Friday, December 14, 2012

Web Series Review: Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Synopsis:  A young William Adama has just graduated from the academy and signs on with the Battlestar: Galactica expecting to receive an assignment as a Viper pilot in the war against the Cylons.  However, he is disappointed to learn that he will instead be piloting a Raptor and is given a straightforward “milk run” as his first assignment.  He and is co-pilot Coker are sent to deliver cargo and return with supplies, but are surprised to find that their cargo is actually a passenger, software engineer Dr. Beka Kelly.  Once they depart from the Galactica, she gives them new orders  to rendezvous with the Battlestar: Archeron which is currently located near Cylon space.  When they arrive there, though, they find that it has been destroyed and they encounter four Cylon raiders.  They manage to fight off the enemy ships then receive orders to jump to a new location where they rendezvous with a “ghost fleet” comprised of ships previously thought lost in battle.  They hook up with the Battlestar: Osiris which escorts them to the planet Djerba in Cylon territory where Dr. Kelly plans to upload a virus that will incapacitate the Cylons and hopefully turn the tide of the war. 

Review/Synopsis:  This “web series” is actually just Syfy’s airing of the intended pilot for the Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome prequel series that never materialized.  They broke up the pilot into 10 webisodes (thought they are run in pairs) which offers a first look at the movie before they will air it in full on Syfy in February of 2013 and also release it on DVD.  I’m not certain at this point if this is just a way of burning off a failed pilot, while attempting to make it seem like more of an event, or if they are trying to generate some buzz for a possible continuation of this story.

Despite some claims that I previously heard that this was always intended to be a web-series, the high level of its production values suggests otherwise.  Blood and Chrome appears to have the same sort of budget as a BSG or Caprica episode, and it would have cost even more than a typical episode because of the initial startup costs associated with a pilot.  And the fact is that a model just has not been established yet where a web series with that level of production values can sustain itself from the limited revenue available from internet streaming.  So I don’t see any scenario where we will see ongoing Blood and Chrome webisodes showing up on the internet in the coming months or years.  There’s a chance that Syfy could decide to pick this up as a TV series if the web series/TV broadcast generate enough interest.  But I just don’t see how an ongoing web series that sustains this level of production values would be financially viable.

Do I think this pilot/web series sets the stage for a decent ongoing show?  Yes I do, even if it’s nowhere near as hard-hitting as BSG and I found a lot of flaws with it.  Much of what Blood and Chrome delivered seemed all too familiar.  We have the hotshot pilot in William Adama who’s eager to make a name for himself but gets his ego blown when he gets assigned to a mundane mission.  Then we have the cynical, disengaged veteran that Adama is partnered with who has only a short time left on his tour of duty and who has no interest in heroic missions.  But then they find themselves unexpectedly in the face of danger and both rise to the occasion and overcome the odds against them.  And on and on as the story throws us one genre trope after the next.  But at least is does it with conviction, without seeming too derivative, and it also successfully channels that same grim ambiance that set BSG apart from so many other sci fi shows (and that Caprica could never quite tap into).

Blood and Chrome has its flaws, but that’s not uncommon with a pilot and that’s why it’s hard to judge based on that alone.  What I do see is a lot of potential for future stories.  The war with the Cylons offers plenty of storylines to tap into and I liked the idea of the “ghost fleet” as well.  And it just felt like BSG and seems to offer the prospects of a much more satisfying prequel series than Caprica (which actually started as a concept with no ties to BSG).  I would definitely like to see more of Blood and Chrome, and I’m sure they could quickly iron out the kinks and get this one to follow more closely in the path of BSG.

So what are the chances of this continuing on as a series?  It’s hard to say at this point.  It hasn’t set any records for online viewing; the first episode currently shows over 2.5 million hits on YouTube, but subsequent episodes are considerably less.  And even the 2.5 million number is nowhere near record-breaking.  I’m sure there’s videos of a baby falling and hurting himself or a cat playing the piano that have had plenty more hits than that on YouTube.  Of course, if the TV airing in February scores well, that could help its cause, but the impression I have gotten from what I have read suggests that Syfy already considers it a moribund project.

That aside, BSG fans should definitely check it out.  It will definitely satisfy your jones a least a little bit for some new BSG, and if it does get enough support it could lead to a revitalization of that franchise.  You can watch starting with the first episode on YouTube at this link.

Buy Battlestar: Galactica on DVD and Blu-ray from

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