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Eric: Dirk Benedict: Lost in Antiquation

Hm.

This might be a bit odd, because I'm actually responding to a point a celebrity made, by way of someone else's essay on the subject. However, I didn't actually encounter the celebrity quote. I did, however, encounter the essay, and so that's what I'm going to respond to. However, I'm not really responding to the thesis of the essay. However squared, I am going to be responding to the essayist's take on the celebrity quote, because that's the filter through which I encountered the quote.

Pause, take a deep breath, leave the room, come back in, have some water, and reread the paragraph. It can be parsed, if you put your mind to it.

The essayist is Ferrett Steinmetz, and the essay is entitled "Mixed Messages, and When to Send Them." Please, allow me to quote from the relevant bit:

Basically, Dirk Benedict – the guy who was Starbuck, and has spent the last two decades hanging around conventions like a ghost ever since the original show got cancelled – says that the fact that Starbuck was transformed into a girl for the recent revamp is a sign of the decline of masculinity. He says that Starbuck had to be changed, because there was no way that you could have a hard-drinking, carousing, sexually active single man presented in a positive light.

(Not that women are always presented in a great way, either, I’ll note, pointing to my latest cartoon, which discusses female plotlines in science fiction.)

Dirk Benedict is at least partially correct. There was a time when Father Knew Best, but now every dad in a sitcom is pretty much a doof. A lot of the popular sitcoms involve the clueless, vain dad stumbling into yet another conundrum from which only the wisdom of his wife and children can extricate him. There are smart men in dramas, of course – but if they’re drinking hard they’re sliding into alcoholism and if they’re womanizers they’re not only haunted by their own callowness but the women are frequently shown as the pitiful victims of an awful man who showed up and gave them orgasms and friendship, but no commitment.

Hrm.

See, I can see Ferrett's point. Which is why this isn't really a response to Ferrett, per se.

However, Dirk Benedict is wrong. Two ways, really.

First and foremost, Benedict is wrong because the hard-drinking, carousing, sexually active single man is alive and well. Have a look-see at teen comedies. Or at the sitcoms lovingly euphemized as "Urban" because calling them "Blacksploitation" is considered wrong and bad in the twenty-first century. The 'pimpin' lifestyle is, almost always, a hard drinking, carousing, sexually active single man, and for better or for worse said man is generally portrayed sympathetically and positively in today's society.

As is James Bond, who flirted with darkness in the Timothy Dalton years, but was restored to his suave, alcohol-driven, sex-machine status with Pierce Brosnan.

"Aha!" you shout. "But that's different. 'Urban' comedies and James Bond movies are light, escapist fare. They're not the same kind of sophisticated drama that Battlestar Galactica is."

You're right. You're absolutely right.

And that's precisely the point.

Dirk Benedict is upset because Starbuck remains a hard drinking, carousing, sexually active character, and therefore they had to change her to a woman, because men aren't allowed to be portrayed that way any longer. Only it couldn't possibly matter less, because the core point is much more basic.

The 1970's Battlestar Galactica was light fare. Escapist. Far more adventure driven than character driven. Possessed of no more deep character moments than... well, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

And Dirk Benedict's Starbuck was a lighthearted character. Cheerful and smiling, the perfect foil for straight laced Apollo. You can practically see the planning meetings. "Is there going to be a Han Solo? A rogue? Someone who loves 'em and leaves 'em? All right -- we'll sign off!"

(Remember, this was before The Empire Strikes Back. Han Solo was entirely defined as the lovable rogue at that point. Also, he shot first. And the Police in E.T. were packing guns. But I digress.)

How light -- how sitcommish -- was the original Battlestar Galactica? One episode's B-plot was about the day Starbuck scheduled a date with both Cassiopeia and Athena. Gosh, can that lovable cad manage to keep both dates at the same time? Oh, that drunken womanizer!

I'm sorry no one's sent Benedict the memo, but the modern Battlestar Galactica isn't that kind of show. It's not light. It's not escapist fare. It's dark, and gritty, and everyone involved is flawed. Hell, he should be pleased -- at least the Kara Thrace version of Starbuck is recognizable as Starbuck. The Lee Adama version of Apollo took a much deeper shot to the gut, if you compare both characters... and Boomer's a fracking Cylon.

Honestly, the lack of a Y chromosome is less about television's inability to show a Starbuck style male character in today's environment, and more that the producers decided to make a sharp distinction between the old and the new. There is very, very little that's recognizable to the old fans in this new series. This horrified and angered us right up until it occurred to us that Battlestar Galactica kicked ass.

(I had a hard time with it myself. I loved the old cheese, the pseudo-spiritualism, the shiny shiny Cylons. I posted about it here, if I remember correctly. But I was converted. "33" nailed me. And following episodes worked their way into my psyche. It's hard to imagine even watching the original, now.)

Now, I've actually read the essay that Dirk Benedict wrote about this. It's called "Starbuck: Lost in Castration," and while it makes a point, that point gets lost in diatribes against feminism and smoking legislation. Hand in hand with it is his disgust over the "re-imagining" of Battlestar Galactica -- that in making situations more complex and heroes flawed, something essential had been broken.

He may be right. Only... and I honestly think this is key... they did it too well to be castigated.

Honestly. I wasn't so sure, after the miniseries, but the regular series of Battlestar Galactica has been among the best on television. It is consistent and grand, and shows a quantum leap forward for science fiction on television. It is as significant a leap forward, in its own way, as Babylon 5 was. And The Twilight Zone. And Star Trek.

