Monday, October 09, 2006

Getting Medieveal on Reality's Ass

Recently I deleted a comment on an old post here from someone who suggested it was "retarded" to apply critical analysis to a movie. I deleted the post because the author of same tossed out their insults behind the cowardly "anonymous" label. People are welcome to say anything here, but insults must be owned up to if they are going to remain. Little children who play ring-and-run do not get indulged.

However, this is not the first time that someone has cast disparaging remarks on posts that examine film and television in detail. The phrase we so often here in these cases is "It's only a movie."

I got to say, that sort of quip really gets my goat. It's a vacuous statement. Meaningless. To Kill a Mockingbird is only a movie too. Citizen Kane is only a movie. So is The Godfather. For that matter, Cry, the Beloved Country is only a book. Hamlet is only a play. Hey, New York is only a city. Christianity is only a religion. Earth is only a planet.

It is fine for the analysis and appreciate of art to be equal to the effort that goes into its creation.

Weekend at Bernie's Two may be only a movie. But when you look at all the effort, all the thought, all the awareness of genre history that went into crafting something like Batman Begins or the Matrix, there is nothing wrong with time spent reveling in examination of the end result.

Hey wait - you say. Those are fun movies. I thought you were going to hold up an example of something like 5 Easy Pieces or The Deer Hunter. Not a comic book adaptation and a martial arts flick. Do people really care what goes into their summer blockbusters?

Well, yes, some do. And some people care about what goes in. And the qualitative difference between The Lord of the Rings and the Dungeons & Dragons movie is profound for this reason. Yes, the vast majority of Hollywood studio projects may be about making a quick, sure buck pumping out something puerile and predictable. But there are filmmakers like Peter Jackson, Martin Scorsese, Terry Gilliam, Ridley Scott, or Ron Howard, who would probably take issue with the statement that what they produced was "only a movie." And all of them make commercially successful films.

The drummer Steward Copeland, formerly of the Police, was once asked by a reporter why he went to such lengths with his riffs, traveling to Africa to learn unusual beats and bringing them back to incorporate into his music. "Are any of your listerners really going to understand what it is you are doing here?" the reporter asked. "No, of course not," came Copeland's reply, "but they'll appreciate the music the better for it, even if they don't know why."

Again: It is fine for the analysis and appreciate of art to be equal to the effort that goes into its creation.

But also: It is fine for art to strive for excellence regardless of whether those who will live in the house appreciate or even notice every brick that went into its construction.

Some of us enjoy examining the bricks. Admiring the craftsmanship. Seeing how they pieces fit together. Studying what worked and what didn't. This is fun. This is also instructive for those who might harbor aspirations to "go thou and do likewise."

One of the first lessens I hope to impart to my young son is that the world is divided between passive and active participants. In the past, a very small portion of people, largely gathered in a few key geographic locations, produced the media that the majority of us consumed. Now, thanks to the democratization of the Internet, we are all potentially active participants in our entertainment and this trend will only increase rapidly in the coming years. You like music? Get on your Apple and start mixing your tracks. You like videgames? Get to work programming one. You like movies - here's a digital camcorder. You like special effects and model work - go subscribe to Make. There's never been a better time to be creative - the threshold for entry has never been lower. And in a level playing field, quality of product will be more important than ever.

So, you can be a couch potato all you want, and more power to you. But personally, I think the idea that any creative media, whether it's a book, a movie, a cartoon, or a comic book, should limit its aspirations of quality, is, well, "mentally deficient." Format prejudice is ugly. There are moments of real briliance on Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock. (The latter, btw, was pitched to HBO as a children's show that would end war. Okay, they didn't actually succeed in that aspiration, but that's a much better goal than just moving a few plastic toys in an Happy Meal, isn't it?.)

Now, again, I'm not talking about War and Peace here. Or the art house film that only plays in a few select cities. ("Not that there is anything wrong with that," he says in his best Jerry Seinfeld.) I'm talking about commercial entertainment and the attitude that says because a thing is popular it can't or shouldn't be good.

Quality and popularity need not be mutually exclusive.

Recently, Alan Beatts, owner of one of my favorite bookstores in America, Borderlands Books, and a very wise and smart man, wrote in his October newsletter, Dispatches from the Border:

"But when people (writers and editors especially) forget that we're in the business of providing entertainment, the result is crappy fiction that doesn't sell. That's not to say that the lofty ideas that I mentioned can't be served by genre fiction or that genre fiction can't or shouldn't aspire to the highest levels of writing. But the story and the entertainment has to come first because that's why people buy and read this stuff. They want a good story, a fun ride, something to relax with and take a break. And if they don't get it, they won't read it and the work cannot accomplish anything, neither something base like entertainment or lofty like changing people's
lives or their world."

