Battlestar Galactica

March 11th, 2007

 Even Heather Havrilesky is turning her back upon the show.  See her today’s “I Like To Watch” column in salon.com.  

 Why does this matter to me?  Heather is the one who got me watching the show in the first place.  Havrilesky (who is annoyingly objectionable all in her own right) has got a lot to answer for, if you ask me.

Since my first questions about BS-5, I’ve read all of Abigail Nussbaum’s postings on BS-G at her blog, “Asking the Wrong Questions,” (you should check out her blog — she writes insightfully about all the shows that interest me, and about things I know nothing about as well).  I particularly liked her post in which she assessed the second season, which was much of how I felt as well.  Evidently the third season has borne out my feeling that watching it was not going to be worth my time.  Additionally, Nussbaum’s posts sent me to read Dan Hartland’s essays at Strange Horizon, which have concurred with so many of my own reservations and frustrations with the show.

Is Ron Moore ilike about a 5th string Joss Whedon?  It’s as though Moore’s imitated what he thought Whedon accomplished with Buffy, The Vampire Slayer.  But like all those  guys who have endlessly recycled fantasies and games out of Tolkien’s accomplishment with The Lord of the Rings, he seems only to see the result of the enormous amount of work and fore-thought, and creativity, as well as questioning, but has no idea how the result was achieved — all that thinking, work and creativity.  You cannot separate successful effect from all the elements that create the effect.


11 Responses to “Battlestar Galactica”

  1. Jonathan Mon 11 Mar 2007 at 6:56 pm

    Actually, you raise an interesting point here (though on an aside, how long will it take the oil tanker of mainstream dead tree TV critics to change their opinion about this clearly fucked show)… namely the issue of people wanting to copy Whedon and wanting to copy Tolkien.

    Obviously on one level this is unavoidable, blah blah all thought is subconscious plagiarism blah, but I wonder if there’s something about the more conservative nature of genre that makes it particularly prone to copy catting?

    Have there been ANY genre shows in the last 5 years that haven’t tried to take on board and reproduce Buffy?

    Which is weird as all Whedon arguably brought to the table with Buffy is actually writing halfway decent drama. I mean, he’s hardly Dennis Potter.

  2. Marie Brennanon 11 Mar 2007 at 9:02 pm

    I wouldn’t say genre is any more prone to copy-catting than other fields. There are a million and one clones of various romance, mystery, and mainstream bestsellers out there too (to speak of novels), not to mention the explosion of reality TV and the proliferation of doctor/cop/lawyer shows. If you prove there’s an audience for something, people will pursue that audience.

  3. kateelliotton 12 Mar 2007 at 3:42 am

    To some extent people are always trying to catch the end of the curve. Whedon caught the beginning of the curve (if you go with the metaphor).

    I haven’t seen third season BSG so have no opinion on it, but as I am watching via Netflix things like Veronica Mars (first season) and Deadwood (we just started the second season), I’m interested to see how Hollywood is finally catching on to the finite telenovella – well, all right, these are all multi season shows, but the story arcs are within boundaries and while VMars has mini-narrative arcs with each ep and a larger arc played out over the full first season (while Deadwood is more a telenovella in the same way Rome is/was), these are not remotely reset episodes, that is, where any given ep can be viewed out of order and enjoyed to the same level.

    So I would say that Hollywood in general is trying to catch the curve of telenovellas that other countries have been doing for years.

    But, having said that, I agree that we then end up with lots of similar looking things done by people who either are trying to cash in on a hot fashion and/or genuinely caught up by the attraction to that particular sub genre and wanting to play in that sandbox.

    Which maybe is a long way around to saying that HB is sure doing some interesting work these days. IOW, it’s late, and I can’t quite make this post fit in a neat basket.

  4. kateelliotton 12 Mar 2007 at 3:42 am

    HBO, that is, not HB

  5. Constance Ashon 12 Mar 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Media is driven by the curve. Something works and a zillion more show up, and then they crash and burn.

    Doing a quality project also takes time and money. Mostly these more recent ventures don’t really have either. Deadwood cost, I thnk, a million point 5 per episode …. Buffy’s costs got higher with each season too. And it was intense work, for everyone, almost around the clock. And for the actors, physical work, even with stunt replacements.

