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back to article Shut up, Spock! – how Battlestar Galactica beat Trek babble

No guns firing beams of light. No photon torpedoes. And, sorry, no aliens – menacing or otherwise. The "re-imagined" Battlestar Galactica that concluded last year couldn't have been further from its 1970s namesake – or from what most of us think of as sci-fi. In fact, the science and technology in the award-winning show – the …

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Unhappy

Yeah...

Shame about the ending though.

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WTF?

In space, not everything works

This one zaps my brain when I think about it ....

A teat pipette (eye-dropper) will not work in a vacuum.

If you have something that is liquid in a total vacuum you can not use a

teat pipette to suck it up because the 'suck' part (the rubber bulb) relies on

creating lower pressure in the bulb.

But you can't have lower pressure than total vacuum. So it won't work !

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This post has been deleted by its author

No it won't

The bulb can be as springy as you like - it has to produce a lower pressure to work.

You cannot have a lower pressure than "no pressure at all".

So the bulb will spring in and out - it just won't pull any liquid up.

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But

why does it zap your mind ? - it's just physics

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I know it won't.

I was trolling, badly, over my first cuppa coffee at 4:30AMish my time (Me? Troll? Whodathunkit!) ... and then I realized that Sarah would have enough on her plate with the comments on this particular article's subject matter and deleted my posts.

I'll try to minimize my impulses in the future :-)

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: I know it won't.

Aw, Jake, you're too good to me.

(Ta.)

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Anonymous Coward

It also won't work

because you won't have a liquid in a vacume. It will become a gas.

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Ru
Boffin

You fail physics forever

"because you won't have a liquid in a vacume[sic]. It will become a gas."

Eventually, a body of liquid will evaporate in a vacuum, but not instantaneously. You can see the same effect simply by exposing volatile liquids to normal atmospheric pressure and seeing that they don't all instantaneously and exposively vapourise.

A fluid that exhibits low vapour pressure and high surface tension could potentially form stable droplets, I guess, but they'd be a wee bit smaller than the average pipette nozzle. I guess its not beyond the realms of possibility that heat loss via evaporation would freeze some fluids in a vacuum and leave them to sublime instead, but my physics is pretty rusty nowadays.

You could certainly get enough liquid together long enough to demonstrate that pipettes would not work.

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I haven't watched the series, but will now

I made the assumption that it was another crappy unrealistic series extension.

I'm putting it down for purchase in the not too distant future...

Thanks for the review.

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Headmaster

It's not called Cobol

It's Kobol (the planet, not the programming language (by coincidence I'm sat in the Hopper room at work as I type this)).

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Sci-Fi Purists?

Things have changed somewhat if Star trek is being held up as 'proper' sci-fi. I'd have called it 'Space Opera', if anything. Haven't seen BSG, so can't really comment on it - but from the article it seems more like Science Fiction to me - ie bare minimum technological advances, just enough to provide a justification for the setting of the story.

Anyway, SF is such a wide-ranging area that it doesn't pay to be a purist - you miss a lot of thought-provoking stuff if you're picky about it.

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BSG = "Hard SF"

For me the new version of BSG fits in the category of "Hard Sci-Fi" where the emphasis is (with a few "hand waving" exceptions eg FTL) on getting the science right which means that you can then concentrate on the story without having to worry about Treknobabble.

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Not so hard

It would be hard Sci.Fi if it wasn't for the ghosts, prophecies and the like.

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Space Opera

Wouldn't Space Opera require it to be sung completely? I think that Space Drama is a more accurate name for the genre.

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not really

Soap operas don't have singing soap.

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not so much with the singing

If it had been sung completely that would be Grand Opera, not to be confused the Grand Ole Opry. But if you do want to tell them apart, the first one has less cowboy boots

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Happy

But....

Now I loved the reimagined Galactica, I thought it was a brilliant show, but it always niggled me that the people of the 12 Colonies had managed to invent faster than light drive for their ships, they'd manage to create artificial gravity, they'd even invented the Cylons, but somehow they'd never managed to improve weaponry beyond bullets and nukes, always found that odd.

Oh and surely as they aren't from Earth they were aliens by default, they just happened to have our humanoid form.

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Coat

I think they did have high-tech weapons

But as they very briefly explained at the very start of the series, they couldn't use high-tech, computer controlled stuff 'cos the Cylons would infiltrate it. In Caprica, set 60ish years before BSG, they have much higher tech stuff kicking around than you'll ever see on BSG.

