Over at Augury I found a bit about the new season of Battlestar: Galactica. There is a lot of controversy over the plot at the launch of the new season. It seems the humans have had to resort to suicide bomber attacks, and some parallels between the story and current events are causing an uproar. It portrays the Cylons as the “occupation” and the humans as “freedom fighters” who are obliged to use “suicide attacks”.
People seem to be divided into two camps:
- Casting the bad guys as the Americans in the Iraq war and having the other side (humans) argue about the morality of suicide attacks is a grotesque and heavy-handed allegory.
- The show is just trying to make you think. That’s what science fiction is for.
I have only seen the pilot episode / miniseries / whatever it was, and have not checked out the show itself yet, so I don’t know the specifics of this. I will say that I think the most obvious mistake is having the characters use the language of the current war in Iraq. I think this is what makes it seem so clumsy and heavy-handed. The writers should have come up with different words to use so that it wouldn’t be so jarring. Hearing “suicide bomber” – a term that entered use in just the last couple of years and is now on the news regularly – is a terrible idea. This is like having characters talk about their blogs.
They could have instead used “kamakaze”, or (even better) they could have come up with a new word for this. Then it would have seemed more like an exploration of the idea of suicide attacks as a tool of warfare and less like a fumbling allegory of the Iraq war.
I think its an interesting idea: What if we were in a spot where we were outmatched by a superior foe, but we found we could gain an advantage if we were willing to use suicide attacks as a weapon? There are a lot of hooks here that could yield interesting stories. Despite being from the other side of the galaxy (or whatever) the humans in this story obviously hold very western attitudes and values, so finding a volunteers would not be easy. How would commanders react to giving such an order? What if nobody volunteered? How many lives are worth how much gain? At what point does the idea become so costly that they will no longer consider it? For example: what if we could win the war in a single stroke, but we need 10 people willing to die, and we need to know that none of them will chicken out at the last minute? So, if one person chickens out the plan fails, but the other people still die? What if this potential suicide attack was a window of opportunity that was only available for a limited time, but (if they could do it) would deal a real blow to the Cylons?
This stuff is gold, from a writer’s standpoint. You could write a dozen short stories (and thus: a dozen episodes) on this by just looking at it from various angles and exploring all of the ways people react to this idea. The only danger is that you will yank the audience out of the story by reminding them that it was written today. Your characters should never use the lingo of the nightly news. This is the very reason they have space-jargon in sci-fi.
Sadly, it sounds like the show was going downhill even before this happened. Lurking around various comment threads I can see a lot of people echoing the same complaints. It looks like this is a very American television show: Launch with great fanfare but no clue as to where the long-term plot arc should be headed. Then just wing it until the show gets canceled. If you write yourself into a corner, pull out a Dues Ex Machina or two, toss in some controversy, and then just sort of gloss over it and move on.
On the upside, it looks like Vandread is pretty good. I guess I’ll just stick with the Japanese to fill my hunger for Sci-fi.
(One final note: Let’s see if we can keep from getting into a debate over the war. Really. The ‘net is wall-to-wall with people talking about it. We’re talking about TV shows here. Don’t be that guy.)
Revisiting a Dead Engine
I wanted to take the file format of a late 90s shooter and read it in modern-day Unity. This is the result.
What is this silly word, why did some people get so irritated by it, and why did it fall out of use?
A video Let's Play series I collaborated on from 2009 to 2017.
Why Google sucks, and what made me switch to crowdfunding for this site.
Dead or Alive 5 Last Round
I'm not surprised a fighting game has an absurd story. I just can't figure out why they bothered with the story at all.