The original Battlestar Galactica was loads of fun. I loved it as a child. I enjoy it nostalgically when I see reruns of it today. But it wasn't groundbreaking. It was serviceable. It was escapism. And there's nothing wrong with that. Escapism can be wonderful.

It's a Hell of a lot harder to pull of honest to Christ drama. And part of pulling off honest to Christ drama is crafting sophisticated characters who don't always get it right. Conflict is good, and a show where the conflict is deeper, and more strongly felt, can be something far more moving than a thousand laser blasting battles.

And making these complaints, in the manner that he's doing them, is the thematic equivalent of actors from Mannix or Hawaii 5-0 complaining that the cops on The Shield aren't as clear cut heroic as they used to be, or shows like C.S.I. have characters who have flaws. The simple truth of the matter is, popular police television shows in this century are dramas, and police procedurals are far more about forensics than Joe Friday.

It's harder to make the same conceptual leap with the new Galactica, because it shares a name with the original. But it's the same forces at work. This is a show that's telling a very different kind of story. In a way, it's less a re-imagining of the original, and more a story based very loosely on a one paragraph description of the original. And it's vastly stronger than a simple remake would have been as a result.

If that means Starbuck has tits, I guess I'm okay with that. Katee Sackhoff's a damn good actress. She didn't have me at first, but she won me over. I believe her. And really, I vastly prefer her to Lee "Apollo" Adama as a character (though last week's episode helped push Apollo into my good graces).

And honestly, she might be hard-drinking. She might smoke cigars and gamble. She might carouse and be the best pilot in the fleet. And she might flout authority. But she's no more light-hearted than anyone else in the series. She's not Dirk Benedict's Starbuck sans penis. She's a character in her own right, who copes with the genocide of humanity in self-destructive ways. And that too is a further departure from the original than Sackhoff's lack of testicles.

Sooner or later, Dirk Benedict will be given a guest shot on Galactica -- possibly even being paired up against Richard Hatch. He might even become a recurring character, and develop the same kind of deep relationship with Thrace as Hatch has with Lee Adama. And once he's a part of the family, he'll cheerfully talk about the evolution of science fiction and his wistfulness for the old days, and laugh uncomfortably when people bring up his characterizing of Thrace as "Stardoe." And all will be forgiven on all sides.

In the meantime, all Dirk Benedict can do, by not repudiating his earlier essay, is look exactly like what he claims to be: a relic. A relic of a time when Science Fiction was seen as escapist trash, when light fantasy included lovable alcoholic womanizing sitcom characters, and when shows like his were meant for children first and foremost. Things are different, today, and thank the Lords of Kobal for that.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at January 30, 2006 9:38 AM

Comments

Comment from: Abby L. posted at January 30, 2006 11:55 AM

It's frustrating that this happens in this case, when the character's changing into a woman is necessary... I don't recall (and I could be wrong about this) Leonard Nimoy complaining at the ludicrous over-sexualization of T-Pol in Enterprise, even though I'd consider that much more ridiculous. Naturally, they're not quite the same thing, but it's always frustrating when others cant recognize that things have changed for a reason, and that sometimes it's a GOOD reason.

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at January 30, 2006 12:10 PM

Exactly, Eric. The Prostitude With A Heart Of Freud's speech near the end of last week's ep was a pretty solid statement of "No, as often as we may bring in elements that evoke the original series, we're NOT the original series." She won't give up being a prostitute and take up nursing, there will be no happy Adama family home life. And the original series would never have come near putting Boxy into the kind of situation his analogue was headed for...risk of death is fine for escapist fare, but not darker stuff.

Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells posted at January 30, 2006 12:13 PM

While I think you make many good points here, Eric, your essay does not address -- nor, I admit was it intended to address -- the actual reason Mr. Benedict was mistaken. We do not have a woman playing the part of Starbuck because the audience would not accept a hard-drinking hypermasculinized presence on the screen and have that person actually be male. We have a woman playing the part of Starbuck because hard-drinking hypermasculinized women are totally hot.

And let me emphasize this point, both with a Willis-ian alternate spelling and a Burns-ian paragraph break, combined with my own signature italicism:

Hawt.

There. I said it, and I'd say it again.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 30, 2006 12:30 PM

You know, reading that bit above by Ferrett is interesting, because I think he slightly screws up one point.

He's right, of course, in that the nigh-omniscient and nigh-omnipotent father figure has vanished as a main character in sitcoms.

However, the cliche is quite alive and well. For one, the role still exists in sitcoms as a supporting role, whenever the writers need a deus ex machina to pull out. Paternalism isn't just a province of fathers - or even men.

What drives me nuts, though, is that the cliche is abundant in dramas. For example, I'm going to take Grey's Anatomy, mostly because I watch it with my wife.

One character in the show is a cardiovascular surgeon named Dr. Burke. He's an attending physician in the surgical wing of the hospital - one step below surgical chief (and once spelled the current chief when the latter was hospitalized).

The thing is, the guy is absolutely perfect. He's never screwed up a surgery at all. His mere presence was enough to successfully guide two interns unfamiliar with the technique by themselves to conduct open-heart surgery. He manages to have a romantic relationship with an intern, and have it work, despite the fact that you should Never Ever Do That. And whenever the intern he is dating acts like a megalomaniacal shrew (which is pretty much in every episode), he's the patient understanding fellow that smooths things out and teaches a Life Lesson.

To be honest, Dr. Burke usually drives me nuts with his mere presence.

The exception, interestingly enough, was last night, were he screwed up and basically shoved responsibility off on his girlfriend. Just seeing Burke act like a jackass for once made him 1000% more interesting. It was quite refreshing.

