then that show’s abrupt cancellation is like the untimely death of your pet. Yes, you miss it. Yes, you wish it didn’t die. Yes, you want it to come back, but eventually you realize that you can’t bring your favored pet back to life. And even if, decades later, someone offers to clone the pet from its DNA that they’ve cobbled together, what you’ll end up with is just a clone. It may look and smell like your dead pet, it’ll be every bit as stupid or smart as your pet was, perhaps, but it’s not the same animal. It doesn’t have the memories, the spirit that the original did, any more than my wife and her identical twin sister share the same soul. They don’t. They’re very different people, who happen to look exactly the same. Eventually, you realize that you have to be content with your memories, and stop trying to Frankenstein your pet back from the dead. Eventually, I realized that the image of Galactica that I have exists more in my head than in reality, and what I want is the image in my head, which, of course, I’m never going to get. I realized that I should be content with my own private Battlestar and let it rest. Plus, really, most of the stories and story ideas I was reading really were shit-ass awful.

This is not a popular opinion. When I tell this to people, they say that I’m wrong, with almost religious fervor. They get facts wrong about the show, which most of them were too young to remember when it was first broadcast. They say things like ‘Who do you think would win in a fight, the Galactica, or the Enterprise?’ They make way the hell too many Star Trek comments. They say ‘Trek came back from the dead.’ I reply, ‘Yes, but Star Trek ran for three years, before it’s cancellation. It had a sense of what it was before it died, and ‘The Motion Picture’ was made only ten years after the show was canceled. Galactica only lasted a year, clearly had no sense of what it was before it died, and it ended twenty one years ago!’ ‘No matter,’ they say, ‘look how successful Star Trek has been since it came back!’ I say, ‘Do you like the modern Star Trek?’ ‘Yes,’ they say. It is at this point that I terminate the conversation. No one who likes the Modern incarnations of Trekdom can understand the basic rules of Drama, be it SF or Mundane. The Aristotelian Unities are completely lost on them, so it’s a foregone conclusion that they won’t be able to understand how a show is a product of its time, and the differences in tone between then and now, or, well, really, anything. Nor do they want to. They don’t really want anything new. They want what they have seen a million times already, but with slightly newer packaging. They want predictable stories, and shiny objects, and whiz-jets that go swoosh when they zip by you. They want battles and flashing lights, and women in revealing clothing, all of which Galactica has in droves. What they want is More Trek. Listen to some of their discussions, or read some of the truly awful Fanfic out there: They talk about ‘Warp Drive’ on the Galactica, which had no such thing. They talk about ‘Raising the deflector shields’ on the Galactica, though the series made very clear that the Galactica had no kinds of shields whatsoever. They talk about ‘Non-interference with less-developed races,’ as being a law amongst colonials. They’re making stuff up, and grafting it on to the Galactica universe, which is fine, but they seem incapable of incorporating anything that they didn’t steal from Star Trek.

I’m not going to get on my hobby horse here about which show is better, because none of them are better. Galactica is not better than Trek, and Trek is not better than Galactica. They’re both shit. They are, neither of them, any more important or more relevant than any random episode of The Bionic Woman, or Lost in Space, or My Mother The Car. Trek, however, has become the standard of SF, lamentably, and it’s a goddamn boring standard at that. Galactica is different. It plays by different rules, and in my horribly biased and subjective opinion, it’s moderately less boring than Trek has been for the last thirteen years. If and when Galactica comes back, it’ll probably be a repeat of the Galactica: 1980 debacle, and it’ll be cancelled in 13 episodes and forgotten, however the possibility exists that it’ll be successful, which is far worse. If it is successful, it will become Trek, a multi-headed, boring monster spawning series after series of dull, drab, tepid, flaccid, boring TV that Just Will Not Fucking Go Away!

I don’t want this. Hence, I oppose a Galactica revival, as I have explained on numerous occasions, in personal conversation, in personal correspondence, on message boards, in e-mail, and in Interpretive Dance, and even with hand puppets when the Trekies, or Trekkers, or Trekazoids, or whatever the hell they’re calling themselves this week, can’t seem to understand my words. This isn’t my mission or agenda or anything, I don’t generally dogmatize upon it, but I give my opinion when the subject comes up. I do find it interesting to note, however, that a shockingly large number of Trekophreniacs, or whatever, are completely incapable of understanding just about anything I say. Make of that what you will.

Having said all that, Battlestar Galactica is coming back as a new, mid-season replacement series in the 2002 Season. I’m opposed to this, of course, but I’ll probably watch it because, when all is said and done, I’m a whore.

