Let me preface this by saying I am not doing a hit piece on SyFy’s remake of Battlestar Galactica. I haven’t even watched the show but I know enough about it to make my case. Honestly I could have used a bunch of different examples but choosing one makes it easier to go over, it’s one I’ve mentioned before, and it makes for a nice headline while I’m not just going to go for clickbait. There has to be something to it and I think will work fine.
Now you’re probably wondering what a science fiction series that’s a namesake adaptation of a classic science fiction series has to do with a fantasy series that’s a namesake adaptation of a fantasy franchise and are now realizing that particular phrasing just answered your question. I don’t know a lot about Lord Of The Rings. I’m not a huge fantasy fan and The Neverending Story being my favorite movie is more of a fluke than anything else. I do watch some fantasy but usually it’s more “science fantasy” like Star Wars before Disney took it over and made some questionable decisions. I see people pointing to the sociopolitical changes to the make-up of Middle Earth. We have black dwarves, probably not played by dwarfs, women who were never badasses in the original lore now being uber-badasses according to the previews, and black elves in contrast to how elves have been depicted in the folklore that JRR Tolkien was inspired by. One of the YouTube channels I follow is a black man who is steeped in Tolkien lore to the point that he can speak…one of the languages from the franchise, I couldn’t tell you which. Yes, Tolkien even created a fictional language complete with its own grammar and linguistics…just in case you thought the Star Trek movie people creating a Klingon language was just being geeky. It’s called worldbuilding.
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This is because Amazon Studios didn’t get the rights to the ACTUAL pre-LOTR history of Middle Earth, The Simarillion and the Unfinished Tales, but for some reason does have the rights to the same old books that both Peter Jackson and Rankin/Bass have already adapted. As more information comes out about the show it seems like they outright wanted to ignore the actual history in favor of their own take, and replace the familiar characters with their own version…which brings us back to Galactica.
Ron Moore’s take on the series may be your preference, and I do understand that. There have been poor adaptations that I prefered over the original. I point you back to my favorite movie, which the author hated for ignoring the theme he was going for if not outright doing the opposite. I do prefer a defense and promotion of dreaming and imagination over a story ultimately negative towards it, which I hear is a TL:DR reading of Michael Ende’s original novel, and I’m betting the novel’s fans pre-movie felt the same way. Understand that the show may well be good. Heck The Rings Of Power may end up being a good show. There is a difference however between being a good story and a good adaptation. Man Of Steel was a good superhero movie but a terrible adaptation of Superman. In the same vein Moore’s Galactica must have been good somewhere because it lasted a long time (the original was only canceled for budgetary reasons; in fact ABC tried to ruin the show in the hopes of canceling it honestly but the fans stood by it) but it failed as an adaptation of the original work.
Glen A. Larson imagined a more analogous spiritual journey as far back as the original “Adam’s Ark” concept, where humans would leaving a dying planet for space in search of a new home. This was changed because ABC wanted something closer to the successful first Star Wars but we still had the beings of light and the devil stand-in Iblis, who may or may not have ties to the Cylons as they noted he sounded a lot like the Imperious Leader, both played by the late great Patrick Macnee. The refugees in that show also did not suffer more than a few episodes before building a new lifestyle around their ragtag fleet. They turned one ship into a casino, the Rising Star, at least one was used to grow food (I don’t know if any of them had animals for meat as the only animal we even see is the space dog “daggit” that the robot Muffet was designed after and that was killed on the planet), and others were used for various other entertainment and necessity driven activities. They found a way to maintain their shared culture and possibly their individual cultures as the 12 colonies, including groups like the Nomen, a very strict religious order. Life wasn’t perfect but they overcame and made a new life.
This is not something I see in SF Debris’ reviews, articles I’ve read on the Battlestar fan wiki, or what other people discuss. I don’t see hints of it in the trailers for episodes either. In fact outside of some updated designs for the ships and robotic Cylons there isn’t much I have ever read or seen about the show that resembles the original. Even the cast is way different. Correct me if I’m wrong but weren’t all the main black characters, which were three, replaced? Colonel Tigh is a drunken white man while Boomer is a Canadian of Korean decent, and a woman. While this wasn’t the height of the current “representation” school of casting you still got called a sexist for calling out Boomer or Starbuck being replaced by a woman…except it wasn’t Starbuck either really.
