On high quality Science Fiction

(This post from my Battlestar Galactica Analysis Blog is cross-posted to my main blog too.)

There's been some debate in the comments here about whether I and those like me are being far too picky about technical and plot elements in Battlestar Galactica. It got meaty enough that I wanted to summarize some thoughts about the nature of quality SF, and the reasons why it is important. BSG is quality SF, and it set out to be, so I hold it to a higher bar. When I criticise it for where it sometimes drops the ball, this is not the criticism of disdain, but of respect.

I wrote earlier about the nature of hard SF. It is traditionally hard to define, and people never fully agree about what it is, and what SF is in general. I don't expect this essay to resolve that.

Broadly, SF is to me fiction which tries to explore the consequences of science, technology and the future. All fiction asks "what if?" but in SF, the "what if?" is often about the setting, and in particular the technology of the setting, and not simply about the characters. Hard SF makes a dedication to not break the laws of physics and other important principles of science while doing so. Fantasy, on the other hand, is free to set up any rules it likes, though all but the worst fantasy feels obligated to stick to those rules and remain consistent.

Hard SF, however, has another association in people's minds. Many feel that hard SF has to focus on the science and technology. It is a common criticism of hard SF that it spends so much time on the setting that the characters and story suffer. In some cases they suffer completely; stories in Analog Science Fiction are notorious for this, and give hard SF a bad name.

Perhaps because of that name, Ron Moore declared that he would make BSG be Naturalistic Science Fiction. he declared that he wanted to follow the rules of science, as hard SF does, but as you would expect in a TV show, character and story were still of paramount importance. His credo also described many of the tropes of TV SF he would avoid, including time travel and aliens, and stock stereotyped characters.

I am all for this. While hard SF that puts its focus on the technology makes great sense in a Greg Egan novel, it doesn't make sense in a drama. TV and movies don't have the time to do it well, nor the audience that seeks this.

However, staying within the laws of physics has a lot of merit. I believe that it can be very good for a story if the writer is constrained, and can't simply make up anything they desire. Mystery writers don't feel limited that they can't have their characters able to fly or read minds. In fact, it would ruin most of their mystery plots of they could. Staying within the rules -- rules you didn't set up -- can be harder to do, but this often is good, not bad. This is particularly true for the laws of science, because they are real and logical. So often, writers who want to break the rules end up breaking the rules of logic. Their stories don't make any sense, regardless of questions of science. When big enough, we call these logical flaws plot holes. Sticking to reality actually helps reduce them. It also keeps the audience happy. Only a small fraction of the audience may understand enough science to know that something is bogus, but you never know how many there are, and they are often the smarter and more influential members of the audience.

I lament at the poor quality of the realism in TV SF. Most shows do an absolutely dreadful job. I lament this because they are not doing that bad job deliberately. They are just careless. For fees that would be a pittance to any Hollywood budget, they could make good use of a science and SF advisor. (I recommend both. The SF advisor will know more about drama and fiction, and also will know what's already been done, or done to death in other SF.) Good use doesn't mean always doing what they say. While I do think it is good to be constrained, I recognize the right of creators to decide they do want to break the rules. I just want them to be aware that they are breaking the rules. I want them to have decided "I need to do this to tell the story I am telling" and not because they don't care or don't think the audience will care.

There does not have to be much of a trade-off between doing a good, realistic, consistent story and having good drama and characters. This is obviously true. Most non-genre fiction happily stays within the laws of reality. (Well, not action movies, but that's another story.)

Why it's important

My demand for realism is partly so I get a better, more consistent story without nagging errors distracting me from it. But there is a bigger concern.

TV and movie SF are important. They are the type of SF that most of the world will see. They are what will educate the public about many of the most important issues in science and technology, and these are some of the most important issues of the day. More people will watch even the cable-channel-rated Battlestar Galactica than read the most important novels in the field.

Because BSG is good, it will become a reference point for people's debates about things like AI and robots, religion and spirituality in AIs and many other questions. This happens in two ways. First, popular SF allows you to explain a concept to an audience quickly. If I want to talk about a virtual reality where everybody is in a tank while they live in a synthetic world, I can mention The Matrix and the audience immediately has some sense of what I am talking about. Because of the flaws in The Matrix I may need to explain the differences between that and what I want to describe, but it's still easier.