One of the reasons the Galactica survived where other Battlestars didn't is that - dating from the first Cylon war as it did - it was largely low-tech/mechanical and couldn't be compromised by high-tech (cyber) attacks. It was on it's final flight before decommissioning when the Cylons attacked.

Anyway, kinetic weapons in space are pretty handy things, what with the lack of air resistance and everything. I'd have probably expected railguns on the ship rather than chemical explosives, but they don't flash and bang when firing so don't work as well on TV. Nukes are a cheap, relatively low-tech means of creating a very big bang. Quark bombs and matter/antimatter devices are bigger bangs, but take more tech to make and use.

Without wanting to spoiler the series ending too much - if you haven't seen it, you should probably stop reading before the end of this sentence - the humanoids in the BSG universe are not aliens by your definition. Clue is when BSG is set - in the far, far past.

Mine's the one with the robot hidden in the pocket.

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Anonymous Coward

I thought they were...

*continuation of above spoiler alert.

I thought they were "alien to earth (2.0)' and that we were the result of breeding between Colonies Humans, Earth (2.0) Humans, (who the last episode determined evolved independantly, and 2 breeds of Cylons (i.e. Cylons from Earth (1) and the Colonies originated Cylons that they helped to upgrade to human form after the war).

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Alert

[Spoiler Alert] Aliens or not

[Spoiler] They do find Earth 1.0 a wasteland with a few clues as to its fate (eg Cylons and humans living together). They have to move on and happen across another suitable planet - Earth 2.0 - which they decide to settle on. In the end they are shown to be our ancestors... . [/Spoiler]

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Lasers vs Bullets...

I'd prefer the beam of the original Star Trek vs STTNG or the original BSG pulse shots. It would be less "dramatic", though, if STTNG and other shows ddn't have firing ranges to have characters one-up each other.

But, imagine Captain Tracy with his Phaser and extra Phaser power packs holding the trigger on two Phasers set on disintegrated (say it slowly: diss-integrate, for effect to sink in), doing his jig and pirouette, slicing Yangs and Koms alike like a wide-dispersal buzz saw, vis multi-shot lightning bolts. But, then, the Phaser would likely overheat and explode in his hand. Or, in Trek, he might open up a multi-dimensional rift into a wormhold or subspace eddy of an alien passing by... Can't having him discovering metrium or tri-nitium before Data's timeline, hehehe.

Anyway, a Phaser on constant discharge would produce a hellaciously gory, smoking firefight.

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Alien(s)

These films had a similar military low-tech equipment style long before the new BSG series. Like BSG, they did have to add FTL travel and a few other things to have a story in space at all but, like in BSG, they use conventional weapons and the spaceships looks worn and dirty.

Apart from FTL, the most unscientific things about these films are the aliens themselves -- in the original film, the alien grows from a chest burster capable of hiding inside a human body to a 7 feet tall full-grown alien in what appears to be hours. The corrosive abilities of the alien blood also seems rather exaggerated.

But back to BSG, I liked the mixture of 60's-style bakelite phones, modern computers and FTL. This anachronistic blend made it clear that this was not Earth's future.

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Super growth

The thing that bugged me was not the speed of the growth, but doing so without eating - even most of the humans that were taken were not eaten by the post-chestbursters.

Aparrently there was a cut/never-filmed scene in the origional where the crew did discover the food stores ransacked, though.

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Boffin

Don't forget Starship Troopers

I remember distinctly that for all the high tech shown everywhere else (including the nuclear RPGs), the future troops still used regular ammunition. The only appropiate weaponry is shown at the end of the movie, where we see rifles causing explosions in the last "Federal Network" broadcast.

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Yes, the food locker scene...

....was included in the book of the original Alien film. Made some of it a lot easier to understand when I finally saw it.

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Coat

great article

I haven't seen any of the new BSG, but I definitely enjoyed this article and will be more likely to watch BSG now (after I get round to watching the new V :) ).

I'm a bit of a TNG fan and I concede that very often the writing was awful (and often the acting too!), but I just loved the whole package - the fact that they were out in the vastness of space and these completely crazy things happened to them every week, like 'devolving' into putative ancestor species, lol! And 'The Game'? It is real and it is called Angry Birds.

Anyway, I had been a bit sceptical of ST:Enterprise at first because of the 'temporal cold war' nonsense, but I thought season 3, with their mission to the Delphic Expanse was fantastic because, much more so than Voyager, you really got the sense of a small crew far from home doing difficult things. Plus, when mistakes and set-backs happened (which was rare in the TNG days) you felt it much more than Voyager's Year of Hell. And what show isn't elevated to greatness by presence of the Commander of the Saratoga?