(My apologies for those who don't give a flying whatever about shows about doctors who are deities in the OR and complete screw-ups in literally every other aspect in their lives.)

Comment from: Amadan posted at January 30, 2006 12:39 PM

Dirk Benedict is on crack.

First of all, even aside from James Bond and "urban" playaz, the hard-drinking, womanizing macho man is very much alive and well (and was never anything like either "Father Knows Best" or the current sitcom family dad who can barely wipe his ass without help from his wife, which, if you really want to gripe about negative male stereotypes and what they say about gender issues in the media, is really the one you should be griping about, but I digress....).

Second, the original Starbuck was a clown. The original BSG was a kids' show put into hasty production to capitalize on the unexpected runaway success of Star Wars. I don't blame Benedict for having fond memories of it or even for being upset that the remake is so different, but c'mon. Starbuck was hardly a cultural icon of male virility. He was a stock Saturday matinee Good Guy.

Third... about that "positive light." Is the feminized Starbuck really being presented in a positive light? She's an emotional basket case, a screw-up, and only avoids being permanently sent to the brig because she's such a damned good pilot, but I hardly think she's being presented as a positive role model.

Comment from: Johnny Catbird posted at January 30, 2006 12:43 PM

At the risk of being ruthlessly attacked, I'm going to side with Dirk Benedict on this... but not for the reason you think.

I've been pointed to this essay a few times, usually with the sender editorializing the same point; namely, "The new Battlestar Galactica is the best show on TV, and Mr. Benedict is someone who thinks the show should be more like the (inferior) original series." However, no one seems to look at one detail of the essay itself: the date of publication.

Dirk Benedict wrote this essay for Dreamwatch Magazine in May 2004. The Battlestar Galactica mini-series had been released, and there was talk (if not confirmation) of a television series. There is no way that he could compare the two series, simply because there was no second series at the time. Once I read the essay with just the mini-series in mind, I can find myself agreeing the point that he was making.

Comment from: Doctor Setebos posted at January 30, 2006 12:55 PM

He's just upset because the A-Team movie got cancelled.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at January 30, 2006 1:04 PM

Man, someday I'll understand this "awesomest thing on television" thing surrounding current BsG. I still haven't been able to get through five minutes without glazing over and wanting to cry from abject boredom. Not even overwhelming Starbuck lust helped.

"I can't lick your navel, beautiful hawt Starbuck. Even when you smoke that cigar. It's too boring in here."

Comment from: exit posted at January 30, 2006 1:07 PM

"He's just upset because the A-Team movie got cancelled."

Aren't we all upset about that?

Guys?

Comment from: Benor posted at January 30, 2006 1:14 PM

You really should give it more of a chance than 5 minutes, Wednesday. Mostly because it actually has something better than a railing kill-a bulkhead kill. Which was awesome.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at January 30, 2006 1:15 PM

Oh. There was also this:

hard-drinking hypermasculinized women

Would that really be "hypermasculine" more so than "butch of center"? Are there later, more genderfucky episodes than people are telling me about?

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at January 30, 2006 1:16 PM

Benor: I said it bored me in five minutes, not that I stopped watching in five minutes.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 30, 2006 1:23 PM

I think "hypermasculine" works, less because she's Butch of Center and more because her Butch traits are taken to extremes. She is hard drinking, carousing, gambling, smoking figure, who then goes out and kicks everyone's ass shooting things out of the sky.

At the same time, when she's actually shown in interpersonal relationships -- both her siblingesque relationship with Apollo, her foster daughteresque relationship with Adama, her lustpuppy relationship with Baltar and her Caprica fling, she's potrayed, if anything, as femme.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 30, 2006 1:26 PM

Oh, and if we want full on, balls-to-the-wall Butch, we have to look at Admiral Helena Cain.

Which actually informed the scenes she had with Thrace. Because Thrace tried to keep the Butch vibe up in them, but she was so clearly being outbutched that she started to slide back towards femme in them.

While remaining hypermasculine in other ways, of course.

Yeah, it was kind of weird.

Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells posted at January 30, 2006 1:27 PM

Weds:

Meh, I'm not a follower, so I wouldn't really know. I just picked up a little bit while staying in a cable-equipped hotel one night. I think I just like the word "hypermasculinized".

Anyhoo, "butch of center" is about as far as anyone seems ready to do. It seems, overall, that there is a thriving contingent of guys in science fiction fandom who are attracted to girls who could kick their ass, hence characters like New Starbuck (tm), but taking it to the realm of actual genderfuckery (beyond, of course, coy lesbian subtext) is a little more dodgy and probably not good for ratings.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 30, 2006 1:38 PM

Anyhoo, "butch of center" is about as far as anyone seems ready to do. It seems, overall, that there is a thriving contingent of guys in science fiction fandom who are attracted to girls who could kick their ass, hence characters like New Starbuck (tm), but taking it to the realm of actual genderfuckery (beyond, of course, coy lesbian subtext) is a little more dodgy and probably not good for ratings.

And everyone say hi to our special guest star, Susan Ivanova! Hi Susan!

Yeah, most of these shows don't do butch well -- or when they do, they go heavy stereotype. A show like B5 has 'coy lesbianism,' but Ivanova was portrayed as butchish on the Command Deck and femme in her quarters. And Star Trek's various sequels were terrified of Butch. Even full on hyperasskicker characters like 7o'9 and T'Pol were Femme turned up to 11.

Actually, BsG does a pretty good job with it. Six's ultraFemme bisexuality is if nothing else a break from the norm. Especially compared with Boomer.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at January 30, 2006 1:38 PM

Eric: Okay. (I guess. I'm not convinced that we have compatible definitions of any of these words, or that we're going to be able to sort them out publically in short enough order.)

