Battlestar Galactica

Heresy of the Week – The source material is a guide, not scripture

George R R Martin and Peter Dinklage

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

Fans always scream bloody murder when an adaptation of a property from one medium to another makes its own path. But actually, whilst there are advantages to fidelity, it can also be a millstone around an adaptation’s neck.

Read on…

Heresy of the Week – J.J. Abrams didn’t reboot Star Trek

star trek kelvin

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

Despite what many viewers, fans and commentators think, J.J. Abrams two Star Trek films haven’t in fact rebooted the franchise; they are simply new instalments of the same story.

Read on…

Top 5 television opening credits sequences

game of thrones opening credits

Opening sequences are something (I think?) common to all television series. On a basic level, they tell you what you’re watching and who is in it.

But, if effectively used, they can really add to the series, and the episode, they are attached to. The best opening sequences lodge themselves in the mind, becoming inseparable from the series itself in the same way as cover art on a book. Just look at the Friends opening sequence.

So here’s something I’ve been musing on for a while, pushed to crystallisation by a recent io9 article. My personal top five TV opening credit sequences.

Read on…

The Soundtrack of Life


My music tastes are not what could be described as “current”. I don’t tend to focus in on the trends of contemporary music, but my tastes are fairly wide-ranging and eclectic. As an example, the last two concerts I went to were German industrial metal band Rammstein, and ageing Californian funk rockers the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

But what I do have a soft spot for is TV and film soundtracks. I watch a lot of both, and the scores are something which I tend to notice, how they underscore the themes and moods of the scene, how they fit the story to bring out the emotion. As largely lyric-less music, they make particularly good music to write to — selected to fit whatever I’m trying to write at the time.

So since I’m musing on the subject, I thought I’d share with you my top five soundtracks for general listening.

Read on…

For the Love of…

I’ve spent the last half hour musing on three letters: FTL.

For the uninitiated, this acronym is short for the phrase “For the Love”. In the writing business, it’s used to indicate the publication of a piece of work that is unpaid. Hence the motivation for the story (writing, submitting, etc) is merely “for the love”.

I’ve had a few pieces published myself that were FTL. There’s a bit of a debate amongst writers about whether or not it’s worth pursuing publication in such venues, or whether it’s better only to submit to paying markets. The line runs that if you’re selling your stories for nothing, then you’re admitting it’s not worth anything.

I don’t really agree with this, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve done it myself. As a general rule I submit to paying markets first (so maybe there is some weight to the selling yourself short view), but if I like the look of an FTL publication, and if I’m slightly sick of looking at a story and want rid of it (as does happen from time to time), I’m not going to hold fire on a submission on moral grounds.

The thing is that writers are vain creatures, we have to be. We all dream of seeing our work in print, caressing it, smelling it (we’re also extremely odd creatures). There’s a rush to be found in publication, and really the pay (whilst lovely) doesn’t make much difference.

But it’s precisely that which makes “for the love” an odd phrase. Even those sales to paying markets aren’t really done for the money. One of my dreams is to see my stories published in Black Static and Interzone– not because they pay a professional rate, but because I’ve been reading and enjoying those magazines since the early days of my interest in writing fiction. In short, for the love.

Nobody gets rich from writing short stories. Very few get rich from writing novels. Some writers make a living from the craft, and most aim to do so, but it isn’t the thought of money that keeps us going. We write because we love to, and if you want to make a writer happy then you should tell them that you enjoyed one of their stories- it’s about the greatest compliment you can pay.

I’m aware this is very rambling and disjointed, so I’ll finish on the recognition that FTL also has a different meaning in SF circles: Faster than Light. In (reimagined) TV series Battlestar Galactica FTL drives are “spun up” in order to allow instantaneous travel- combining with the above spiel to lead me to the frankly beautiful image which led me to this musing piece of nonsense in the first place: spinning up the For the Love drives.

February Issue of VideoVista Goes Live!

Battlestar Galactica spin-off Caprica

Yup, it’s that time of the month again!

This month, in Tony Lee’s DVD review webzine, I have reviewed season 1.0 of Battlestar Galactica spin-off Caprica. It’s an interesting experience reviewing TV series on DVD, as generally people don’t tend to sit down and watch the whole thing in one go, as I end up doing.

But yes, you can see my review here, and please feel free to leave any feedback as a comment on this blog.

Dude, Where’s My Originality?

The Swedish "Let the Right One In" was released in 2008- so why is there already a Hollywood remake?

Remakes. I have serious issues with remakes, particularly in the film industry. And I’m not the only one, the internet is full of people with gripes about it. But now is my turn.

My thoughts on this were prompted by a friendly little discussion over at the TTA Press Forums, about Let Me In, the US remake of Swedish film Let the Right One In. Now, I haven’t seen either film (yet), but I have to wonder at the remaking of a film only two years after it’s initial release. Given the gestation period of films, this must have been conceived around the time that the Swedish film was released.

