The Un-imagining of Starbuck

Saturday , 11, February 2017 13 Comments

The Last Redoubt passed this on to me. Yet another example of how almost nothing from before 1980 has survived translation into the twenty-first century:

Once upon a time, in what used to be a far away land called Hollywood but is now a state of mind and everywhere, a young actor was handed a script and asked to bring to life a character called Starbuck. I am that actor. The script was called Battlestar Galactica.

Fortunately I was young, my imagination fertile and adrenal glands strong, because bringing Starbuck to life was over the dead imaginations of a lot of Network Executives. Every character trait I struggled to give him was met with vigourous resistance. A charming womaniser? The “Suits” (Network Executives) hated it. A cigar (fumerello) smoker? The Suits hated it. A reluctant hero who found humour in the bleakest of situations? The Suits hated it. All this negative feedback convinced me I was on the right track.

Starbuck was meant to be a loveable rogue. It was best for the show, best for the character and the best that I could do. The Suits didn’t think so. “One more cigar and he’s fired,”they told Glen Larson, the creator of the show. “We want Starbuck to appeal to the female audience for crying out loud!” You see, the Suits knew women were turned off by men who smoked cigars. Especially young men. (How they “knew” this was never revealed.) And they didn’t stop there. “If Dirk doesn’t quit playing every scene with a girl like he wants to get her in bed, he’s fired!” This was, well, it was blatant heterosexuality. Treating women like “sex objects”. I thought it was flirting. Never mind. They wouldn’t have it.

Read the whole thing! 

13 Comments
  • deuce says:

    Wow. That’s pure awesome.* I always liked Dirk Benedict. Now I want to buy the man a drink and a cigar.

    *For any wondering, the full essay is very much worth reading.

  • LastRedoubt says:

    All credit to Quintus Curtius who dug up Dirk Benedicts old article. Also, I’m very much enjoying his translation of “on duties” so far.

  • Andy says:

    I was never able to get into the Battlestar Galactica remake because the wailing woman theme song and opening credits and the general air of gloom were so overbearing that it became unintentionally hilarious.

    From the sounds of it, it’s yet another heavily serialized modern series that has lost its support because it turned out it wasn’t leading anywhere in particular and the final episode just disappointed people.

    • Alexandru says:

      You’re missing out. In my opinion the best sci-fi show of the last two decades. Vastly superior to all the Trek garbage out there. The episode where the Galactica comes into orbit to rescue the colony is the best sci-fi televison ever.

      • Andy says:

        Well, like I said, I tried it and it just didn’t take.

        I should say that I’m no particular fan of the original, which always kind of bored me despite the high production quality. In fairness to Benedict, though, Starbuck was definitely too cool for the show.

    • icewater says:

      I kinda liked it. There’s this uncanny, idiosyncratic feel to it that is hard to explain: stark modernity of its visuals and its surface bleakness, contrasted with mythical nature of overall plot and strong traditionally spiritual subtext of the sort you don’t expect to encounter in recentish TV show. Yeah, it went on for way to long, and has its own share of BS and annoying filler, but it was unique in its own way. Also, I never got a feel that it tried to pander to fandom/nerd culture crap, unlike the bulk of modern SF shows.

    • Aitch748 says:

      I liked the 1978 version of the show, cornball though it was, because I did like Captain Apollo and Lieutenant Starbuck on that show.

      I did try to watch the pilot of the 2004 version. I managed to get about two-thirds of the way through it before I bailed, because I hated all of the characters I’d been introduced to. Apollo was an insufferable prig, and Starbuck was an undisciplined lout who punched her XO in the face after a card game. No way was I going to spend any more time in the company of these jerks.

      Somebody somewhere online said that the characters in the 2004 version were so broken that they couldn’t even find solace in one another’s company. I’ve long suspected that the reason why BSG 2004 was so popular with critics was precisely because the show was so dark and the characters were emotional cripples. Ugh.

  • Dave says:

    Grumpy old actor. I had no idea who Dirk was so I had to look him up. To my amusement it turns out he was part of the A-Team.

    He does make some good points re the suits and re-imagining. But just how much can you rail against the success that was the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica?

    It was the highest rated series ever on the Sci-fi Channel and was critically acclaimed. The series finale was the #1 entertainment show that day on all of cable and broadcast.

  • Nathan says:

    When it was good, it was really good. But when it went bad, well, it got unwatchable quick. Just as some might claim that there are only three Star Wars movies, so might some claim that there are three -or even two- seasons of BG.

  • Fenris Wulf says:

    Even when I was a little kid, I knew the original Battlestar Galactica was crap. It epitomized everything that was bad about 70’s television. The remake was so good that it transcended the genre. The lead characters were complex and sometimes broken people, no feminist propaganda here. I remember finishing up the series, then watching a few episodes of STTNG and finding them unwatchable by comparison.

    • Alexandru says:

      That’s exactly how I feel. I watched BSG Remake and thought it was amazing. Now I can’t really go back to watching Star Trek without it seeming stupid, preachy and childish.

  • icewater says:

    In which stereotypical suits are revealed to understand what young women want as much as they understands what men or kids want. These guys really are creepy meat puppets straight outta Ligottian corporate horror story, aren’t they…

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