Channing: Yeah. God save me from asskicking girls.

Comment from: miyaa posted at January 30, 2006 1:43 PM

Just think what Sci-Fi would have done if Buck Rodgers was redone for today's audience (or as Sci-Fi think is their audience). Twiki would have been turned into a holographic woman, I say. Holographic woman!

And as for hypermasculinized, that sounds like the guy is on steroids and Dick Pound (head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, and yes, that is his real name) is wanting to put him in the slammer forever and ever.

Comment from: djcoffman posted at January 30, 2006 1:48 PM

Man, you should have totally linked up the webcomic called BAD SHAPE-- they have a weird BattleStar Galactica tie in going on-- check it out at http://madugly.com/

Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells posted at January 30, 2006 2:09 PM

Okay, that does it. We totally need some female characters in modern science fiction who are relentlessly sweet, vulnerable and femmy on the flight deck but turn all tough-as-nails and ironclad in their quarters instead of it being the other way around all the time.

Comment from: Ray Radlein posted at January 30, 2006 2:30 PM

The thing about complaining that all husbands are doofuses in sitcoms today, as opposed to Father Knows Best, is that all husbands were doofuses back then, too, with the exception of Father Knows Best.

This isn't some kind of new post-feminist development; it's the way things have always been on television.

Comment from: Kris@WLP posted at January 30, 2006 2:31 PM

My problem with this post, and essay, and whatever, is that I can't stand the new BSG.

Now, mind you, I loved the miniseries. I enjoyed the first couple of episodes- "33" in particular deserves to be archived as the height of what television can achieve.

But as episodes followed, I began to wonder if the writing staff for BSG was the same as the writing staff for "Passions."

It's not just soap opera in space: it's goofy-ass soap opera in space. Having Boomer as a Cylon was good- but in my opinion they revealed that WAY too fast. But a Cylon, even human-shaped, getting PREGNANT? A robot having a baby? That's a plotline for Futurama or maybe Homeboys from Outer Space, not anything serious.

By the end of the first season- with plots and counterplots, relationships going in and out with the tides, pointless cut-aways to Caprica that resolved and revealed nothing- the new show actually insulted my intelligence more than the OLD show.

And considering how cornball the old show was, that took a lot of doing.

I don't care much about the "female Starbuck" issue because Thrace, callsign aside, is not Starbuck. You nailed it down yourself, Eric; the core of Starbuck's appeal was his eternal cheer, whimsy even in the face of impossible odds. Thrace is about as whimsical as an IRS audit... and half as entertaining.

Over-the-top works well for comedy. Drama taken over the top leads to melodrama... and, eventually, farce.

Comment from: Doublemint posted at January 30, 2006 2:33 PM

Random observation about last week's episode: is it just me, or does all of Apollo's major character development happen when he's pointing a gun at other men?

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 30, 2006 2:51 PM

You know, I'd love to know why there is a recent push towards this "butch" woman in sci-fi. Is it latent BDSM fantasies? Is it baseless pandering towards women? Is it a subtle sexism on the part of the creators, that a woman can get away with acting in certain aggressive ways that a man can't? Or is everyone just out of ideas and copying Babylon 5?

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 30, 2006 3:02 PM

Random observation about last week's episode: is it just me, or does all of Apollo's major character development happen when he's pointing a gun at other men?

*cough*-sublimation-*cough*

Comment from: William_G posted at January 30, 2006 3:09 PM

"He's just upset because the A-Team movie got cancelled."

Aren't we all upset about that?

Guys?

I pity the fool who isn't.

Comment from: The Ferrett posted at January 30, 2006 3:13 PM

Man, I wish I knew how to quote you. But I don't. And so I remain ignorant.

You have a good point here, or rather a series of good points. The only thing is that it feels uncomfortably like I got half a point in here, because I did finish by saying that I love BSG and to a certain extent the messages are irrelevant if the show is done well (which BSG is assuredly is).

But your point about it being alive in movies marketed to teenagers is well taken (except that in about half of the movies, they settle down at the, um, climax). I hadn't considered the black comedies, and I prolly should have.

P.S. Pls link to my BSG webcomix tyvm sincerely tf

Comment from: Sam Logan posted at January 30, 2006 3:18 PM

I don't think the gender change has anything to do with either the decline of masculinity or the increasing "weightiness" in sci fi. It's just an easy "twist" adopted by writers who want to differentiate their characters from cliched archtypes without trying too hard, and we've seen it used in countless films and TV shows for decades.

"OK guys... it's the same character we all know and love, but this time... it's a woman!"

Pop quiz: what movie/show's marketing executive used that phrase in a board meeting? Was it Battlestar Galactica? Terminator 3? Girl Fight? Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The Next Karate Kid?

Comment from: siwangmu posted at January 30, 2006 3:24 PM

I do have a wee question about this bit:

There are smart men in dramas, of course Ď but if they╠re drinking hard they╠re sliding into alcoholism and if they╠re womanizers they╠re not only haunted by their own callowness but the women are frequently shown as the pitiful victims of an awful man who showed up and gave them orgasms and friendship, but no commitment.

So, if they're drinking hard, they're sliding into alcoholism, and if they're womanizers they are either having or inflicting emotional problems...

