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Sci-Fi Television Science

The Science of Battlestar Galactica 465

gearystwatcher writes "TV science adviser Kevin Grazier talks about getting rid of the Trek babble in Battlestar Galactica. From the article: "Grazier's job was to help keep the technology and science real and credible — even when there were some massive leaps. Grazier didn't just make sure that there was a reason for what we saw — bullets instead of lasers — but also that when the science bit did break into the open, it was more mind-blowing than the writers could have conceived — such as when the humans discover their mechanical Cylon persecutors have evolved to look human.'"
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The Science of Battlestar Galactica

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:21PM (#34119066)

    The networks keep canceling all good TV shows and instead keep crap like American Idol and 90210 alive.

  • by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:29PM (#34119140)

    Grazier didn't just make sure that there was a reason for what we saw - bullets instead of lasers - but also that when the science bit did break into the open, it was more mind-blowing than the writers could have conceived - such as when the humans discover their mechanical Cylon persecutors have evolved to look human.

    Yes, that is one sentence.

    But I don't think "evolved" is applicable in this situation.

  • mind blowing? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:30PM (#34119146) Journal

    Ok, let's get one thing straight -- the Cylons "evolving" into human form was not "mind blowing". It just wasn't.

    It looked like a shameless ploy to reduce production costs, (which it probably was) and to have a bunch of scenes with James Callis dry-humping Tricia Helfer (which got tiresome after the second or fifth time).

  • Re:mind blowing? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:33PM (#34119162)

    So was the transporter on Star Trek. Doesn't minimize the effect it's had on real-life science since then.

  • by QuantumBeep ( 748940 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:36PM (#34119172)

    The series ran until the story ended, then it ended. May god grant that happens more often.

  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:37PM (#34119180) Journal
    Evolved simply means changed. It doesn't mean "biologically improved by a process of natural selection". A model of car evolves from one year to the next.
  • Re:mind blowing? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TFAFalcon ( 1839122 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:40PM (#34119206)

    Well half the series was based on the fact they the humans couldn't identify the Cylons living among them. That would be pretty hard to pull of if the Cylons were all 3m tinmen.

    It might have reduced production cost, but it also gave the series most of its subject matter.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:41PM (#34119218)

    I liked BSG because they don't bother with all the techno-babble. How does an FTL drive work? They don't tell you and it doesn't matter. It just makes the spaceship go and uses up some fuel. Quite refreshing from Star Trek and their neutrino flux combobulator matrices and anti-gluon snark fields.

  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:44PM (#34119248) Homepage Journal

    He's right though. It's not just about Caprica, it's about TV shows which require a minimum of brain cells to watch.

    Reaper (CW), Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox), Better Off Ted (ABC), Heroes (NBC), Caprica (SyFy)... I've heard rumors about Stargate Universe being cancelled too.

    Reaper was a lot funnier than Chuck. The guy doing the devil was hilarious and hated at the same time. I hope he gets a devil role in a future movie.

    Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles may have not had a lot of fans, but those who followed the story really want a proper ending/tie-in with the movies storylines.

    Better Off Ted had a lot of good nerdy jokes and references in its first season but went a bit too mainstream for its second season, that's why ratings went down. You can see it happen with the fake Veridian commercials. The first ones are clever (friendship: it's like stealing), the last ones are just stupid.

    Heroes... why did they cancel that? Is there not enough viewers that can follow a story told in a few years instead of a few minutes?

    Caprica... we know what happened, the story was about filling in the details, which we'll never know. It sure didn't get cancelled because of the decors, special effects or actors IMHO.

    Stargate Universe was slow to start (hey, the damn ship was falling apart), too bad too many viewers stopped watching. Their loss may end up being everyone's loss.

    And those are just from memory, I'm sure a lot more good shows have been cancelled in the last decade.

  • by gerddie ( 173963 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:51PM (#34119300)

    The result: BSG was barely science fiction - at least to purists.

    I risk to differ: Good science fiction can and should also refer to social sciences by putting people into extreme situations that are probably easier to conceive in a fictional setting then in a setting of the current world. When doing that kind of science fiction it will most likely tell you more about the time when it was created then about a possible future and IMO that is a good thing, because the future is not foreseeable anyway and the fiction should reflect and influence the now. I think BSG did an excellent job at that.

  • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:53PM (#34119312) Homepage Journal

    The series ran until the story ended, then it ended. May god grant that happens more often.

    Amen, brother!