Which brings me to the point of this diatribe, my dream, as you’ll recall:

***  ***  ***

In my dream, I’m talking to my friend, Ian, and watching TV. Apparently we’re discussing the premier of the new Galactica show. The commercial break on TV ends, and I say “It’s coming on, I gotta’ go, I’ll call you back later, bye.” Then I hung up the phone, and watched the TV. The rest of the dream is pretty much me intently watching TV, as I recall.

There was no teaser or preamble, it just started out with the opening credits. They were exactly the same as the opening credits of the old TV show, and I was thrilled.

Then the episode began, and I wasn’t thrilled.

“God, this is just an old episode of the show, what a rip off!”

I’d seen it before, they were just repeating one of the later episodes of the original series. I watched it anyway, because, as I said before, I’m a whore. Even in my dreams. Presently, I realize that this ‘New’ episode is actual several sequences from the old series, spliced together to form a ‘new’ story. I note that the dialog has been changed, and, I figure, it’s probably been re-dubbed with new dialog by the surviving actors from the show. Adama’s voice seems a bit spotty in places, so I figure they’ve probably spliced together bits of dialog from elsewhere – Galactica, Bonanza, or perhaps his guest appearance on Love Boat, whatever – to make his dialog.

Just as an aside, if these all sound like fairly unreasonable observations to make in a dream, they probably are. I have a degree in Television Production, and produced and directed my own TV show for three seasons. I’m also a movie buff from way back, so I’ve just sort of trained myself to notice things like this in real life. On random occasions, I also notice them in dreams. Put it this way: If I have a dream about a painting, I notice the painting. If a painter has a dream about the painting, he’d probably notice the brushstrokes or some other aspect that I’d be only vaguely aware of. Likewise, if a painter dreamed of a TV show, he’d probably only notice the TV Show, whereas if I dream about a TV show, I tend to notice the way the show is put together. Unless, of course, we’re dreaming about a TV show that’s about painting, in which case all bets are off. Now back to our regularly scheduled phantasmagoria:

Anyway, in my dream, I notice that they’ve cleverly edited footage and dialog from several sources together, and cut this in with new Special Effects, in order to tell a new story. This strikes me as pretty clever.

Presently I start to notice a scene featuring Adama and Starbuck that I can’t place. It’s new footage, but Starbuck is still in his late 20s, and Adama is still alive. This confuses me at first, but I soon I realize that there must have been an episode in Production when the original series was canceled, and they just never bothered to complete it. I assume that this ‘raw footage’ must have sat in the can for twenty years, and then been hauled out and worked into this new story.

This whole episode, in my dream, is cobbled together sort of like ‘The Crow’, out of whatever they happened to have on hand. I’m thrilled at the idea of seeing a ‘New’ old episode that I never got to see – essentially an episode from the abortive second season, which really is all I wanted all along – but I’m very aware of the fact that they won’t be able to keep it up. Ok, so maybe twenty or thirty previously unseen minutes of the old show exist somewhere, but clearly they’ve used most of it in the episode I’m watching in my dream. You can’t build a series around it.

We’re about fifteen minutes into the episode. I notice a couple people I can’t recognize. They’re dressed just like everyone else, in Colonial Warrior’s uniforms, but somehow they don’t fit. Suddenly, I realize it’s their hair. They don’t have 70s disco cuts. They seem conspicuous in the background. There’ll be a shot of a doorway, and these two loitering outside if for a second. Then the door will open, and they’ll skedaddle. In come the principle cast, who deliver their lines, and then leave. Then the two I can’t identify will come back into the scene, stand by the doorway as it closes, look at each other conspiratorially, and head off. This kind of thing happens several times. Evidently I’m supposed to notice them.

The second time this happens, one of the two says, “Where are we?”

“I’m not sure. Late fourth or early fifth season.”

Then they wander off. Apparently the cobbled-together episode I’m watching is supposed to be from the fourth or fifth season, which should have taken place around  ’82/’83 or ’83/’84. Split the difference, and call it 1983.


Anyway, the fourth of fifth time these unidentified two show up, Starbuck catches them at it, and everyone suddenly realizes that they have no idea who they are. Someone asks them to identify themselves, which they refuse to do. Security catches them, and Adama asks them what they’re doing there.

Suddenly, everything changes, and the next ten minutes or so, everything happens in a kind of highly stylized, vaguely Egyptian-flavored ink-and-pen animation. In Voice-over narration, one of the mysterious two says, “You recall when you made good your escape from the Cylons, right? The last time you saw them?” We see the last five minutes of “The Hand of God”, the last episode of the original show, but animated. We then see a rapid animated synopsis of all the events that have happened since then, up until the ‘new’ episode, which, in dream-logic, is set about four years after “Hand of God.” The two new guys narrate all this.

