BSG: Blood & Chrome (Ep. 9-10)

bsg-blood-and-chromeWe come to it at last, the finale of the webseries BSG: Blood & Chrome! And much like with the rest of the show, my feelings were largely positive, with just a few rejoinders. There were some flaws, some weaknesses; mainly things that pointed to some writing and/or production issues. But overall, it was a testament to the enduring appeal of the relaunched franchise and its creative team.

And I look forward to when the Syfy network will be airing it this month, as I imagine an official launch will correct a lot of these bumps. As I’m sure we can all agree, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with bigger budgets and more oversight! But of course, I digress. Here’s what happened in the final two episodes and the culmination of the webseries.

Episodes 9-10:
BSG-BloodnChrome-CottonThe series opens once again with our heroes being held up inside the resort on Djerba after the Cylon attack. Toth is dead, and once again, an argument erupts over what they are to do. Adama and Kelly insist they continue, but Coker raises his weapon at her and demands that she divulge the details of their mission first. She begins explaining that the target is an automated communications hub located on the planet, and her mission is to upload a virus contained in her dogtags.

They proceed on foot to the communications hub and find it undefended. Kelly hops on the Cylon terminal and begins to upload the contents of her dogtags, but Coker shoots her when he sees a Battlestar on the display screen. He tells Adama that she is a traitor, and that the Cylons spared her back at the resort because they saw what she was carrying in her dogtags and realized she was one of them. Kelly shoots Coker and holds Adama at gun point, and explains that her betrayal is necessary since the Cylons are just defending themselves and value life more than humans do.

bsg-blood-and-chrome1Adama shoots Kelly and destroys the array. She leaves Kelly behind and drags Coker away from the array. Together, they wait outside in the snow for a rescue and Coker reveals that he has a wife waiting for him back at home. Coker then gives Adama the photo and apparently dies, and a Raptor arrives to pick them up. Back at the array, a semi-humanoid Cylon comes to Kelly and tells her that her “more enlightened” views do not excuse her from the Cylons hatred, and then snaps her neck.

Adama finds himself aboard the Galactica and is met by Commander Nash, who explains to him that they knew of Kelly’s planned betrayal and moved accordingly. While they were on Djerba and the Cylons were following Kelly’s transmission, the “ghost fleet” struck at a dozen Cylon installations and bases along the front. He gives Adama a pep talk about the need to sacrifice all things, even the facts, for the sake of the war effort, and Adama reluctantly accepts. He is transferred to a Viper squad and is reunited with Coker, who appears to be alive after all.

Adama joins the fleet and begins flying as a combat pilot. The war continues, with Colonial forces winning, and the series ends with Adama sealing a letter to his father.

bsg-blood-and-chrome_fight

Summary:
Like I said, there were some weaknesses in this final installment which I could not overlook. It still managed to deliver and ended on a high note, but the bumps along the way need to be acknowledged. First, there were some scripting errors which were pretty similar to stuff found in previous episodes and evidence of cut corners. This could be written off as due to budgets and the need for quick production, but what can you say? These things tend to stand out.

First off, there was the fact that Toth is written off and is not seen again after his quick death in episode 8. Much time was dedicated to the fact that this man was as a survivor who managed to stay alive in a hostile environment permeated by Cylons and their ugly creations. But as soon as the attack party shows up, he goes down mighty quick and is never heard from again. Feels weak.

And then, in the course of yet another argument of what they are to do, Coker and Kelly discuss the true nature of their mission, and it sounds like a broken record on repeat. Basically, she tells him that their target is an automated communications array not once, not twice, but thrice! All the while, he keeps demanding she tell him everything, but she just says the same thing each time:  “The target is an automated facility. The automated facility is six km from here. It’s automated so it’s undefended.” That’s basically what she says. Did the writer forget to proofread or something?

And they also confirm in these last episodes that the resort was a place where the Cylons were carrying out experiments on human anatomy that were clearly part of their ongoing efforts to merge the organic with the synthetic. So… why was Toth based there? If this was a Cylon facility, why was the lone survivor of the special ops team hiding out there and using it as his personal base? Wouldn’t that be considered bad tactics, since it was a guaranteed way of getting the Cylons to come find you?

