Hi all, I've seen the first four episodes now and, well, not enjoying them that much sadly.
I think at the heart of it is a problem that keeps plaguing science fiction franchises, and that problem is fanservice. The most egregious form of this is of course the Star Wars prequels, which loudly beat the drum by stating that it would all be about Anakin becoming Vader and the Clone Wars. Fans went nuts, without realising that backstory almost always should remain simply backstory, as the alternative is a terrible lack of tension and horrible, clumsy, forced foreshadowing.
(In a little aside I thought of way the whole Anakin becomes Vader thing could work, but it was way more Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy meets I Claudius meets Bladerunner meets Tianemmen Square with the Jedi as well-meaning but oppressive 'peacekeepers' who can't understand why the galaxy's young are revolting against them. Clue: It's because they're boring conceited pricks who run things behind the scenes.)
The more fleshed out a sci-fi series becomes the more rigid the straight-jacket of storytelling expectations becomes. We pretty much knew everything about the first Cylon war from vanilla BSG, and there was nowhere thematically or characterwise it could have gone that would have been interesting. So perhaps there was some wisdom in trying to make it Top Gun in space, but sadly since BSG's original style is entirely realist sci-fi this kind of ends up feeling like fan-fiction. And not terribly good fan-fiction at that. So the producers start scratching their heads and trying to figure out what WE want to see, and that's never a good way to tell a story. You should always tell a story that YOU want to tell. This is why we have so many "Oh, wouldn't it be cool if...?" which mainly consists of finding an unconventional way of blowing up a cylon.
Every single time.
This frankly is uninteresting. There's only one guy who ever made the science fictional 'blow stuff up' ten minute thing work and that was Genndy Tartakovsky and his Samurai Jack / Clone Wars hurrah inducing goodness. I think maybe they should have dumped a load of money on him and shown us the war through his mighty fine stylised animation. Hell, Adama could have been drawn as a young Toshiro Mifune, or something.
I saw you guys mentioned the Resurrection Ship Battle earlier. For me too it stands as the best sci-fi TV series space battle. The pure documentary feel. The stark simplicity of it all. The leisurely, creative framing. And the way it wraps character, plot and beauty and marries it perfectly with Bear's score. It's almost Kubrikian.
But there's so much action out there now in science fiction that it simply ceases to have appeal for me unless it is both unique and cleverly done. Throughout most of BSG the action was superb, I even enjoyed Lee's antics in Hand of God as it allowed his character to resolve a personal fear of inadequacy. Blood and Chrome just has stuff flying around and blowing up. It's not enough. There's a reason why the moment Baltar watches the unfolding attack on Caprica on the news in his villa is so much more chilling and memorable than seeing (the admittedly impressive) attack from the Cylon's orbital viewpoint in The Plan. We see a chair being knocked over and a bit of dust and wind and a guy shielding his eyes, and an adjoining screen go static. That's hellishly scary despite the effects costing only a few bucks. It makes us feel as vulnerable as Baltar, and the blast wave that rushes across the lake towards him is icing on the cake.
But we know Adama is going to overcome these toasters zipping about. And we know how the war pans out. So where's the interest?
And frankly, and I hate to say this, I just don't think it looks terribly good. Sure, there's the odd moment that looks fairly spectacular but I quickly realised that if the original show had all this film-flam it would have had a far worse a feel. The character work in the CiC between Adama, Roslin and Tigh would have been swallowed up by the glitzy CGI set. The old style hanger deck that Tyrol commanded allowed any number of dramatic scenes to be played out. I can't imagine the visual busy-work of Blood & Chrome's to have allowed any breathing space. (See Lucas's infinitely awful crime of adding element after element to a shot, disregarding rule 1 and 2 of photography - composition and the decisive moment.)
It stretches to the battle scenes. In my mind's eye I can remember the exact maneouvres in certain BSG scenes. They were simple and cool. The Zoic Battlestars looked terrifying, like giant gleaming prehistoric metal starfish drifting in space. All they needed to do was serenely drift there as Bear played and I was gripped. I also loved the less is more of Battlestar's design in BSG. Six main guns and that was the main armament sorted. They looked dwarfed on the ship but that added to the appeal. You knew each turret was as big as a very big house and that they fired car sized shells - and yet there they were comparatively tiny. It also added a strange imaginative realism. That with the speed and power of them that was all that could be carried on a Battlestar - and it was enough. It was enough to take on two baseships on a good day.
Compare with Blood & Chrome's designs - guns slapped on willy-nilly. It doesn't feel as real. It's distracting, it's gaudy, it's bloody fanservice.
The same stretches to the staging shots of the Colonial fleet. Masses of ships filling the screen. Sure, looks cool, but its like gorging on too many sweets. They become bland and tasteless. I loved the feeling of battles taking place all alone in infinite space in BSG. It was cold and dark and gripping. Even when there were nebula and such later on, it still worked as the story backed it up and the sense of emptiness was still there.
In Blood and Chrome you get the screen full of zipping about, lensflare, flak, pew-pew, nebula and reflections. It doesn't feel real.
I don't think the renders are anywhere near as good either. I haven't picked out mistakes or anything, but the way the ships move super-fast and jink around continously, the horrible smoke and flame everywhere, the cheesy neon glow on all things cylon and simply the roughly hewn look of the CGI... it's quantity rather than quality. And I know they're really trying, and I don't blame them for it personally, but it's flashy gimcrack work for the sake of it.
So, along with the folly of The Plan and the duff Cain bits of Razor, have they ruined BSG?
Don't be daft. Why feel that simply because something is created is canon, it must therefore exist and be muscling in on the beloved stuff you have in your headspace? For me, all four series of original BSG are great. True, the fourth falters a little - but I even very much liked and found fitting the ending. It's a great jewell of a sci-fi show and a fantastic story. I had been hoping for a nice desert (or, er, starter) in the form of Blood and Chrome, but disappointing as it is it hasn't spoilt the main.
Happily, the excellence of Diaspora means that I can get my graceful, stripped down, realist sci-fi battle fun when I want it. I fear I shall not be looking hard for it in future installments of Blood and Chrome.
Oh, final thing, finally: I really love your vision in Diaspora of how things look. The Sobek class is great, and about the upper ceiling of guns-per-tonnage I consider in a BSG universe. Please don't go all silly ala Blood and Chrome, and indeed feel free to 'refine' any design you take from it.
Thanks for reading me ramble, folks.