Last Friday I had to join all the other fans and watch “BattleStar Gallactica” at it’s normal scheduled airing time on the SciFi Channel. Down to the final 10 episodes, I now have to wait a week to get my next fix. I’m not use to this, you see I’ve only recently discovered this gem of television. One of the best written shows I’ve ever seen, even better then “The Wire,” “Gallactica” blends fantasy with issues of religion, politics and human psychology. It’s nearly an 80-hour, ever-evolving mythology about the few survivors of a nuclear genocide wandering the universe in search of sanctuary. Heads up, if you haven’t seen the series you may not want to watch the YouTube recap attached to this blog.
Just like Steve Erickson writes in the January 2009 issue of Los Angeles magazine, I discovered the series this summer. My friend Stefan Rhys had the mini-series and the first three seasons on DVD. Once I started watching, I was hooked, sometimes watching 4 or 5 episodes at one time. I couldn’t believe how good it was, with such a brilliant cast and beautiful women. What the “frack” had I been thinking? Even though many had raved about the show, I couldn’t get past the original ’70s cheesy show produced by Glen A. Larson and starring the late Lorne Greene. I also don’t usually like science fiction but like Erickson writes, “Galactica is that thing that always seemed possible in science fiction but for whatever reason hasn’t been: an adult drama, built around adult relationships, that happens to be set in a science fiction context.”
It might have been Glen A. Larson’s attachment to the series that stopped me from watching. I had never been a big fan of his television shows, (Knight Rider, The Fall Guy, Magnum P.I.) but back around 1997, I was hired as the Assistant Director on a syndicated television show, conceived by Larson, entitled “Night Man,” based on the comic book character. Matt McColm played Johnny Domino, the misunderstood musician who battled crime as Night Man with a limited amount of super power. He also drove a really cool car. We had a lot of fun making the series in San Diego and I was introduced to many of the Assistant Directors that I still work with today, including on shows like “24” and a few feature films. I also assisted for the first time, one of my favorite directors to work with, Rob Spera. The problem was the cheesy visual effects and the writing and continuity. I remember in one episode Johnny’s father, played by Earl Holliman, was eating a steak, even though in previous episodes his character had been established as a vegetarian. Or when Michael Woods, who played Lt. Dann, was handed rewrites after we had shot the scene. Funny memories now, but not at the time. The next year it didn’t matter because Larsen took the whole production up to Canada to save a buck and we were unemployed. The show was cancelled the following year. On a side note, another former Glen Larsen television show, “Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century,” is being created as a 20 webisode series to premiere in 2010, as reported in Fan Cinema Today.
“Battlestar Gallactica” has never won a major Emmy, but it is no “Night Man.” The premise is something we’ve seen dozens of times before, “Man has created robots (in this case Cylons) and the robots get smart enough that they start to be like humans and seek revenge,” but this show puts to question what it even means to be human, to have emotions. It ties myth and imagination to the political issues of our times. As Erickson writes, “exposing humanity at its wisest and most ruthless, its most compassionate and murderous.” Now that’s the kind of television I’d like to be a part of, but for now I’ll enjoy the genius of Ronald D. Moore each Friday night. For those who haven’t seen it, start with the mini-series on DVD and just try to stop, I’m warning you. There’s nothing else like it on television, well, except maybe “Lost.” Doesn’t that start again this Wednesday? Oh man, how am I ever going to get any work done?