And then came the scene where Kelly is confronted by the quasi-humanoid Cylon that is meant to call to mind Caprica Six and the other flesh and blood Cylons from the new series. It is still in production and only has flesh along one arm, the rest composed of an anthropomorphized shell and with a female voice. After finding her wounded, this sympathizer who tried to  help them, it simply tells her that “we don’t hate you any less just because you side with us”, and then proceeds to snap her neck.

Seriously, that was kind of dumb. This is a woman with operational intel of the Colonial Fleet who helped to design them. Why would they kill her, except out of some sense of blind, irrational hatred designed to prove that the Cylons really and truly were evil? That was my feeling in this scene, that it was set up to disprove everything she said about how the Cylons value life more than humans. And I couldn’t help but feel that a much better plot point would be to have them take Kelly’s and use her to further their experiments with creating biological machinery.

But of course, there were good parts as well and plenty of saving graces. For example, I was kind of wondering what happened to the rest of the ghost fleet after the Osiris jumped in to Djerba to do their attack run. Turns out, it was earmarked for a big offensive in other sectors. Made sense, and also provided some simple but effective resolution to the story and explained how the war effort got turned around. What’s more, the ending provided some hints that a continuation would be in the works, a series that follows how the Colonial Fleet went from fighting a losing war to beating the Cylons and sending them into exile.

And sure enough, the special effects, tone and tempo of the show never failed to impress. In the end, as with the rest of the series, you get the unmistakable sign of quality and attention to detail which anyone who loved the relaunched series or Caprica would come to expect. Yeah, at times you get that artificial environment or “that doesn’t look real” feeling, but sure as shit, the CGI has come a long way in the past few years and its shows here.

Well that about wraps up the BSG: Blood & Chrome series. As I said, it is expected to air as a televised movie this month on the Syfy network, and based on the popularity of that, could turn into the next BSG miniseries. Fingers crossed, because I think there’s plenty of potential to be had here! Not only are William Adama and Coker, as portrayed by Luke Pasqualino and Ben Cotton good characters, but I personally felt that Brian Markinson (who played Commander Nash) didn’t get enough screen time and would be an awesome character.

And of course, there’s plenty of story arc to be had. In addition to all the action and warfare, you could also show how Adama and Tigh first met, how Adama worked his way up the chain of command to become an officer. How he and Tigh fell on hard times, and delve into the motivations of the Cylons and how they came to meet the Final Five and were given resurrection technology way back when. Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of prequels, but I tell ya, there’s plenty of material here! Exploit, people, exploit!

BSG: Blood & Chrome (Ep. 5-8)

bsg-blood-and-chromeAnd welcome back! Here we have another installment in the BSG: Blood & Chrome series. Last time out, the show introduced its basic plot concept, most of the principal characters, and left the audience on the verge of a big firefight. This time around, with episode 4 through 8, said action takes off, people live, people die, and then things slow down just enough for some character development, introductions, and revelations.

Episode 5-8:
Blood_and_Chrome_BasestarThe scene opens with Adama, Coker and Kelly flying with their escort down to Djerba. Meanwhile, the Osiris opens fire on the Cylon base ship, but is outmatched. After a desperate fight, the Commander orders her crew to ram the Cylon base ship and detonate their compliment of nukes, destroying both vessels and killing all hands aboard her. The Wild Weasel meanwhile flies into Djerba’s atmosphere and is pursued by Raiders. They lose their escorts, but managed to take out the pursuers, only to then crashland on the surface.