Yes, absolutely. Couldn't have said it better myself. I go on a LOT about the importance of science fiction, but the prime component of fiction is entertainment and without that, it's not going to accoomplish much else. I have very little patience with writers or performers who complain that their audience doesn't understand them or aren't smart enough to appreciate their genius. Fiction is about reaching people. (And I hope that, with the average Pyr book, readers come away enjoying fiction that is both action-packed and thought provoking. That's the goal, anyway).

Again, quality and popularity need not be mutually exclusive.

That being said, I do feel that speculative fiction in specific has an additional role to play beyond the laudable goal of being entertaining. As I have said elsewhere, I grew up in the Deep South, at a time when it was considerably deeper than it is now. My childhood peers frequently told racist jokes, used the N-word, and when we came of age to drive, more than once we amused ourselves by throwing eggs at the local gay bar. (Ideally, this was accomplished while one or more patrons was in the doorway). And, not knowing any better, I partook of all these shameful activities myself. Nor was this atypical behaviour for Southern teenagers. Who went to church and had good parents and attended good schools. But the dominant social atttidudes were not those of tolerance. And the only difference between me and my companions was that I had a father who shoved A Princess of Mars into my hands and ordered me to read it despite my protests. And an uncle who was into the original Star Trek. And it is very hard to not to question bigotry against fellow human beings when one is onboard with Klingons and the green men of Mars.

My late grandmother hated minorities (and would probably have disowned me as having "betrayed my race" for marrying a non-white had she lived to see it). When I was grammar school, we took her on a trip to Disney World. When the animatronic Abraham Lincoln stood up in the Hall of Presidents to give a speech, she growled out loud enough for the whole auditorium to hear "Sit down, traitor!" I showed her and her second husband an episode of The Next Generation once. It was their first exposure to Star Trek and they saw right through it. Before the first commercial break, they had decried the show as liberal propoganda, funny foreheads as metaphors for the idea that we should all just get along. They hated it. They knew it was a deliberate and calculated assault on their world view. They knew it was a legitimate threat. They were absolutely correct.

For all its faults, Star Trek changed the world. It's message of tolerance and its depiction of a universe blessed with "infinite diversity in infinite combinations" was radical for its day and still vital for our day. So science fiction for me isn't just an alternative to romance novels and cop & laywer shows. In a very real and meaningful way, speculative fiction is an alternative to throwing eggs at homosexuals.

I have a bi-racial son who understands more Mandarin than English. And that's not something you could have predicted had you met me in the 1980s.

Didn't Brian Aldiss remark once that it wasn't truly science fiction if it wasn't subversive? Recently, the very wise Paul McAuley reminded us all of science fiction's obligation to be subversive on the blog Meme Therapy:

"Science fiction is the holy fool of literature. It can say what it likes and get away with an examination of truly radical and subversive ideas because no one takes it seriously. When it’s at its best, we’re generally in trouble. Science fiction flourished during the social and economic upheavals of the 1930s, during the Cold War, and during the Iron Age of the 1980s. It should be flourishing now, damn it, but too many people who used to hang out with it have wandered off into some kind of fluffy make-believe world or other. Real science fiction doesn’t make stuff up. It turns reality up to eleven. It takes stuff from contemporary weather - stuff no one else has bothered or dared to question - and uses it to make an end run on reality. It not only shows us what could happen if things carry on the way they are, but it pushes what’s going on to the extremes of absurdity. That’s not its job: that’s its nature. And what’s happened to science fiction lately, it isn’t natural. It’s pale and lank and kind of out of focus. It needs to straighten up and fly right. It needs to reconnect with the world’s weather, and get medieval on reality’s ass."

While I applauded McAuley's words, I was disheartened by how many writers didn't say the same. I felt a bit like Bill Maher, wondering why the traditional news media waited so long to call this administration's bullshit. But hey, Bill Maher, John Stewart, Steven Colbert. They're only comedians, right? They shouldn't actually be trying to say anything relevant should they?

Remember that USA Today article I found so encouraging, "Science Fiction Gets Real". The one in which quite a few prominent tv & filmmakers talk about science fiction's importance as legitimate social criticism. Russell Schwartz, president of domestic marketing for New Line Cinema, says pretty much the same thing as McAuley:

"Historically, science fiction springs from tension. The big boon we had in the '40s and '50s came from war and Cold War tensions. When times are tense, it causes us to look forward and imagine what it's all going to mean."

