Moore these days seems almost exclusively interested in the endpoint rather than the journey. So "Unfinished Business" needs to be a story about Apollo and Starbuck's relationship, and thus crafts an entirely unconvincing sequence of flashbacks to justify the resuscitation of their on-again off-again love affair. We are expected to accept this ret-con of the characters without question, even as we beg to know why not a hint of this sudden backstory has been dropped before. Similarly, in "Hero," Adama reveals that just prior to the Cylon attack on the colonies he had led an illegal incursion into Cylon space, thus arguably provoking the machines' devastating onslaught. The viewer resents such massive elements of backstory being conjured from nowhere. This is not merely another permutation of the show's hopeless attempt to equate the humans with the Cylons—there is simply nothing humanity could have done to fairly invite the holocaust delivered upon them by their robotic creations. It also exhibits a simple lack of respect for anything but the moment. If Battlestar Galactica wants to tell a story about Adama feeling guilty for causing Armageddon, it will tell it however it can. There is no pleasure in watching a series happy to rewrite its own mythology for the quick shock (predictably, in subsequent episodes, Adama's revelation has not been mentioned again).(If you haven't done so already, check out Dan's previous Galactica essays: 1, 2, 3. I'm particularly fond of the second one, in which Dan lucidly diagnoses the Cylons' core disfunction months before the show's writers got around to acknowledging it.)
I came to Dan's article in a bit of a mood, having previously been pointed towards this write-up of a visit to the set of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip which included a Q&A with Aaron Sorkin. Reading between the lines, one gets the impression that the press gaggle in question was eager for a chance to bait the medium's resident enfant terrible, and he doesn't fail to deliver: first attacking the LA Times for what he describes as irresponsible reporting on his show, and then segueing to his favorite punching bag, online fan writers:
Next Sorkin ridiculed the whole idea that bloggers -- many of whom come from parts unknown, bearing grudges, perhaps, and not always a reliable sense of who they are and what they're really after -- be taken more seriously in the mainstream media than any random josephine walking down Main Street. "An enormous rise in amateurism," Sorkin said of the blogosphere. "And everyone's voice oughtn't be equal."I do realize how futile it is, at this point, to get worked up over the fact that Aaron Sorkin doesn't understand the internet and takes every opportunity to parade his ignorance of it, but in the context of television writing, Sorkin's words are nothing short of baffling. When was the last time any of you looked to mainstream, professional publications for thoughtful, in-depth television reviews? Against Dan Hartland's Battlestar Galactica series, here is some of what the professional media has to offer:
- First we have Nancy Franklin in The New Yorker, whose alleged review of the show kicks off with the following paragraph:
It’s easy for people who aren’t science- fiction enthusiasts to laugh at the genre—its earnestness, its lingo, its fans’ awestruck romance with the idea that God is in the details of equipment and uniforms and security code and how many moons orbit Planet X and why it’s called Planet X in the first place. Does it have something to do with the number ten, or is it meant to be a leaning cross, or is it a reference to the mark on Captain Blah’s forehead in the second episode of the third season of “Star Bores”? (Usually, a writer’s answer to such questions is “I called it Planet X because I liked the name.”) Making fun of science fiction became even easier after William Shatner, in a 1986 “Saturday Night Live” sketch set at a “Star Trek” convention, exploded at fans who asked him insanely pointless questions, “Get a life!” At first, even civilians who had never owned a “Star Trek" trading card or a toy phaser were a little stunned by this slap at the faithful; it’s amazing that Shatner ever worked again after inflicting that Vulcan nerve pinch. But his admonition was eventually incorporated into the fans’ self-image; you see self-aware, amused references to it in sci-fi blogs when someone goes on about something in a way that he knows may brand him as a geek.Not only is Franklin indulging in some of the most tired clichés about genre fans, she isn't even remotely close to her topic--how does she get from the new Battlestar Galactica to William Shatner? And while one can imagine bringing up fan reactions to a cultural artifact later in the article, how is it good writing to open with them?
- There are, of course, several variants on the 'I'm not a geek, I swear!' boilerplate. Attacking the fans is a popular option, but in her Salon article, Laura Miller chooses another old favorite--knocking down other works in the genre as a way of reminding the audience that the subject of her review is an abnormal specimen, and that she therefore can't be blamed for paying it any attention. "These shows have ranged from the passable ("Farscape") to the appalling ("Lexx," a sort of R-rated "H.R. Pufnstuf")," Miller wrote, and then got all excited over the fact that Galactica features a female character as innovative as Starbuck, who is a capable military officer and treats sex as recreation.
- Troy Patterson's essay at Slate needs no comment:
Battlestar Galactica (Sci Fi, Fridays at 9 p.m. ET), now entering its third season, is not science fiction—or "speculative fiction" or "SF," or whatever you're supposed to call it these days. Ignore the fact that the series is a remake of a late-'70s Star Wars knockoff. Forget that its action variously unfolds on starships and on a colonized planet called New Caprica. And never mind its stunning special effects, which outclass the endearingly schlocky stuff found elsewhere on its network. Sullen, complex, and eager to obsess over grand conspiracies and intimate betrayals alike, it is TV noir.
- And finally, Dan Martin writing just last week in The Guardian.
Before the sci-fi Channel's re-imagining of the series formerly known as "The Shite Star Wars", the genre was hardly on fighting form. As the Star Trek franchise declined exponentially with every splinter series, a spawn of even drearier efforts like Farscape and Babylon 5 sprung up in its wake. The only glimmer of quality, Joss Whedon's Firefly, was hauled off air after just half a season.The grammar in this paragraph is so tortured that I don't honestly know what Martin is trying to say, but I'm fairly certain he calls Farscape dreary. I realize that Farscape isn't everyone's cup of tea, and genre outsiders in particular might find it a bit of a trial, but the fact that Martin uses this particular adjective to describe the show can only mean that he has never watched a single episode.
I'm not holding my breath waiting for Aaron Sorkin to figure out how little he understands either the internet or the various facets of professionalism (frankly, if there are any epiphanies in his future, I hope they involve making Studio 60 even marginally watchable). It's probably best, when faced with the kind of outbursts that have become synonymous with his name, to sigh philosophically and try to concentrate on his still-impressive body of work. That said, I can't help but chuckle when I notice that the writer of the Oregon Live (the online version of the newspaper The Oregonian) article, who laps up Sorkin's dig at the amateurism of bloggers, ends the piece with a reference to "Matt Albie's drug problem."