Coker suggests they repair the Raptor and attempt to break atmo, but Kelly insists they continue with their mission. Adama agrees with her, and after another heated argument, they agree their best bet for getting home is to rendezvous with the spec ops team as ordered. But of course, when they reach the rendezvous inside a cave, all they find is bodies. The cave then suffers a cave in and the three of them find themselves in a hole, where a large snake-like creature begins attacking them. They are narrowly saved by the last member of the spec ops team – named Toth – who takes out the snake and pulls them back up to the surface.

blood-and-chrome-tothToth then explains that he was the team’s engineer, and that he was out doing reconnaissance when the snakes attacked and killed his team. As hybrid creatures, the snakes are a Cylon attempt at merging organic and synthetic tissue, and are used as defensive mechanisms. He tells them that they cannot complete their mission at the moment since a massive storm has rolled in, and convinces them to come with him back to his compound to wait it out. As it turns out, he has made a home inside an abandoned ski resort and has surrounded it with mines and trip wires.

Adama, Coker and Kelly make themselves at home inside the resort while Coker takes first watch. Adama and Kelly room together and she explains that her husband was not actually a war hero, but in fact was the victim of friendly fire. For the sake of the war effort, the public was told this lie in order to bolster morale and boost recruitment. Adama and Kelly have sex in front of their fireplace and Adama later wakes up to find Coker playing the piano in the lobby. He joins Coker, who quickly realizes he has slept with Kelly and chastises him for it. Their discussion is ended when one of the perimeter mines goes off and Cylons begin rushing the resort.
battlestar_galactica_blood_and_chromeAdama and Coker begin searching for Kelly while Toth chooses to make a stand in the lobby. He manages to take out two Cylons, but is quickly shot up, and two more make their way into the interior to find the others. One of them pursues Kelly into what appears to be a meat locker, where Kelly finds numerous bodies that appear to have been cut up or filled with cables and tubes.

Adama comes upon the second one in the corridor and loses his weapon after getting a shot off, but manages to find a metal pole and beats the thing to death. He and Coker then come upon the Cylon that has the Doctor cornered, and is attempting to read her dog tags, and shoot it dead. In the process, they notice the Cylon is making noises, which Kelly claims is “screaming”. They finish it off and go off to find Toth.

Summary:Unlike the first installment, I actually found a few things that I didn’t like about these episodes. For starters, the number of technical malfunctions that take place is beginning to get repetitive. It seems that in every fight since the series began, the good guys suffer a malfunction and have to do things manually. This happens twice in episode five, first with the Osiris’ nukes, and then with the Wild Weasel. And the result is pretty predictable: the Osiris has to sacrifice itself to take out the base star, and the Wild Weasel has to crash land on the surface.

Second, there was the fact that the Osiris is alone in orbit at the beginning of episode 5 before the battle, and then it doesn’t even bother to call in the other ships when they realize there’s a Basestar in the area. What happened to the rest of the “ghost fleet”? Was it being used for some other mission, or did they plan to call it in but failed to? Not made clear and I’m left wondering why all the other ships were reported lost if they weren’t even going to be used.

And then there was one continuity error I noticed in episode five during the battle scene. After losing control of their nuke launchers, the Commander orders her crew to set course of the Basestar so they can trigger them manually. The first time around, the helmsman complies, but the second time she says it, he objects because and says its suicide. This made no sense. It was obvious the first time she said it that it was a suicide run. You can’t launch them, so setting them off will mean you die. And the only reason to get closer to the Basestar was so they would die too. Why did he only realize this the second time around?

Also, the fact that the special ops team would be dead seemed pretty predictable as well. Somehow, it just seemed obvious that the mission would all come down to the three of them – Adama, Coker and Kelly. It was good that another character became involved, and Toth’s high-strung, PTSD antics proved to be a good addition to the mix. Basically, he was well-paired with Coker’s war-weary character and Adama’s gung-ho attitude. And while they are forced to rely on him, none of them are sure he’s even sane.

But then, he is killed off quite quickly, which kind of sucked. Shouldn’t this hardened survivor man know how to keep his head down during a fight? Instead, he is shot within seconds of the Cylons entering and is dead. And, I should mention, the “sex scene” between Adama and Kelly is never shown, we just know from the way the camera fades out and from him admitting it to Coker that it took place. Considering the obvious tension between the two from the beginning, I don’t see why we couldn’t even see them kiss.