What part of that doesn't make perfect sense? I mean, if you are someone defined as hard-drinking, you damn well are dealing with a danger of alcoholism. And somehow, from sexually-active male, we skip straight to womanizer. Is there some reason I'm unaware of that portraying womanizing--a term I consider inherently judgmental, i.e. a bad thing, as a bad thing is, um, bad? Now if the point had been no one seems allowed to portray a sexually-active male without assuming that he is a womanizer, then it would make a lot more sense to me. And be somewhat dwarfed by, you know, the representation of sexually-active women, who are, apparently, screwed up sluts.

(Please note that I'm not commenting on characterization in BSG, because I've only seen the mini, and am only skimming bits of this descussion, because I'm trying to avoid spoiling myself unnecessarily (if I were smart I wouldn't read it all, obviously))

Comment from: Glaser posted at January 30, 2006 3:38 PM

I think that the choice to change Starbuck's gender had nothing to do with...well, with any of that. I think it was an effort to portray gender equality in the Colonies on a level that we could identify today. In the 70s, an audience could identify with a totally male-dominated cast. In the early 21st century, we identify with a mostly male-dominated cast, but not entirely. And so we need characters like the new Starbuck and, say, Dualla, to present a certain degree of equality. By creating a demographic similar to our own, the writers can help the audience relate to the serious questions presented in the show.

Furthermore, today's Starbuck cannot really be termed a "slut". She's had two - count 'em, two - sexual encounters since the beginning of the series, one with Doctor Baltar in which she didn't even have the experience to, say, remember his name, and one with Anders, who she actually fell for. So...I don't think that really works. At all.

As for Apollo...I think it's a sign of the weakness of the second season that they dedicated an entire episode to one character. If they wanted to develop him, sure, that's good, but do it using arcs that cross several episodes. That's what the first season did so well.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 30, 2006 3:57 PM

Ferrett:

Man, I wish I knew how to quote you. But I don't. And so I remain ignorant.

Enclose quotes inside the <blockquote> tags. This is an HTML comment thingy.

You have a good point here, or rather a series of good points. The only thing is that it feels uncomfortably like I got half a point in here, because I did finish by saying that I love BSG and to a certain extent the messages are irrelevant if the show is done well (which BSG is assuredly is).

Which is why I said I wasn't really debating you, rather than Our Man Dirk. I think our essays exist in parallel rather than opposition.

(And I notice you didn't actually link your strip in your comment, either. ;) )

Glaser:

As for Apollo...I think it's a sign of the weakness of the second season that they dedicated an entire episode to one character. If they wanted to develop him, sure, that's good, but do it using arcs that cross several episodes. That's what the first season did so well.

Well, this did cross several episodes. He had the beginnings of his crisis of faith at the season finale/premiere, coupled with a number of emotional shocks. Then, he had his father and the President he revered give Starbuck an order (and requested he back her up) that he found repugnant, which shook his faith further, through the Resurrection Man story. Then, came the culmination/climax and all that happened as a result. Then, we had two episodes showing that he was still off the tracks and diverging further, all culminating in this latest episode.

Yes, it's unusual that this episode was entirely focused on Apollo (and on a single problem instead of multiple problems), but I see that almost like a coda in music. A sudden changeup that highlights a differing theme and brings a movement to closure. Besides, every so often it's nice to go from full on ensemble and multiple heads of the cast to a single cast member and go deep.

Besides, we got to meet Modern Cassiopeia. That's worth the price of admission right there.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at January 30, 2006 4:00 PM

OK, here's the thing.

Every once and a while someone comes along, looks at a cultural icon, and says "I really think we need to do something different here."

And 9 times out of 10 I disagree with them.

Now, I'm not saying Benedict's Starbuck is a full-blown icon on the level of Harrison Ford's Han Solo, but I *am* saying that if tomorrow they announced they were re-shooting the original Star Wars trilogy and that Charlize Theron had signed on to play the role of Han Solo, I would be joining an army of geeks who would be reading through the Poor Man's James Bond in order to, I don't know, make napalm out of styrofoam and then going on a rampage through the studio where the new movie was being shot. Or something.

And I agree with Johnny that Dirk's comment really needs to be viewed through the lens of there have only been a miniseries, not a series. Heck, at that point even Richard Hatch was still full of hate (for a different reason, since he'd been trying to resurrect the series for years and had essentially been given the finger by the world).

All that said, I do disagree with the idea that the wisecracking rogue is gone from TV science fiction. They never showed up in Star Trek, but what about Girabaldi in B5? John Chrichton in Farscape? Mal and Wash in Firefly, who were basically Han Solo cut in half and distributed piecemeal?

Comment from: The Ferrett posted at January 30, 2006 4:01 PM

(And I notice you didn't actually link your strip in your comment, either. ;) )

Nah, that'd be really putzish. If you didn't link to it, why self-aggrandize and go, "HEY MY WEBCOMIC LOOK HERE?"

That's what my journal's for. *g*

Comment from: Darrin_Bright posted at January 30, 2006 4:03 PM

Gender-bending goes back much farther than lazy TV writers. Playing around with gender roles is a huge part of Shakespeare's comedies, and there are of course plenty of mythological examples. Changing genders is an important tool when you want to highlight or call attention to a certain perspective or point of view.

I disagree with Ray Reidlin, however, on the Father Knows Best thing. The "wise old sage" figure also showed up on Leave It To Beaver and more 1950's style sitcoms where the main characters tend to be children. This type of "father" shows up even as recently as Growing Pains or Full House.

The more recent incarnations of the sitcom casts the father as an overgrown kid. The best modern example of the "wise old sage" that doles out advice or fresh perspective was Wilson on Home Improvement. Or maybe Giles on Buffy. Sci-fi, too... Ben Kenobi/Yoda are good examples. Maybe Guinan on Trek. Whenever a main character gets stuck on a problem, it's time to "visit the underworld" or go talk to the "blind seer".

