Battlestar prequel produces mixed feelings

The webseries announcement raises a few questions.

News of another Battlestar Galactica prequel has been filtering around the internet for a while now, originally reported on by SciFiNow back in the halcyon days of March. We’ve recently had confirmation that another project is in development however, being a webseries focusing on the days of the First Cylon War. The aim of the project is to take inspiration from films such as The Hurt Locker and documentaries such as Restrepo to show the fictional conflict in an unflinching fashion, and ten or so episodes will be released in ten-minute instalments.

On the plus side, this is more or less exactly the direction that I wanted the proposed show to take. One Caprica, as good as it is, is enough for now, and the story was fairly conclusively finished at the end of the parent series. Indeed, I’ve had most of the principal actors and Ronald D Moore on record saying that the series is very much done following The Plan. The big unexplored area, touched on in the Razor flashbacks but never fully explored, is the First War. It also serves as a nice bridge between two shows that, for me, seem totally disconnected at the moment. Maybe it’s the stylistic differences between Caprica and Battlestar Galactica, but I just don’t feel as if they’re in a shared universe. Where events in Caprica couldn’t be directly referenced in the parent show, this might give the opportunity for a bit of dot-joining and linkage. It also returns to a more gritty, realistic (or at least, as realistic as you can get in a war against giant metal robots) form of drama, something that Battlestar always excelled at and suffered horribly for when it lost it toward the end of the final season.

On the down side, it’s a web series. The rapid-fire instalments won’t allow for the complexity of plot and exploration of character that have been a big part of the success for both series. Instead, we’ll have brief vignettes – something that I feel runs more or less counter to the idea of exploring a period in the franchise’s metaverse. Yes, it could work for some instalments – those who like episodes of popular shows such as The Next Generation’s ‘Lower Decks’ or Babylon 5’s ‘GROPOS’ know that you can have a character or a set for a short period of time and attach just as strongly as you can the main cast – but for the whole thing it seems like an odd idea. I’ve also yet to see a CG set that properly convinced me. Even Sanctuary, for all its technical achievement, doesn’t really, and the CGI hasn’t always been wonderful in Battlestar Galactica or Caprica.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that there’s more stories coming from the Battlestar Galactica universe, I’m just a little wrongfooted by the direction of it. A miniseries, for me, would be the better direction to go. Four or five episodes with a bit of budget behind them, that they can make money off at the time and through release later, rather than what I assume won’t be a highly budgeted webseries. Here’s hoping they’ll hit it for six, at any rate.