Secondly, people will have developed attitudes about what things mean from the movies. HAL-9000 from 2001 formed a lot of public opinion on AIs. Few get into a debate about robots without bringing up Asimov, or at worst case, Star Wars.

If the popular stories get it wrong, then the public starts with a wrong impression. Because so much TV SF is utter crap, a lot of the public has really crappy ideas about various issues in science and technology. The more we can correct this, the better. So much TV SF comes from people who don't really even care that they are doing SF. They do it because they can have fancy special effects, or know it will reach a certain number of fans. They have no excuse, though, for not trying to make it better.

BSG excited me because it set a high bar, and promised realism. And in a lot of ways it has delivered. Because it has FTL drives, it would not meet the hard SF fan's standard, but I understand how you are not going to do an interstellar chase show with sublight travel that would hold a TV audience. And I also know that Moore, the producer knows this and made a conscious decision to break the rules. There are several other places where he did this.

This was good because the original show, which I watched as an 18 year old, was dreadful. It had no concept of the geometry of space. TV shows and movies are notoriously terrible at this, but this was in the lower part of the spectrum. They just arrived at the planet of the week when the writers wanted them to. And it had this nonsense idea that the Earth could be a colony of ancient aliens. That pernicious idea, the "Ark" theory, is solidly debunked thanks to the fact that creationists keep bringing it up, but it does no good for SF to do anything to encourage it. BSG seemed to be ready to fix all these things. Yet since there are hints that the Ark question may not be addressed, I am disappointed on that count.

To some extent, the criticism that some readers have made -- that too much attention to detail and demand for perfection -- can ruin the story for you. You do have to employ some suspension of disbelief to enjoy most SF. Even rule-follow hard SF usually invents something new and magical that has yet to be invented. It might be possible, but the writer has no actual clue as to how. You just accept it and enjoy the story. Perhaps I do myself a disservice by getting bothered by minor nits. There are others who have it worse than I do, at least. But I'm not a professional TV science advisor. Perhaps I could be one, but for now, if I can see it, I think it means that they could have seen it. And I always enjoy a show more, when it's clearly obvious how much they care about the details. And so does everybody else, even when they don't know it. Attention to details creates a sense of depth which enhances a work even if you never explore the depth. You know it's there. You feel it, and the work becomes stronger and more relevant.

Now some of the criticisms I am making here are not about science or niggling technical details. Some of the recent trends, I think, are errors of story and character. Of course, you're never going to be in complete agreement with a writer about where a story or character should go. But if characters become inconsistent, it hurts the story as much or more as when the setting becomes inconsistent.

But still, after all this, let's see far more shows like Battlestar Galactica 2003, and fewer like Battletar Galactica 1978, and I'll still be happy.


i only discovered your blog a few weeks ago though i still have come to enjoy your thoughts and musings as well as the thoughts and musings of varied others. I have to disagree that hard science is a vital part of good sci-fi. For me watching sci fi is somethng i do to escape from reality, don't really like it in my sci-fi. In truth that's why i've not become as enamored with BSG 2003 as i was with Battlestar Galactica... If i want hard 'reality' i would rather watch law and order:criminal intent than a sci fi show. nyway despite the demand for 'hard science' we still see vipers and raiders flitting about like mig's and sabre's did during the Korean War...or people landing on a planet and getting out without some protection.. Moore is going to do what he feels is important to continue his idea of what course his show follows and if reality suffers, oh well what the hell..

What's important to me is the story and hows brought to screen and moore's battlestar has only captured me the last ten shows, captivating and interesting,before i could miss 2 maybe 3 shows and no big deal, not for me anyway..As many others have entreated you Brad, just enjoy the show...

What's going on with that Galactica Science website? I much preferred that page to this one, but now I can't get to it? :'(

Brad, I keep comparing BSG with the Babylon 5 series, I have enjoyed both. Babylon 5, though, had so much hyperbole, so many big ideas and epic developments, that it ran out of steam in the fourth year (at least in my observation), and was dull, incoherent and a chore to watch by the 5th year. In the same way, BSG seems to have run out of steam with the buildup to a bombed-out earth. Since that climax, I have only found enjoyment with the Gaeta mutiny, which really didn't fit with the overall story but instead was a delightful diversion. (It was fun because for once I didn't have to sit an analyze and episode and play back portions just to understand it.)