Finally, a lot of the article made me think of Firefly.

Coat icon because I bought a brown coat recently without realising the significance.

Finally, finally. Why the fashion in going 'back' and doing prequels? Star Wars, Casino Royale(sort of), Superman Returns, Batman Begins, Star Trek Enterprise, etc. Is Tolkein to blame because he wrote Silmarillion after LOTR?

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Sir

I wouldn't bother with the new V.

Am a massive fan of the original series, but after watching the first 6 episodes of the new one waiting for it to get going was tedious beyond belief.

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Why we have remakes?

This is the whole problem with the Internet and mass availability of media. Instead of kids growing up in the present with new music, media and so on they are able to look back at the past. Which results in so many remakes when some of these kids grow up into adults and become film directors. They then go on to remake things.

John Taylor of Duran Duran fame made a point like this, although he talks about music in particular. I think he has a point.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8347178.stm

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All well and good

I enjoyed the first two seasons but it did have a tendency to disappear up its own bottom in the third season. As for the last one.... it was terrible and such a stupid ending. A real disappointment to what started out so well.

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FAIL

Did like the show until the boxing episode

This show first season was quite good, then got ruined completely.

What Moore did is to change the techno-bable for religion-bable, ruining the show completely.

From the episode in which they are boxing at each other the show went completely downhill.

It did suffer from the same malade the later star trek shows did, too many plot holes explained by holiness, character start doing nonsensical things, killing machines firing machine guns that do not kill anybody even at close range.

For god sake, the show turned into shit. And the ending... oh my god, the ending...

All of this is very sad because the pilot and the few first episodes were so good, specially the first episode 33 where they had to be TFL jumping continuously to avoid being caught.

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+1 for "religion-bable"

For me, that was the sole reason for turning off after only a few episodes. The article says "It didn't preach" (first page) but clearly it did, just not in scientific terms. I was even going to put up with the notable lack of a theme tune until the machines started claiming to have found God.

Thumbs up for the comment. Thumbs down for the show.

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Unhappy

Religion-babble

Yes - it was a damn shame.

It seems the Americans are wholly unable to do a decent show without bringing religion into it.

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It kinda grows on you...

I too felt that Season 3 was quite slow. But, after having watched the series (the entire production, not just 8 or so months of episodes, or a "season") 4 or 5 times (or is it 6 or 7?) or about 3x a year since 2006, i like it more and more.

Considering that "God" or "god" and Christianity, and other forms of religion are intertwined in the creation of and violent demise of humans, i think it's appropos that BSG's religion is a major theme. After all, if BSG's humans and Cylons are the beings we are, then surely, if we were to descend from them, when we could also screw the pooch (religiously) on religion and "God" and "god" and so on.

I REALLY like the part when, while on Kobol, Starbuck says, something to the effect of "Don't get her started...something about multiple gods...", to which which later-Athena rapidly responds with "WE KNOW MORE about your religion THAN YOU DO." I kind of took that as a nice, surgical, subversive bombshell against current religeous types who think they KNOW what their god wants of them.

Yet, that the Cylon believe in A GOD, whereas the "humans" belive in multiple gods, and the ultimate merger of the species, oh... that is nice.

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True and also-

Inserting current themes into story arcs, just so that they will resonate with the viewers.

Reminds me of Crackerjack...

/BOF

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Megaphone

FTL Drive

The comment about you never see the inside of Galactica during a jump is incorrect. During the Pilot in fact you get to see it's effect in the Viper Hanger Bay with Cally sitting on a box and saying something to the effect "I really hate this bit" whilst the surroundings collapse and "flatten" around her, it then cuts to the re-appearance of the Galactica.

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Megaphone

Duration

I think that the point may have been that the FTL transition is near instantaneous in the show whereas in Star Trek/Wars you see them travelling faster than light for extend periods. In BSG they just slip from one place to another without "travelling".

By coincidence I watched the tv movies two weeks ago and have been devouring the first season since then. Got to the end of season one two days ago and very much looking forward to chomping into the second. As such, the many comments about the show getting progressively weaker are pretty disappointing. Guess it's tough to maintain quality in these things, not least because success seems to go to writers' heads.

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Terminator

the writers heads weren't the problem

Ron Moore planned on having 5 major story arcs for the whole show, much like Babylon 5.

