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CineSchlock-O-Rama
Brawlin' Battlestars
BY G. NOEL GROSS | January 24, 2005

For yahrens, Battlestar fans who felt the series was cut much too short beseeched the Lords of Kobol for a day when their beloved intergalactic refugees would once again wander the airwaves. Chief among them was the original's Richard Hatch who tirelessly stumped the convention circuit and hounded Hollywood honchos with an FX-laden and completely unauthorized trailer. Naturally, the elder Apollo's vision reunited the surviving cast to continue their Cylon slugfest with -- here's the twist -- their sons and daughters joining the fray. The converted salivated. The moneymen cogitated. And, at last, the Sci Fi Channel sputtered into inaction. First, X-Men auteur Bryan Singer took command and promptly backpedaled. Then "Star Trek" franchisee Ronald Moore rolled in with a case of dynamite. Fansites foamed with news Hatch and his ilk needn't bother dusting off their uniforms as Moore and Sci Fi suits seemed intent on "reimagining" the show from the Vipers up. Worse, Dirk Benedict's philandering rogue Starbuck would be, gulp, a WOMAN! How dare they?

Why it's standard operating procedure in Tinseltown to risk alienating a devout fanbase whilst angling to appeal to a contemporary audience. Yet, to their credit, this 25th anniversary gamble pays nearly as handsomely as John Carpenter's transcendent take on The Thing! Another of those rarified cases where the original is the original, the remake is the remake and BOTH stand as profound creative achievements. For nostalgia's sake, yours truly revisited the Battlestar Galactica box set -- specifically the "Saga of a Star World" movie pilot -- and did a little comparing and contrasting with Mr. Moore's miniseries.

The sky is falling

1978: The day peace is to be declared, a Cylon sneak attack annihilates 12 human colonies and leaves planetary defenses smoldering in space -- save a single battlestar -- the Galactica. The warship then leads a ragtag wagon train of survivors away from certain death only to be lured into further peril when scarce provisions make a garish "Vegas in Space" seem the perfect pit stop.

2003: Same story, more firepower. Billions are nuked into oblivion save 50,000 or so folks lucky enough to board faster-than-light ships and hightail it with Galactica to a nice hidey-hole where Cylons dare not tread lest they rust. While hardly a resort atmosphere, this site IS an armory and makes a nifty skedaddle point for a 13th human colony ancient religious texts call Earth.

Know thine enemy

1978: These chrome-plated robo-warriors -- prone to threesomes -- are referred to as Cylons, yet that's actually the name of the lizard race that created them "thousands of yahrens ago." (Evidently, those poor saps suffered the same severe fate as the human race.) As frackin' cool as Cylons look, they're lousy shots, they topple like tin cans and their monotone vocabulary is limited beyond: "BY YOUR COMMAND!"

2003: The Cylons of yesteryear are remythosed as humanity's rebellious creation who vanish after an epic adolescent fit. Forty years later, they return in many forms: 12 versions of human lookalikes, spindly CGI centurions (a.k.a. Toasters) and self-piloted spacecraft. Unlike the '78 Cylons, who were bossed around by brainier, pedestal perched kin, a hive mindset seems to drive their will to crush, kill, diddle and destroy.

Father and son

1978: Ponderosa father figure Lorne Greene's toupee is the show's worst special effect, though as Galactica's commander, Adama's unquestionably the bedrock of the franchise. Apollo (Hatch) worships his father while respectfully pushing for less measured, riskier moves against the Cylons who kilt his brother.

2003: As Adama, the trademark hushed growl of Edward James Olmos is inspired for a commander due to be mothballed with his ship -- if not for the end of the world. In stark contrast, no love is lost as Lee "Apollo" Adama (Jamie Bamber) bitterly blames his brother's untimely death on not-so-dear old dad.

Galactic gender-bending

1978: As Viper jockeys go, they don't make 'em more colorful than Starbuck (Benedict). The ceegar chomping, card playing, ladies man is as likely to settle down as he is to trim his flowing locks. But his buddy Boomer (Herb Jefferson Jr.) may be the coolest cat of 'em all.