It seems that it is just so difficult for writers to be creative and disciplined enough to hold the interest of an audience and keep a story coherent and viable through basically what is five seasons. As BSG has gone along, the focus on characters has shifted, characters have abandoned what seemed to be their core principles, and the show itself seems as lost as the colonials. Carefully developed plot lines have given way to hasty explanations and bombshells. We are starting to see sloppy writing, in my opinion. (Oh my gods becomes oh my god.) (We fled earth to warn the other colonies - why? how did they know they needed to be warned? how did they know what they would expect after 2,000 years?) Commentators like you strain greatly to make sense of it all, almost compensating for the exposed flaws and shortcomings of the show.

I really look forward to something different but workable in this format again. I will give credit where credit is due - all Stargate SG-1 episodes look alike after awhile - BSG still has the ability to surprise, although you need to do research before and after an episode often to fully understand it. So I will look forward to the next time they strand humans on a huge spacecraft out in space, facing epic challenges and incredible odds.

That was also an excellent series. It probably tried to bite off more than it could chew (but to say why would involve major spoilers.) Plus, due to the strange circumstances of their possible cancellation and late renewal for a 5th season, that season never really fit. (Plus the sudden replacement of Sinclair, which in spite of all their protests was not always part of the plan.) It was more space opera than BSG but also raised the bar for its era.

Stargate is a good series put pretty much pure entertainment. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Stargate did not really even try to do story arcs based on big mysteries. Some people want that, some don't.

For the most part B5 worked. I have criticisms (a bit clunky in S1, where the arc was less apparant and the lead less than compelling, a bit dull in S5, inconsistent cast, writing that leaned more towards dualing monologues than dialogue), but when it clicked, boy did it click.

The problems you note in S5 were due to the series' "cancellation" in S4. The wrap up to the war was supposed to be in the beginning of S5, but JMS pushed it up to resolve the major arcs before the end of S4 and, he thought, the series. When they were surprisingly picked up by TNT, he had nothing for the start of S5, so he sort of stretched the remaining stories out over the early part of the season.

As BSG has gone along, the focus on characters has shifted, characters have abandoned what seemed to be their core principles, and the show itself seems as lost as the colonials.

The writers have done what they're supposed to do: drop characters into the worst possible situation that will push their unique buttons. Baltar is a atheistic scientist? Put him in situations where he starts to question the existence of God and make him a cult leader. Roslin is a lifelong educator and the Secretary of Education? Make her president in the worst possible situation you can think of -- the remnant of democracy is on the run from machines who want to kill them. Starbuck was an abused child and has one hella low self-opinion -- deep down she thinks she's unworthy of everyone she loves and sabotages her relationships? Give her a special destiny that may or may not save humanity.

It's OK if a character abandons her core principles so long as the motivation is obvious. In fact, a good story, IMO, has to have characters who change. There's no conflict in seeing a character go through something and remain the same person she was at the beginning of the story. A character acting inconsistently, that's different. For instance, Saul is only temporarily on the wagon. As soon as his life gets stressful he reaches for the bottle again even if Six cleaned out the liquor cabinet.

Carefully developed plot lines have given way to hasty explanations and bombshells.

In a few episodes, they have gone for the easy way out, I agree, but for the most part I think they've spent a long time building up story mysteries that they haven't revealed yet. The writers strike definitely changed the momentum of the series.

We are starting to see sloppy writing, in my opinion. (Oh my gods becomes oh my god.)

Often those sorts of issues have come from the actors ad libbing.

We fled earth to warn the other colonies - why? how did they know they needed to be warned? how did they know what they would expect after 2,000 years?)

I've wondered the same thing, but don't have the whole story yet. The only one of the Five who has unfettered access to her memories is Ellen. Anders access to his memories was inconsistent and influenced by his inability to relay what he knew due to his injury. He wasn't exactly clear-headed. The other three have only remembered bits and pieces, so it seems premature to call this unanswered question sloppy writing.