Because it's a new show season 1 gets 13 episodes, which is relatively short but Ron Moore is happy with. All the episodes are well paced and so is the season 1 story arc.

The show gets huge acclaim and show moves, at the instance of the commisioning tv network, to 20 episodes a season and so the writers have to stretch the season 2 story arc over 7 more episodes, which brings in the inevitable filler episodes and loss of focus on the bigger story. Also the show couldn't really do anymore of the "we've just run out of <insert stuff>" episodes after the first season without looking like it'd run out of ideas.

So if we could just get the tv execs out of tv, we'd have much better stuff on the small screen.

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Paris Hilton

Thanks

Thanks for this enjoyable article.

Paris, 'cause she'd have been first out of the airlock if I was in charge!

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A good article

And I agree with most that is said in it about the BSG.

I found it difficult to really believe the bit with instant downloading across light years without even as much as an external transmitter and an energy source. Would have been much more realistic if they went for periodic backups on the base ships or something similar.

Also, there could have been some lasers too! Not side-arms or assault weapons but why not have some large "caliber" lasers on the ship itself? Energy is cheap on a battlestar, lead is expensive...

Finally, they were losing ships (raptors especially in the later seasons) like there was no tomorrow and no one seemed to care too much - however, BSG, IIRC, did not have the facility to build new ships.

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Go

Pegasus

They had a double complement of Vipers and Raptors from the pegasus.

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Ship-to-ship conflict

If you think about it, directed energy weapons (such as lasers) aren't much use against a target that's capable of manoeuvring and is more than a light-second away. You can only aim at where it was a few seconds ago, and spreading the beam over the whole of the potential target area greatly reduces its effectiveness.

OTOH chucking rocks at something with a relative velocity of many miles per second can be quite effective.

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Yes, but

For close-in defence against missiles lasers (if they are powerful enough) are much better than projectiles and in BSG all capital ship-to-ship engagements were fought at close range with missiles and shells.

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Ship-to-ship conflict (exotic)

Dust the best guess locii of the target with collapsed anti-matter or singularities, by displacement.

Wasteful, but spectacular.

(Who knows, maybe one day that might be somewhat probable. Who woulda thunk we'd have an LHC today?)

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Re; Ship-to-ship conflict

You've never heard of "leading your target," have you? Even in space things have inertia, so you can predict their path with varying degrees of certainty.

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Gives rise to the need for a "time bomb"

One that goes 2.4 seconds into the future or some such. But, recoverable weapons would be useful, if say, you carry a mind-boggling slew of them, fire off some percentage, remote detonate only what is close enough to make a constructive or actual kill, and then mop up and recover the non-exploded ordnance. As long as your ass isn't going to be jumped by an inbound hostile Raider or Base Star, it could become feasible to "bracket" a target with some sort of predictive shots. Much like "anticipation shots" of today. But, due to gravity and all, not many would trust ordnance that fell to the ground and might explode on the slightest disturbance.

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Ru
Boffin

Re: Ship-to-ship conflict

Lasers aren't much good at ranges of a light second or more because they're diffraction limited, unless you can work out how to make hard xray lasers.

Chuck rocks at something a light second away? You'd better be pretty patient. Missiles carrying one-shot railguns and lasers and fragmentation warheads are the most sensible things to use, not plain old chemically driven bullets.

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Grenade

RE Re:...

For Hard X-ray lasers, shine a torch out of the front window at .99c.

For proper Exotic ship-to-ship combat try The Forever war by Joe Haldeman.

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Boffin

Distance

"You can only aim at where it was a few seconds ago"

Path prediction is cheap and easy, no matter what the distance. Aim where you think it's going to go and 95% of the time you're going to be right. Objects in zero-G don't zip around all over the place, they tend to be a bit more oil tanker in behaviour.

Also 1 light second is like almost 200,000 miles, which is a big distance to be having a war at, even in space.

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Star Trek Original Series

There was also an interesting episode of Star Trek TOS where the Enterprise was pitted against a cloaked Romulan ship. The Enterprise went into blackout mode because the Romulans under cloak could not detect them. They also had to resort to nuclear weapons. I rather enjoyed the drama.

And The Undiscovered Country, apart from the final scene at Kitthomer with everyone in sashes (Where was the Orange Order?) was a rather fine film in its own right. The tech was hardly mentioned and the explosion of Praxis was merely the McGuffin to get everything started. The rest was a dressed up comedic thriller with a great performance from Christopher Plummer.

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