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Punch the toaster - John C. Kirk

Jan. 28th, 2006

02:12 am - Punch the toaster

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I'm now a few episodes into season 2 of the Battlestar Galactica relaunch, and I have to say that I'm very impressed by it. My initial doubts were dispelled in the original mini-series, and it's gone from strength to strength since then. The only real complaint I had about season 1 was that they had a "spoiler session" at the start of each episode, with 30 seconds of clips showing what was about to happen. It wasn't a huge problem, since it was only visual (standard music playing over the top), so I could close my eyes to avoid it, but they've got rid of that in season 2 which is even better.

One particular thing that's struck me is the real sense of danger. While I still have a lot of affection for the old 1970s series, the Cylons never really seemed like much of a threat - any time there was a space battle, the Cylon ships would always get blown up (normally with one shot), and there weren't many of them. As for the individual robots (e.g. on land), they were either brain-dead or effete. One scene that's stuck in my mind was when Starbuck and Apollo attacked a depot:
Centurion: [clank, clank] "The - fuel - dump - is - on - fire."
Pointy robot: "I can seeeeeeeee that!"
By contrast, I've found it hard to shake the feeling that the new Cylons are in fact better than humans. Not in any moral sense, but they're clearly faster and stronger, and I don't think that I'd last two minutes in a fight with one.

A similar issue is the council of 12. Back in the old series, they were a bunch of old men who'd turn up every so often to whine at the way Adama was handling things, and I basically saw them as a complete waste of space, so I used to think that it would be a lot better if he could just take charge himself. Looking at the quorum in the new series, I don't particularly like them, but they are the democratic leaders, so I have to view martial law as a bad thing.

This does remind me of something from Buffy (season 3). Paraphrasing from memory, there was a scene like this:
Cordelia: "But Buffy's the Slayer - shouldn't she have, like, a licence to kill, or something?"
Xander: "Yeah, in a fascist society."
Cordelia: "Right, why don't we have one of them?"

I did lean towards her point of view, but I think I understand the issues a bit better now, based on the essays that I've read so far in the philosophy book. Essentially, I'd trust Buffy with that kind of power, because she is a highly moral person. However, I don't think it would be a good idea to say that it automatically goes with the job for whoever is the current Slayer, since Faith didn't have the same conscience (or at least, not at that point).

On a vaguely related note, hearing the Cylons referred to as toasters does remind me of the old Magnus Robot Fighter comic. I see that there's a TPB out this week, although I'm not sure whether that's from the original Valiant series (which I haven't read) or the Acclaim version (which I have, and liked). There are some parallels to Galactica: when Acclaim started making comics, they bought the rights to lots of old Valiant characters, then did a relaunch, i.e. same names but starting from scratch in a new shared universe. I didn't have any particularly loyalty to the original versions, and I was happy to pick up Turok based on the writer (Fabian Nicieza, who'd previously done New Warriors). They had some adverts for MRF in there, but I wasn't impressed - it looked like brainless action stuff, where some guy with big muscles would punch through walls to rip apart random machinery.

I changed my mind after Magnus made a guest appearance in X-O Manowar, which was a comic about a guy in high-tech armour. Both characters were protagonists of their own titles, and more or less heroic, but they also had clear philosophical differences - Donovan Wylie (the guy in the armour) was very keen on technology, whereas Magnus had come from a future where it had ruined society. It wasn't a Terminator scenario of killer robots, but something a bit more subtle - basically an extension of what you sometimes see now, where people say "I'm sorry, but the computer's rejected your bank card, so you can't use it", i.e. people became so reliant on machines to do everything for them that they'd surrendered all the decision making processes. Anyway, crossovers and suchlike can often be a crass way to gouge extra money out of fans, but this was a good example of how to do them right - I liked the story, and was grateful that it led me to another comic that I wouldn't otherwise have read. In the MRF series, there were some similar debates, e.g. when his female friend said "Ok, my dad has a pacemaker - are you seriously intending to rip it out of his chest, so that he won't rely on technology?" Coming full circle, this brings me back to the Galactica parallel, where Adama refuses to have computer networks on his ship.

Sadly, Acclaim went under a few years later, and as far as I know Quantum and Woody is the only series of theirs that ever got reprinted in TPBs. So, that's a good example of the downside to the "wait for the trade" approach - if I'd done that, I'd never have read any of the other titles.

Comments:

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From:bazzalisk
Date:January 28th, 2006 12:24 pm (UTC)
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Whilst I wouldn't argue that the Cylons aree moraly superior to the humans, they do seem to be a highly moralistic people, in their own way - and there is something to be said for their code, especially when compared to the way that humans have behaved towards them. "Cylons are just machines, so you can do whatever you like to them" seems like quite a prevalent attitude in the setting.
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