I don't see how you can evaluate a 5-season story arc before you've seen all 5 seasons.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had a 5 season 'Dominion War' arch that was written in no small part by Ron Moore. It was fantastic. In fact, a lot of the ideas from that story have been used on BSG:

1) a race of evil beings that the good guys know can look just like them and hide in plain sight (Founders Vs. Cylons). Mistrust abounds as friends and foe alike are suspected of being enemy sleeper agents.
2) One member of the evil race defects (Odo vs. Boomer) and falls in love with one of the crew (Kira vs. Helo).
3) In one episode, an enemy vessel (Jem Hadar fighter vs. Cylon Raider) crash lands on a desert planet and is commandeered by the crew (Sisko & Co. vs. Starbuck), brought back to the station/fleet and later used to infiltrate the enemy.

I could go on and on and on with plot points that seem ripped out of DS9, and sometimes even TNG (the scene where Starbuck is analyzing the Viper footage of the Cylon's pursuit of Bulldog is a mirror image of a scene in TNG's 'The Defector', who's plot device is quite similar).

Regardless of any of this, I still love both shows. I sometimes view BSG as Ron Moore's way of doing his Star Trek stories without any interference from studios or show-runners, so it stands to reason he might re-tell some of the same stories and use some of the same ideas.

Oh, awesome, Alvin. Love the comparisons to DS9.

I could literally write a thesis on the uncanny parallels I've found in the themes and characters between the two series (including TNG), even similar episode plots, right down to identical dialogue.

Not to mention 'Martok Valley' on Caprica, and Major Kira guest starring as a cancer patient.

If you have a blog, go for it. I'll link to you. It's a great idea.

After his "fall", Gul Dukat saw Head Weyoun.

Like the Cylon, the Vorta continually ressurected.

Like the Cylons, the Dominion was a class-structured, religion based collective

Like Sisko, Roslin is plagued by visions, is both a politcal and religious leader, and has a sexual relationship with Eddie Olmos.

Yes, the Roslin/Sisko comparison runs very deep in their characters. Both were reluctant to lead, both were initially non religious but eventually embraced their prophecized roles. The Lords of Kobol are the wormhole aliens/prophets.

The Vorta/Cylon resurrection was another comparison I always liked, too. Gul Dukat is very Baltar-esque in the way he switches sides throughout the series, There's also the elements of internal struggles between starfleet and the Maquis and the Bajoran culture that mirror the fleet's struggles. Some plot elements, like the episode where they tried to re-institute the ancient Bajoran class system-- contain very similar thematic elements to BSG. There was even an episode where the Ferengi unionized, ala 'Dirty Hands.'

Normally I would think little of these connections, but as Ron Moore was closely involved with DS9, I tend to see them and associate them more.

Again, I have no problem with it, as he was a writer on that show, so they're his ideas, and if he is recycling them, even subconciously, he's doing them in a different way, expounding upon them and taking them in new directions.

I don't remember Sisko having a sexual relationship with Eddie Olmos.
But it sure would have made DS9 much more interesting. :)

I'm pretty much behind Brad on this one. Narrative, science, and character has to be credible, relevant, and give the audience a payoff. Brads focus is on standards and execution. Other people will run with whatever is there and go with how they feel about it. Being ignorant about the mechanics or demanding people get touchy feely isn't a production issue but sliding into politics.

I've got a fair idea how Brad's mind ticks and how other people have their comfort zones. I can appreciate there's probably a book in there if Brad wants to run with that, and the "just enjoy it" crowd will probably shift position as the market responds to the new direction set by a show like BSG. Really, it's just a question of whether Brad wants to get off his ass, and allowing change to happen.

Some people have asked if a long story arc is doable. You have similar issues with high level count 30 hour+ games like Deus Ex and Knights of the Old Republic. My guess is there's a practical limit for producer and audience but a lot depends on how high or low a perspective you're looking from, and the balance between narrative and the more moment to moment action focus of the franchise.

We can enjoy analysis and the show for what they are. This can help us understand and shape a better direction for our own experience and later production. We can learn what went right and learn from other peoples mistakes so expections are more realistic and production is in tune with what's doable. Ambitious shows like this take a while to sink in and fade. It may be another 10 or 20 years before we have this chance again but...

It has happened before. It will happen again.