However, the current batch of sitcoms seems to be going through some kind of transformation. "Everybody Loves Raymond" appears to be the end of the 3-camera format. The new sitcoms are switching to one camera, ditching the laugh track (thank GAWD, it was getting stale), and a heavy emphasis on narration. I'd say the Wonder Years kind of started the shift, but the current model seems to be based on Malcolm in the Middle. Rather than relying on father/sage figures to provide insight, the narrator provides hindsight and all that "learn my lesson" stuff after-the-fact. I see a lot more movement toward more neurotic self-conscious main characters who don't fit easily into the more traditional macho/feminine roles, which is maybe a better reflection of what American audiences are looking for and identifying with right now.

Comment from: Brendan posted at January 30, 2006 4:03 PM

Not to mention Jayce.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 30, 2006 4:23 PM

Jayce is more a Chewbacca.

"Artoo -- I suggest you let the psycho win."

Comment from: MagnoliaPearl posted at January 30, 2006 4:37 PM

Holy crap Charlize Theron as Han Solo would be SO AWESOME.

And then if we genderbend the whole cast, you know what that means ...
GIRL-DARTH CHICKVADER.

(plus Man Mothma.)

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at January 30, 2006 4:47 PM

Now if the point had been no one seems allowed to portray a sexually-active male without assuming that he is a womanizer, then it would make a lot more sense to me.

Translate that point into drinking instead of sex and that's something I've been trying to articulate all day. You're right too, I'm just sayin'.

I think that the choice to change Starbuck's gender [...] was an effort to portray gender equality in the Colonies on a level that we could identify today.

I think that's what I thought. I hope and believe that that's why I do it to Tristram and Bedivere and [spoilers deleted].

Sci-fi, too... Ben Kenobi/Yoda are good examples. Maybe Guinan on Trek. Whenever a main character gets stuck on a problem, it's time to "visit the underworld" or go talk to the "blind seer".
People like Giles and Guinan aren't really characters. They're plot devices. They're the Merlin figures of their milieus, the infallible prophets sworn to the hero(ine)s' causes whom the hero(ine)s in turn trust utterly. Their dramatic purpose is to be infallible: they exist to feed the hero(ine)s data that's correct ... even if it's so ambiguous as to be useless until clarification shows up just after the hero(ine)s've already puzzled it out. Now, in order to get actors like Anthony Stewart Head or Alec Guiness to play them, you do have to pretend and write them as if they were characters, sometimes. But they aren't, really. And that's why the new BSG doesn't have one.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at January 30, 2006 4:49 PM

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...

dammit. See what you've done? I'm quoting Episode III! I'M QUOTING EPISODE III!!!

I... am unclean...

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at January 30, 2006 4:50 PM

(er... that was referring to MagnoliaPearl, not Paul's post)

Comment from: jpcardier posted at January 30, 2006 4:52 PM

The more recent incarnations of the sitcom casts the father as an overgrown kid....

See, I see the issue from the other side. I find it more than slightly implausible that Jim Belushi and Kevin James have wives like Courtney Thorne-Smith and Leah Rimini. "One of these things is not like the other, one of these is not the same...."

Comment from: UrsulaV posted at January 30, 2006 5:50 PM

I would take Girl Darth-chick Vader in a SECOND over whiny-emo-stalker Vader.

Once you pop 'em in the cape and the big black suit, it hardly matters what gender they used to be anyway, so as long as James Earl Jones was still the voice of post-burn-unit Vader, I can only consider anything they do with pre-Vader--Charlize Theron, Punky Brewster, shaved ewok, whatever--to be a vast improvement.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 30, 2006 6:06 PM

Oh, let's not forget the word "dumbass," Ursula. I could deal with whininess, emo, and stalkers. But when Darth Vader proved to be that big of a dumbass, that's when I lost it.

You know, I wonder how much different things would have been if Vader had been female. For one thing, I'd dread to think how Lucas would explain hiding the pregnancy from the Jedi (a little easier to hide your lack of virginity when yours isn't the belly swelling). Although I could imagine a really kickass scene in which Vader falls to the Dark Side because her husband tries to keep the kids away from her.

Comment from: Glaser posted at January 30, 2006 6:11 PM

Well, this did cross several episodes. He had the beginnings of his crisis of faith at the season finale/premiere, coupled with a number of emotional shocks. Then, he had his father and the President he revered give Starbuck an order (and requested he back her up) that he found repugnant, which shook his faith further, through the Resurrection Man story. Then, came the culmination/climax and all that happened as a result. Then, we had two episodes showing that he was still off the tracks and diverging further, all culminating in this latest episode.
It is developed a little bit in the half-season opener and throughout Resurrection Ship, but really very little. I would have really, really liked to have seen a really long-term buildup in which Apollo has a crisis over his duty - what he's hung onto since the beginning of the show, which contradicts his morals, as it did in the first season when he dealt with Zarek. Instead, they establish it in one two-part episode, which at the beginning of the season was meant to be a one-part episode, then do some weird stuff with it for an episode in order to confuse the hell out of the audience, and then they just run a whole episode dedicated to it. Instead, I would have gone with practically the whole half-season having orders by Roslin and Adama which contradict his morals, but he goes along with them anyway with progressively more distate, until he finally confronts them over it the same way he did Saul Tigh near the end of the first season.
Yes, it's unusual that this episode was entirely focused on Apollo (and on a single problem instead of multiple problems), but I see that almost like a coda in music. A sudden changeup that highlights a differing theme and brings a movement to closure. Besides, every so often it's nice to go from full on ensemble and multiple heads of the cast to a single cast member and go deep.
Bringing a movement to closure in the thirteenth episode of a season may be a bad idea, first, unless you have a sweeping plot idea that works perfectly over seven or eight episodes, which, from what I've seen of the episode summary for the next eight, they don't. Plus, they haven't resolved anything that they didn't begin in the same episode. Apollo's little crisis of faith is resolved just like that? No, it's not. In fact, it doesn't really get any conclusion at all.
Besides, we got to meet Modern Cassiopeia. That's worth the price of admission right there.
For me, the fact that there's a new episode of Battlestar Galactica makes me watch it. But if this keeps on the tracks it's going right now, that won't be enough, and "meet[ing] Modern Cassopeia" certainly will not hold my attention then.

