Axel-In-Charge: Unmasking the "Totally Awesome Hulk"
It’s official: Syfy has greenlit a backdoor pilot for a second prequel to Battlestar Galactica, called Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome. At what point will someone at the network realize that enough is enough?
Here’s the thing about Battlestar Galactica: It didn’t need a prequel. Not in the slightest: We got all the backstory we needed within the series itself (especially in the final season, when the introduction of the Final Five made things more than a little bit exposition-happy, in my opinion), and at the end, the only questions left unanswered were more about the larger mythology than anything that happened to any of the characters before the show had started. Even the creation of the Cylons themselves was explained as much as was needed.
Of course, business-wise, a spin-off was a great idea: BSG might not have been a ratings winner in the same way that Warehouse 13, say, is, but it did wonders for the Syfy brand in terms of positive reviews, PR and audience identification (You don’t see Ghost Hunters being invited to speak at the UN, after all). Doing something to keep that alive is a great idea, from a marketing standpoint, and given the fairly definitive ending of the show — Does anyone besides Edward James Olmos really want to see Ol’ Man Adama, Grumpy Hunter Of The New Frontier? — going back was the only way to go; the fact that it offered the chance to frame the series as the origins/continuation of the religious and spiritual themes that drew so much praise to BSG was merely a plus.
The problem is, though, Caprica is an artistic mess. Uneven in tone and awkward in pacing — I can’t be the only person who feels that the show reinvents itself on an irregular basis, as if it can’t quite decide what it wants to be — the series is less an investigation into the roots of BSG and its core themes and more, it feels as the series continues, a slow unraveling of the parent series’ credibility. Caprica introduces new ideas and new backstory that contradicts and confuses what Galactica had established, but doesn’t really add anything in return. Business-related concerns about extending a brand aside, there’s nothing to say that Caprica gains from being a BSG spin-off; the connection closes off dramatic tension by setting up end-points for not only the characters, but also the setting and mythology. We know that all of these people, from the terrorists to the corrupt businessmen to the tortured mob figures, and all of their legacies will end when the entire race is eradicated, so their troubles now seem … pointless, to an extent? Weightless, at least.
(I genuinely believe that Caprica would be a much better show if it weren’t weighed down not only by BSG mythology but also BSG expectations; what I find interesting about the show feels only barely connected to that world.)
Blood & Chrome, the newly announced spin-off, suffers even more from that weight of what we already know and preconception: Centered around a young version of Bill Adama in the middle of the Cylon War — which we already know the ending of — it’s a space-set show that pits humans against Cylons. On the one hand, I’m sure that’s more along the lines of meeting the expectations of most people who want more BSG than Caprica‘s uncertain social commentary, but on the other, it’s entirely setting the show up for comparisons to the much-beloved original (Well, reboot of the original. You know what I mean), which just sounds like a recipe for disaster.
It’s tough; on the one hand, I understand the need on a business level to keep BSG alive in some form, and also the creative (or, at least, non-business) desire to keep going back to a well that’s been so well loved in the past. But the network’s inability to leave the show alone, and let it stand alone without going back to “add to” the story, mythology and franchise potential, feels more and more like the Star Wars prequels: Attempts to recapture a former glory that only sour the taste of the original in the process. Can’t we just have some new series, instead?