Blood & Chrome Demoted to Web Series

Whatever happened to the promised BATTLESTAR GALACTICA prequel series, BLOOD & CHROME, set to follow a young Bill Adama’s adventures during the early years of the first Cylon War? Apparently, it’s been shot down.

Once envisioned for TV, the series pilot will now be seen online, and then aired on SyFy at a later date. In an effort to revive interest in the long-under-the-radar series, a trailer was released. And, frak me, what a trailer it is! It’s packed with pulse-quickening action that will leave any space opera fan drooling.

Unfortunately, NBC-Universal has been hunting down the trailer with the relentlessness of a cylon, so I have to link to the good people at GeekTyrant, who still have the clip up and running.
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Captivating Caprica

Zoe

There’s something rotten on CAPRICA, and I love it. There’s a palpable sense of menace lurking just beneath the surface of gleaming Caprica City, and that makes it interesting. There’s something festering deep down, and it will be a wonder if the Twelve Colonies last long enough to be brought down by the cylons.

Let’s start at the end of the episode: Amanda (Paula Malcomson) “outing” her daughter as a member of Soldiers of the One, based on nothing more than a piece of jewelry and her own fears. The episode piled up revelation after revelation about Zoe — both for viewers and Amanda. Plus, as as a devoted polytheist, Amanda reacted with shame and disgust at the prospect of her daughter being a monotheist. Lashing out seemed like an obvious release of her shock. If Amanda really did not know her daughter, then maybe Zoe could have been a religious extremist. But was her bruised ego worth turning an entire world against her family?
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THE PLAN: It All Comes Together, and I Love It!

Cavil and Sharon

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE PLAN reveals that yes, there was a Plan – to kill all the humans — but it went wrong, and then the humanoid cylons frakked up. Because to err is human. No one was supposed to be alive — humans or cylons. The skinjobs were supposed to be pre-positioned to cause destruction, not forced to mop up afterward. But as the skinjobs lived among the humans, they began to fall in love, and as Six told Cavil, “You can’t declare war on love.”

It’s great to see new scenes with our old friends. The story fills in blanks left in the regular series; THE PLAN doesn’t so much fill in gaps as expand on what was hinted at happening offscreen. We saw things from the other side, including how Cavil (Dean Stockwell) controlled Sharon (Grace Park) — using a carving of an elephant that activated post-hypnotic suggestions — why Ellen Tigh (Kate Vernon) did not show up immediately, and exactly how the Shelly version of Six (Tricia Helfer) disappeared so completely after trying to discredit Baltar and his cylon-detecting machine. The Simons (Rick Worthy) were the least-developed model in the series, but here the 4s get major attention. Cavil spent the entirety of the series trying to get the cylons in the fleet to pick up the pieces.
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Heroes 4x: Rejection of the Mundane

I have figured out what’s wrong with HEROES — at least as far as I’m concerned. The characters of HEROES are, with the exception of Hiro, obsessed with leading “normal” lives, lives that do not feature healing factors or mind-control. In other words, they aspire to lives of quiet desperation. Which is exactly the kind of lives most of the viewership is desperate to escape! The show and its fans are ships passing in the night, going in opposite directions. Most HEROES watchers imagine what it would be like to live an extraordinary life, rather than an existence defined by mind-numbing work and scrambling for paychecks. There’s clearly a disconnect when the stories are striving to be low-key. Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to tell stories that people can relate to. But how about relating to the best parts of them, the aspirational parts? Spider-Man’s mantra is, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Well, along with great power and responsibility comes the need for great stories, not pedestrian ones. Extraordinary characters call for extraordinary stories. The heroes may want to be “normal,” but the stories should aspire to be more. Sure, Peter Parker is famous for wanting to get on with his life, including attending school and holding down a job, but sooner or later the Scorpion, or Venom shows up and puts Spider-Man through his arachnid-powered paces.

It is possible to tell stories about emotions and feelings people can relate to while using science fiction and fantasy as the conduit. That’s what made BATTLESTAR GALACTICA so compelling: the stories were all about human conflict, but they were dramatized by people and robots and spaceships. BSG did not shy away from its milieu, it embraced it to tell stories in a way no other show could, using what was unique about its premise. Want to explore questions about parenthood? Tell a story about a Cylon that desires to have a baby. For the most part, HEROES is not using what makes it unique to tell compelling stories. “Claire has a nosy new friend” is not a story; it’s a potential complicating factor within a story. “Peter wants to help people” is not a story; it’s a potential motivation for a story.

