Monday, October 10, 2005

Blending the Media: Battlestar Galactica

I generally reserve my commentary here for nonfiction-related media, but in the case of Battlestar Galactica, the use of multiple media is so compelling as to be worth noting.

If you haven't watched Battlestar Galactica on the SciFi channel, you should. It's one of the most well written shows on TV that blends good storytelling with some great social commentary. Of course it has a few good special effects, but what interests me most is how it gets the most out of the various media: TV, podcasts, blogs and forums.

At its heart this is an aggressive TV show that relies on a relatively small band of rabid fans. I'm sure the producers would love the kind of ratings that a show like 24 or Survivor get, but that's not the goal here. The unit of measure are the other shows on the SciFi channel and, more importantly, on basic cable.

While the show deals with sensitive subject matter, I wouldn't say it pushes the boundaries of the medium, and that's a good thing. Yes, the writers often run up against network censors and there have been some recent complaints about a rape scene in one episode, but this is a show that lives comfortably in TV. In fact, Executive Producer Ron Moore told an E! Online Forum that he has no intention of doing a feature film since that format wouldn't allow him the same storytelling arc he currently enjoys.

You see, the show doesn't insult its viewers intelligence by forgetting the past and problems aren't neatly wrapped up at the end of each hour. Instead, story threads that begin with a look or a comment in one episode extend over weeks and months. A story arc in the first season started toward the middle, ended with a cliff hanger in the season finale, then took another 7 episodes in season 2 to truly wrap up.

I started watching this show with the miniseries, but it was the podcast that brought it to a new level for me. Each week, Moore records a podcast designed to act in the same capacity as a DVD commentary--only you can play it even as you're watching an episode for the first time. This is really aimed at DVR users to give them a reason to watch the show a second or even a third time, adding a layer of storytelling not available before, but also helping make listeners more invested in the show and, in turn, the brand.

As a viewer/listener I get to feel as if I know the man behind the series a little better. I can hear his dogs barking and the phone ringing, even the leaf blower outside. It's the lack of production quality that makes it even more compelling. I'm not just listening to Ron Moore, but I'm sitting with him, in his house, as he gives me a personal journey through his creation.

Then there are the forums on the SciFi network Web site in which viewers can discuss and comment on the show, as well as a blog that Moore doesn't keep up that regularly. But that's OK! He obviously prefers the podcast to the blog. Also, Moore does, in fact, read the forums. How do we know that? Because he said so on his podcast!

The DVD is next, with season one now out and season two due out soon.

How does print media fit in with all this? Frankly, not in any major capacity other than with a few reviews in print publications and feature stories such as one that appeared in the New York Times Magazine.

A series of blogs have popped up around the show, which is to be expected. And I'm sure people involved with the production track those as well.

It'll be interesting to watch how this continues to proceed and whether all forms of media can build the strong fan base such a show needs to survive. Considering that Battlestar Galactica 's going into its third season, it's already a pretty successful run.

1 comment:

Pete said...

I am so so happy that someone is writing edgy sci-fi with complex characters, out-of-the-box fx, & non-dumbed-down doalogue/plots.