Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome (series review)

(This is part of a series of reviews of online sci-fi and fantasy.)

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: BLOOD AND CHROME

So, the Battlestar Galactica prequel movie, Blood and Chrome, is finally here.

But, interestingly, it’s not being seen on SyFy. It’s not being released on DVD or Blu. Not yet, anyway.

No, it’s being released in segments of about 20 minutes every Friday on Youtube.

Yes, Youtube.

It’s hard to figure out if this is an example of being with the times or if it’s an example of a serious fall from grace. But here are a few thoughts and concerns about this prequel movie:

1. Does it work as a prequel? Yes. It’s another show about Adama, and takes place at the beginning of his career. My only wish is that they had inserted a couple lines about the beginning of the war that might have answered, even slightly, a few questions about Caprica — considering Caprica ended on a cliffhanger and never had a chance to show us how the war started. (Maybe that’s a good thing — as good as Caprica was, it muddied the waters regarding the Cylon war, by explaining TOO much and NOT ENOUGH at the same time!) As it stands, it’s another early adventure of Adama, like they did with those webisodes that were connected to the BSG: Razor movie.

2. What’s the deal with the online release? I don’t know. I haven’t read too much about this. The way the release schedule works is this: each week, they put out two chunks of the show, and it feels like these chunks are divided right where the commercial break would fit in. This adds up to about twenty minutes every Friday, which is enough content to feel like you are actually getting some story. If they did just 10 minutes a week, it would not be nearly as satisfying.

It’s interesting to do it this way, though, because it seems like this would kill any interest people would have in watching it when it airs on SyFy early next year, and possibly kill any interest in buying it as well. I wonder if they are doing it this way to gauge fan response, as a guide if they were to make more? I’m not sure.

3. What about production values? This was meant to be a television movie, which is good. Then they announced that it was going to be all digital, with very few practical sets, which could be bad. Then they announced it was going to be released, at first, as a web series, which has the potential of being REALLY bad.

But they have come a LONG way from the digital/green screen sets and effects since the days of the Dune mini-series. The actors sell the effects, making you at least believe they believe they are really there. There were a few moments when it felt like the sets just weren’t real enough, but it has surprised me how little that happened.

As for the special effects, on the tiny screen, anyway, it holds up as an actual episode of the show. The outer space battles are exciting, and even the creature effects integrate with the human actors. That’s on my iPod . . . it might be different on an HD TV.

The music: Bear McCreary is BACK! And it’s GREAT! There are some things he has done that I have not heard, but I have never heard something he has done that I didn’t like.

The acting: it is good enough, and I have a feeling if this would go to series we’d come to like these characters. The guy playing Adama is the fourth actor to play Adama in new Battlestar Galactica (one in the regular series, one in Caprica, and one in the BSG: Razor movie and connected web series that told another story of young Adama in the war) and I feel like he hasn’t had a chance to connect with the character yet. Unlike the other characters so far, he’s the only one who is working with a pre-existing character (as far as I know) and he needs time to grow into it, the same way we need time to get used to him.

The writing: While sometimes the dialogue is a bit clunky, and there is a LOT of shouting, I’ll give it this: the writers have done a great job of raising the stakes at every turn. They craft the story so that every time an obstacle is conquered, the characters find themselves in a worse situation. And even the good things that help them out of the last situation thrusts them into another, possibly worse, situation. It’s good storytelling in that regard. (It better be, the script has six or seven writers!)

4. Does it deserve to be called Battlestar Galactica? While I don’t love BSG the way I used to (I doubt I will watch the series again, because of the time commitment and the melancholy and nihilistic tone of the show), when I was watching it as it was coming out I was impressed with every episode how they deftly wove theme, drama, action, tension, effects, and music into a single episode. The episodes often were About Something, and the characters did stupid things that we hated because we liked the characters . . . making the things they did that we hated sting that much more. It was morally grey, but in a thought-provoking way. Themes of faith and doubt and regret and duty and even good and evil resounded with me as a Christian, although often they resounded with me because I was yelling at the people on the screen — the GOOD people — to stop because what they were doing was wrong. But by putting these characters in those positions, and exploring those decisions, it caused thought and discussion. I do not recommend the series to everyone — it’s dark tone is overwhelming at times, and whenever there is a glimmer of hope it is usually drowned out by nihilism.

So far, Blood and Chrome is not that. Blood and Chrome is, however, an interesting enough return to the universe. So far. It’s an action adventure with a theme that only goes as deep as “we must complete the mission.” But if you are a fan of the new Battlestar Galactica series, you’ll like this. And if you’re a fan of action/adventure without deep moral conundrums, you’ll like this more than the series.

5. What about the SyFy channel showing and the DVD/Blu-Ray release? I’m assuming the SyFy channel showing is going to be the same as the Youtube release, only all together and with commercials. The SyFy release is being touted as the “Uncut”, the DVD/Blu-Ray is being touted as “Unrated”. I’m assuming that “unrated” means that instead of conveniently dropped wrenches when characters shout expletives (yes, it’s as bad as it sounds — those early scenes on the flight deck feature weird, dialogue obscuring tool dropping at precise moments) and probably some nudity in the shower scenes (yes, just like Battlestar Galactica, they all shower together . . . and random, brief, gratuitous nudity is a staple, unfortunately, of the feature length DVD releases). I don’t know — I haven’t seen or heard anything about that. As soon as the scene went to the showers, I just figured since they are promoting it as “unrated”, that’s the part that was removed to make it “rated”.

I won’t be buying this, though. I don’t have to — I’m watching it for free, online. And you can too, right here:

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