HEROES has been plagued by routine: Either the powered folks are trying to stop someone from blowing up New York/the world, or struggling with vaguely-motivated “villains,” or they’re trying to deny their powers. It should not be hard to tell an involving story about Hayden Panettiere‘s Claire, the indestructible teenager. She cannot be killed, but she has myriad other vulnerabilities. And there are fates worse than death! The British series TORCHWOOD also features a character who cannot die, Capt. Jack Harkness. But TORCHWOOD is never boring, because Jack gets put through the wringer by problems that test his humanity as well as his immortality. (For example, he was buried underground for 2,000 years; constantly suffocating and reviving in an endless cycle. Who wouldn’t prefer true death?) What does being unable to die do to the mindset of a young woman? The parallels for teenage alienation practically write themselves. And, until the-powers-that-be at HEROES apply their brainpower, they may have to…

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 3/23/09

“Earth is a dream.”
—Bill Adama

This was the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA series finale I was dreaming about: a near-perfect payoff; my reward for carefully watching this intricate, challenging story for years. The Lords of Kobol gave us the perfect capstone; an ending that complements the beginning and middle of an often-surprising, consistently entertaining series. This will be remembered for 150,000 years. There was near-perfect symmetry in the series: The story began with the Cylons attacking the 12 Colonies and very nearly wiping out humanity; it ended with the humans attacking the Cylon Colony, and probably wiping out the humanoid models. The ancient battlestar, Galactica, was scheduled to be scrapped when the miniseries began; it was literally melted down in our sun (accompanied by the 1978 theme music) at the end. In the beginning, Cylons tried to destroy Galactica; in the end, the Five helped save it. The dream of the Opera House — first seen in the season one finale — was literally acted out in the corridors of Galactica in the series finale. Baltar and Six embraced the roles dictated by destiny — excuse me, God. Heck, everyone embraced their prophesied roles. Religion itself, which has been a driving force throughout the series, was finally validated with the reveal that Virtual Six and Virtual Baltar were, indeed, angels — or at least agents of God. (“You now it doesn’t like that name,” Angel Baltar chided. LOL) But what the hell was Starbuck? Most likely an angel as well. She fulfilled her destiny as the “harbinger of doom” by leading mankind to the dead husk of the original Earth, but resurrected and delivered humanity to the promised land at last. And “dying leader” Laura Roslin actually got to see it happen.

I know, I’m just gushing, but can you blame me? The double-size episode had just about everything: action, romance, friendship, betrayal, sacrifice, heroism, cowardice, life, death, love, hate and revelation. And the renewal of hope. There’s too much to talk about so, by your command, I’ll try to organize it all with bullet points.

•The character backstories were completed. We learned how Laura ended up in politics, why Lee enlisted and why Adama was being put out to pasture with his ship. Speaking of his ship, when the old man did took his final flight, he was flying his old personal Viper (callsign “Husker”) — the one Tyrol and the deckhands gave him as a retirement present in the very first episode. So he finally got to fly it.

•I liked Lee’s idea to abandon technology: “We break the cycle. Leave it all behind and start over.” However, it was a choice I could never make. I wonder if any of the other 39,000+ survivors resented going native?

•Since the Sixes and Eights stayed on Earth, the Ones, Fours and Fives were left with no female Cylons, so unless they were able to figure out the secret of resurrection from the bits that were transmitted to the Colony, all the Cavils, Simons and Dorals died out. I presume there might have been a handful of Sharons left scattered on a few surviving basestars, but the chances of conceiving children “naturally” were too remote to save the race. Did you notice that the Colony was guarded by old-school, 1978-vintage Centurions? But I heard nary a “By your command.” Let’s hope giving the modern Centurions the basestar convinced them not to try build humanoid models again. “All this has happened before,” Angel Six noted. “But does it all have to happen again,” Angel Baltar responded. Does it, indeed?

•Dr. Gaius Baltar, the man who betrayed the human race, got a happily-ever-after. He got live on a lush new world with his beloved Caprica Six because it turned out he wasn’t evil (or just weak) — he was just playing his role in God’s plan. Virtual Six assured him all along that he was playing a pivotal role in God’s grand scheme, and now we know she was serious. When Cavil held Hera at gunpoint, he demanded to know, “How do you know God’s on your side?” Baltar answered that God isn’t on anyone’s side. “God’s a force of nature, beyond good and evil.”

•The quiet way Laura slipped away while watching the animals and listening to Bill jabber was touching. I was so glad he got to say goodbye to the people who mattered to him. The final exchange of his signature greeting with Starbuck — “What do you hear, Starbuck?” “Nothing but the rain.” “Then grab your gun and bring in the cat.” — was the same thing they said when we first saw them in the very first episode of the miniseries.