Your definition of Naturalistic Science Fiction is not the same as Ron Moore and the only person whose definition matters would be Moore because he invented the idea. The realism he said he was looking for was not in the Science elements (although he tries not to bend science if he doesn't have to), but in character. So far, he hasn't broken characters, he hasn't moved the plot to an unrealistic place. If there are questions left unanswered after the show has come to a conclusion, we can go back and examine those, but I would say Ron Moore has succeeded, as of now, in doing exactly what he set out to do. The Earth/Ark debate is the dumbest one I have heard on any forum. This is a science-FICTION show. If things are impossible in our world it doesn't matter. There is nothing in Ron Moore's mission statement for the show that says he will maintain hard reality of science. There is also no proof, as it has been pointed out to you many times, that the Earth found is our Earth. Your assumption has taken you there, and like most assumptions we all know the rhyme.

As someone who has actually sat down and spoken with Ron Moore, I think you have put a lot of your own opinions into what he was doing, rather than trying to see what he actually was doing. Your disappointment seems to be your own fault for expecting something that was never coming.

No, I contend that having our Earth be colonized by an Ark isn't something you can fictionalize. Nothing to do with science or fiction, it has to do with logical consistency. "You can't get here from there." Can you write a plausible story where the Nazis won WWII? Sure, and writers do it all the time, but it's called alternative history, and it's not set on our Earth, it's set on a different Earth that started as ours but is no longer. If you wrote a story where everything was the same as today, absolutely nothing had changed, except that there is a statue of Hitler where the Lincoln Memorial should be, people would say that makes no sense. They would not accept "it's just fiction." Having the Nazis win would change the world. And having Earth colonized by an Ark, instead of its real history, would have changed the world a great deal more than something as trivial as changing who won a war.

Note you've misconstrued my position. The Earth found in the show is fairly obviously not our Earth. The debate is, "is this the only Earth we see in the show, or is there a second Earth which is/was the real Earth?" I was strongly in the camp that there would be one, until Jane Espenson stated she felt the homeworld of humanity was Kobol, not Earth. Some hope she is playing a trick there, saying it's not the Earth seen in the show (which is a colony, not a homeworld.)

Ron Moore wrote out his goals and called them Naturalistic Science Fiction. But he's not ignoring the long history of SF, in fact he's responding to the errors he sees in TV SF that came before. He laid out goals for character, for story, for realism. I want him to keep them all, but I explain above why his goal of realism is important. I hope everybody already knows why goals of character and story are important!

Gotta say, you're going a bit fanboi there. Ron's already put his hands up to making mistakes. He set a standard which he hasn't completely delivered on, and said a few things that could have been explained better. I certainly hold him to account but there's limits to how hard you can beat someone around over it. Really, people just need to focus on being mature about it.

Brtad's analysis has added a lot to people's understanding and enriched their experience of the show. Just because things are going a bit ragged doesn't invalidate or excuse anything. I'll happily prop up his record of achievement on this but on-screen realities are on screen realities even if they're disappointing. Likewise, metting Ron in person is nothing special and doesn't add much if you read him wrong.

There's more profit in agreement than arguing.

But that doesn't mean I can't point out, or be disappointed in particular imperfections.

There are little things and big things. The starmap-from-real-Earth Gaeta has in "Torn" makes no sense, but I don't really sweat it. Lots of small things are wrong. I do think that getting the origin of humanity wrong would be more than a little mistake, though.

You're taking a correct and fair view. What niggles me is when someone takes a harcore fanboi view and steps into that space, and starts backwards rationalising and personalising things. That's not analysis, that's politics.

Someone needs an English lesson. That is called an opinion, not politics.

An opinion is an incomplete view. When that's modified by a (personal) agenda it's politics.

So you mean that if the show ended up with RTF as the origins of the humans, then it's literal statement saying "we are descendants of the RTF interbreeding with cylons and cavemen"?
It is an allegory, it isn't meant as a literal statement...

Never liked it, to be honest. I've always felt, in my opinion, hard sci-fi to interfere with the story. It's why I can't get into Isaac Asimov, or to a lesser extent the more heady Heinlein novels. They're so weighed down by being so beholden to physics that it restricts the storytelling. And it's boring.

It's like Moby Dick, which meanders on about whaling for a dozen pages before we find out about why Ishmael opened the god damned door-- but it's necessary: you need to explain the science behind everything in hard sci-fi, or the lay-audience will be wondering why things are happening.