I remember thinking, ‘Damn, what a clever way to catch us up on the progression of a story we didn’t get to see,’ or something like that.

The Animation ends when we see an animated Sheba (Anne Lockhart) say “But we know all that. We lived through it.” The animation fades to live action of Anne Lockhart as she’s saying this line. Again, a nice effect.

“You only know the events themselves, but you are lacking their significance.” One of the two says.

“So what’s this big significance that we’re missing?” Boomer says.

“Sometime between the time you finally escaped from the Cylons, and now, you made a mistake. One that has made it impossible for us to continue.”

“I mean that we can not go forward into the future because of that mistake. We must find it, and fix it, or else we will all die.”

“We? You mean the two of you?”

“No. We all will die. Us, you, everyone. All dead.”

“So what was this mistake?”

“We can’t tell you that.”

“So when was this mistake?”

“We don’t know. That’s what we’re trying to find.”

Throughout this interrogation, Starbuck was getting more and more agitated. Finally, he can’t take it any more, and lashes out at the two new, unnamed guys.

“Why should we believe any of this? What the hell are you talking about, anyway? Who do you think you are, anyway, barging in here and telling us we’re all going to die? Who are you?” He screams at them.

“We are your sons, Starbuck, as yet unborn.”

This flummoxes everyone, and Apollo (Richard Hatch) patently doesn’t believe them. I’m a little fuzzy on what happened next, because there was a lot of yelling and screaming, and a hint of violence towards ‘Starbuck’s sons.’ Then there was a bright flash of weird, lazerium-style lighting. A big, pulsing mass of light has formed in the corner of the cabin. Everyone turns to look at it. The figure of a man can be seen walking on the other side of the blob of light, and it comes thorough. Evidently the light was the visible manifestation of some kind of dimensional gateway, or time machine, or teleporter, or some other such unlikely science fiction hoo-haa.

The man emerges from the light.

It’s Dirk Benedict – Starbuck – at his present age, about fifty-five. He’s dressed differently. He’s not wearing the brown cowboyish Colonial Warrior’s Uniform like he always did on the old show. Instead, he’s dressed in the very dark blue uniform of the Galactica’s bridge officers. He’s wearing the same medallion that Adama always wore. In fact, he’s dressed exactly like Adama.

Adama, suddenly looking very old, and apparently bearded (If he had a beard previously in the dream, I never noticed it) steps up to Future Starbuck, then looks back at Starbuck, Age 27. He motions for the guards to let go of the two mysterious visitors, which they then do, and looks at the Starbuck-of-the-Future. Adama is clearly beside himself with shock and confusion. Starbuck, meanwhile, is beside himself literally, thanks to the cliché of time travel.

Finally, apparently because he can’t think of anything else to say, Adama says, “Who are you?”

“I am Commander Starbuck, late of the Battlestar Galactica, recently destroyed. So far as I know, my sons and I are the only human beings left anywhere in the universe. We three are all that’s left of our species.”

A long pause ensues, while everyone digests this. Future Starbuck seems a little too chipper in delivering such grim news, which struck me as odd, but he doesn’t offer any more information.

Eventually, Adama speaks again, “Your…sons…spoke of a mistake….”

“Yes.” Future Starbuck says.

Adama, the Moses-figure, the spiritual center of the series, the savior of the remnant of humanity from extermination at the hands of the Cylons, the messiah-figure who will lead Humanity on its exodus to a new promised land, speaks again. His voice is barely a whisper. He is afraid. He knows something, but he’s hoping he’s wrong. He has a secret, and he’s afraid it’s going to get out.

“What…what was the mistake?” Adama says.

Starbuck looks him in the eye, and says, “You were.”

“You were humanities final, greatest mistake, Adama. Twice.”

“Your first mistake,” Starbuck continues, “is when you led us away from home, abandoning the colonies, even though you knew what was really going on there.”

“Your Second mistake,” he says, “Is when you decided to abandon the fleet, leaving all the civilians behind to die.”

***  ***  ***

It was at this point that I awakened with an urgent pressure on the inner wall of my bladder. I quickly scribbled down some notes in the bathroom to help me remember, and then when I was done in there I tried to get back into the dream, but I couldn’t. Sometimes it works, this time it didn’t.