So Hollywood has gotten it right once. And let's pause right here and praise Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden, whose blog Making Light does just about the best job of addressing that tension as anyone in our field, writer or editor, is doing. But I would suggest that science fiction's job has never been more important and while it can't do that job if it isn't entertaining enough to reach its readers, it very much has a job and this is very much the time to remember that.

Which brings me to the two-hour premier of season three of Battlestar Galactica and to a show that isn't perfect, but certainly knows what science fiction is for.

As Paul Levinson says on his blog (and which I hope he will forgive me for quoting in its entirety here, since what he says is on the money and not everyone has a MySpace account):

"I thought the two-hour premier of Battlestar Galactica on the SciFi Channel tonight was mind-blowingly powerful and extraordinary in its continuing probing of excrutiating ethical issues. One that made even me a little uncomfortable was the depiction of some humans as suicide bombers in their resistance to the Cylon occupation of new Caprica. The implication - or, at least one of the implications - is that the U.S. forces in Iraq are the Cylons. As much as I am unhappy about our conduct of the continuing war there, I don't think we're quite as bad as the Cylons - the worst of whom (which is pretty much all of them, except two) - kill with complete amoral abandon. And certainly the Israelis, who have far more of a right to be in Israel than we do in Iraq, have no resemblance to the Cylons at all. (Hezbollah seems to have more in common with the androids and robots.) But I've got to admire Battlestar Galactica for daring to insert this and other difficult and painful issues into its story. Treatment of political and ethical issues in science fiction on television certainly did not begin with the current Battlestar Galactica. The Twilight Zone more than once, brilliantly, addessed the insanity of nuclear war. Star Trek looked at the Cold War, race relations in the U.S., and other searing topics in the 1960s. The original Battlestar Galactica back in the late 1970s had plenty of Cold War analogies, too. But none of those hold a candle to the current BG in its consideration of wrenching issues. The first two seasons had some of the best military vs. civilian power confrontations in a democracy - in a time of life-and-death all-out war - I've even seen or read in any genre. And if tonight's episode is any indication, we can expect stories that will make us think - and squirm - even more in the months ahead. It's the end of space opera as we know it. A journey into the heart of darkness and light of space realism. I'm looking forward."

Amen. And anyone who watched the episode, whatever they thought of it and its politics, will understand why notions that "it's only television" make my blood boil. Because somewhere out there today is some kid who's still telling N-word jokes and hurling eggs or worse at those who are different, or if not that extreme, simply someone with a less considered opinion about the morality of our current invasion/occupation, and he or she has tuned in to Battlestar Galactica for the action and the robots, and is surreptitiously getting a lot more than they bargained for.

Does this matter? Or are Ron Moore and company just being "retarded," as horrendously pretentious as that Jim Hensen fellow was to think they can impact how people think about war. You decide.

After all, an open mind is just an alternative to a closed one.

25 comments:

Paul Cornell said...

That's very much the best thing about Galactica: the SFnal alienation. These characters suck in our identification, then it gets spat back out at us. Of course we're the suicide bombers. Wouldn't it be a terrible show if it was the other way round?

Lou Anders said...

And the fact that it is occassionally uncomfortable is key to why it is good. Science fiction gets under your skin. It burrows in and worms its way into your brain. And it smashes up what it finds there.

Cheryl said...

Applause!

Lou Anders said...

Gardner Dozois has said elsewhere that science fiction was only possible when Darwin made the idea of "deep time" possible. Before that, the world was only 6,000 or so years old, and wasn't expected to change much before Jesus came back.
The idea that we might be around millions of years and that we certainly wouldn't be recognizable if we were was a radical notion - a challenging and subversive one! As anti-Englightenment as contemporary America is (including the number of scientist who have come forward saying how their research is ignored or even
falsified by the current administration), the key proponents of enlightenment in entertainment can't
afford to be silent. As my screenwriting teacher used to say, we live for our fantasies, not our realities. What those fantasies are conveying to us is vital!

Mary Robinette Kowal said...

Here, here!

I work in the field of puppetry which I love for many of the reasons that you've mentioned. It's the theater of the possible and invites people to take the lid off preconceptions. But, like sf/f it's also looked down on as "just puppets."

I also grew up in the South but my parents did an amazine job of protecting me from racism. My mom once said, "We might have been raised that way, but we know it's wrong and didn't want to pass those values on to you."

Paul Cornell said...