Frankly, hard sci-fi makes no sense because it's based on science that is admittedly speculative. We really don't know the physics of deep space, or how a lot of things would work out there, or in the future with hypothetical technology.

I find BSG to be a good compromise: keep it realistic, but be willing to bend the rules when it suits the story, so long as the it's reasonable to do so. It doesn't invent science, like star trek, but isn't weighed down by it like Asimov.

There is some hard SF that feels compelled to explain what is going on. It does it in part to show the nerdier reader "yes, I really understood what I am writing about" and also to educate. And it's easy to see why that will bother other readers. Though most readers of hard SF do indeed enjoy seeing clever new things laid out and explained.

However, that is not a requirement, and as I said, almost surely not a good idea in TV SF. It's what led TV SF into technobabble. It's OK to hint. Now if you want to be realistic and you want to deliberately contradict reality at the same time, it is appropriate and expected to explain that part. People like it when you do that. A satirical example of that is the Babelfish. Star Trek started with the universal translator but eventually gave up. Doctor Who declared that the Tardis links into the minds of those who travel on it and alters their language. It's good -- the writers know that it is silly to have a universe of alien worlds that speak English, and they let you know that they realize this is silly but is necessary to make a TV show work.

Sometimes of course they get it wrong. The real universe is not full of aliens that look just like humans with extra bumps on their heads, but for a TV makeup dept. that's what you can get. Humans also can't have sex with green-blooded vulcans. Star Trek at first got it right in TOS, but in TNG they decided to try to make every planet seeded by ancient aliens which satisfies nobody.

But you see, I accept English-speaking aliens who are humans with bumps on their heads because we can all see the reason for that. It's the only way to do a production on budget. I accept 12 colonies in the same star system because you need that to make the imported initial story work. On the other hand, I would be critical of them putting up the Earth star patterns when not near Earth, because there is no reason, other than sloppiness, for such a mistake -- not when they correctly put up non-Earth patterns everywhere else.

I will be critical if the history revealed by the end of the show is nonsense because there is not, as far as I have yet seen, a reason for that. They may show me a reason, in which case perhaps I will accept it.

As a teenager I actually loved Asimov and Clarke, but I always felt like there was some dimension missing --and it was a character component. Their novels were intellectually interesting, but not visceral at all. I wanted my SF to be based as much as possible on real science, but I didn't necessarily need to see the equations or the technobabble. For me, a compromise is Catherine Asaro, who could show you the equations that make her FTL drives "possible" (given some assumptions), but that doesn't show up in Catch the Lightning. The story is character-driven even though she understands all the underlying science. A few science fiction writers have science backgrounds (Asaro used to work for NASA), but many don't and I don't think it's absolutely necessary -- but an appreciation of the importance of science is imperative.

The good thing about Star Trek is we can watch it with our kids and most of us watched it ourselves as kids. As an adult I think it's a bit too antiseptic (DS9 less so), but it's one of the places that encourage young adult interest in science and science fiction. While certainly not up to the same scientific standard, TOS of BSG falls into this category too. In other words, I probably wouldn't be into BSG right now if I hadn't watched Star Trek and TOS BSG (and Star Wars, for what it's worth) with my parents when I was a kid. While I love the grittiness and the mature content of the re-imagined BSG, there really isn't anything on TV right now to get kids and young people interested in science and science fiction. Even the new Star Trek movie is geared for adults -- with Uhura shimmying out of her clothes it's not exactly something you can your ten year old to see. What's the alternative? Transformers? Hancock? Maybe Star Trek should have been more serious about a series or movie about Starfleet targeted at young adults. We need both kinds of science fiction to satisfy adults who want grittier content and to pull in a younger audience so they can continue to be fans as adults.

Somewhat related, I really wish the Discovery Channel or NatGeo would get the rights to air Sagan's Cosmos series. I'm kind of tired of Shark Week. Morphed on NatGeo is kind of cool though.

Her getting undressed is probably more innocent than it seems. My guess is she's simply changing after going off-duty, and finds Kirk hiding under her bed after cavorting with the Orion woman (which is nothing we haven't seen on TOS). Then she chases him through the corridors. But of course, they cut the trailer to make it seem more sexy and exciting.

