Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Battlestar Galactica--"Greetings from Earth"

“Greetings from Earth” originally aired as a two hour movie and later edited into two episodes for syndication. I err on original intent whenever possible, so I am reviewing both episodes as a movie. Good thing, too. It has been fifteen years or longer since I last saw them. In that time, I had forgotten how quickly the story peters out as it progresses. The first hour is far better than the second.

The fleet encounters a sleeper ship traveling through space and intercept it. There are two adults and four children on board in suspended animation, all human. The powers that be, who ought to have been divided about bringing the ship aboard the Galactica in the first place, are conflicted over how to proceed. Some want to wake the passengers up for interrogation about their possible knowledge of Earth. Others have decided after the fact they should not interfere with the ship’s journey.

The bulk of the first hour deals with the philosophical debate with the two powerful side lining up against one another. Generally speaking, the military and medical personnel want the ship to go on its merry way. The political leadership and civilians want the people revived. Our heroes are divided in their opinions for the sake of personal drama, but they all naturally line up behind idealist Apollo in advocating the ship be allowed to continue on its journey. I call him an idealist in this case because there is no hint reviving the passengers is the proper thing to do. Those who advocate doing so are abrasive and unpleasant. The only two main characters who are advocates, Starbuck and Athena, fall quickly in line behind Apollo.

The decision is made for them when the only adult male, Michael, wakes up and assumes he and the others have been captured by an Eastern Alliance. Michael is an apt name choice. In Mormon theology, Adam was the Archangel Michael during his pre-mortal life. As Michael, Adam lead the forces of heaven against Lucifer during the war in heaven. This Michael and his fellow travelers are set to begin a new life on another planet, but are faced with a brutal enemy that has been fighting a genocidal war against his people. Michael and the rest are allowed to continue on their journey with Apollo and Starbuck following to determine any possible connections to Earth.

Here is where things start sliding downhill. They arrive on a remote farming community called Paradeen. The planet has long since been bombed into oblivion by the Eastern Alliance. We eventually discover Paradeen was once a bustling metropolis, as there is a desolated city near the farming community. The Eastern Alliance plans to return and reestablish the city once they have won the war. Why anyone thinks Paradeen is a great place to settle is beyond me. One can only imagine how awful Michael’s home of Lunar VII must have been. There are some minor plot divergences to fill time, such as Michael’s arranged bride to be developing the hots for Apollo and Starbuck getting lost in the abandoned city, but the main deal is the anticlimactic encounter with Eastern alliance officers arriving on Paradeen Starbuck and Apollo capture them and return to the Galactica with the idea the officers will lead them to Terra, the planet that may be Earth.

“Greetings from Earth’ starts out great. There is an an air of mystery as to who those on the sleeper ship are and what is their connection, if any, to Earth. There is also an air of menace when the Eastern Alliance is mentioned. Could this be a powerful new enemy? The answers are disappointing. Michael and his brood are farmers. They are going to Paradeen from Terra, a planet which is not likely Earth. The Eastern Alliance turn out to be petty military tyrants no match for the Colonials. At no point is there even a hint the Galactica cannot defeat them swiftly. Where is the sense of ending two hours of television viewing on an exciting point? Not here. Most of the second hour felt like filler which amounted to a fizzled out ending. The concluding episode is a definite letdown from a promising possibilities of the opening.

Some saving graces do exist. There is plenty of homage. The sleeper ship is reminiscent of something from a ’30’s movie serial. It may even be a prop from the era, but I have not been able to confirm that through google. Michael and the others are wearing silver space suits just like the ones worn by the Robinsons in Lost in Space. so, yeah, they look like a family of baked potatoes. They have two robots named Hector and Vector to assist them on Paradeen. They are played by Vaudeville performers Bobby Van and Ray Bloger. You probably know Volger best as scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz. Michael’s bride to be is played by Lorne Greene’s daughter, Gillian Greene. Their children are all played by Glen larson’s real kids. The niftiest bit is the abandoned city on Paradeem was filmed at a site just outside Montreal that was built for the 1967 World Expo. It has been largely abandoned and reclaimed by the wilderness. The atmosphere is a perfect combination of futuristic, yet run down by neglect. How appropriate, considering how “Greetings from earth’ plays out.

You ay decide for yourself the tragedy of “Greetings from Earth” featuring the final appearance of Athena and Boxey.

So I am disappointed in “Greetings from Earth.’ There is a good build up, but it amounts to nothing. It could have been a classic story if there had been a slam bang conclusion. As an old school science fiction fan, I am all for some throwback elements to spice things up, but those are just eye candy. The story has to take us somewhere, particularly when it has promised an exciting destination. No such luck here. It was clear Battlestar Galactica was headed for cancellation at this point because of rising production costs and declining ratings--the series was up against All in the Family--and it really feels like everyone is phoning it in now.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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