Lou, you have an Origin. Who Lou Is And How He Came To Be. A Princess Of Mars crashed through your window one night, and you thought: 'racists are a superstitious, cowardly lot, that's it, I shall become... a Princess!' Well, nearly.

Cheryl said...

I think maybe he was bitten by a radioactive Martian Princess and gained strange powers as a result.

Lou Anders said...

Paul - I still haven't stopped laughing, but that's essentially correct. Of course, I realize not everyone will have made quite as life & value changing a journey, but that doesn't undersell the value of speculative fiction to change minds. And woe betide the individual who thinks they've already gotten as much enlightenment shed on them as they need. Pride and a fall, etc...

Mary, I didn't even get to include how radical Sesame Street was in its inception - what a paradigm shift it was to set a show in the ghetto - okay, it's a muppet ghetto, but it's a ghetto -, or how Jim Hensen had distributed thousands of pamplets promoting the show in the inner city prior to its debut.

Re: mothers. Yes, my own parents never used such language and my mother managed to overcome her own upbringing. Possibly because her mother was so excessive in her bigotry that its obvious ugliness sent my mother in the opposite direction. For all that I disagree with my mother on (politics, religion), she's a white protestant southern republican christian who volunteered her time to teach spanish to inner city african american children at the jewish community center, so you've got to give her props.

Michael L. Wentz said...

Lou,

I was right there with you up until you mentioned Battlestar Galactica. Science fiction should be challenging and engaging, but it must adhere to the basic rules of storytelling. Battlestar Galactica doesn’t do that...but Star Trek: The Next Generation did.

Just look at the numbers. TNG peaked at over 11 million viewers a week, and started at over 8 million in 1987. These are numbers that BSG hasn’t even come close to. Why? TNG had heroes you could cheer for, villains to boo, plots that made sense, and all in all every fan wanted to be a member of the Enterprise crew.

Battlestar Galactica has no heroes, the Cylons harbor even more angst and self-loathing than the humans (hard to believe), and I bet you can’t find more than a handful of genre fans who would step forward to be a citizen of New Caprica or a crewman aboard either Battlestar.

An effective story must have a hero or heroine (or group of them) that the audience must identify with, have sympathy for, and ultimately care about his or her overcoming the “obstacle.” None of the characters on BSG are likeable in the least, and now the humans -- of which less than 50 thousand survived -- are blowing themselves up to save themselves? Is that edgy, or just a really weak attempt to work current events into the series? I for one didn’t find it engaging, challenging, or poignant...just a jarring attempt at relevancy in an already choppy season premier.

Star Trek: The Next Generation was able to explore human issues while still being a good show with stories that had a beginning, middle, and end, filled with characters we wanted to know, and in some cases even be ourselves -- all aboard a ship that drew as much wonder as those who crewed her. And, most important, it was a show you could watch with your kids, parents, and whoever. I wouldn’t put a ten year old in front of Battlestar Galactica for any reason...and in these times when we are trying to get people excited about genre, isn’t that sad?

The tide is turning. Eureka has dethroned Battlestar Galactica as the top-rated show on the Sci-Fi Channel, and has been renewed for another season. It, thankfully, is a show that one can watch with one’s children.

This is my opinion. I do not denigrate anyone for watching or enjoying Battlestar Galactica, but I am not a fan for the reasons stated above. And it’s not because I’m unsophisticated or don’t like edgy dramas -- far to the contrary. I am a fan of HBO’s The Wire. It should be textbook for shows that want to push the envelope, but yet it even has heroes to cheer.

We can always learn about the present and the future by looking to the past. Maybe we can learn something from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was the first SF series to be considered “mainstream” -- popular not only for all it’s normal genre content, but because we all wished that we could be the ones who went “where no one has gone before.”

Anonymous said...

There's nothing cowardly about choosing to post anonymously and to even suggest something like that seems to reveal a close-mindedness I would not have expected from reading the rest of this very interesting post.

I embrace the label of anonymous out of respect for our collective and an understanding of identity assertion as mostly destructive and divisive, not to do harm.

Lou Anders said...

My apologies if I haven't been clear. Posting anonymously is fine. What this person did was to call me "retarded" while posting anonymously. I find hurling abuse when it can't come back to haunt you cowardly. Opinions, contrary or otherwise, are fine. Name calling from the shadows, not cool.

Ted said...

So science fiction for me isn't just an alternative to romance novels and cop & laywer shows. In a very real and meaningful way, speculative fiction is an alternative to throwing eggs at homosexuals.

