Wednesday, February 13, 2013
As the Chrome Flies
Syfy actually passed on taking this pilot to a full series order. After a brief flirtation with the idea of starting up a direct-to-internet series, this pilot was broken up into 10 installments and serialized online before its broadcast this week as a one-off movie. It sounds like an undignified end for what must have been a poor effort... until you consider the many horrible decisions the network has made in recent years, at least from the perspective of a true science fiction fan. Perhaps failing to pick up Blood and Chrome was only one of the latest?
Or perhaps not. I felt that Blood and Chrome, neither great nor terrible, represented more than anything else an overreaction to the reception of the series Caprica. The great mistake of Caprica may actually have been billing it too much as a Battlestar Galactica prequel. The idea for that series was actually an unrelated pitch from an outside writer, fused together with producer Ron Moore's ideas on a prequel to create a new series. I found the results uneven, though compelling at times. But it certainly wasn't a show that could satisfy the masses. Most Galactica fans, it seems, were engaged by the action rather than the dramatic personal stakes of the characters. But the Caprica spin-off was nothing but the drama.
Blood and Chrome, by contrast, is almost nothing but action. The first third of it, in fact, bobs from one action sequence to the next at a breakneck pace apparently designed to keep you from asking "wait, why are we getting into another fight?" There are some character beats here and there, but they do feel tacked on like an afterthought. As for the plot, it manages to somehow be incoherent and simplistic in equal measure.
But the thing is, damn but the action is exhilarating. Perhaps no series was ordered because the network doubted such thrilling visuals could be delivered on a weekly basis. When it comes to space battles, Blood and Chrome seems to one-up all the best action ever depicted on Battlestar Galactica. It's wild, exciting stuff. And that's only part of the visual feast. Blood and Chrome's sets are almost entirely rendered in CG. It's hardly the first production to do this; Syfy's regular series Sanctuary, for example, has made extensive use of digital sets. But Blood and Chrome seems to one-up past competitors in this area too. It's not that all the environments are 100% credible; no, there are still scenes here and there with slightly off lighting and weight, where the actors don't quite feel anchored in the virtual space. But the bustling environments of the fighter bay, Galactica's CIC (rendered from scans of the original set, before it was dismantled), and more... they still manage to impress.
The two core actors, Luke Pasqualino and Ben Cotton, do a decent job. Pasqualino plays the young Adama, and both he and the director are wise to avoid any attempt at impersonating Edward James Olmos. Plus, throughout the rest of the cast, you'll recognize faces from both Galactica and Caprica; everyone is playing a new role here, but the production clearly went to actors who had worked well in the past. No one quite pops, but I chalk that up more to the frenetic, character-light nature of the script than the quality of the performers.
Would I have continued to sample more Blood and Chrome, had it gone to series? Probably. Am I disappointed it didn't actually get the chance? Probably not. I imagine the flaws could have been improved over time, but I also don't get the impression that this series would have even tried to introduce the elements that made Battlestar Galactica most compelling -- the harsh examination of how people really would behave in a hopeless situation. Blood and Chrome seemed only to want to blow things up good. Though that, at least, it did fairly well. I'd call it a B-. It's real lasting legacy for me will likely be the pulse-pounding musical score by Bear McCreary. It's good to get another dose of his fantastic work on the Galactica franchise, and La-La Land Records has already announced plans to release a CD.