Now, if I could only actually remember to post this weekly, I’d have a weekly feature! That’d be awesome! Anyway…
This week — today, in fact — brings us two bits of geek news that sort-of peg the WTFBBQ meter, along with some actually fun announcements. No reviews in this installment, however.
Let’s start with some good news, for Rock Band geeks.
Entire Rock Band player base Rickrolled, film at 11
For weeks, the good crack merchants at Harmonix have been touting that next week, they would be finally be releasing the “most requested song” they had not yet released.
Today, it was announced that song…was Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”.
There is no word as to whether this DLC will include a patch that randomly adds the song to playlists…
Oh…George… I mean…really?
So, the Hollowood Reporter recently did quick Q&A with George Lucas, and among other things asked him how he feels about the various controversies surrounding the changes he tends to make between subsequent releases of his films.
And now, he insists that Greedo always shot first…you just couldn’t see it because the original edit was bad.
No, seriously. (I’m starting to think that’s going to become a catchphrase of this feature.)
It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. I put a little wider shot in there [in the Special Edition and later versions] that made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first, but everyone wanted to think that Han shot first, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down.
He then goes on to note how there are “all kinds of different versions” of Blade Runner, but with Star Wars, “there’s basically one version — it just keeps getting improved a little bit as we move forward…”
Yes, Mr Lucas. And that, exactly, is the problem.
We like the fact that the Blu-Ray Disc version of Blade Runner has all five different released versions of the movie, all in decent widescreen transfers. We like the fact that we can choose to either continue watching our favorite rendition of it, or compare and contrast, at our geeky leisure.
We loathe the fact that the BRD version of Star Wars offers no such options. That only a single DVD release grudgingly included a lousy, non-anamorphic 480p transfer of the original cuts of Star Wars Eps 4, 5 and 6 as a bonus disc, and that the BRD version omits even that.
In short, Mr Lucas, it’s not really that we mind your decision to continue to edit and reedit and “improve” your work. You have a vision in your head, and technology makes that vision more realizable every iteration. We get that.
It’s that you don’t leave it up to us to decide which are actually improvements and which were just changes for change sake, and worse, that you don’t respect your own results, imperfect though you may find them now, despite the fact that they were wildly successful in their day and still have a following.
It’s your stark staring contempt for your own past work — work which many of us think was pretty damned nifty as it was — that bugs the fuck out of us, George. Go ahead and make revised and recut versions. Just let us decide which version we want to see!
(Thanks to YouAreDumb.net‘s Bryan Lambert for helping me articulate that argument).
On the upside, Lucas goes on to make it clear he thinks SOPA and PIPA are bad bills. He’s not saying he’s against the basic ideas behind them (which…he makes his money off of big content…that would be expecting too much), but that they’re flawed bills. So there’s that.
So, it might be a little disingenuous for me to rant and rail against remakes and re-imaginings when I’m so damned fond of the 2003+ version of Battlestar Galactica, but this is a remake that really, really, really, really doesn’t need to be remade.
(Say it with me now…) No, seriously.
Of course, 1999 has come and gone, and we never did build a moon base, so they’re pushing the target date out to 2099.
OK, that’s one problem solved. But it’s not the important one.
See, Space: 1999, for those of you who never watched it, was…really not very good. Oh, there were certain things about it that were actually well imagined. The Eagle spacecraft that were the mainstay of the show were awesome designs, for example. They were modular, easily repurposed, apparently easily manufactured from moon dust because they never seem to run out of them despite several accidents. While the special effects of them in motion were just as unrealistic as every other 70s SF show’s physics, they looked like practical, reusable space-planes. The same basic design was also used in various other Earth space-craft we see throughout the series.
Also, the moon base interiors themselves, especially in the first season, looked pretty good, especially for the 70s. They’re a little bleakly antiseptic in some ways, but you can tell the inhabitants (and set-dressers) think the same thing, because there are constant little touches to try to enliven them. They’re also spacious, rather than cramped, highlighting the advantages of a ground-based operation versus a space-station.
And the acting…well, OK, the acting was mixed, but it had its moments. Martin Landau struggles manfully to make Commander John Koenig a believable character, for example, and succeeds not too rarely; and Barry Morse provides a constant undertone of British irony to his scientific pronouncements. There’s a lot of the usual histrionic screaming when horrible things happen to people, but then, it was the 70s…
Ultimately, however, it was the fundamental premise of the show that simply falls apart, unless you place it squarely in the realm of fantasy, not science fiction: that the nuclear waste dumps that Moonbase Alpha was created in part to monitor somehow go critical, with the larger of the two dumps acting like a rocket, shoving the Moon out of orbit and out of the system.
There are a few efforts to treat the initial catastrophe in a serious manner. Before the Moon is too far out of range, we see news coverage from Earth of the devastating effects to the planet — leave aside that it should actually tear both the Moon and the Earth entirely apart. It’s implied in the second season that the Moon’s departure had very serious, long-term effects on Earth’s climate, again as it should be (assuming Earth survived at all). Meanwhile, the final crisis of the pilot is the agonizing decision whether to make an attempt to evacuate the Moon and return home, or cling to whatever life they can eke out from hydroponics in hope of finding a solid solution later. Obviously, since there wouldn’t be a series otherwise, they stay put, deeming the odds of actually being able to safely return to be poor.
The problem is, after that point, the Moon is treated like a starship. Or rather, like an object that some invisible hand is moving around the universe like a piece on a chessboard, since it’s never implied that the Moon has the ability to navigate. Despite the fact that space, as Mr Adams tells us emphatically, is big, the Moon continues to find itself drifting into and out of he orbit of habitable planets, encountering alien starships, falling into wormholes, and generally getting itself into deep trouble while trying to find some place its populace can settle permanently.
That “invisible hand” metaphor, by the way, is not entirely out of the blue. In the first season, especially, it’s strongly implied within the series’ own narrative that the characters know their situation to be highly improbable — that they really ought to have been torn apart in the first moments after breakaway — and there are times they seem to believe they are being manipulated, somehow, although by whom and why is never revealed. Most of this is dropped in the second season, when everything is focused on action and the stories become even more absurd.
Basically…there just doesn’t seem to be any practical way to make this show work, unless it’s so radically re-imagined that it basically becomes one long “bottle show” (a suggestion also made at IO9 by Charlie Jane Anders), in which they don’t encounter aliens every week in improbable ways, but just keep drifting on a long, lonely course through the vast emptiness of space and try, somehow, to survive without resorting to cannibalism.
And…I don’t really see a series in that. Not a watchable one, anyway.
And finally…credit where due
No, I don’t actually read Hollywood Reporter. But Charlie Jane Anders at io9 does. Thanks to her for posting her own stories about the Lucas and Space: 1999 articles, which made me aware of both things, so I could rant about them.