Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tropic Islands, Island Earths, and Pants on Fire:Leadership in Sp-a-a-ace

Lost and (reboot) Battlestar Galactica. I've been watching both on DVD, so I'm going to compare them.
Okay, Lost isn't set in space, but (reboot) Battlestar Galactica is all in space, except when they cut to Boomer and Lieutenant Doright on Caprica. Which doesn't count because Grace Park. Now, I know that you're going to say something about Tricia Helfer. Okay, she's got a nice figure and slinks it around, but Park is an emotionally-conflicted damsel in distress.

So what do we get if we compare Lost to Battlestar Galactica? That's a lot of material, but I haven't seen the finale of Lost yet, as I'm a little behind in my TV generally. I devoured BSG in the spring--winter of 2009/2010, With lots of overtime, no private life, and chronic exhaustion going on then, TV made a good way to spend a day off, desperately recovering my stamina. I haven't made quite the same headway with Lost. That's not necessarily a condemnation of Lost, as my life has changed.

Only it is. It's just so obvious. BSG was made in Vancouver, while Lost was made in Hawaii, so BSG rules. This is a universally true rule. Even the Blade series that showed on Spike for a few episodes way back when was truly awesome TV. I totally think that. It's not local boosting in any way.*

So we have two leaders: a professional, and a charismatic. A space Commander leads the space convoy, while a doctor puts himself in charge of the medical emergency that is an airliner landing on a beach. Then a president shows up, while the wargaming-nerd cripple suddenly turns into a shaman whose vision-quest is legitimated by the fact that suddenly he's not crippled any more.

Now, the challenges facing them differ in scale and immediacy. The Commander has to lead a ragtag fleet of refugees out from under the nose of a huge, genocidal fleet, and keep it safe 'till they get to Earth. The doctor has to stop everyone from getting --self involved? (Good luck on that, Jack.) Anyway, he's all into community-building. So is the non-professional leader of the escapees, the Colonial Secretary of Education, who, in the fulfillment of approximately a bazillion powertripping fantasies, gets to be President on account of how the rest of the cabinet has just been turned into greasy, radioactive steam. The Commander is down on community building, and wants to launch a death-or-glory ride, but defers to the President for reasons ..that would make this even longer. The shaman, on the other hand, is soon running his own game. He finds a hatch in the ground. A hatch on a jungle island? What's up with that? Maybe you should tell someone about that, shaman? Or your miracle cure? Like the doctor, maybe.

But the Commander is lying, too. As far as he knows, Earth doesn't exist. He basically pulls a story out of his arse because his crew is moping. (Also, someone on board is feeding him private intel about the Cylons. It sure will be interesting to find out what's up with that!) They're moping, by the way, because their whole universe just got blowed up. That's heavy shit, and cheering them up now counts for a lot more than the moment when you will inevitably have to say, "yeah, about Earth. That was a bit of a fib."

By comparison, John Locke's lies of omission seem unmotivated. It seems that we're expected to wait on heavy doses of character-building backfill, but you wouldn't need that if you just paid attention to your plot. Whether you just watched the universe get destroyed, or you're one of 41 survivors of an airplane that crashlanded into a lost tropical island, it's a huge trauma that leads to weird behaviour.  If you take that trauma seriously, your plot point contortions will be excused. So here's a real reason to be "yes" on BSG, "no" on Lost. BSG starts out (at least) as the more human show. The tragic deaths of others weighs everyone down as the miniseries limps to a close. The other passengers on Flight 316, meanwhile, disappear as surely as the extras that Lost will kill later.

*Open offer to the University of Hawaii: give me a tenure track position, and I will reverse my opinion, and say something nice about Hawaii 5-0. Which also has Grace Park. But it better be no strings attached. I don't want to hear about the teaching review later.

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