Battlestar Galactica showed fandom a better way

Twenty years in the past, writer-producer Ronald D. Moore refused to provide a crowd of indignant, disenchanted sci-fi nerds what they needed.

This was Galacticon in Los Angeles, a conference organized by actor Richard Hatch to rejoice the twenty fifth anniversary of Battlestar Galactica’s maiden broadcast. Hatch had spent the previous eight years rallying followers of the 1978 area opera wherein he’d performed the daring Colonial warrior Apollo, hoping to persuade Common that the property was ripe for revival. And Hatch wasn’t playing around — in keeping with So Say We All: The Full, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral Historical past of Battlestar Galactica by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross, Hatch spent $50,000 out of pocket to finance and direct a proof-of-concept brief movie known as Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming. It was primarily a pilot for a sequel sequence wherein he and a few different actors from the unique would reprise their roles alongside a new technology of characters. The Second Coming was precisely the kind of “legacy sequel” that will develop into standard years later within the 2010s, and the followers have been totally behind it, with many even donating their very own costumes, props, and visible results experience to the challenge. A trailer was screened at conventions in 1999, to what Hatch described as standing ovations.

What Moore screened for followers at Galacticon in October 2003 acquired a significantly cooler reception. (“Polite, but hostile,” as Kate O’Hare described it within the LA Occasions.) Moore had include 5 minutes of footage from the completely reimagined Battlestar Galactica miniseries that was resulting from premiere on cable that December. The viewers knew better than to get their hopes up, and so did Moore — he and co-producer David Eick’s script for the miniseries leaked earlier than capturing had even begun, and followers had been voicing their displeasure ever since. Moore and Eick’s Battlestar Galactica bore little resemblance to the honest and pulpy 1978 unique. This was a dirty, naturalistic army science fiction present with a lot of blood, intercourse, and murky politics. It discarded the established continuity and, most unforgivable of all, it recast Galactica’s roguish pilot Starbuck as a girl. As far as many of the assembled followers have been involved, this wasn’t Battlestar Galactica.

Ronald D. Moore throughout 2003 Galacticon celebrating the twenty fifth anniversary of Battlestar Galactica
Picture: Albert L. Ortega/WireImage

After screening the footage — which was met with boos — Moore took more and more heated questions from followers, one in all whom requested, point-blank, whether or not he would take their criticisms into consideration if the miniseries was a success and the brand new Battlestar was ordered to sequence. Moore answered, “No.” He and his crew had their very own imaginative and prescient for the present, their very own story they needed to inform, and the followers may both take it or go away it.

Twenty years later, Moore and Eick’s Battlestar Galactica has completely eclipsed the unique. Although principally ignored by the Emmys (this was earlier than they paid consideration to style exhibits), BSG was a critical darling that garnered mainstream consideration, a Peabody Award, and an invite for its stars and creators to address the United Nations. It nonetheless ranks amongst one of the greatest TV shows of all time.

Briefly, the followers have been incorrect, and if Moore had bowed to their calls for, we’d all have missed out on one thing particular.

Such a factor feels as if it may by no means occur in at present’s popular culture ecosystem. This isn’t to say that Hollywood studios weren’t silly or cowardly within the early 2000s, an period wherein each recognizable property was being remade or rebooted. They did, at the very least, reveal a want to attempt new issues with the recognizable manufacturers they have been exploiting. Audiences anticipated remakes to justify themselves by placing some kind of spin on the supply materials, and the remakes that had their very own id — like Zack Snyder’s Daybreak of the Useless, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, or, hell, Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven — are those which have held up. Christopher Nolan’s Darkish Knight trilogy and the Daniel Craig Bond movies have been merchandise of this atmosphere, new interpretations of well-trod characters that attracted new audiences, even on the danger of alienating followers of the outdated variations.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale, wearing a suit and checking his phone while holding a gun

Picture: Sony Photos

heath ledger’s joker in the dark knight

Picture: Warner Bros. Photos

Dangers like these have been doable partially as a result of, in contrast to at present, franchises have been allowed to die, or at the very least to enter hibernation for prolonged intervals. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica was the primary significant installment within the sequence in over 20 years. Each Batman Begins and On line casino Royale have been produced years after their respective franchises had burned out with Batman & Robin and Die One other Day, respectively. Opposite to the fashionable pattern, there was nice incentive not to choose up the place the earlier entries had left off. If a decade glided by with out a new sequel in a movie sequence, that sequence was presumed to be over, and makes an attempt to reopen a saga that had concluded on a excessive be aware, akin to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Cranium, have been seen as a novelty to be greeted with some skepticism. Because the revival of a nostalgic model was not thought of a given, audiences who might need been reluctant to just accept a new take would possibly at the very least give it a shot on the grounds that it was “better than nothing,” and maybe be pleasantly stunned.