Comment from: aikugi posted at January 30, 2006 6:18 PM

You know, I'd love to know why there is a recent push towards this "butch" woman in sci-fi. Is it latent BDSM fantasies? Is it baseless pandering towards women? Is it a subtle sexism on the part of the creators, that a woman can get away with acting in certain aggressive ways that a man can't? Or is everyone just out of ideas and copying Babylon 5?

I like to call such characters "Whedonmaids", myself.

Comment from: Kris@WLP posted at January 30, 2006 6:55 PM

Now, I'm not saying Benedict's Starbuck is a full-blown icon on the level of Harrison Ford's Han Solo, but I *am* saying that if tomorrow they announced they were re-shooting the original Star Wars trilogy and that Charlize Theron had signed on to play the role of Han Solo, I would be joining an army of geeks who would be reading through the Poor Man's James Bond in order to, I don't know, make napalm out of styrofoam and then going on a rampage through the studio where the new movie was being shot. Or something.
Holy crap Charlize Theron as Han Solo would be SO AWESOME.

And then if we genderbend the whole cast, you know what that means ...
GIRL-DARTH CHICKVADER.

(plus Man Mothma.)

I would take Girl Darth-chick Vader in a SECOND over whiny-emo-stalker Vader.

Once you pop 'em in the cape and the big black suit, it hardly matters what gender they used to be anyway, so as long as James Earl Jones was still the voice of post-burn-unit Vader, I can only consider anything they do with pre-Vader--Charlize Theron, Punky Brewster, shaved ewok, whatever--to be a vast improvement.

OK, that does it.

The next Chichi-chan parody will be Star Wars.

Cross-play.

And when Chichi puts on the armor, you WILL know the difference. }:-{D

(Now I just have to decide which of WLP's werewolf characters gets cast as Chewbacca...)

Comment from: MagnoliaPearl posted at January 30, 2006 7:56 PM

SheJabba? Licking the dashing Prince, um Prince Lee while he wears a steel slave-thong?

I think everyone can agree that would be a little disturbing.

But also TOTALLY HOT.

Comment from: Tangent posted at January 30, 2006 8:12 PM

Thank you, Eric. I rather enjoy the new BSG, and I watched the original series (and the Sequel That Shall Not Be Named) when I was a kid. I loved the original. I love the new one.

They're different. But they're also the same. And that's where their charm comes in; especially with the fact the new series does several nods toward the original series with the Cylon belief that everything has happened before and will happen again.

That's kinda cool, when you think of it. :)

Rob H., Tangents

Comment from: Ardaniel posted at January 30, 2006 8:20 PM

I would at least flip through a TPB of Dirk Benedict's Starbuck the Aardvark in the comic shop.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at January 30, 2006 8:28 PM

They're different. But they're also the same. And that's where their charm comes in; especially with the fact the new series does several nods toward the original series

See, this is why my attitude toward these things is the polar opposite of Chris Wright's. I couldn't be a King Arthur fan if it wasn't.

Comment from: Eric the .5b posted at January 30, 2006 10:14 PM

Hearing the debating about hyper-masculinity and butch-of-center makes me wonder...Do we have any female veterans in the house who'd have an opinion on the portrayal of the female military characters?

Comment from: The_Prof posted at January 31, 2006 12:37 AM

I'm sorry no one's sent Benedict the memo, but the modern Battlestar Galactica isn't that kind of show. It's not light. It's not escapist fare. It's dark, and gritty, and everyone involved is flawed.

...which brings me to the reason I haven't picked up the new BSG, despite hearing consistently rave reviews from people I know. I've seen way too much Dark 'n Gritty[tm] lately, to the point where I have to ask: come on, people, can't we do a good, serious SF show these days without throwing the universe in the crapper? B5 had its share of dark, but also its share of uplifting moments, and it was at heart a hopeful show instead of 'life sucks we're all gonna lose eventually.' Apollo 13 was a docudrama rather than a fictional show, but it brought Teh Good Drama[tm] without being depressing.

In ref to the father figures thread... Is it too much to ask for role models these days, people to point to and say 'I know I'm never gonna be that good, but I sure want to try'?

Every once and a while someone comes along, looks at a cultural icon, and says "I really think we need to do something different here."

And 9 times out of 10 I disagree with them.

A-frickin'-men. Whenever someone says "We needed to change this to fit in with today's audience," I smell the stench of Bowdler (or his spiritual brothers on the opposite side of the fence).

Comment from: miyaa posted at January 31, 2006 1:15 AM

Here's my theory on the Dark & Gritty science fiction motifs. Somehow, we got it through our heads that science fiction is a kind of drama, and not just a kind of genre that can be played either way. Besides, "light hearted" serious shows are just considered comedies these days. And it's not just the science fiction genre, it's everywhere. Take Desperate Housewifes, for example. It's considered a comedy when you see it up for Emmy and Golden Globe awards!