    Too many people are still overwrought about cancellations of great shows, like Firefly. The thing is, if they kept riding that horse, it'd just have ended up becoming another Star Trek Voyager.

    Could they have filmed another season's worth of episodes? I'm pretty sure they could have written some really excellent ones. But there likely would have been a few stinker episodes. Season 3? Not so much. By season 4, it'd still be a good show, but showing wear around the edges.

    As it was, they went out in a blaze of fandom glory, shining all the brighter for having done so. Enjoy the memories, rewatch the DVDs if you're bored, but move on.

  • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:55PM (#34119332)

    I think it ended rather poorly, but hey, that's just my opinion.

    In the science department: No, BSG wasn't as bad as star trek, but neither was it good enough to deserve acclaim. It was, by the end, about B5/Firefly level, maybe a little better in some areas and worse in a few others. To wit:

    1. Unobtainium. I realize Tylium was a holdover from the original 70's BSG. But they displayed it having a range of properties that completely exclude it from being any real life element or compound. It would have been trivial to give Tylium the properties of either Deuterium or Helium-3, and simply work from the assumption that the protagonists have different words than us for the elements. Hell, "frak" already established that the writers were ready to sub in one word for another.

    2. Magic. B5 and star trek have been guilty of this too. Is it too much to ask that a sci-fi series stick to a rational universe? Or at least leave sufficient ambiguity that the few supernatural events might have been natural ones instead?

    3. Space combat. This one is kinda a case of rule of cool. Realistic space combat wouldn't look like much. But really, the ranges involved in BSG are much too short, both for weapons fire and for targeting/detection.

    4. Living ships. Seriously, this one's been done by every major soft science fiction series in the last 15 years, and has got to stop. Living tissue has no place in spacecraft design, except the warm meatbags who fly the damn things (and possibly as part of their life support).

    Other than those 4 things, the series wasn't bad, science-wise. I'll give free passes on FTL and generated gravity, as those are virtually prerequisites for the type of setting involved. It may have been the first soft sci-fi series to employ concepts like mind uploading as major plot elements. Concepts like the Galactica being minimally automated made sense in context. They actually addressed realistic details like the number of survivors dwindling and running out of resources.

  • Re:mind blowing? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:57PM (#34119352)

    The storylines would have been virtually unchanged if the human looking cylons had been actual human traitors and fanatic cylon sympathisers instead.

    Are you kidding? Cylon sympathizers know who they are. They don't think they're humans fighting the good fight against the machines until they find out they aren't. They don't have to make a choice between what they really are and what they always thought they were. It would have been a totally different show.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:59PM (#34119364)

    Don't get me wrong. I drooled over BSG, and it was a welcome change from Star Trek (victory for modernized scifi). But the part where Starbuck dies, then miraculously appears alive, and ends up stumbling over her dead previous body... culminating in her literally vanishing into a puff of smoke -- it made me facepalm IRL. I think some of the original appeal of BSG was what it could have become; the hope that, as you're watching it, all the crap religion and character idiocy will be tossed out in the later episodes. Unfortunately it only got worse. If BSG accomplished one thing, it was in showing a version of humanity even stupider than our own -- surely a remarkable feat.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:59PM (#34119366)

    Re: Heroes

    Because, after a truly phenomenal first season, the last season or two was quite dreadful. It seemed clear that they didn't have a story to tell - you seem to assume they were really building towards something of note - like the end of the first season, opening of the second. It sure didn't feel like that to me.

    As a fan that watched every single episode, I thought it was ready to be cancelled.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @09:05PM (#34119420)

    "Moore wasn't messing around when it came to getting the "facts" right."

    Except for the episode (S2E01, Scattered) where Gaeta "networks" some computer systems of the BSG to do faster jump calculations, and somehow the Cylons can infiltrate what... the cables? Pretty sure if they could do that, they could do much worse to the systems outright.

    I always found the episode very lame from a tech perspective.

  • by AdmiralXyz ( 1378985 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @09:10PM (#34119444)
    Can we please talk about the "the networks cancel the good stuff and keep the crap" spiel that I see every single time Slashdot or Reddit or whatever starts talking about television?

    Networks are businesses: they exist to make money. Network executives are not evil men who... well, OK, they are evil, but not in the way you think: they don't say to themselves, "This show is much too intelligent, it might awaken our viewers out of their drunken stupor, cause them to realize that corporations like us are the reason for their miserable lives, and spark a revolution! Away with it!". No, what they do is say, "This show is losing money, not enough people are watching it. Away with it." That's their job.