And as a final flaw, Adama and Coker have a surprisingly easy time taking out the two Cylons. The Centurions who enter the resort looking to kill them were very well rendered and detailed, the kind of stuff you expect to see from the Terminator franchise. But then, Adama manages to kills one with a small pole while Coker kills the other with a few well-placed rounds from his gun. For all their intimidating appearance, their armor is basically shit!

And remember the original series, where a bunch of the new models board the Galactica? They explained that their regular weapons were useless and the only way to take one down was with explosive rounds. So why then do these two fall apart the second they are winged with an iron rod or a small arms bullet? I know, budgets and time constraints meant they had to do this part quick, but talk about unrealistic!

Okay, good points now. As usual, the special effects were pretty top notch. It may even be the result of the production value being so high that I began to get so critical this time around, as I forgot that it was a web series and not a full-blown cable show. The appearance of the Centurions and the attention to detail alone would be well worth the price of admission. The scene were the one had Dr. Kelly cornered and is surveying her was pretty awesome, the Cylon staring at her menacingly while tiny tentacle-like spikes on its mouth bristle. Naturally, some of this was designed to hint at their partially-organic nature.

And of course, there were some rather interesting hints embedded in the plot as to what the nature of mission. The hybrid snakes lent the impression that the Cylons could be working on organic-synthetic beings, which as we know from the original series was a technology they eventually perfected. The appearance of the mangled bodies in the meat locker was another hint, even though that was a little confusing*. And of course, the way the Cylon was screaming in pain after being shot and Dr. Kelly claims that “they feel pain now”. And of course this all helped to preview how the Cylons evolved from the “toasters” of the first war to the hybrid, organic machines they were in the second.

*Wasn’t the resort Toth’s hideout? What were a bunch of Cylon experiments doing in there? Had they been using it before he showed up and he didn’t even know? Or did he realize the Cylons were once there and figured he could hide there and rig it in case they chose to come back? Not explained…

All in all, the show has been progressing quite nicely, albeit with a few bumps along the way, and I am looking forward to the dramatic conclusion! Stay tuned!

Cool Cyborgs (updated)!

8 Man:
Always good to start with a classic, don’t you think? Especially one that really doesn’t get the attention it deserves. In addition to being Japan’s first cyborg superhero, this 60’s anime character was also the inspiration for Robocop. You heard me right!

Apparently, the main character was a Detective who was murdered by a group of ruthless criminals, but whose body was retrieved by a scientist who conducted an experimental procedure to transfer his “life force” into a machine body. Having failed the previous seven times, his eights and successful attempt is aptly named “8 Man”.

But unlike Robocop, this cyborg can do some pretty freaky stuff! In addition to being heavily armored, he can run at incredible speeds and shape-shift into other people. His true identity is kept a secret from everyone except his old police chief and the professor who conducted his experiment.

But like Robocop, 8 Man chooses to go beyond his crime-fighting mandate to find his old girlfriend, best friend and attempt to rebuild his old life. His attempts are often marred by the fact that he is no longer human, but as they say, it’s the journey that counts!

Bionic Woman:
Sure, Steve Austin was pretty cool, but did he look this good? Hell no! And in the case of the Bionic Woman, the hero story was far less crude. Though the original series was little more than a spinoff of The Six Million Dollar Man (featuring Oscar Goldman as the scientist again), the re-imagined series was far more original and endearing.

In this version, the main character (again named Jaime Sommers) is a surrogate mother and bartender struggling to make ends meet. After a near fatal car accident, she is saved by an experimental procedure involving advanced prosthetics and implants (no, not those kind!). Afterwards, she goes to work for the people who performed her operation – the Berkut Group, whom he boyfriend works for.

Through her work, she is responsible for thwarting crimes and evil machinations, while trying to explore her role and the changes she’s endured. As with the original series, Jaime’s modifications include bionic legs, a bionic right arm, a bionic right ear, and a bionic eye like that of Steve Austin. In the updated series, she also gets a dose of nanomachines called “anthrocytes” which are capable of healing her body at a highly accelerated rate.