•When Bill ordered Kara to jump the ship without the rendezvous coordinates, she moaned, “There must be some kind of way out of here.” I’ll bet that was the precise moment you thought of the mathematical formulae Kara made from Hera’s music. After delivering the ragtag fleet to paradise, Kara said goodbye to Lee and simply evaporated. “I’ve completed my journey,” she said. “It feels good.”

Just like watching this episode felt good. After such a long journey, it’s good to finally reach your destination and relax. Executive producer Ronald D. Moore, who shepherded this reimagining of the series to TV, rewarded himself by playing the man reading the National Geographic at the end of the episode. It’s good to be the boss. And even though the series is over, it’s a frakkin’ good time to be a fan of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. So say we all!

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 3/16/09

KINGS is NBC’s ambitious new series about a mythical land called Gilboa, the capital of which looks a lot like Manhattan with some extra CGI skyscrapers. Gilboa is ruled by good King Silas. Ian McShane (ex-Al Swearengen, DEADWOOD) is a commanding presence even without a crown, but I kept waiting for him to unleash one of Swearengen’s patented expletive-laced tirades. Silas is the kind of benevolent monarch who doesn’t like to leave crowds of admiring subjects shivering in the cold, waiting for one of his extemporaneous speeches. He’s old-fashioned enough to be embarrassed to the point of homophobia by a gay son, but modern enough to be a puppet of the military-industrial complex — personified by his conniving brother-in-law, William. Silas also has a mistress and (in the best tradition of soaps) a secret son. Susanna Thompson (ex-Karen, ONCE & AGAIN) plays his official consort with quite a bit more humanity than she showed as the Borg Queen on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. The story turns on young soldier David Shepherd rescuing Prince Jack from the enemy. (He’s like a shepherd rescuing a lost lamb, get it?) He did this by facing down an enemy tank dubbed “Goliath.” And yes, the newspaper headlines read “David vs. Goliath.” Unfortunately, that’s about the level of subtlety in the entire two-hour premiere. The hero was handsome and square-jawed; Princess Michelle was beautiful and worried about health care for her people (especially the children!); and political intrigue oozed from myriad LCD TV screen. I like this sort of thing a lot better when it’s happening on THE TUDORS (but that Showtime series doesn’t return until April 8), because I just can’t wrap my head around a modern monarchy. At least a king that actually functions as head of state instead of serving as a figurehead. I figure I’ll watch again if KINGS is still around after THE AMAZING RACE is over.

Speaking of the 8 o’clock start time, the gloves came off on THE AMAZING RACE 14 after Margie and Luke U-Turned the eliminated duo last week; Luke is now “the sinister deaf kid.” In 2009, everything is political, so I leave it to the deaf community to deal with Luke’s refusal to read lips, but I would suggest it’s a good thing that he could be viewed as a “villain,” just like any other racer. This week, the teams were rushin’ across Russia, and drove a snow plow and ran a mile in their underwear. (Yeah, I didn’t know that was an authentic “Russian” activity, either.) But it was fun to watch. As a thong-clad Christie noted, “I knew it would be bare minimum, but I didn’t know it would be my bare minimum!” She and Jody…er, brough up the rear, but they were not eliminated; instead, next week they will be penalized by runnig a “Speed Bump” — an extra task that might make them finish last again, and get bounced.

BREAKING BAD managed to bump up the paranoia and fear this week, with Walt and Jesse prisoners of the increasingly erratic Tuco. If you’ve been watching, you understand just how frightening the concept of an “increasingly erratic Tuco” is. In the pressure-cooker of Tuco’s safe house, the drug lord prepared to drag his top cookers to Mexico. Meanwhile, the guys tried to figure out how to kill Tuco with the ricin Walt had prepared. Unfortunately, merely touching the poison didn’t kill him fast enough, so what followed a tense series of near-misses in which Tuco nearly ingested the toxin, only to be saved at the last second. But his last seconds still arrived, courtesy of DEA agent Hank, who tracked Tuco down and gunned him down. The interesting revelation here is that Jesse believes Walt is as good as dead from the lung cancer. He believed Walt should have been willing to risk what’s left of his life to take out Tuco. From now on, Walt should regard Jesse with even more suspicion than usual.

Part One of the three-part series finale of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA began the endgame by taking viewers back to the beginning — actually, before the beginning — for a glimpse life on Caprica before the Fall. (Not everyone lived on Caprica, which is why we only saw stories involving Laura, Bill, Kara, Lee and Baltar/Six. Tyrol and Sharon were on Picon, for example.) The peek was devoted to showing what our friends were doing before their civilization was destroyed. In a way, Laura’s world ended when her father and sisters were killed by a drunken driver (different planet; same problems). Contrast that with Gaius Baltar’s alcohol-fueled encounter with Six in the back of a limousine. Clearly, he had just met her, and was so manic and distracted (by, among other things, his father, Julius, who was suffering from dementia) that it was understandable how she would be able to manipulate him. We also got to see Lee introduced to Kara by her boyfriend, his brother Zak (a character played in the original series by a young Rick Springfield, who is now GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Dr. Noah Drake).