    And don't talk to me about how the Nielsen ratings don't accurately reflect viewership, and how Firefly was actually this smash hit being watched by gobs of people around the country that Fox somehow overlooked. You know how Serenity did at the box office, the movie that all the fans were supposed to go see multiple times to convince Fox to bring the show back? It didn't break even [boxofficemojo.com], even when you factor in DVD sales. You're not as numerous as you think.

    If you want to complain about bad television being the norm, you need to go find people and convince them to watch your favorite show instead of { watching crap like American Idol, pirating the show off the Internet, doing intellectually-stimulating or otherwise rewarding activities besides TV }. Lousy television is their fault, not the networks', the latter is just giving people what they want.

    Lord knows I don't want to sound like I'm sticking up for TV executives, but it pains me to see this same crap appear in the comments every single time, when people could actually fix the problem if they were willing to make the effort.

    Frothing rant over now.
  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @09:10PM (#34119450)

    4. Living ships. Seriously, this one's been done by every major soft science fiction series in the last 15 years, and has got to stop. Living tissue has no place in spacecraft design, except the warm meatbags who fly the damn things (and possibly as part of their life support).

    Once you give ships self-repair capability or a good deal of intelligence, "living" ships are a natural extension. It may be cliched beyond redemption, but it's not that great a stretch.

    My personal peeve is using boat physics in space. There's a natural "up" direction, ships bank when they turn, and ships top out at a maximum speed.

  • by NoSig ( 1919688 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @09:17PM (#34119512)
    Heroes devolved from a series about a super hero showdown to high school drama at an actual high school with the plot seemingly generated at random. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was the best TV in a long time, unfortunately the whole setup reeks of some half-effort crap that's just there to sell a movie - until you actually watch a few episodes to prove that wrong. It's a bit how Batman: Arkham Asylum was a tremendous game, but it might easily have been passed over because most movie tie-in games suck. I enjoyed Caprica, but I can easily see how many other people wouldn't. It was too all over the place - while much better than Heroes, it shared that flaw.
  • Offtopic, sort of. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jiteo ( 964572 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @09:21PM (#34119536)
    I'm still angry at BSG for ending with "You know all of those cool questions we left unanswered? Yeah, those. Yeah, God did it."
  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @09:21PM (#34119540)

    I wouldn't say any of those represents shows that 'require a minimum of brain cells to watch. I don't see the mark of intellectualism really applying to any of those.

    Reaper was funny and the Devil really carried it, but it did kinda go in circles in fairly short order. Easily forgivable though, since it was funny and going around in circles isn't such a horrible thing when a series doesn't take itself seriously.

    Terminator was somewhat interesting, but spread what they had too thin. It's the mark of many shows of that ilk, trying to pull off long story arcs can get tiresome when the material could be handled more succinctly without real loss. Suddenly in the last episode they hinted at maybe having some interesting place to go, but guess we won't know now.

    Better Off Ted made me smirk a little, but never had me over the top entertained or anything.

    I was a big fan of the first season of Heroes. There were some genuinely interesting mysteries and satisfying reveals. They really had no where to go from there but down. They really wore out the Sylar character, and never created a villain as compelling as him again. Similarly they had to nerf the most powerful good guy, and propped up Hiro moreso than I think was originally intended.

    Can't comment on the other two. I will say Firefly could've gone places, but give Whedon too much leeway and he will produce an overly dragged out set of arcs.

  • by guybrush3pwood ( 1579937 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @09:28PM (#34119598) Homepage
    You should read more. There're probably more great sci-fi books out there than you think. In fact, you shouldn't watch TV at all...
  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) * on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @09:40PM (#34119660)

    I liked BSG because they don't bother with all the techno-babble. How does an FTL drive work? They don't tell you and it doesn't matter. It just makes the spaceship go and uses up some fuel. Quite refreshing from Star Trek and their neutrino flux combobulator matrices and anti-gluon snark fields.

    Spoken like a true Joss Whedon fan (and yes, Firefly was one of my favorite TV shows but not for the science, because there wasn't any.)