The Borg:
Now here is a race who’s name is the second half of Cyborg! No chance for misunderstandings here! And as all fans of Star Trek know, the Borg are extremely proud of what they are. A race of beings dedicated to the perfection of life by merging the organic with the synthetic. And of course, they are all networked to a hive mind known as “the collective.”

Native to the Delta Quadrant of the Star Trek universe, the Borg occupy thousands of systems and hundreds of races. No indication is ever given where they originated from or what their intentions are, beyond adding “the biological and technological distinctiveness of other species to [their] own” in pursuit of “perfection”.

Is there a more perfect metaphor for runaway progress and the deification of technology? It’s not exactly a subtle commentary on the issue, but it does encapsulate the kinds of fear many people have when faced with a rapidly changing world that seems to be growing more complicated all the time. I imagine the Singularitarians don’t like the analogy much, but then again, Star Trek has been known to send mixed messages 😉

Cylon:
In the original series, the Cylons were lumbering, chrome covered robots that kind of resembled toasters. It was for this reason that they frequently got a shout out in the re-imagined by being referred to as such. However, the re-imagined versions were quantum leaps ahead, the result of bioengineering rather than conventional robotics.

Unlike the “skin jobs” (a reference to Blade Runner), Centurions and Cylon Raiders were only partially organic, consisting of organic brains inside machine bodies. Much the same is true of the Cylon Hybrids, the minds that operated their Basestar’s jump systems. In their case, their bodies are largely organic, but their minds are enhanced with advanced machinery and networked into their ship.

Because of this combination of organic and synthetic, Centurions and Raiders are capable of being “lobotomized”, which took place in the third season when their handlers became suspicious of their behavior. Ultimately, these three begins represented a key step in the Cylon’s evolution from mechanical to biological, which achieved perfection with the creation of the seven purely biological models.

Cyberman:
A fictional race taken from Dr. Who, these cyborgs were another one of the good Doctor’s recurring enemies. But unlike their Dalek counterparts, they seemed to change with every appearance. A possible inspiration for the Borg, these being were as humans who chose to begin experiment more and more with artificial implants.

This eventually led them to become the cold, calculated and ruthlessly logical beings that are, with every emotion all but deleted from their minds. While they do maintain their human brains and some human organs, they possess little of their original humanity, which is why they don’t get along with us decent folk!

Another parallel they share with the Borg is their means of proliferation, which is to turn other organic beings into Cybermen (a process known as “cyber-conversion”). However, they remain few in number during the course of the series and therefore prefer to act covertly, conducting their schemes from hiding places and using human pawns or robots to act in their place until they need to appear. Quite unlike the Borg, who prefer to get right in there, blow shit up, and assimilate anything that’s left!

Darth Vader:
“He’s more machine than man… twisted and evil!” That’s not to say all people who are more machine than man are evil! But it is the working definition of “cyborg.” Having lost both arms and legs in lightsaber duels and much of his body severely burned, Darth Vader (nee Anakin Skywalker) had to be put in a protective suit that regulated his breathing and bodily functions… I don’t even want to think about that!

But there was an upside to all those enhancements. For one, he got James Earl Jones vocals and the most intimidating, badass exterior in the Galaxy! Hell, even his breathing sounded scary. And it didn’t encumber his use of the Force at all, as exemplified by his ability to crush throats and toss objects around at will. And the ghosts of many dead Jedi and Luke’s missing hand can attest to it not hampering his sword fighting skills either.

Ultimately, this suit proved to be his undoing when, in the course of betraying his evil master, most of its circuits were fried by the Emperor’s electrical bolts. He died shortly thereafter, redeemed and looking upon his son for the first time “with his own eyes.” Sniff… I hate this mushy stuff!

Motoko Kusanagi:
The star of Ghost in the Shell, the beautiful, deadly and artificially enhanced Motoko Kusanagi. Known by her fellow officers as “the Major”, Kusanagi is a member of Section 9, a counter-terrorism squad working for Japan’s National Public Safety Commission. As part of her commitment to her job, Kusanagi underwent cybernetic enhancements, marrying her human brain to the “shell” that is her new body.

