Battlestar Galactica at 40


Most of the science fiction shows I look at today are serialized, and often pretty dark.  Gritty is the trend, but gritty has no hope, no wonder.

The original Battlestar Galactica celebrates it’s 40th anniversary this week.  I watched it in its original run and really enjoyed the show.  It was controversial at the time because it was right on the heels of Star Wars.  I believe there was a lawsuit.  But if you look at the past history of TV shows, any time there was a popular movie that came out, some element showed up in a TV series:

  • Airport – Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, and Airwolf
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey – The Bionic Woman
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century – Star Wars (and then the network ruined it by trying to make it Star Trek)

BG wasn’t perfect, but no show is.  It launched without a lot of time to prepare so they pantsed the heck out of the world building.

King Tut’s treasures had recently made the rounds in the U.S. (I got to see them as part of a school trip), so it was likely an influence for the Egyptian aspect of the show.   That was something I didn’t think of until I was writing this, but it’s amazing to look back and see what influences landed in the story.  Egypt was mystical and mysterious–and BG wouldn’t be the only one to have an alien influence on Egypt (Stargate, Stargate SG1).

But it also had the classic good guy/bad guy, right out of the Westerns.  The bad guys were the Cylons, and the good guys always destroyed the current threat.  There was an overall threat, but it was a time where we trusted that the good guys would always win.   It also kept the entertainment part in full view and never lost sight it.

My favorite episode was the gunslinger one, The Lost Warrior.  Apollo crashes on a planet where a town is being terrorized by a damaged Cylon and a mob boss-type bad guy.  Apollo doesn’t want to fight, but ends up having to confront the Cylon in an old-style gunfight in the street…with lasers.

A picture of the actor who played Apollo, Richard Hatch.  I took this at DragonCon in 1997.

Actor seated in chair, a stuffed bear in one arm and a stuffed koala in the other

 

 

Volcanoes are Cool…at Least From a Distance


Volcano erupting

Volcanoes are one of those things that are kind of cool.  At least as long as you’re not near them when they’re erupting.

They’ve been a staple of many TV shows, like on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’s “And Five Were Left.”  Five men from World War II are stranded in a cave under a volcano that’s about to explode.  Lots of explosions, steam vents venting, and rocks falling.

And of course, the heroes escape as the volcano blows up.

The show had two other episodes with volcanoes, “Night of Terror” and “Fires of Death.”  Gilligan’s Island had a volcano episode, too.

Oh, and my personal favorite, Airwolf.  The helicopter got caught in the ash cloud of a massive eruption and had to set down.  It put them in the middle of corporate greed and corruption from a mining company.

Hawaii’s volcano has been erupting for at least a month now, making more of the island with lava.  The people there generally have a lot of warning, since it’s not the kind of volcano that blows its top like Mount St. Helens.

The scientists are busy studying the eruptions.  One of the fascinating things from the eruption is olivine being brought to the surface.  They’re green gems.  They’re the same gems that make up the Green Sand Beach, also on the Big Island.  This link has a close up of the green crystals.

The science of nature is pretty cool.

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SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Crying Planet, the first book in my GALCOM series was accepted for a military science fiction bundle from Story Bundle.  It will be coming out on June 27.

 

Visiting a war memorial the first time after war


Sometimes, immediately following war, little things can have an unexpectedly profound effect. Pretty much everywhere now that I go, there’s a veteran’s memorial of some kind. Even when I take a drive trip down to Richmond, Virginia, I can find a small war memorial at a rest stop.

But in 1991, that wasn’t the case. People were just peeling away the layers of the onion about the Vietnam War. Shows like Magnum PI, The A Team, and Airwolf explored veterans after the war, and China Beach and Tour of Duty explored the war itself.

In 1982, the Vietnam Memorial, or “The Wall,” in Washington, DC was completed.  Washington State followed that up with their own memorial, completed in 1987.

So I’d actually never been to one before Desert Storm.

Nor did I plan to go to one. It was purely accidental, but maybe fate has some things happen for when they do and for a reason.

Washington State Vietnam Memorial

Olympia, the Capitol of Washington, was about twenty miles from Fort Lewis. I could say I liked the city and the sites, but the truth was that it was far enough away from the military that I could escape.

The state Capitol is located on a patch of land called a “campus.” The first time I went there I thought it was a school, but I suppose it’s no stranger than a “mall,” which is what the area around the U.S. Capitol is called.

I was just sort of wandering, and I followed the sidewalk to see where it would take me. This black wall came into view. Though I’d never seen The Wall at Washington, DC, I knew immediately this was a war memorial similar to that. This wall had a designed crack on the left side and was surprisingly small.