    The problem with your perspective is that if you remove the actual science from a work of science-fiction, at best you have a fantasy. Nothing wrong with that, except that for the minority like me who grew up on books by the likes of Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, George O. Harrison and other masters of hard sci-fi, well, we tend to resent fantasies falsely represented as science fiction. More to the point, it's the how and the why that makes the story interesting. If the only reason you watched Battlestar Galactica was for the (ahem!) "human" element, you might as well just watch re-runs of Wagon Train, or maybe a good soap opera. BSG (and Stargate, and Atlantis, and hell, Star Wars for that matter) are all fantasies with technological trappings, and the lack of any supporting foundation for all the critical technologies depicted simply detracts from the believability of the storyline, so far as I'm concerned. Complain about Star Trek's technobabble if you wish, but the original series, in particular, was about as much of a true sci-fi as the studio heads would allow: Roddenberry used scripts from some of the best science fiction writers of the time, and much of what they wrote was a legitimate projection of existing scientific knowledge (not all, but they tried.)

  • by visualight ( 468005 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @09:48PM (#34119710) Homepage

    Farscape and Firefly

  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) * on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @09:55PM (#34119752)

    Good science fiction can and should also refer to social sciences by putting people into extreme situations that are probably easier to conceive in a fictional setting then in a setting of the current world.

    That's just fiction, not science fiction. Real science fiction should have a large science component. That's what it's primarily about. Stories about people who use science to overcome difficulties, or who struggle in worlds ruled by scientific principles, etc. Think of it as fiction based on the core principles of the Age of Enlightenment.

    And if you are going to create a universe that is technologically and scientifically more advanced than we are (but not so advanced that their technology might as well be supernatural) then you must project their developments in light of current scientific knowledge. That's why it is science fiction and not fantasy.

  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:00PM (#34119792) Journal

    Not sure I agree on Universe. The last couple of episodes make me suspect the writers have lost their way. Look we don't really need the girl having an alien hiding inside. There are lots of other loose plot threads on which they could move forward without having to add yet another that they'll abandon anyway in a few more episodes.

    And let's face it, it's not reasonable for Rush to be able to keep the control room secret for this long. The others have *seen* the control room in the gate ship. They *know* what a control room looks like and probably the most likely location. It's contrived and totally out of character for Young to not have Rush followed either physically or electronically at all times at this point.

    SGU is becoming uninteresting because they're taking small plot points and obsessing over them in episode after episode after episode. I'm still watching for now, but if something doesn't happen in another couple of episodes, I'll drop it, just as I dropped Caprica. Which, incidentally, had all the good parts in the pilot and then was excruciatingly boring afterwards.

    This is not about a show being intelligent. It's about a show having too much dead time and too many contrived conflicts designed to fill same. It's about writers who (a) don't have a story arc and are just wandering, or (b) have a story arc, but are trying to stretch one season of story to three seasons to guarantee income from reruns.

  • by Rakishi ( 759894 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:03PM (#34119812)

    It also won't bleed if you shoot it,

    Sure it might, likely has all sorts of fluids in it. Cooling, material transfer, hydraulics and so on. Just because it's a "living ship" does not mean it's made from the same material as life on Earth.

    nor does it have a spongy mass of brain tissue at the controls.

    That's a design decision, if the easiest way to make an AI is to grow one from brain tissue than why not just make that part of the ship?

    It's like the writers somehow got the idea in their heads that flesh can be engineered to extreme levels of durability and regeneration, or without the limitations of conservation of matter and energy.

    No, they simply don't have your limited imagination and understand that just because life on earth is made out of something that doesn't mean all life must be made of that. Plenty of great hard science fiction covering that area I should add.

    It ties into a fundamental misunderstanding about the capabilities and limitations of evolution and life in general.

    Life has no limitations, anything that grows and reproduces is alive. It can be made of nuetronium and eat stars. Or be made of metal and nano-machines (technically proteins are nano-machines anyway). Or maybe it breather methane. Living ships in general are described as being engineered rather than naturally evolving so I'm not sure why you even mentioned that.

    Want to see a ship made or organic matter? Wooden sailboat. You'll note we make our warships out of steel, and would continue to do so even if we could make a wooden boat that healed.

    Why are you imposing the arbitrary restriction of it having to be made of Earth style organic material? Life is not limited to being carbon based. Hell, even life on Earth isn't as stupid as you apparently think it is. That calcium which makes up your bones isn't particularly organic.

  • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:03PM (#34119814)

    This comic [cracked.com] illustrates the subject well, I believe. I rarely see a series that goes for more than 3 or 4 seasons and is very good.

    There's nothing wrong with the short form! If you write out a series to be 3 seasons, you shouldn't hurriedly try to make a fourth because the producers wanted to drop a ton of money in your pocket. Finish the three seasons and leave it at that. Hey, you could always follow up with a movie!

    On the flip side, I think maybe I would rather see a good series go long and have a lot of mediocre episodes than a series go short and not be able to resolve any of its major plotlines.