Aboard Galactica in the present:
•An imprisoned Tyrol (He unwittingly helped Boomer kidnap Hera.) told Karl that all the Sharons are alike because, “We made them the same.” But Karl insisted Athena was different. Well, Cavil was certainly convinced that Karl and Athena’s child, Hera, was different. At the Colony, Cavil coldly resolved to dissect the child and determine what made the “half-human, half-Cylon curiosity” tick. A Simon was eager to start the operation, and a Doral seemed to be in agreement, but Boomer was (of course) against destroying the miracle child.
•Kara told Bill she found her body on Earth and burned it, and as a consequence, “I don’t know what I am.” He looked at her and said, “I know what you are. You’re my daughter. Don’t forget it.” Then he had her plug in Anders so he could ask the makeshift Hybrid how to find the Colony. Later, Bill resolved to lead the decaying Galactica on one last (one-way) mission against the Colony. Ironically, we saw Lee Adama ram the Battlestar Pegasus into a basestar back in Season 3’s Exodus, Part II. When the Old Man asked for volunteers to crew the suicide mission, Galactica’s command staff, Bill and Tigh, as well as civilian leaders President Roslin and Vice President Lee, join the mission; Ellen claimed the Five would go on the mission. So who will be in charge of the fleet/rebel Cylons? Can the Quorum govern without a strong leader? Perhaps Baltar believes he can fill the power vacuum. Paulla claimed that Baltar’s followers control more than 50 percent of the ships in the fleet. Earlier, Virtual-Six had told Baltar, “The End Times are approaching. Humanity’s final chapters are about to be written, and you will be its author.” Sounds like a mandate from the Gods, right? Also earlier, Lee accused Baltar never having acted in an altruistic manner — of never having done anything that didn’t benefit him directly. Then, just a couple of hours later, Gaius got a chance to sacrifice himself for the survival of humanity and… he slinked into the shadows, letting others step up. Oh, Baltar… At the opposite end of the spectrum, Bill had to bar Doc Cottle from volunteering, because the fleet could not afford to lose a doctor. Based on info from Anders, Racetrack and Skulls were aent to locate the Colony: it was hidden in an asteroid field, and perched on the accretion disc of a black hole. An “accretion disc” is otherwise known as an “event horizon,” and is the visible matter being sucked into a black hole (which is invisible). Think of it like water spiraling down a drain. The Colony’s clever placement allows for only one possible approach, which will be heavily guarded. Good thing master strategists/tacticians Kara and Lee are on the case! If anyone can get Galactica close, those two can. Next time: a special two-hour block wraps up the series.

Will there be a “next time” for DOLLHOUSE ? This is still a show that I want to like more than I do — not just because I’m a big fan of Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku, but because I see a lot of potential in the premise of agents who minds and abilities are programmable based on their missions. The possibilities really are limitless, but I fear the conventions of TV will demand a lot of “shoot ’em up” adventures that will all blend together. Take this week’s installment, in which Echo was programmed to be blind in order to infiltrate a reclusive religious cult with a charismatic leader. (How ironic that in this, Echo’s least-sexy assignment, Dushku has never looked prettier.) I found that plot highly intriguing, yet by the end of the episode, the ATF had predictably invaded and the compound was on fire. I wonder if the show will be allowed enough time to find its feet or, to put it another way… find its identity.

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 3/9/09

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’s Admiral Adama faced an ugly truth: Both of his ladies were dying — President Laura Roslin and the Galactica herself. The Cylon bio-resin was not bonding with the aging battlestar’s alloys, and the ship was barely holding together. (She was projected to have maybe five FTL jumps left in her.) Lee explained to the fleet captains that the plan was to transfer the admiral’s flag to the rebel Cylon base star — the only means left to defend the fleet — but the captains were more interested in picking apart the corpse of the great lady (Galactica, not Roslin). Meanwhile, Ellen suggested that Boomer would take the kidnapped Hera to “the Colony,” where the Cylons went after the armistice. Ellen said the Five were trying to end the cycle of war between man and machine (all this has happened before, and will happen again), and Hera represents another chance at sexual reproduction (all this has happened before, and will happen again). Kara urged a rescue mission, but Bill shouted that he was finished with “destiny,” “prophecies,” “god” and “gods” because none of it had helped; every appeal to higher powers had led to this point: nowhere. And talk about a breakdown in discipline: Bill and Laura toked up right there in sick bay? Not far away in sick bay, an Eight lay dying, and before she passed she told her “father,” Saul, that there was “too much confusion” — a line from “All Along the Watchtower,” the song that carries so much significance for the skinjobs. (Will it turn out that Bob Dylan was a humanoid Cylon?)