Comment from: kamagurka posted at January 31, 2006 1:46 AM

Are you aware that a quantum leap is the *smallest* leap you can actually make?

Comment from: Denyer posted at January 31, 2006 2:14 AM

People like Giles and Guinan aren't really characters. They're plot devices. They're the Merlin figures of their milieus, the infallible prophets sworn to the hero(ine)s' causes whom the hero(ine)s in turn trust utterly. Their dramatic purpose is to be infallible:

Early Giles, then?

"light hearted" serious shows are just considered comedies these days.

Comedy doesn't have to mean sitcom or stand-up. If we're heading back to a more venerable understanding of the term, so much the better IMO...

Comment from: Reatheran posted at January 31, 2006 2:50 AM

A more venerable understanding would be good only if we also removed the modern idea of comedies as not worthy of serious regard.

Comment from: Freemage posted at January 31, 2006 4:32 AM

Well, my niece is a vet, back from tours to both Afghanistan and Iraq, and now in college.

She's pretty much indistinguishable from every other oung woman her age, for the most part, save for, perhaps, a higher level of self-confidence. She keeps up with fashion, and just recently moved into the sorority house.

Of course, she could kick my ass any day of the week--but other than that, it really doesn't show as much as one might expect if one's view of military women was formed on nothing but sci-fi.

And kamagurka, "quantum leap" isn't really a distance-based metaphor. Rather, it's a reference to the fact that there's a distance between the beginning and ending of the jump that is not seemingly passed through. Consider it to be used as the opposite of 'gradual evolution'. Furthermore, once the jump is made, the situation changes, allowing possibilities that couldn't have occured before.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at January 31, 2006 7:01 AM

...which brings me to the reason I haven't picked up the new BSG, despite hearing consistently rave reviews from people I know. I've seen way too much Dark 'n Gritty[tm] lately, to the point where I have to ask: come on, people, can't we do a good, serious SF show these days without throwing the universe in the crapper? [...]

In ref to the father figures thread... Is it too much to ask for role models these days, people to point to and say 'I know I'm never gonna be that good, but I sure want to try'?

Two Stargates come on in the timeslots before BSG.

Plus, when the current BSG season is over, Sci-Fi is putting the current Doctor Who season on Friday nights.

Comment from: edgeofhearing posted at January 31, 2006 9:18 AM

And Star Trek's various sequels were terrified of Butch.

What about Kira? Now, she did lose some of her edge as the series progressed (and, interestingly, as Ronald Moore gained more influence), but she at least started out tough as nails. And unlike Shelby, she wasn't played as the enemy for being that way.




And Yar certainly wasn't a softie either. Heck, she and Starbuck are sufficiently similar that when I first started watching BSG I called Kara "Tasha".

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 31, 2006 9:24 AM

Butch != tough.

That said, I'll concede butch-of-center for Tasha Yar. Kira was an alpha-being, no doubt, but she stayed pretty femme during it all. (And her Mirror Universe alternate was staggeringly Femme.) And Shelby wasn't even the tiniest bit butch.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at January 31, 2006 1:02 PM

On prophets and wise men: I'll go out on a limb and say three out of five Star Trek CMOs were their captains' prophet/mentors (usually in conjunction with the XOs). Four out of six if we count Boyce.

I don't know from butch, but I've said before that Kira was the culmination of the character Saavik and Yar tried to be and failed. Then Torres didn't do so well (well, perhaps, but not as well), and for Enterprise they didn't even try.

Comment from: coldcut posted at February 4, 2006 9:24 PM

I'm not quite sure I understand some of the criticisms here (outside of the inital Benedict silliness). Are people criticizing Thrace's character because she's feminine? Gender stereotypes aside, shouldn't females be feminine? I don't know that many (straight) girls who act like guys and vice versas. You could argue that that's just a

That aside, I think the suckitude of Stargate: Atlantis is a great example of why the sci-fi swashbuckler type doesn't work very well. Aside from the horrendous acting, the two main macho leads on that show have the character depth of a zuccinni. I find myself actively rooting for white-boy-in-dreads to get offed horrifically, taking his smarmy Heinlein reject commander with him. Incidentally, Mr. Burns, there's a whole Websnark for you right there. Why Richard Dean Anderson was so much more effective in that same kind of role playing what should be the exact same character. (The big issue is that he took things a lot less seriously, but I'm not the thesaurus rex that you are.)

Comment from: coldcut posted at February 4, 2006 9:25 PM

Forgot to complete the first paragraph. Point being made was that you could argue that social norms dictate gender behavior more than anything, but that's a big enough jump that it's a little much for one series to be taking on as a side issue.

Comment from: miyaa posted at February 4, 2006 10:33 PM

Your analogy is an insult to zuccini. But dead on.
Which is why I guess Richard Dean Anderson left. He had bigger things to do, like the new Mastercard commercial involving MacGyver. (If there is such a thing as a character Hall of Fame, MacGyver would be a first ballot Hall of Famer.)

Comment from: gwalla posted at February 4, 2006 10:44 PM

Did somebody say Darth Chick-vader?

(Yeah, I've got nothing of susbtance to add to the discussion)

Comment from: siwangmu posted at February 5, 2006 6:37 PM

Holy Moly.

Comment from: larksilver posted at February 5, 2006 7:07 PM

Sad thing is, as much as I loved Ben.... oh, heck, John Crichton in Farscape, I really resent him being on SG1. He's too young to be so grouchy.

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