Furthermore, even uninterrupted continuities have been anticipated to be accessible to new viewers, as there was no infrastructure by which mass audiences may simply get caught up on prolonged or sophisticated mythologies. Earlier than the arrival of DVD field units, DVR, and video on demand, it wasn’t even assumed that viewers had seen each episode of a present they have been watching, by no means thoughts the present or exhibits from which it had spun off. Many fandoms had well-maintained on-line hubs for brushing up on the historical past or manufacturing of their favourite franchises, however there was no Wikipedia — by no means thoughts particular person Wikipedia pages for each present on tv — and there was no film explainer content material mill.

Fandom itself has modified radically because the delivery of social media, as have studios’ relationships with it. Whereas some Hollywood storytellers have been interacting with followers on the web because the days of UseNet and AOL teams — including Moore himself throughout the run of Star Trek: Deep Area 9 — followers have far higher entry to the individuals who make their favourite media, and these interactions now happen in venues with a lot larger visitors. It’s not simply the die-hards huddling collectively on boards to converse, develop opinions, and promote agendas for different die-hards. Posts pop off, hashtags pattern, and thinkpieces go viral to the feeds of extra informal followers — or simply as importantly, to non-fans whose solely impression of the work in query comes from fan discourse. YouTube, TikTok, and Patreon have made it doable, even profitable, to be a full-time fan of one thing, and these influencers create sufficient content material to maintain followers engaged consistently, between official releases. It’s by no means been simpler, or extra mainstream, to choose a model you want and make it your complete character, and studios now contemplate these fandoms to be, successfully, an unpaid arm of their advertising division. In 2003, the net obsessives and the indignant conference visitors weren’t assumed to characterize nearly all of the viewers. Now, these followers are the viewers, in addition to a part of the product. Within the unimaginably huge sea of content material, you’re getting nowhere with out their breath in your sails.

(L-R) Edward James Olmos and Michael Hogan as William “Bill” Adama and Colonel Saul Tigh in Battlestar Galactica.

Picture: Common Photos House Leisure

This feeds again into why properties aren’t permitted to relaxation lengthy sufficient for there to be demand for a new take. If the content material slows down, so does fan engagement, and with out an energetic fandom, who’s going to supply the groundswell of on-line pleasure across the subsequent iteration when it does arrive? If it’s completely different, who’s to say they’ll prefer it? It’s a safer wager to maintain the engine turning, even when what it’s producing isn’t thrilling or approachable sufficient to draw anybody new. Preserving the followers you’ve joyful turns into all the things, and blandness ensues.

The 2003 Battlestar Galactica miniseries, and the continuing sequence that debuted the next 12 months, by no means performed it protected; in reality, its storytellers appeared to please of their viewers’s discomfort. Regardless of its origins as a remake of a nostalgic Seventies romp whose iconography was emblazoned on lunchboxes, Ron Moore and David Eick didn’t deal with their present like a “sci-fi property.” It was a drama, aiming extra for viewers who didn’t, as a rule, watch “geek stuff” than for many who did. Defending the model or creating a perpetual revenue machine was not a precedence, and after they did lengthen the franchise with a spinoff, it was with a good much less typical sequence, the household drama Caprica. Caprica could not have discovered a sustainable viewers, nevertheless it was an try at changing curiosity in a cosmic struggle epic into curiosity in one thing completely completely different, slightly than merely extra of the identical.

Naturally, Common started creating yet one more new model of Battlestar Galactica in 2009, earlier than Moore’s sequence had even wrapped its ultimate season, in an effort to maintain the model scorching. When now-disgraced director Bryan Singer was connected to direct, the brand new BSG film was teased to in some way “exist between” the basic and reimagined variations, a technique that actually feels apiece with trendy IP administration. The challenge has been in growth hell now for over a decade, bouncing backwards and forwards between creatives and the large and small screens, with no phrase of progress since 2020. I’m grateful for this. Optimistically, by the point cameras roll on a new Battlestar Galactica film or sequence, it’s going to have been 20 years because the present I really like got here to an finish, and there shall be an precise urge for food for its rebirth. And, if we’re actually fortunate, whoever’s accountable for it’s going to have their very own imaginative and prescient and persist with it, whether or not I prefer it or not.

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