  • by GiveBenADollar ( 1722738 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:12PM (#34119880)
    You mean you don't know who Starbuck was?! Guess I can understand why you would be pissed off and confused.
  • by Rakishi ( 759894 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:12PM (#34119882)

    It makes sense within context. In retrospect I assume since that show didn't seem to have that much planning. The centurions were outdated designs and didn't seem too capable (possibly to prevent another rebellion). The Raiders were thus designed around the newer and more capable humanoid cyclons. That meant a human type brain inside them. They're not unmanned ships or organic ships but simply ships with a specially designed hard-wired pilot. That meant that they could, for example, resurrect and as such improve in combat despite being destroyed in battle.

  • Re:mind blowing? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:20PM (#34119930)

    Heh. Yeah. And Boomer was a lot hotter than Number 6 anyway. But even the Baltar/6 tedium was nowhere near as bad as Starbuck and Apollo being all emo over each other that whole last season.

  • Re:mind blowing? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Luke has no name ( 1423139 ) <fox AT cyberfoxfire DOT com> on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:21PM (#34119936)

    Also, less allegory would have been had about the torture of faceless, godless enemies, and the realization that they're just the same as us, etc. etc.

    It would have been a totally different show, and for the millions who enjoyed the show thoroughly (especially when discounting the ending), it would therefore have been worse.

    You get +1 troll.

  • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:22PM (#34119944)

    Heroes went downhill pretty fast after season 1 (though season 1 was so good that it would have been really hard not to). I watched every episode and would watch more, but it ran its course and the writers seemed to run out of ideas.

    Caprica never really grabbed me, though I watched it hoping it would get interesting.

    Stargate Universe also never grabbed me, though I never watched any of the other Stargate shows so that's probably just my taste...

  • by WCLPeter ( 202497 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:30PM (#34119994) Homepage

    Actually Battlestar: The Remake stopped being good around the middle of Season Two, right around the time they found "New Caprica". After that it got ploddingly slow, even more so than it already had been, and simply became infuriating to watch; I fell asleep numerous times due to boredom and found myself constantly having to rewind to watch what I'd missed. It was only because I'd already invested two years of my life into the show, and my fervent hope they would somehow manage to go back to the exceptional quality of the mini-series and first season, that even got me to watch the final two seasons.

    I shouldn't have bothered. Seeing Ron Moore turn the once scary genocidal killing machines with a plan into inept whiny melodramatic losers who couldn't plan themselves out of a paper bag, they were too busy standing around talking about their feelings for hours on end with not only themselves but also the people they wanted to kill, made it really hard to enjoy the show. It also became apparent, very quickly, that Ron Moore had no idea what the hell to do with the show after a while. Incomprehensible story lines, the large portions of cannon that were completely retconned, the bordering on incredibly stupid waits between episodes, the almost Soap Operaesque story lines all made for a show that only got worse as time went on but, like a train wreck in slow motion, really really slow motion, it was just too hard to turn away. And don't even get me started on the completely pointless 3 hour "Lord of the Rings" ending that really only had about 35-40 minutes worth of value in it.

    The show was so bad it soured me on all things Battlestar: The Remake that I couldn't even stomach the idea of watching Battlestar: The Prequel (Craprica). Of course if they wait a few years and give Richard Hatch the go ahead to produce his Battlestar: The Second Coming series to continue the story of the original, I'd be all over that in a heartbeat.

  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:38PM (#34120060) Journal

    Yeah.... I'm glad you mentioned that, because that was my "bone to pick" with the whole BSG series too. It was an *excellent* series, all in all - but that religious stuff near the end deflated my interested in it almost immediately!

    One of my friends pointed out that the main scriptwriter was a devout Mormon though, so he was probably trying to interject his beliefs into the story-line.

    I mean, it's one, valid way to tell the story -- but it just wasn't at all satisfying one for me. I had a similar problem with "The Matrix" sequels, where they went from an initially really cool story-line to some sort of religious thing with Morpheus as a prophet, etc. etc. I know plenty of people who thought The Matrix would have been far better if they didn't bother doing a part 2 or 3....

  • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:54PM (#34120170)

    I have to give BSG a lot of credit for space combat because they did allow ships to turn 180 while still traveling in the same direction. Most space combat I've seen treats the ships like aircraft instead of rockets, so I was very pleasantly surprised.

    Totally agreed on that point. And the Newtonian flight mechanics were probably the most realistic element of space combat in the re-imaged series.