So why do films get remade? I think Pete Tennant hit the nail right on the head, saying that it does fundamentally come down to money. The American studios realise that if they remake it, they can make a whole pile of money off the back of it. And that’s the primary force behind remakes. If it’s been proved to work once, it’ll work again right?

The same philosophy has been behind a number of originality-based problems in the film industry. Unleashing Rob Zombie on the Halloween franchise, the lacklustre and unnecessary Nightmare on Elm Street remake, the seemingly endless parade of Saw sequels. Even The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (another Swedish film) is being remade in an American image for release next year.

The studios are aware that if they trot out something with a recognisable brand, then people will flock to it based on that alone. Maybe the fact that they invariably turn out somewhere between mediocre and utter crap is unrelated, or maybe it’s a symptom of them not thinking they need to work as hard.

The fact is that original films are harder work. They have to be made better (probably), they have to be advertised harder, and there’s none of the “sheep” guarantee that people will turn out to see it. But they are an injection of vitality to the industry, which sustain it creatively. And they can be done successfully.

My two favourite films so far this year are probably Inception and Kick Ass. You might argue with me as to the value of those two films, but I personally loved them. And they were original films. Well, Kick Ass was an adaptation of a graphic novel, but I’ll allow it. They weren’t remakes of foreign films, or even of old genre classics. They were new stories, based on nothing else than some writer’s imagination. So huzzah.

Of course, there are other arguments for remaking films. There’s the subtitles argument. I myself have no problem with subtitled. Dubbing is always an awful idea, because it somehow always manages to destroy the film. But I like subtitles. Some people, however, don’t. I don’t get it, but whatever. That might be a reason for remaking a film, but I have to say that on its own it’s a pretty poor one. In my experience a film takes something (whether a lot, or just a general sense) from the culture in which it is made, and which it is set. That’s part of the reason that Americanisation has become so pervasive (not a criticism, surprisingly), because Hollywood films are revered the world over. But as soon as you try and transplant a film from one culture to another, you start running into weird problems.

I’m not so much against retreading old ground. J.J. Abrams Star Trek was pretty damn good. I’m a massive fan of Ronald D. Moore’s reimagining of Battlestar Galactica. The remake of V sucked because it was awful, not because it was a remake. What’s important though, I think, is not to forget respect and originality. Respecting the original work, and putting your own original take on it, will go a long way to make it look like less of a money-grabber, and less of an insult to the original.

Bloodied, but Defiant

So I watched the season finale of Stargate Universe the other day, and I was blown away. I09 has (in a lot of cases rightfully) criticised many points about the series, but it started with a lot of potential, and for all the missed steps it has been slowly marching towards fulfilling that potential. And the final moments of the cliffhanger left me decidedly annoyed that I have to wait however many months for the conclusion. Which is what a season finale, and a cliffhanger, should do. But the defining moment, for me, was the shot of Colonel Young, bloodied up, stood standing whilst the rest of his men knelt for execution.

The final shot of the Stargate Universe season finale

And this got me to thinking about similar such scenes. There are plenty of them, through film and television. You know the ones; where the bad guys seem to have won, where everything seems like it’s going to shit, and then the hero stands up defiantly, and goes on to win the day. And, most times, said hero is wounded or hurt in some fashion. Bloodied, but still defiant.

I’m thinking the (numerous) moments in Buffy, when she fights the Big Bad, and after getting her arse kicked across the room, stands up (scratches and all) and wins the day. The final battle in Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica, where the thumped Galactica and her crew put their wounds aside for one last gambit to escape. And I suppose the ultimate is Doctor Who; the Tenth Doctor, after coming alive but not unhurt, through fighting off both the Master and Timothy Dalton’s deranged Bond-cum-Time Lord, turns and gives his life to save Bernard Cribbins.

So the concept is fairly wide-reaching, but why? I challenged anyone not to be stirred by a well-made example of such a moment. There’s something in it that touches a romantic fondness within the human psyche. It’s part of the reason, I think, that there is such an affection for the Battle of Britain. The great empire, shattered and routed, but rallying itself to defeat the Nazi war machine against the odds.

It shows courage and determination, which are traits that society values and individuals aspire to. But the fact that the hero has brushed the edge of defeat, and come back usually with blood running down his or her face, shows that they’re human. It shows the enormity of their task, and the extend of the bravery required to face it.

Maybe I’m overplaying this, but given the impact that single image of Colonel Young lent to the final moments of Stargate Universe‘s first season, both for the character and as a metaphor for the all the good guys, I think it’s important to appreciate precisely how key such images are. In the end, we all, on some level, want to be heroes. And we all want to think that, in the same situation, we’d be able to stand up once more, with blood running down our faces, and overcome whatever evil is confronting us.