Americans are spending more time staring at iPads, iPhones, Android tablets and other computerized devices and less time watching actual televisions. Networks are well aware of this fact. They’ve been trying to exploit it for years, investing heavily in websites like Hulu.com and producing the occasional web-based mini-series to tide viewers over during the long, rerun-filled summer. Now, Syfy is making the unusual move of “premiering” the prequel to its much-loved space opera “Battlestar Galactica” on the Internet.
To call the long-awaited “Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome” an actual web series is to stretch the truth a bit. Syfy intended it to be a regular on-air show, a follow-up to its last “BSG” prequel, “Caprica.” That scientists-and-mobsters-hang-out-on-Rave-World series didn’t prove as popular as its inspiration and was canceled after a truncated single season. Syfy had hoped the more simplified, space-combat-based “Blood and Chrome” would appeal to a wider audience. Obviously, “Ghost Hunters”-obsessed executives with the network didn’t have enough confidence in the show to green light it for a series, however. Hence, the pilot episode has been chopped into 11-minute segments and is debuting on YouTube. Syfy says it will air the entire thing, reassembled, as a special movie in January of 2013. But for now, the only way to watch it is online.
The first two mini-episodes (out of 10) have already been posted, and they hint at a potentially exciting series that will sadly never come to be. The story is set several decades before the events of “Battlestar Galactica.” Our main character is a skinny, cocky young ensign named William Adama (Luke Pasqualino, subbing for Edward James Olmos). Fresh out of flight school, Adama is assigned to the Battlestar Galactica at the height of the war with the robotic Cylons. The kid is eager to show off his fighting skills but is assigned a junky old transport ship to pilot. It’s not long, though, before he’s knee-deep in, well, the titular substances.
The digital effects on “Blood and Chrome” are mightily impressive. They’ve taken a leap forward from the still-influential work on “BSG.” A thrilling dogfight using a luminous planetscape for background and an ominous sail through the tumbling wreckage of a battlestar are a couple of the more indelible images from the first two eps. Director Jonas Pate (“Good vs. Evil”) throws in a bit too much of that J.J. Abrams Star Trek lens flare, but the cinematography and production design are top-flight.
Its hard to tell if “Blood and Chrome” could have attracted a new audience unacquainted with the “Battlestar Galactica” mythology if it had gone to a full series. The storyline is simple and accessible. It’s basically Top Gun in space. The characters are asked to embody a lot of clichés. (Bill Adama’s hotshot, overconfident space jockey in “B&C” doesn’t have nearly the depth of Kara Thrace’s self-tortured flying ace in “BSG.”) But the actors are appealing enough.
“Blood and Chrome” may not fully satisfy the jones of “BSG” fans in full-blown withdrawal. But its high-flying space action is good for what ails you. So say we all.