    And yeah, realism in this case would mean a lot of BVR combat, with the added element of total silence in space, and that's not going to create the kind of wow-factor and dramatic tension people expect. That's what I was getting at with the "rule of cool" description.

    Why are you so set against (living ships)?

    Well, it's partly as you said, they've been done to death. But they weren't a good idea the first time I saw them either.

    If a setting had "living ships" that had AIs running on a computer network, with Von Neumann machines the size of specks handling repairs (this could be nano-tech, but doesn't have to be nano-scale to work), and a personality that interacted with the crew, I would be happy. That's hard science. Each concept is realistic, attainable and futuristic. Provided certain elements of realism were respected, like finite resources and realistic time-frames for repairs, I'd have no problem with it, and calling this ship "alive" would not seem unreasonable.

    This isn't what modern soft science fiction has.

    What soft sci-fi has are ships made of meat. Carbon based, amino acid/protein, water-as-a-solvent, meat. This often gets rooted in canon, either explicitly, through the writers saying that's what the ship is made of, or implicitly, by showing a lack of biochemical barriers (the classic "virus plot" where the ship gets sick with something that infects humans for instance).

    Inevitably, the meat-ship is shown being stronger/more advanced than its metal counterparts, and often repairs without expending biomass or energy, at a rate that makes bacterial growth look sluggish.

    This. Is. Bad. Biology. Ask any bio major, or prof, or even an interested amateur. This is very much rooted in the same bad science that gave us the version of evolution seen on Star Trek, which bears no resemblance at all to actual scientific evolution. It's like the moment a ship being biological is established, science goes flying out the window.

  • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @11:07PM (#34120234) Homepage

    Too many people are still overwrought about cancellations of great shows, like Firefly. The thing is, if they kept riding that horse, it'd just have ended up becoming another Star Trek Voyager.

    Interestingly, the better seasons in Voyager were the later ones (IIRC). People didn't like them because they 'broke convention', which IMO, means it's a good story. :)

    As for Firefly, there was at least another full season of content there. Supposedly, there were 2 full seasons of plot and character advancement already developed. They had to rush it and cram it into the movie to give it some sort of 'closure', but at the same time, it fell short.

  • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @11:31PM (#34120370) Homepage

    Wait... what are you saying? Who was Starbuck?

    Now I'm supremely confused. I thought she was just another "human" who served an allegorical role in the show. Was she something more?

  • writer's strike (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @11:43PM (#34120450)

    The writer's strike killed Heroes. The end of that season was basically a complete 180 that totally invalidated every minute of the season up to that point. After that it was never the same.

  • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @11:53PM (#34120516)
    Funny, I thought it stopped being good just about the time they introduced a female Starbuck who in the first scene smokes cigars, plays poker, drinks hard liqueur, and punches out a man twice her size so that they could attempt to establish that she could fill the original Starbucks shoes.

    Honestly, I could have taken the show way more seriously if they had not called it Battlestar Galactica. By calling it that, they set a high bar too meet, and unfortunately, they ended up being way too cheeseball to come even close. I suffered through the first season hoping something would come of it, and every episode got cheesier and more contrived.
  • by Rakishi ( 759894 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @11:53PM (#34120522)

    You're reaching. Recall we're talking about BSG here (and the other series that had this cliche).
    The Cylon Raider brain bled actual blood. Not coolant, hydraulic fluid or any such material.

    Because it's a human derived body shoved into a regular ship.

    A brain the size of a large dog? That can be outflown by a human pilot? In a setting where they have truly mechanical AI (in the form of Cylon Centurions)? Right, that's clearly a more efficient design.

    The Centurions are shown as limited in many ways and were not trusted by the humanoid Cylons. The biological Raiders were shown to be able to regenerate (thus learn perpetually) and some could out fly humans.

    Because, in series like BSG/B5/Farscape/etc, the carbon based, amino acid derived nature of the living ships is canon, meaning this isn't a question of me imposing my own "limited imagination". This is a case of the writers failing to do the research. And copying each others ideas without checking whether the copied idea made any sense in the first place.

    Okay, where do they say the ships in B5 and Farscape are carbon based? In BSG the ships are perfectly mechanical aside from the pilot. In Farscape and B5 the ships are made of horribly alien materials and it's generally noted many times how absurdly alien their biology is.