Although it's possible for romance novels and cop & lawyer shows to offer that alternative, too. I once heard a romance writer say that her goal in writing was to change the world. I suspect that any genre allows artists to make a difference, if they're inclined to try.

Jose said...

Michael- I'm suprised you couldn't find any of the characters on BG likeable. I find many of them sympathetic. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes and I wouldn't necessarily want to invite them over for dinner but I couldn't say they're bad people. Most of them are good people that are trapped in a vice.

I think something that a lot of people miss is that BG isn't an out and out dissing of the War on Terror as much as it is an attempt to get at people to look at it from a different angle. Unfortuantely whenever partisan politics raises its ugly head a lot of americans seem to get their backs up and the party loyalty blinders come out (and that applies to many on both sides).

The writers behing BG clearly aren't preachers they're storytellers and damn good ones. They're not ramming answers down anyone's throats but they do go for the jugular nonetheless. Note that the use of suicide bombers isn't presented as a black and white issue, there's plenty of people in the resistance who are opposed to it and its not apparent that the practice has any worthwhile tactical value.

The calibre of the writing on BG is unprecedented for SF on television. It makes ST:TNG look like a mexican soap opera with ray guns in comparison. Just compare the first two episodes of it's third season with the lame (geez whiz refugee camps aren't very nice guys) palestinian problem in disguise Ensign Ro episode from Star Trek TNG.

My hats off to the creators of BG, they've renewed my faith in American SF television. I'm hoping there's lots more where that came from.

Lou Anders said...

Ted - absolutely. I'm a big fan of Boston Legal for the way they are subverting the lawyer show. And I hope my referencing Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock indicates that I'm not limiting the mind-expansion potential only to our corner.

Michael L. Wentz said...

Jose,

I just sat here again trying to think of one of the BSG characters I liked, and I can’t think of one. They just run around reacting to problems instead of having a purpose. I can’t identify any strong leaders -- outside of Adama...sometimes -- and the rank and file are more apt to punch their superiors in the face than follow them. The Cylons seem more focused, which is scary, and I don’t know what Ron Moore is meaning to say by that.

Regardless, looking at the numbers TNG was able to deliver its message to a much more massive audience than BSG ever will. In that respect doesn’t it speak to the quality of the show that it reached so many people? I would have been interested in how Rodenberry would have portrayed the War issue.

But I do like your idea for an SF tela-novella. I would watch that even without subtitles!

Anthony Hildebrand said...

Obviously, BSG raises many issues that come up in the real world: abortion, suicide bombings, etc. But I've always respected Moore because he doesn't cut-and-paste to make a U.S. Marine into a Cylon.

For example, Roslin was 43rd in line of succession. George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the U.S. Yet Roslin is hardly Bush. He raises the issue and lets the audience draw their own conclusions.

Above all, I find BSG to be a show about humanity:

In this situation, would it be justified for the resistance to use suicide bombing as a tactic? Would we?

Does one compromise a woman's right to choose if the human race is struggling in the face of extinction?

And as to the show's characters, they can be hard to take at times because above all, they're human. They have their triumphs and they have their flaws and failures.

Gaius Baltar may be one of the most flawed - yet he's my favorite. Extremely human. And while it may be hard to accept, there is so much of ourselves in these characters. I admire Moore for holding up the darkened mirror to allow for a long, hard look.

- Anthony Hildebrand

Cyberpunk Hero said...

Lovely, lovely post. As the cliche goes, I've been saying this for years, although not nearly as eloquently.

However, I don't particularly care for Battlestar Galactica's approach on real-life issues for one simple reason: It isn't sci-fi enough.

Star Trek and the Twilight Zone and all of that other great science fiction was brilliant because it didn't have racial tension between black people and white people - it had tension between aliens. The message was disguised by the fantastic and bizarre, and that allowed it to get past many of the prejudices that already defined our views. Someone who dislikes black people wouldn't care if Star Trek said "Hey, don't be prejudiced against black people." but they might just learn something if they're told "Hey, don't be prejudiced against artificial life forms."

In Battlestar Galactica, or at least the season premiere, the science fiction elements are reduced. Okay, so they're robots and can't die, but otherwise they may as well be humans. In fact, that episode could have been done without any sci-fi at all. It would have been weaker for it, but the message would have been just as effective.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that science fiction is effective at conveying moral messages because of how unreal it is, and Battlestar Galactica doesn't take full advantage of this.

(Still love the show.)

Dianora said...

