Battlestar Galactica: Season three video

Doctor Who‘s all very nice and all, but at its heart, it’s a show aimed mainly at kids. Happily enough, adults can also get some fun from it, but if you want hard-core, adult sci-fi (which is very different from adult hardcore sci-fi, of course), you have to go to the States.

Battlestar Galactica is still the show to beat in terms of, well, everything really, if you want decent plotlines, decent effects, decent characters, etc. Season three would normally be starting right now, but the US SciFi channel has delayed it until October to make sure it’s all really well done and ready for when it finally sees the light of day.

However, there’s a trailer available on YouTube now (with a slight audio sync problem) to give you an idea of what season three’s going to be like.

Incidentally, Stargate: Atlantis and Stargate SG-1 both began new seasons on Friday. I haven’t reviewed them because, to be honest, it’s the same old, same old there – they keep plodding along with nothing desperately bad or desperately good to take away from it all. Fun, but we’re in the 13th mile of a marathon, really.

One thing though. Both shows, together with Battlestar Galactica, have the kind of effects that Doctor Who can only dream of. So the next time you hear RTD going on about how fabulous The Mill is, show him an ep of Stargate Atlantis. Hell, even these mocked up season three titles for BSG should give him pause for thought:

US TV

Pick of the TV podcasts

There’s something odd about the BBC web site. Well, specifically the BBC’s Doctor Who web site. Every episode of the series has had a podcast, sometimes graced by David Tennant and Russell T Davies, sometimes not. You can download them separately from each episode’s web page. There are even instructions on how to subscribe to them on the site. But the bizarre thing is, there’s no direct link for subscribing. Here are the iTunes instructions.

Search for “Doctor Who Commentaries” and you should find our feed. Otherwise, follow the instructions below

Which is odd, because if you have iTunes, all you have to do is click this link that I’ve just made and it’ll subscribe you to the podcast automatically: Rob’s Doctor Who iTunes podcast hyperlink. Given the technical sophistication of the rest of the site, you’d have thought they could have made it a little bit easier, but they didn’t.

Which gets me nicely onto the podcasts themselves. They’re really not all they could be. For that we have to go to the US.

Battlestar Galactica

BSG podcastUndoubtedly the gold standard in podcasts, it’s great just to listen to Battlestar Galactica’s Exec Producer(s) explain all the thinking that went into the episode, how it was filmed and so on. The Doctor Who podcast trawls the shallows a bit in comparison and is more than a little self-congratulatory. Ronald D Moore may have a show with a gadzillion times the budget of Doctor Who and considerably higher US ratings, but unlike RTD and co, he’s perfectly prepared to admit when an episode or scene stank. There is, incidentally, a great interview with him over on Podcast411.

As well as the standard episode commentaries, there have also been three recordings of writers’ meetings, where we get to hear how one particular episode was whittled into shape. It’s fascinating to hear the various iterations of the show as it slowly became closer to the televised form. Well, it is for me.

Lost

Lost podcastAnyone watching in the UK probably isn’t going to want to listen to the later episodes of this particular podcast, but the earlier ones should be safe. It’s quite instructive to listen to, since rather than a standard DVD-style commentary, the podcasts contain interviews with the cast, previews of the next episode, and explanations and clarifications of the previous episode (always vital with Lost) by the exec producers, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, who actually now have their own theme tune thanks to a listener competition. Lindelof and Cuse also answer questions from Lost fans, usually by insulting them slyly or using extreme sarcasm, which is more than worth the free entrance fee. As if that weren’t enough, there are occasional additional podcasts with behind-the-scenes tours.

Now, while Doctor Who is doing well to have a podcast, its own dedicated web site (if you want to see a sorry web site, go look at the ITV site. That needs life support) and TARDISodes, it’s being edged out in a couple of areas. Don’t you think we owe it to the BBC to ensure we keep the lead with high podcast quality?

US TV

Bring back Bring Back… The A-Team

The A-TeamI failed completely to watch Bring Back… The A-Team last night, despite wanting to see what the cast were up to these days (apart from slagging off the new series of Battlestar Galactica, that is). I think that’s because my extreme loathing of Justin Lee Collins was too much for me; my subconscious blanked the programme from my mind and I simply forgot all about it.

Instead, you’ll have to read Sam Wollaston’s review in The Guardian to find out what it was like. Sorry.

It doesn’t sound like it was that good: they couldn’t get Mr T into the same room as Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz, for one thing, and they failed to even look for the other members of the team – that bloke who played Frankie in the final season, the guy who played Face in the pilot episode and either of the women from the first two seasons. Set their sights a bit low, there. Tsk, tsk.

The difference between the US and UK SciFi channels

Well, there are a few differences, but the big one is the US SciFi channel actually makes new shows. Admittedly, the UK channel does, too, but they’re either video review shows or they’re “Tales from the Conventions”. Plus there’s that new one with Michael Ironside that they’re co-producing with Canadian TV. But other than that, they don’t make shows.

In the US, they make lots of shows. They make really god-awful B-movie sci-fi films, usually starring the likes of Joe Lando (remember him from Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman?) and Bruce Campbell. They make silly shows about alien abductions and psychic powers. But they also make shows like Battlestar Galactica, Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis.

Just to ram their American superiority in our faces just a little bit more, they’ve unveiled a new slate of programming. To really start kicking sand in our eight-stone faces, they’re launching a prequel to BSG called Caprica that focuses on the times leading up to the creation of the cylons. While the phrase “television’s first science fiction family saga” sends chills down my spine, so did “remake of Battlestar Galactica” until I actually watched the new show. So I’ll flag Caprica as ‘sounds bad, will probably be very good indeed’ for you to note in your calendars.

Then there’s Snap about ‘a Federal agent who uncovers a deep-seated and seemingly unstoppable conspiracy’. Now that does sound pants and probably will be, too. Persons Unknown (‘a surreal mind-game of a series centering on a group of strangers who awaken in a deserted town with no memory of how they arrived, only to realize that there is no escape’) could be good, although I suspect I’ll spend most of the time looking for bits they may have half-inched off The Prisoner.

The Bishop just sounds inherently amusing: ‘from executive producers and writers Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Conrad Jackson, this one-hour drama revolves around a young slacker whose charmed life is disrupted when he discovers that he has a supernatural gift’. The power to carry a crook. In fact, I could swear Monty Python did a sketch about a fake crime show called ‘The Bishop’ – so best to steer clear of that one I think unless you fancy a laugh.

Blink again sounds like a rip-off, this time of Canadian show The Collector: ‘A group of Afterlife investigators try to help those about to make the wrong choice, in the blink of an eye before destiny is sealed forever.’ Could be good, could be bad, but as if having a show exec produced by Freddie Prinze Jr weren’t enough, this one’s exec-produced by Will from Will and Grace. What next? Shows produced by the Crazy Frog?

Last show of interest is a mini-series based on classic piece of 70s cobblers, Chariots of the Gods. Since that was in some way the inspiration for the worst movie ever made, Hangar 18, I’m dead set against it from the outset.

Nevertheless, compare that with the UK’s SciFi channel and you’ll have to admit, it’s a damn sight more impressive. Curse those Americans, their advanced economy and their high production values.