Imagination Connoisseur, John Ciccarelli, points out that Star Trek isn’t the first sci-fi series to get re-booted into dystopia. Ron Moore did a similar thing with BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and John wasn’t too pleased about it.
Long-time viewer of yours from COLLIDER HEROES days, THE JOHN CAMPEA SHOW, and ROBSERVATIONS (since its inception). Like you, I am a fan of a certain age who lived through and enjoyed a lot of what you discuss – scifi of the late 70s/80s, how the genre evolved through the advent of new technologies, and I park my shuttlecraft in the same bay as yourself.
Like you, I am extremely disheartened at the way “Star Trek” has gone since 2009, however, I’m not at all surprised. I saw this exact same thing happen 16 years ago with another beloved 70s genre show that was bastardized, its core concepts made fun of, attempted to be “made cool” and also became a generic dystopian soap opera completely divorced from its source material – “Battlestar Galactica.”
Yes, I’m going to espouse a VERY unpopular view, I extremely disliked Ron Moore’s BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (BSG). This is not to say that there weren’t elements of the show that I did like. If Moore had simply made the show he wanted without using the “Galactica” brand … with a slightly future Earth where artificially intelligent robots becomes sentient, flawed, and god-fearing that decide to destroy their human creators and where humanity then has to find another home then it would have been fine.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.
I saw the first couple of seasons and initially did buy into the central story, despite it being dully paced. Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell were solid performers and I liked that they gave Richard Hatch a career revival. However, the pacing and umpteen side plots were hard to stick with and when the Cylons went from having interesting human-like flaws to all knowing, all-seeing deities, I officially checked out.
I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a remake that had more disdain for its source material than Ron Moore’s BSG. By his own admission, he considered the original show to be nothing but “cheese,” while he considered his own show to be “meat and potatoes.”
However, his version had A LOT of “cheese”.
Baltar, went from being a space version of Shakespeare’s Iago to an idiotic doctor who couldn’t get laid and settled for his robotic girlfriend. Starbuck and Apollo’s relationship went from a war time “brothers-in-arms story” of two polar opposites to “Are they romantically involved?” “Are they not?” “Do we care?” “Do the two leads in this show even spend time together?”
An aspirational black character (Colonel Tigh), decades before “representation” was even coined, was turned into a white, alcoholic TV cliché who couldn’t figure out week to week who he was mad at. Why Adama keep this drunk, loose-canon around?
It’s an alien civilization, yet it looks like 2004 Los Angeles where the costumes looked like the cast members were told to bring in their own wardrobes. First, it was Caprica, a sole planet, then it was going to be a collection of moons surrounding a gas giant and then, at the 11th hour, Moore changed it all to bring it more in line with the original.
Half-way through season one, Moore suddenly remembered “Oh, yeah these people are ancient aliens, we should do a story about that” and we got the tacked-on season-ender.
Commander Cain, a space Caesar whose troops pledged loyalty to him and not the state, instead of showing how interesting that would look with a female commander became a badly done romantic soap opera.
Believe me, I don’t view the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA or its unnecessary sequel series GALACTICA: 1980 through any nostalgia-colored lenses. The franchise was, at times, cheesy and geared toward kids, however, it had heart, a sense of family, mysterious adventure, and a majorly interesting back story. The origins of the reptilian race that created the Cylons and the ancient astronaut angles were never fully mined. The mix of sci-fi and mysticism, yes, were derivative of Star Wars however, it was a far more intriguing watch than the ‘whose sleeping with who premise’ or the ‘what supply have we run out of this week’ of Moore’s show.
Like pre-2009 “Star Trek,” the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA was a hopeful franchise. There was something to aspire to in the journey the colonists were taking both physically and as characters. There was nothing aspirational about Moore’s show. Just another joyless slog through dystopian nightmares,
does that sound any recent shows you know?
I think what irks me the most is that Ron Moore wound up working on BSG not because of a love of the source material or a desire to revive a dormant franchise, but simply because he was looking for another sci-fi show to write. BSG was dead and was only brought back on to Hollywood’s radar solely due to the exhaustive efforts of Richard Hatch, the original Captain Apollo. Hatch had mortgaged his house to produce a teaser trailer continuation of the original series, got many of the original cast back, and was lobbying hard for a remake. He had even co-written several sequel novels.
Bryan Singer and Bryan Fuller were even hot on continuing the original story, albeit not the version that Hatch wanted, but all that was eventually scrapped, and Moore got the property. Now Bryan Fuller has the dubious distinction of being involved with two shows, BSG and STAR TREK: DISCOVERY (ST:DISC), that were initially conceived as continuations of their source materials and instead were hijacked and turned into journeys through dystopian soap operas.
I offer this example up to show that what’s happened to “Star Trek” isn’t new and its part of a trend in television sci-fi that’s now nearly 20 years old and will most likely continue. dark, edgy, nonsensical sci-fi is what sells. If you’re looking for hopeful sci-fi THE ORVILLE and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY are your only outlets because as much as we hate to admit it, “Star Trek” as we would like to see it, is gone.
I had a tinge of hope with STAR TREK: PICARD (ST:PICARD). The first episode sucked me in, however, it’s more of the same, Ron Moore-brand of sci-fi.
Thanks so much for all that you do and reminding us that sci-fi was once better.
– Jon Ciccarelli