    Creative people are influenced early in their lives by what it is there. SF/F lovers, though, seem particularly prone to re-creating even as children what they love. (That said, Vaquero, for instance, was a mad movie lover as a child, and he’d spend hours creating ads, with photos and promo copy, and even writing his own theme songs, for movies he loved.) So now it’s the para-normal or whatever. Mostly, well, they don’t work, at least not for me. Buffy was an exception, an astonishing, splendid, blessing of an exception — and I didn’t like it at all, the first eps I saw in the first and second seasons. The h.s. stuff really put me off. But, really, it was the commercials, I think.

    Love, C.

  6. Janice Dawleyon 13 Mar 2007 at 5:52 pm

    A couple of points:

    1) To say that Heather Havrilesky is turning her back on the show is
    overstating it quite a bit. In her own words: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m a
    long way off from giving up on “Battlestar,” no matter how much I
    question the writers’ recent choices.”

    2) Ronald Moore has been writing story arcs on television since before
    Buffy came along. He was a writer and producer for Star
    Trek: Deep Space Nine
    from the 3rd season onward, and it strikes me
    that the setting and feel of BSG owe a fair amount to that earlier show.
    As far as I’ve been able to tell (having read a lot of interviews and
    listened to a lot of podcasts), Moore has never even watched
    Buffy, let alone homaged it or ripped it off.

    OK, points having been made, I have to say that the treatment of
    Starbuck’s character has finally made me angry. I’ve scoffed at or
    complained about various plot developments on BSG before, but never have
    I felt fundamentally betrayed by it. If something isn’t revealed by
    season’s end that explains or reverses the events of “Maelstrom”, I may
    actually give up on the show.

  7. Constance Ashon 13 Mar 2007 at 8:54 pm

    Just to clear this up: did not suggest Moore ripped off or homaged Buffy. Influence is something else. However, you are correct re HH’s final comment — which came so far down after such vehement expression contrary-wise, that I missed it.

    It seems fairly odd that Moore has never seen a single, solitary ep of Buffy, since he’s a pro, and pros, especially in television, need to know what’s up, since the industry moves so quickly. Even more odd, if he’s never encountered a single discussion of Buffy over all those years that the show tended to dominate so much talk re television broadcast. That’s focus that is awesome!

    Shoot, I didn’t (and still don’t) have a television, and I didn’t watch Buffy in those years, and even I was up on what was said about it! Nor was I seeking it out. Just like I knew what was being discussed re the various st shows, which I never watched or sought out either.

    Love, C

  8. Janice Dawleyon 14 Mar 2007 at 10:34 am

    Hi Constance –

    I can’t say whether Ronald Moore has or hasn’t watched Buffy or been influenced by it. All I can say is that I’ve never heard him mention it, not have I seen signs of its influence on his work. My real point was that the influence may very well go the other way. I just did a quick search on the web and turned up this from Wikiquote:

    “I’m working on Buffy: Deep Space Nine. It will be dark and badly received.”
    – Joss Whedon, Entertainment Weekly Angel TV Preview (Sep 12, 2003)

    Joss was most certainly influenced by Deep Space Nine; Ron Moore may or may not have been influenced by Buffy, Angel or Firefly.

    Incidentally, Moore isn’t the only creative element on BSG who has a history with Star Trek. See this article about David Weddle, one of the team responsible for “Maelstrom” (and quite a few other BSG episodes). He speaks explicitly to the question of story arcs and the disappearance of “the reset button” as a TV phenomenon, citing Deep Space Nine as a transitional show in the process. It’s really interesting reading.

  9. Constance Ashon 14 Mar 2007 at 12:08 pm

    The bottom line is: who did a better job with story arc, reversal, setting up, making things hang together within the universe that was set up? That’s what is intended by the question re 5th string Whedon.

    It’s clear Whedon’s taken in everything, and done so consciously, whether it be writing to the television scene ‘beat’ meter, to comix, to much other material too, that isn’t even genre.

    The one thing he hasn’t done well, in my opinion, is big screen, feature film, judging by Serenity — it was deeply disappointing in the theater, and though still disappointing, less so on the small screen via dvd.

    Love, C.

  10. KarenMilleron 24 Mar 2007 at 7:48 pm

    Wow! Someone else who thought Serenity didn’t work. I thought I was all alone. I thought it failed on pretty much every level, and showed yet again what can happen when someone just gets too close to the work.

  11. Kate Elliotton 24 Mar 2007 at 9:27 pm

    I thought the plot line of Serenity, expanded out into the second half of a tv season (12 mor episodes), would have been smashingly good. All the stuff I loved most about the series was cut due to feature film considerations, and it was all wham bang plot. I was disappointed. Mostly because I wanted to see it as the fabulous twelve eps it could have been. But oh well.

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