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I Think I Finally Get It

As you folks know, Iíve been thinking about the negative reaction that the long-standing fan-base of the original Battlestar Galactica has had to the approach Ron D. Moore has taken in re-imagining the show for the SciFi Channel. Iíve never quite understood the emotional attachment that the old-time fans have to the show, flaws and all, nor their oft-rabid insistence that any approach to Galactica should at the very least retain the look and feel of the original, if not be a continuation of the original series.

Over the past few days, Iíve been reading reviews on the new Galactica by both the press and the fandom. The press reports are split roughly fifty-fifty, while most of fandom is negative. Still, those reviews paved the way for a new perspective on the fansí viewpoint. I gained this perspective by comparing whatís happening with Galactica right now to what happened but a few years ago with Galacticaís cinematic contemporary (and legal opponent): Star Wars.

If youíve read my review of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, youíll know why Iím not the fondest of people when it comes to George Lucasí own re-imagining. Itís as though he forgot or neglected what made the Original Trilogy fun. Instead of the larger-than-life personalities of Luke, Han and Leia, we got the formidable-yet-distant Qui-Gon Obi-Wan and Padmť (who had a little too much quiet in the quiet charisma stakes when she wasnít being Queen, and not enough nobility when she was) and the conflicted teen Anakin. Donít get me wrong, Qui-Gon has a soft spot in my heart forever for that piece of dialogue in response to Anakinís assertion in Phantom Menace that no-one can kill a Jedi: ďI wish that were so.Ē But itís the exception that proves the rule; the Original Trilogy was littered with little character moments like that when the three leads interacted.

Rather than spreading the child-like antics (that would rope the kids in) around amongst a great number of ďface-lessĒ creatures like the Ewoks (letís face it, even adults have a soft spot for teddy-bears, and donít you dare try to tell me otherwise, you liars), he concentrated them into two characters, Jar-Jar Binks and the young Anakin Skywalker, whom adult audiences found extremely annoying as a result (adults usually donít have soft-spots for weird-looking fish-guys and pre-teens, especially pre-teens who pull off the incredible with accidental ease). He seemed to be attempting a character drama in the midst of a space opera whilst still trying to pander to the inevitable child audience, whilst forgetting that itís the larger-than-life characters Ė which seldom have faults Ė whom audiences become infatuated with.

Ron Mooreís mission statement for the Galactica mini-series spells out a similar approach; ďportray(ing) human beings as flawedĒ, of ďbringing realism to science fictionĒ. The criticisms of wooden and unheroic performances and a show that lacks heart that have been levelled against the new mini-series by the fans and that negative 50% of the press reviews ring quite similar to those levelled against the Star Wars Prequels.

Hereís the thing, though. I can talk about what I see as flaws in George Lucasí prequels until the cows come home; so can other fans of the Original Trilogy and the generally ambivalent film critics. But, in a time when fun summer-film SF like Terminator 3 and Hulk draws mediocre-to-bad box-office with its larger than life characters, itís the Prequel Star Wars Trilogy that consistently draws massive crowds, even taking into account its immensely popular brand name (youíd think Terminator 3 would have done better than it did were brand recognition all that was needed). It looks as though George Lucas was on to something after all; his flawed, awkward and distant characters are just what modern audiences are willing to see (and see again), even if fans of the Original Trilogy is left feeling alienated.

Letís face it: times, and the tastes of the silent, non-hardcore viewer base, change. If the ongoing success of the Star Wars Prequels is any indication, Ron Moore may well be right in his assertion that the broader viewer base may, to paraphrase, be ready for a bigger meal than popcorn. The original Galactica fan base, spread as it is across the US and overseas, just isnít big enough to make a commercial success of a TV series or motion picture feature (which has to succeed in the US market before it can go international) if no one but the fans came to watch.

This is why I still think that the vocal Galactica fan community is holding a little too tight to their beloved show; theyíre holding it so close to them that they canít see past it. They canít see that, even though the original show rated well, the non-fan audience has gone and changed in the intervening twenty-five years. But I can understand that clinging a little better than before. I think I finally understand what the old-time Galactica fans mean when they say that those who pan the original Galactica just donít ďget itĒ.

I just donít think that what the fans ďgetĒ, no matter how much I myself may understand and even enjoy it, will be commercially successful nowadays. That sense of innocent fun that categorised both the Original Star Wars Trilogy and the original Battlestar Galactica just doesnít cut it any more.

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