Throughout the original manga, anime and cinematic versions, Kusanagi’s basic role is the same. She fights all kinds of criminal elements: kingpins, warlords, and cyber terrorists, but also uses these experiences to reflect on the larger issues and her fateful choice to become a cybernetic being. These issues include what it means to be human, what constitutes life, and the line between authentic and artificial.

In addition, she’s also a pretty vivacious and good-looking being! Though technically not flesh and blood, she still maintains a pretty active sex life, at least in some versions of the story. In others, her personal life is not dealt with, but there are still plenty of nude shots, provided exposed synthetic flesh can be counted as nudity 😉

Robocop/Murphy:
Here we have another case of tragedy yielding the perfect union between man and machine. Alex Murphy, dedicated cop and family man, gets ruthlessly gunned down by a bunch of criminal thugs, only to be resurrected by a bunch of corporate thugs as a cop cyborg. Heavily armed, armored, and programmed to serve and protect, he became the Detroit Police Departments signature weapon in the war on crime.

But of course, things begin to go awry when Murphy’s memories and personality began to re-emerge. For one, there was the question of his wife and son, both of whom had been led to believe he was dead. Second, there was the psychological and emotional strain of knowing you could never be fully human again.

Alas, Murphy resolves the sacrifice of his identity and humanity by doing what he did best, kicking criminal ass and taking criminal names! These of course included crime lords, drug bosses, and the thugs who murdered him, but also the corporate crooks who created him and were plotting to take over Detroit. So aside from the sci-fi elements and human interest angles, there was also some social commentary in this franchise. Lots going on here!

Nexus Six Replicant:
“If we gift them with a past, we create a cushion or a pillow for their emotions, and consequently, we can control them better.” What is a machine when it has feelings, thoughts, and even memories?  Is it, as the Tyrell Corporation motto goes, “More human than human”?

Sure, some purists would say that a Nexus 6 isn’t technically a cyborg. But as I recall, the working definition of Cyborg is a merger of the cybernetic and organic. And as any fan of Blade Runner knows, Nexus 6’s are not so much built as grown, the product of biomedics rather than mechanics. And if that’s not good enough to get this one past the censors, screw em! Moving on…

Designed for service on the off-world colonies, every Replicant was designed to fill a certain role, ranging from military, to worker, to pleasure. In short, they could do the work of any human while simultaneously being denied the basic rights humans take for granted. However, since it was understood that they could become unruly after too much time, each unit was built with a four-year lifespan.

Inevitably, the Replicants of the movie came to Earth seeking a reprieve from their inevitable deaths. Their leader, Roy Batty, was especially obsessed with buying more time, since he himself was near the end of his lifespan. When told that there was nothing that could be done, he went a little beserk, but also came to appreciate life all the more in his last few moments.

T-800 Terminator:
“The Terminator’s an infiltration unit, part man, part machine. Underneath, it’s a hyper-alloy combat chassis – micro processor-controlled, fully armored. Very tough. But outside, it’s living human tissue – flesh, skin, hair, blood, grown for the cyborgs..” That’s how Kyle Reese, the warrior from the future, describes them. Arny’s version was a bit less… loquacious. “I’m a cybernetic organism. Living tissue over a metal endoskeleton.” Take your pick, they’re both right!

Designed to impersonate human beings, mainly so he could get close to them and kill them, the two Arny models were quite at home in the past. If you looked like this, would anyone really complain if you chose to walk the streets of LA naked? It’s LA man, anything goes! What’s more, Arny’s cyber strength and tough skeleton make him deadly and very survivable.

This proved quite the headache when one was sent back to kill Sarah Conner, but was quite a plus when one was later providing protection for her and her son! In the end, it took a hail of bullets, some well placed plastic explosives and a machine press to kill the first one. And the second one managed to survive an impalement, the loss of a limb, about a million bullets, and still managed to lay the smack down on a T-1000. Perhaps they should amend the name… Endurinators!

Thank you all! Stay tuned for the follow-up, Sexy Female Robots! I guess I’m just in a robot kind of mood 😉