2003: Tops in the annals of stunt casting, Katee Sackhoff's familiar wiseacre gnaws a stogie and decks a "superior a@#hole" mid-card game before ever strapping in as Viper ace Kara "Starbuck" Thrace. Meanwhile, Grace Park's bawdy Boomer flouts fraternization protocols.

Frack me? Frack you!

1978: How does one cuss like a space sailor during family-friendly prime time? Make up ridiculous expletives! The most famous being, of course, "FRACK!" However, counter to collective memory, it was only used once on Galactica's maiden voyage. Filthy "FELGERCARB!" was actually uttered twice. Edgy, eh? 2003: Is that Tony Soprano behind the stick of that Viper? "Oh frack!," "Frack me!" and "Frackin' this or that" flow as freely as a certain other F-word in Jersey. (No, not felgercarb.) Starbuck being the dirtiest bird with the majority of the pejorative's NINE uses. Stuff that purty potty mouth with soap!

Bad to the Baltar

1978: The show's religious nods are many, especially for Mormons, what with the "13th tribe" and all. Probably most transparent is Baltar's selling out of humanity as Judas did Jesus. Both traitors face grim fates, although for the series' sake, John Colicos' snarling villain was wisely granted a stay of execution.

2003: As Dr. Gaius Baltar, James Callis creates the most charming, yet downright devious dandy since Dr. Smith of "Lost in Space"! This time, it's Baltar's loins that ultimately betray mankind as our unwitting horndog shares military secrets during boudoir romps with sultry Cylon succubus Tricia Helfer.

Stargazing

1978: If one learns nothing else from Battlestar it's that hot chicks always survive the apocalypse: Jane Seymour's journalist, Laurette Spang's socialator and Maren Jensen's salute-worthy officer.

2003: OK, well, Victoria's Secret model Tricia Helfer doesn't so much survive doomsday as she unleashes it. But her "Number Six" is quite the Cylon fashionesta -- slipping in and OUT of flirty frocks with ease.

In space ... it's weird

1978: What the devil time is it again? Yahrens!?! Centars!?! Centons!?! SPEAK ENGLISH!!! 2003: It's dubbed "docu" sci fi, yet for some reason nary a printed page is allowed the dignity of CORNERS!

Who's the boss?

1978: In the future, or the past, or whatever, our president leads alongside a toga'd gaggle of geezers otherwise known as the "Quorum of the 12." Their favorite pastime seems to be nodding approvingly.

2003: When she survives the 42 successors ahead of her, Mary McDonnell's Secretary of Education is thrust into the presidency. Her first order: Start having babies! (Truly "Make Love, Not War," right?)

A/V club

1978: A real visual disappointment due to excessive muck and, despite Universal's claim, no obvious effort to sweeten the image quality. Audio is passably remixed to DD 5.1, but without original tracks. 2003: Typical anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer and DD 5.1 mix one would expect from a contemporary release. While many scenes aren't without grain, it is likely more aesthetic than technical.

Best extras

1978: Lucky enough to snag the limited edition packaging!?! Beyond that keepsake and all 24 episodes, naturally, there's oodles of goodies including a chummy commentary by Apollo, Starbuck and Boomer. (They even mention yours truly's guilty pleasure of the series: "The Lost Warrior" featuring a Cylon gunslinger cleverly nicknamed Red Eye!) 2003: It's hard not to wanna punch writer/producer Ron Moore in the solar plexus while watching the "making of" doc. He's just so dern cocky. Thankfully, sharing a commentary with director Michael Rymer and co-producer David Eick seems to simmer him down. It's especially a hoot to hear 'em lament early fan fury over the project.

Final thoughts

Nostalgia sure can smooth a lot of rough edges! (Still, gimme one of them "walking toasters" over those wimpy CGI monstrosities any day.) While it seems sinful, the overall edge goes to the remake for better communicating -- via complex characters and surprisingly arresting storytelling -- the horror and wonder of what's essentially a 9/11-esque event. Let's hope the retread gets a better chance to blossom than the original series. So say we all!

Send your comments to feedback@cineschlockorama.com

G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.

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