Possibly, but this "re-imagined" Star Trek is supposed to be grittier than previous Star Trek. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

We're on a BSG blog, and I could go for hours. Suffice to say I don't think I've heard them say that it's supposed to be 'grittier.' Anything but. A little more serious than the previous few series, perhaps. I think they're going for the Heroes/Lost crowd. Not trying to make Trek into those shows, but re-inventing it in a slightly different way to show those folks 'hey, Trek is just as cool as those shows, it just needs to be brought up to date.' Basically, it's what TOS or TNG would have been if they'd been made today, with a 21st century style and sensibility-- and better FX.

"Gritty." "Edgy". "Cool". "Attitude".

That's not adult. That's generic seat filler for kids.

We come in HD. Shoot 'n' fill. Shoot 'n' fill.

I agree that Ron Moore and company have definitely tried harder than most to make the follow the rules of science, but there are also some definite slip-ups. For instance, it's still not at all clear what the deal is with the "skin jobs." Humans and skinjobs can't be told apart (or at least only with great difficulty) and yet one of them can stick a cable into her arm and communicate raiders? Then there's the fact that there was a supposed cylon virus, and yet none of the final five got sick. Yes, theyr'e the final five, but as we've seen with them bringing back Ellen, they appear to be made int eh same way way as the skinjobs, so why wouldn't they get sick too? And on a not science but busg the hell out of me note... why does every other episode (or even more often than that) have to involve one member of Galactica's crew sticking a gun in the face of another crew member? Nevermind the two guns sideways and Starbucks always seems to be leading the crack team marines even though she's only supposed to be a pilot. It just seems to me that there's too much, "make it naturalistic until it suits the plot" going on.

It was established Starbuck is both a pilot and expert shot with a gun. Also, in Scar, it was established proficiency with a firearm would have been standard training because it lead to another fundamental of pilot training.

And the two guns thing? I can deal with that because it just looks too frakking cool.

Science matters. Plot matters more. Characters matter even more. Fracking cool shit trumps all.

I disagree with the person who claimed that BABYLON 5 ran out of steam in Season 5. What B5's Season Five did was take the story beyond the end of the Shadow and the Earth Civil Wars . . . which is what the fans did not want to see. They wanted to see the series end on a happy note with victory for the heroes, as it did by the end of Season 4. They did not want to see the results and consequences of those victories. Someone once claimed that in war stories, people want the stories to end with victory for the good guys . . . and not the consequences of that victory.

BABYLON 5 used Season 5 to set up the long years of consequences that Sheridan, Delenn and other familiar characters would have to face in the aftermath of the wars featured in the series. Season 5 had a powerful storyline . . . but it was depressing to watch. And the fans hated that. Which is why many of them claim that this final season was weak.

With all due respect to its fans, I've been watching the train wreck that is BSG slowly unfold over the years and, quite frankly, this is NOT hard SF. It's barely SF at all. And it is simply bad storytelling.

Stylish, yes. Well-acted, yes. But style has definitely trumped substance in a show whose writers clearly had no idea where they were going with their increasingly convoluted and meandering plotline that no last-minute infodump is going to salvage.

There isn't enough science in the fiction to fill a teacup, and it adheres to almost every tired cliche of the genre. Hardcore SF fans might forgive these sort of shortcomings in a run-of-the-mill space opera if it provided a healthy enough helping of spaceships and robots and spandex-clad heroines in peril, but this show does not.

What it offers instead is Peyton Place in Space. The epic story arc that seems to keep the fanboys in thrall is as incomprehensible as Baltar's survival and the raw sexual magnetism he seems to exert over every Cylon hottie in the galaxy. Seriously...it's weird enough that alien women keep trying to diddle us Earthmen...why would a bunch of mass-produced machines want to turn the Galactica into the truck stop at the end of the universe? Earth's rag-tag fugitive fleet and last hope for survival is being pursued to the end of the universe by a bunch of horny space baptists who want to have our babies? Really?

If there were any real logic to the show, Baltar would be dead or permanently consigned to the spaceship with the rubber walls, Cylons would probably come in more flavors than Baskin Robbins, no one would be suffering from live-or-memorex moral dilemmas while fighting for the survival of their species and just about every officer currently serving on the Galactica would be one psych evaluation away from a court martial.

The first Galactica was more fun. It was just as stupid...moreso, even...but at least it had plenty of robots and spaceships and things blowing up. In technicolor.

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