    Life has limitations. Organic life based around carbon chemistry using water as a solvent is inherently limited in what ranges of temperature, pressure and ionizing radiation it can operate. There is earth life that can survive exposure to space (water bears are an example), but only through mechanisms that allow such life to shut down and restart at a later time. This is not my opinion, it is an established chemical and biological fact. Put another way, ask someone with knowledge of biology greater than or equal to my own (a biology professor for instance), and they will back me up on this point.

    Amazingly making a shell around oneself to provide the required environment is not some magical ability restricted only to devices made by humans. You know, like the hull every spaceship. In fact if you plugged the holes (without killing them) and toughened the skin a bit you could shove a human out into the vacuum of space for quite a while. Quite trivial to make a spaceship with a carbon biology and existing laws of physics although it wouldn't be of much use, more like a tree in space I suppose.

    Want to get around those limitations by using different chemistries? Okay. What are you using in lieu of carbon as a primary building block? What solvent are you using? What system of energy transfer serves for metabolic function? All forms of life will have limits, even if those limits differ from our own. Simply saying that the living tissue in question is not carbon based does not excuse it behaving in impossible ways.

    You are once again limiting your definition of life to things which are like life on Earth. A 100% mechanical spaceship with an AI and a repair facility that can make copies of itself is alive. Electricity transfer energy and metal is the building block.

    Any life would face the same limitations imposed by the laws of physics. Many bio-ships in fiction are thermodynamically impossible. The writers try to get around issues with mechanical ships (reaction mass and repair) by using tissue in lieu of machinery, ignoring that the problems are not mechanical in nature, but are instead the laws of physics.

    We're talking about fucking science fiction series, every bloody ship breaks fifty laws of physics by just existing. Do you comprehend how large the heat sinks would need to be for even the most trivial of spaceships to not melt into slag inside of a single episode? The laws of physics the show operates under are explicitly different from our own or they have found ways to break them.

  • by metrix007 ( 200091 ) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @01:06AM (#34121072)

    Woah woah woah.

    Reaper was terrible. Terminator was full of shitty acting and poor storytelling, and after they added Shirley Manson things just went horribly downhill. A t-1001? Really? That's something I would expect from a shitty merchandise backstory.

    Better of Ted still had a lot of hilarious episodes in season 2. The problem was that both seasons were not mainstream *enough*. Shows with an obscure sense of humour are going to have an obscure amount of fans.

    Heroes was shit after S1. S2 had promise, and given that it was the WGA strike can be excused. Season 3 was complete crap and the characters were no longer themselves, and then S4 was completely irrelevant to the previous seasons.

    SG:U is shit. It is so formulaic and trying to be different while leaving behind all the reasons the other two series succeeded.

    Say what you like, but even smart people don't watch bad shows. You just seem like a pretentious ass with what you wrote above.

    As for good shows? Chuck is an extremely well crafted show, with a great many intelligent jokes and *amazing character development. It is without a doubt the best show in the last few years, and I hope more people discover it. Mad Men and Breaking bad are amazing, as is True Blood. For non cable shows check out Fringe, Community, 30 rock and Supernatural.

    Bad shows get cancelled because they are *bad*, and yes a lot of good shows get caught in the crossfire. Most of the shows you listed above got cancelled because they were bad, with the exception being Better of Ted. To say there are not any smart shows on TV at the moment however....is just flat out wrong.

    Try broadening your horizons.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2010 @01:29AM (#34121228)

    This comment just feels insulting, not insightful. You are praising the money-making machine, and not the artist, or the craft. You're equating "good stuff" solely with "makes money" and saying that simply because we as an audience cannot ourselves expand the niche market, it shouldn't exist. How do these things get rated up?

    Anyway, Firefly is also a terrible example - these same network executives also made the decision to air the episodes out of order, stall the airing during sweeps, and show baseball games instead of the show in many areas during the first few weeks. It's *those* decisions that most people backing Firefly are upset about, and not just that they launched the "it's not making enough money" torpedo.

    If only some execs would have done the same to Dancing with the Stars and Survivor.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2010 @04:13AM (#34121886)

    Terminator was somewhat interesting, but spread what they had too thin. It's the mark of many shows of that ilk, trying to pull off long story arcs can get tiresome when the material could be handled more succinctly without real loss. Suddenly in the last episode they hinted at maybe having some interesting place to go, but guess we won't know now.

    Yeah -- trouble is, when a show is barely getting enough ratings for renewal, it gets renewed with a short order of ~13 episodes, and the showrunner drafts out the season's arc accordingly. Now if it does OK, or enough other shows on the network suck, they'll add an extra 6-10 episodes to the order. This happened to TSCC, and so we got the unmemorable middle of season 2 (dream clinic, dead livestock, etc.).