While on the hijacked Raptor, Boomer was cruel to little Hera, who revealed that she was capable of Cylon projection. Meanwhile the parents she left behind, Helo and Athena, were at odds as she struggled to deal with the loss of her child and Karl accidentally having sex with her twin, Boomer. That “dream” of the Opera House she had with Roslin and Caprica sure smacked of projection, so could Athena use it to contact Hera? Kara tried to connect with Anders, who was placed in a Hybrid tank and began speaking/behaving like a Hybrid. He began babbling, including claiming, “All this has happened before and will happen again,” and, “You are the harbinger of death, Kara Thrace.” But Baltar thought she was more than a “mere” harbinger of death — she was Death (or at least dead). He declared to all and sundry that the blood on her dog tags was from “necrotic flesh,” and branded her “living proof” of life after death. He suggested she has “crossed over.” But that still doesn’t explain what she is — a ghost? A demon? Bill crossed over the line (again) when he flipped out with the paint, but instead of deciding to make as fortune as the Colonial Jackson Pollack, he decided to abandon ship and strip Galactica for parts. I guess March 20 really will be the end of the line…

As the second season of BREAKING BAD got under way, science teacher Walter White calculated that he needed to amass $737,000 dollars in order to leave his family a sufficient nest egg when he dies of inoperable lung cancer in a couple of months. That means he and partner Jesse (Aaron Paul) need to cook enough crystal meth for 11 more drug deals with the psychotically unstable Tuco (Raymond Cruz). But can they, when Tuco seems to be killing his own associates and Walt’s brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) the DEA agent is zeroing in on the mysterious new drug lord in town? The new season amplifies the paranoia that began to take hold in the second half of the freshman season. With Walt and Jesse spooked by every dark van on every corner, they resolve to kill Tuco before he can kill them first. But leave it to Walt to…er, cook up a plan to murder the drug lord with ricin by refining castor beans. Sure, it’s more untraceable than bullets, but yeesh, talk about a complicated plan! Still, that’s part and parcel of what makes BREAKING BAD so entertaining: seeing stuff you won’t find on law-and-order shows. Star Bryan Cranston took home last year’s Emmy for lead actor for playing Walt, it’s a damn shame more people aren’t tuning in to AMC at 10 o’clock on Sunday nights for this show. BAD is so good, you need to try it, and it needs every viewer it can get.

Contrast BREAKING BAD with another underperforming show: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. I am fully aware that my dislike of FNL is mostly irrational — but I still really hate it. Part of the reason stems from my conviction that the vast majority of the show’s “fans” claim to like it because they’re supposed to like. FNL is one of what I call The Emperor’s New Shows. People fall all over themselves to proclaim their love for a show because they think it will make them look sophisticated. That must be the reason this dull-as-watching-grass-wither-and-die show boasts even the tiny audience it has. Because I cannot believe even the people who are on it would watch it on their own. And I love football, so it’s not the sports. It’s the plots that pass for “stories” I cannot get behind. This week, Tami (Connie Britton) wanted to buy a house they couldn’t afford, so we got to watch Eric (Kyle Chandler) stand stock-still in the foyer and fume that they couldn’t afford it, while she rhapsodized about the size of the backyard. Zzzzzzz. (I am leaving aside the fact that the episode was shot in early 2008, before the idea of taking out a mortgage you couldn’t afford became more anathema than joining a terrorist cell.) And, of course, the most viewer-unfriendly aspect of the show is the laughable camerawork. I used to think the camera operators were just clumsy and constantly dropping them to the ground, and the-powers-that-be decided to use the footage captured on the way down rather than pay to remount the scene. But now I realize it’s all just embarrassingly self-indulgent directors who are ignoring their responsibility to tell stories (not that I blame them, with these scripts!) in favor of flashy camera movements that distract the viewer’s eye. Instead of watching some parent complain because his son hasn’t been elected president — I mean, starting running back — I see the camera doing somersaults, as if to say “Hey! Look at me! Look at the way I’m moving the camera! Instead of focusing on the character doing the talking, I’m spinning around the actor’s left ear and then zooming in on the salt shaker in the kitchen in the background! Isn’t that, like, just so arty?”. Annoying is what it is.