I’m now more opposed to bringing the series back than ever. My dream was trippy, and weird, and compelling, as are all good dreams, but for some reason it stayed in the format of a TV show. I didn’t turn into Starbuck or Adama, or end up flying a Viper around myself. It didn’t strangely mutate into an episode of Love, American Style, or The Mothers-In-Law like so many of my dreams about TV shows do. It was a pretty damn good episode of Galactica, from what I saw of it (About a half-hour, subjective time.) It’s probably arrogant to assume that my dream, clearly the product of too much cheese before bedtime, was better than the new show will be, but, hey, I’m nothing if not arrogant. Whatever the reality will be, it can’t match what my dream was, or the sense of fulfillment that it gave me. The show is two decades dead, and I’m resolved to that. Therefore, any time my subconscious decides to revisit Galactica, it’s a bonus. Even at it’s best, however, the new show will be zombie shit, and that’s got to be disappointing. Bringing back old, dead TV shows is a pastime for people with no imagination to play with what they’ve already seen.

So what does it all mean? Not a damn thing. It was, after all, just a dream. The bombshell from Future Starbuck at the end was pretty amazing, though, and I spent about a day pouring over what I consciously remembered from the show, just to see if perhaps my subconscious had caught some detail that I’d conveniently missed since I was thirteen or so.

The only thing I can come up with is this: In the Epilog to the first episode of the show, the new Imperious Leader of the Cylon Empire (The previous one having been blown up before the previous commercial break.) strikes a bargain with the traitorous John “Baltar” Colicos, who was scheduled for public execution. I’ll repeat the conversation from the show here as best I can remember it.

Imperious Leader: “You said you could find the humans who escaped?” [Paraphrase]

Baltar: “Yes. I…I…I thing as they do, I…I reason like they do. I know….where they must go, what they must do….”

Imperious Leader: “I find your reasoning…logical.”

Baltar: [Sensing hope] “Then I am to be……”

Imperious Leader: “Spared.”

Baltar: [Emphatically] “To Serve the Empire!”

Imperious Leader: “No. To Serve Your People.”

Baltar: [Looks confused]

Imperious Leader: “My predecessor was programmed at a time when we were vulnerable. Now that we are omnipotent, we can afford to be more charitable. I am giving you a Base Ship…” [I admit, my memory is fuzzy on the next couple lines. “Go to your people. Explain to them how I am benevolent, and bring them back to me.” Was the gist of it.]

Imperious Leader: “Lucifer!”

In walks Lucifer, a different kind of Cylon who will be Baltar’s executive officer on the Base Ship he’s given.

I’m not sure how much of this we should take seriously. The scene was broadcast like this, then re-broadcast in a shortened, less benevolent form at the beginning of the second episode of Galactica, so I’m unclear if we’re supposed to take the first version at face value, or if the shortened version is the ‘canonical’ one.

Was the Imperious Leader lying?

Was it a trap?

If it wasn’t either of these, then what did the Cylons have in mind? Subjugating humanity? Perhaps subjugating humanity under Baltar?

Assuming for the minute that the new Imperious Leader was on the level, how come Baltar took every opportunity after that to disobey the Imperious Leader’s orders, and attack the Galactica?

What became of the forty-eight billion people on the Colonies? Obviously, millions, billions survived the Holocaust. Adama says they had to leave ridiculous numbers of people behind for a lack of ships. Clearly the Cylons were slaughtering these people, but did they all die? Did the new Imperious Leader stop the slaughters? Are there still humans living on the Colonies?

Who knows. I doubt they knew. One of the fun things about the show is how little about it was thought out before hand. I assume, however, that this is what my subconscious picked up on, and decided to run with in my dream when Future Starbuck said that Adama ‘knew what was going on in the colonies.’

Either that, or else some part of me assumes that Adama knew more about the Cylons than he let on. Who knows.

As to the other mistake, Adama abandoning the Rag Tag Fleet, he’d never do that. He’d die first. Also, interestingly, in my dream, this event hadn’t happened yet. My dream took place about five years after ‘The Hand of God’, and the fleet was still around, so apparently it was an event that had yet to take place. It was a decision that Adama hadn’t made yet, but apparently would, if the future remained unchanged. What could prompt that decision? Since this aspect of the dream wasn’t based on anything that actually happened in the show, I don’t think I can make any conclusions about it. I don’t know me that well.

The only possibility is that for some reason, Adama felt that continuing with the fleet would doom humanity. For some reason, the fleet became a liability. Clearly, he made the wrong decision.

I have to wonder if both mistakes were related, in the logic of my dream, or if they’re just random things caused by an over-filled bladder.

But in the end, it was just a dream, and just a TV show, and just a lot of typing on my part, all for nothing. I told you it was frothy and stupid and ephemeral and useless. But I thought I’d bore you with it anyway.

Mahatma Randy,

Lord of the Geeks.