    Now I do blame the networks for this, but it's not like showrunners can't overcome it; it happened to Chuck in season 3, but they took the (AFAICT unorthodox) approach of sticking with the tight 13-ep arc, then following it with a 6-ep mini-season, which worked much better than six random Shaw episodes with no arc advancement. Or they can just replot for a longer season and get the pacing right -- tough, but doable.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @06:23AM (#34122416) Journal

    turn the once scary genocidal killing machines with a plan into inept whiny melodramatic losers who couldn't plan themselves out of a paper bag

    The problem with the show is that the premise basically requires this. The Cylons are machines. Unlike humans, they don't need over a decade to go from being created to being effective, they can go into the fight straight off the production line. As they spread out, their production capacity increases. When they left human space before the start of the first episode, they would have spread out and their production capacity would have increased in proportion to the number of star systems they colonised.

    In the first episodes, they were shown to have enough Base Stars to completely annihilate the colonial fleet and no reason for them to stop constructing more. We saw how quickly the ships self repaired, and if they can be built at a vaguely similar rate then each shipyard should be able to make at least one a month.

    Galactica was slightly more capable than one Base Star. Against two it would struggle, against four it would stand no chance. The Cylons had spies in the fleet, so they knew where it was at all times. They could very easily have jumped in with overwhelming fire power and completely destroyed it at any point.

    They didn't, for some reason. For the series to make sense, this reason needs to exist. In both iterations of the show, it's been pretty weak.

  • by beowulfcluster ( 603942 ) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:14AM (#34122640)
    Spoiler warning, I guess:

    Indeed. After the first season and especially in the third season I got a bit tired of the "Ooh Sylar is bad!", "Ooh now Sylar is in a suit and Bennetts partner!", "Ooh now Sylar is bad again!", "Ooh the Petrellis are Sylars parents!", "Ooh no they lied!". Bennett is bad, good, bad, good, bad, good. It was all a bit World Wrestling Federation. Then the powers. Peter has all the powers. Then Peter has no powers. Then Peter can change powers but just one at a time. Hiro has a power, Hiro loses power. Ando has no power, Ando gains power. Mohinder has no power, Mohinder injects something and gains power We need someone to paint the future again but those guys are all dead so let's give that power to Parkman (who still keeps his old power). If they weren't making it up as they went along they sure did a good job of covering that up.
  • by Beyond_GoodandEvil ( 769135 ) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:06AM (#34122884) Homepage
    Reaper was terrible.
    No, it had a few weak episodes, but was generally funny and could be clever at times. The guy playing the devil was great.
  • by Cytotoxic ( 245301 ) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:22AM (#34122962)

    I may be wrong, but I blamed this on the "Lost" phenomenon. With everyone and his brother pretending that inserting something random into the story was deep and insightful, they thought that it would work for them. The "there's a deeper conspiracy" idea works well, but you have to actually have a deeper conspiracy in mind at the start and stick with it. The good series know the ending before they start. The bad ones just have a single cool idea and then flail around once they've given you the single cool idea. BSG was good because it had a defined story arc in mind - love or hate the ending, at least they had one.

    The first season of Heroes was entertaining because they had a formula of slowly revealing special powers and slowly revealing a series of machinations that would lead to the destruction of New York. Once that fate was averted, they just kept piling on powers and conspiracies. After a while they got stuck, so they used a fiat to take away everyone's powers. Then they could start all over with the formula. But it was too late. They had lost the original charm and lost their audience. By the end it just looked like they were throwing stuff against the wall to see what stuck. (Oooh, look! Spooky carnival!)

  • by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <slas45dxsvadiv...vadiv@@@neverbox...com> on Thursday November 04, 2010 @11:23AM (#34124664) Homepage

    Erm, what's your problem with a T-1001?

    The writers made her a T-1001 instead of a T-1000 just in case they actually did need to do something different with her, like have John try to kill her with cold and it not work. It wasn't 'merchandising', it was caring about continuity enough to use a slightly different model just in case it behaved slightly inconsistent with movie T-1000.

    It's worth mentioning her number wasn't even stated on the show, as far as the viewers knew she was a T-1000, so you got your information from somewhere else.

    Her character was pretty interesting, too, as it was obvious she wasn't doing 'Terminator' things and didn't actually want John Connor dead, but wasn't really helping him either. She appeared to be trying to set up a competing AI, and apparently came back in time to replace a dead person, which is a Terminator first.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.