Awwww, Lou. I love you. Anyone who knows me even a little knows I agree with you on the merits of TV -- hell, some of the best creative writing in any medium is happening on TV, right now. If you're a willful snob about it, you're just revealing yourself as a closed-minded idiot.

(But Paul and Hildebrand are right: we're the suicide bombers, or we could be.)

Justin said...

I need to go back and re-read this short-story from Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles," in which we're introduced to an Earth that is all but deserted except by, in one episode, little robot caretakers of deserted houses, and, in another, the poor who have been left behind. Bradbury chose to represent Southern Blacks who were fairly un-reconstructed, and by that I mean they were very much a reflection of certain poor African Americans in the fifties and sixties. But that episode in particular reminds me that SF can really dial it back and still be SF. I would consider saying that something "isn't SF enough" is somehow beside the point: BSG works because of its capacity to show that "We" and the Other aren't all that different, and it does so by representing the conflict in as realistic a way as possible. There's certainly space, I think, for its take on this, particularly considering that Stargate Atlantis, on the same channel, using aliens, has covered similar ground. There's also a way that using (blatant) aliens can undermine a point, such that for some people, the Other will always be Other. Don't worry: the Viper-on-Cylon dogfights will be back soon enough.

Oh, and BSG is also on basic cable. The highest any basic-cable show has ever rated is in the 3-4 million mark; TNG was syndicated over terrestrial channels and had a better chance of getting into homes.

Stephenson said...

Wonderful post Lou. You should send it to the NYTimes editorial section.

Martin said...

Although surely "I got to say, that sort of quip really gets my goat" should be "I got to say, that sort of quip really gets my goatee". Owch

Lou Anders said...

Not to get too into this - but my own thoughts on Battlestar Galactica are that SF tv will never be the same. I was a great fan of Deep Space Nine after Ira Steven Behr came onboard as producer, and think seasons three to six have some of the best television and best Trek of all time - many do to Ronald Moore there as well, but BG has raised the bar for me in terms of realism to the point where I'm not sure I can ever go back again. I worked on Babylon Five which doesn't get enough credit for doing real SF on tv, and I want to show it to my wife one day, but since she's watching Galactica first, it's going to be hard to get her to backtrack. Even knowing the one wouldn't have been possible without the other blazing a trail.

Where I fault Galactica is that - while their individual stories and arcs within a season are amazing - they need to have a better sense of the overall series arc. I suspected - because that was how Ron did things on Star Trek that they were working things out one season at a time, with no idea what each new year would bring. Unfortunatley where this suffers most is with the Cylon religion. We really need to understand what it is, what "god" means to them, why they think they have a better direct access to his Will than the humans, and what "god's plan" means. I suspected that Ron and crew didn't know anymore than we did, and, unfortunately, listening to the podcasts while writing an essay for BenBella's upcoming book, I discovered I was right. The writing staff has no more idea what the Cylons believe that the audience.

This is a problem a lot of fiction has with religion - and was a problem with the Bejorans religion on DS9 - it's left undefined, and used as a McGuffin to justify individual idiosyncracies, but isn't worked out.

Now, I think Galactica is GREAT and has raised the bar for ALL TIME. But as Bender once said to Fry, "Great is good. But amazing would be great!" What will really raise the show from Great to Amazing for me will be if, when everything is revealed, the answers to these questions are worked out in detail sufficient to the buildup. If not, the show will still be great. But Amazing would be better!

Lou Anders said...

Ah, everyone interested in this debate should go read Ian McDonald's LJ here: http://ianmcdonald.livejournal.com/44893.html
He has some very interesting opinions on this topic.

Jose said...

Mark- Keep in mind that ST:NG is riding on the coatails to a certain extent of the Trek franchise and came out in an era when the television market was probably less fragmented than it is today. The only television programme that's going to rake in that kind of market share nowadays are major sporting events.

Lou- I suspect you're right on the Cylon religion front. You get the sense they're ad libbing but I think they'll do a much better job of ad libbing than we've seen in SF series in the past (X Files being a prime tortous example).

Lou Anders said...

Jose - yes, Ron has put together a team of amazing talent, and he's a fantastic teleplay writer himself, AND one with respect for & knowledge of literary SF.

However, I'm afraid I'm right. I listened to the podcast where the writing staff debated what it *could* (not "did" but "could") mean. They threw out some great ideas, but it was obvious they don't know anymore than we do. Still, you are correct that they may ad lib better than most.

B5 still holds the top spot for working out the uber-arc in advance, even if BG and DS9 beat it hands down on the level of individual episode execution many times.