Battlestar Galactica – Blood and Chrome

2013_part_2_blood and chrome brThe road to glory is a long one for William Adama; production of Blood and Chrome, the immediate prequel to Battlestar Galactica telling the story of his first assignment aboard that vessel following his graduation from the Academy, was announced in July 2010 and principal photography began the following February, on what was presumed to be a pilot for a new show. Its parent show is possibly the most critically acclaimed science fiction drama of all time, yet the subsequent prequel Caprica had failed to match the expectation, being accused of being too slow and lacking in action. Surely a story set in the midst of the first Cylon war would bridge the gap between the two and please both fans and critics?

Yet almost immediately, news of Blood and Chrome dried up; in the summer of 2011, the first hints came that the show would debut online rather than in the traditional televised format. While that model has now been tested successfully, at the time it was seen by many as a lack of confidence in the material. That concern was blown out of the water when the first footage debuted in March 2012, a stunning trailer which thrilled fans clamouring for a glimpse of the near secret project – a trailer which was summarily pulled by NBC Universal less than twenty four hours later. It became clear that while the fans wanted the show, either the network didn’t, or they didn’t know what to do with it, a belief underlined by the fact that any comments on the SyFy channel’s website referring to the trailer were swiftly deleted by moderators, regardless that praise and excitement were unanimous.

2013_part_2_blood and chromeIt was finally announced that Blood and Chrome would be released in episodic form online on the Machinima network, and that debut in November 2012 was followed by a broadcast on the American SyFy network in February 2013 and a disc release the same month; now, fully six months later, the European market has finally been granted an official release, though unlike previous issues of the parent shows, always comprehensively supported with commentaries, graced with minimal extras.

Opening with a monologue of a letter written by William Adama to his father Joseph, the only direct communication we have ever seen between the two, the montage that plays underneath ties directly to the world as established in Caprica, with the Cylons becoming a part of daily Colonial life before the uprising then moving immediately into a dogfight as Adama takes on an incursion of Cylon raiders.

2013_part_2_blood and chrome 3This is the first time we have seen William Adama in action as a Viper pilot, save for a brief interlude in Razor where he was portrayed by Nico Cortez, utterly believable as a younger version of both Edward James Olmos and Admiral Adama even in those brief scenes. Here, English actor Luke Pasqualino plays a very different character, wild, impulsive and instinctive, a far cry from the considered and pensive man he will become, and while Pasqualino rises to the role as written, his slender attractive youthfulness counts against his credibility.

Written by Michael Taylor, David Eick, Bradley Thompson and David Weddle, all veterans of the show, the feel is authentic, and though director Jonas Pate only directed one episode of Battlestar, the atypical late first season Colonial Day, he also worked with producer Eick on Bionic Woman and Caprica, including the final episode of that show, Apotheosis.

2013_part_2_blood and chrome 5The increased use of virtual sets on Caprica was likely key to Pate being assigned to Blood and Chrome, where the majority of the environments are seamlessly greenscreened around actors working with minimal physical interaction with their surroundings.

Viewed in high definition, this makes the visual presentation all the more impressive; Galactica has never looked so stunning, inside and out, a functioning warship in her prime, the battles are fresh and exciting, and the wreck of the Archeron is an image the producers had envisioned as the opening sequence of Razor but had been unable to fund.

2013_part_2_blood and chrome 4The introduction of the Galactica is a glorious moment, the original Stu Phillips fanfare from 1978 melded with the drums of Bear McCreary and the voice of Raya Yarbrough, and onscreen are many other veterans of both previous series, Ty Olsson, John Pyper-Ferguson, Brian Markinson, Jill Teed and Ben Cotton, here given roles unrelated to their previous characters.

Arriving on Galactica, Adama is assigned to a Raptor and meets his co-pilot Lieutenant Coker Fasjovik and Doctor Beka Kelly, a computer expert who developed master control program chips for Greystone Industries who will be the cargo they must courier to near Cylon occupied territory. Coker is a more rounded character than Adama, his fondness for a drink perhaps signposting the blind eye Adama will be forced to turn in another friendship, but Lili Bordán’s performance as Doctor Kelly strays from underplaying into indifference, her disdain for her fellow travellers distancing her from the audience.

2013_part_2_blood and chrome 2After the breathless urgency and drive of the first forty five minutes, spaceships and nebulae and explosions and belowdeck banter, the destination of former winter resort planet Djerba is a disappointment, the quality of the graphics noticeably deteriorating and the script becoming tired and lumbered with clichés. A particularly glaring misstep is the alien monster which lurks in an ice cavern, more akin to the show as guided by Glen A Larson rather than Ronald D Moore.

It is also in the second half that the artificial cliffhangers demanded by the original episodic format become more contrived and intrusive, and no attempt has been made to segue seamlessly from one act to the next. The conclusion of the primary story is unsatisfactory, compounded by the frustrating sense of lost opportunity: Blood and Chrome would not have been the perfect introduction to new adventures in the universe of Battlestar Galactica, but it had enormous potential which will apparently not be fulfilled, not because the demand is not there but because the studio lacked any desire to make the show. A battle well fought may still be lost while retaining pride; to give up without even trying is a tragedy.

Battlestar Galactica – Blood and Chrome is now available on DVD and Blu-ray

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