Economy of Effort

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Battlestar Galactica

The new “Battlestar Galactica” series on SciFi Channel is easily the most surprising newer TV show I’ve seen. Given the franchise’s pedigree (the original cheesy ‘70s Star Wars ripoff TV show), I didn’t expect to be watching this show. But given the amount of hype in non-scifi media leading up to the new show’s debut, I decided to watch the 2003 mini-series that led to this show. What I found was something pretty good. So, I added the new show to the TiVO Season Pass, and it has not disappointed.

To me, quality sci-fi shows and movies are the ones that succeed in being believable, given their premise. “Sliders” is an example of this. The sci-fi of the original seasons was the premise that the characters could move between realities. The result was a show that was more of a historical game of “what-if” rather than a sci-fi show: the first two seasons were mostly about what Earth would be like if certain events had never happened, or happened differently (like, if the American colonies hadn’t broken away from the British empire). If we can accept the sci-fi premise of the show, everything that resulted from it were things that were conceivable.

Then there are the other kind of sci-fi shows: the ones that use the fact that they are sci-fi as the basis to do anything they wish, no matter how inane. These shows essentially use pseudo-technobabble as a way of justifying what is essentially no better than voodoo magic. They use “scifi” as a blank check to do any stupid thing they wish. An awful lot of scifi shows do this. To go back to “Sliders”, as that show progressed into its later seasons, it became obvious that the ideas were tapped out. So, a lot of extra junk was introduced to the show, and explained away with various half-hearted scifi explanations.

Battlestar, so far, mostly falls into the former camp. The show is based on the idea of space travel and AI that turns against its creators. Accept those ideas, and the rest of the show (so far) is reasonably believable. They haven’t tried to introduce any “magic” dressed up as sci-fi or anything. I mean, there is always an element of suspended disbelief. But, to me, the mark of a good sci-fi show is one that doesn’t require you to throw good sense out the window and accept any more ridiculous sci-fi “magic” than is absolutely necessary.

categories: TV