As I crossed an invisible boundary, it felt like a thousand voices whispered to me at once, “Welcome.” Then they fell silent, but their presence still made the air shiver.

And I looked at the wall, at the names listed, and my eyes went right to one name that jumped out at me.

It was a woman.

I left the memorial feeling both connected to my brothers and sisters at arms, and shaken because it was a very visual reminder. It could have happened to me.


Over 40,000 women were deployed to Desert Storm.  Fifteen didn’t come home.

China Beach: A Voice for Women Coming Home From War


Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to see books and TV and movies that represented me. I grew up reading books from the library that were for boys because there were few books for girls, and what there was consisted of nurse romances. If a girl was in a boy story, there was often only one girl, and the rest of the characters were boys.

Even today, the problem still exists. I can buy a book with a woman protagonist, and she’s the only woman in the cast — and it’s written by a woman. Clive Cussler writes a book with a cast of 100, and maybe there’s 1 or 2 women.

Many TV shows are like this as well, with women being added because the network told the producers they needed to (Law and Order) or one woman who feels almost like an afterthought. Even Star Trek, which was about using diverse people, ended up with a cast of 9 for Next Generation and only three were women. One was for eye candy, and the other two got frustrated with the development of their roles and left. One returned, but the other did not.

But when I came home from Desert Storm, I had an intense craving for something that represented me, and not just something that appealed to men.

And I wanted one more thing: It to be about war.

China Beach Ties to Desert Shield and Desert Storm

China Beach was a unique TV series in that it was about women and war. It was set in a hospital during the Vietnam War and boasted a cast that was pretty close to 50-50 on the gender scale. The show had premiered in 1988, two years before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and every military woman I knew was watching it.

But it was almost like the show’s timing framed our war. When we deployed in October of 1990, we stayed our first night at a truck port (like a car port, only a lot bigger) at the waterfront. Things were very confused at chaotic. We had no sense of place, of exactly where we were. This was just somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and we were like “The Girl Who Fell from the Sky” in Airwolf. We didn’t have amnesia, but we knew someone was going to be trying to kill us–though how, we didn’t know, or when.

It was as if our connection to the world had been snipped.

At first light, we got up. After the long flights and long nights, we were like zombies marching off to the showers. A friend and I followed the crowd down to the waterfront, and we stopped dead in our tracks when we saw the showers.

Then we both turned to each, forming exactly the same thought, and exclaimed, “China Beach!”

It that moment, it solidified the fact that we hadn’t just stepped off into the Twilight Zone and vanished.

Other things soon popped up. We didn’t have the internet in those days, and TV was limited to CNN in a tent. So our only connection to the outside world was the mail (which I wasn’t getting anything of) and the radio. The military radio station struggled to find music that would appeal to us and ended up playing songs from the 1970s, and from the Vietnam War.

I remember sitting in a cargo container we used for an office and listening to Janis Joplin as we marched ominously toward the ground war.

Coming Home to China Beach

Maybe the ending of Desert Storm had contributed to the cancelation before the series could finish it up its final season. But by the time I returned from Saudi Arabia, it went into reruns locally, so I could see it every night. The timing for me couldn’t have been better.

I devoured it. I couldn’t get enough of it. I even taped the episodes and watched some of them over and over again. When I did a driving trip, I bought a China Beach audio tape and listened to the music. I’d heard nearly all the same music during Desert Storm.

I don’t know. Maybe watching China Beach in reruns was like a decompression of sorts from Desert Storm that I wasn’t getting anywhere. Maybe it plugged into the underlying anger that I felt when I came back. Maybe it helped me pull back from the extreme of war back to business as usual.

Over time, the show disappeared from the airwaves entirely, and all I had left was the videos. I don’t recall when, but I gradually stopped watching the videos. I guess I didn’t need them as much.

But after video tape went away, I started to want the show again. It would be 24 years.

China Beach Today

While other shows came out in the “new” technology of DVD, China Beach remained elusive. One of the major pieces of the show was the music, but music rights have waylayed many shows and movies. But it also turned out to be the most requested show people wanted on DVD, so it was released earlier this year with most of the music intact. I know that cost a fortune!

I wasn’t really sure what I expected when I got the first two DVDs (I was cheap; I didn’t buy the full set for $200. I waited until they came out individually for $20). But time has changed me from 24 years ago. I’m not devouring it. The writing is still top notch, but I can only watch one episode, and then I have to stop for a while.

Perhaps that’s the way it should be now. War is a very strange things. There’s nothing like it.