And no, I’m not saying she wasn’t a proper Starbuck just because she was the type of person “the real Starbuck” would have gone after. I mean that she was Kara Thrace and “Starbuck” was just her pilot callsign. “Apollo” is now really Lee Adama. This was part of Moore trying to ground things in “reality”, aka our world, rather than embrace an alien society with different naming systems. The show was more gritty, focused more on the theme of humanity as the humanoid Cylons started becoming human and they just wanted to be loved by their creators only to go into Terminator mode when humans wouldn’t accept them as fellow beings (correct me if I’m wrong or that’s too simple an explanation, I’m going by what I saw and why I wasn’t interested–that will be relevant in a moment). It also lacked the brightness of the original. I do know there is a character so disturbed that when she was convinced she finally won Apollo and that their marriage was going to last kills herself in case it doesn’t and she wants to die happy. I’m not even convinced that’s the darkest thing in this show. Look at the thing.
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The religious influences are different from the original show, and they mostly just follow a religion. (Yes, I caught that the Cylons were basically the Christians and the colonists were closer to the Greek pantheon, at least in that explanation.) However, the original 1970s intro goes “There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. They may have been the architects of the great pyramids, or the lost civilizations of Lemuria or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive far, far away, amongst the stars.” The full series intro stops at the Mayans but this was the mythology that was popular at the time and what Larson went with. Moore on the other hand went with the more traditional European influences (I know Christianity started in Israel, but I’m sure they went with the Catholic or Protestant views) as well as a modern military instead of a made-up military structure like the original. The only thing Christian were the beings of light and Iblis but those were not influences of the colonies culture unless you decide the 13 tribes are based on the Disciples while here it was based on the Zodiac.
Where am I headed with this? Did this show have to be Battlestar Galactica? Does The Rings Of Power have to be Tolkien?
In both cases and in so many others (if you want an example of a bad work, try that Jem movie that tricked the classic show’s audience into making it happen…only to make a mediocre movie that didn’t resemble the show at all until the last five seconds) the issue is that they only use these names for marketing, or they were hired for a project they didn’t care about and just turned it into what they really wanted to be making. The Rings Of Power clearly doesn’t care about Tolkien’s actual lore or they would have trying to get the rights to The Silmarillion and the Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, the latter being works Tolkien didn’t finish but could have at least been adapted somehow without trying to finish them since they might not be able to predict what Tolkien had in mind. They didn’t want to tell that story. They wanted to tell an original story, one that would allow them to be more like modern day Earth and change things to match that view…just like Moore did with Galactica. Characters share names but not personalities or history, the difference being this is supposed to be the same characters while at least Kara wasn’t trying to be the original Starbuck.
If you watched the video from the start of the article you know that Tolkien fans aren’t buying it. Ignoring the politics-driven “death of the author but not really because we totally want you believe he meant this” drivel the changes are because they don’t actually want to do the Middle Earth history. The franchise is still hot, the Peter Jackson movies still beloved, and after the mess that was the remaining season of Game Of Thrones with fans still enamored with the seasons that had books to adapt they see this as a way to get their story out. It isn’t about continuing the story or being true to the lore, it’s a cheap marketing gimmick to get people to check out their version in the hopes that you’ll love it and forget the original. Whether they have issues with the original works in the same way Moore seems to have had issues with the classic Larson series I couldn’t say, but it’s obvious they have an original idea to tell but no faith that they can sell it. Therein lies the big problem.
If they don’t have faith in it, why should I? Can I get interested in this show knowing it not only is preventing a proper remake from being made, but seems to be outright hostile to the story l loved? If the show had been called Rings Of Power and not tied to Tolkien directly could it actually make fans of high fantasy curious enough to check it out even if they think its a knockoff? Just Some Guy noted that there are plenty of popular Tolkien knockoffs and it’s no different than any other product inspired by another work. Super Dimension Fortress Macross doesn’t get negatively critiqued for being the same drama as Mobile Suit Gundam and the later is a multiversal franchise, sometimes retelling the same plot as the first show and others going right off the rails. (Compare Gundam Seed and G-Gundam to the original and you’ll see what I mean.) They don’t trust their own ideas will get an audience so they use a famous name to get it out there with no concern for the fans. I hear that the creators of Voltron: Legendary Defender fought with Dreamworks because they didn’t want to do a show like the original Voltron/GoLion so they didn’t. I wonder how many fans of the new version didn’t like the original? I KNOW that’s the case with the Battlestar Galactica remake and that’s the best hope for Rings Of Power, but if they don’t care, why should I?
I didn’t watch the Galactica remake because it bared no resemblance to the original outside of some surface dressing and that’s just how fans are approaching Rings Of Power, which could easily be the name of a Sonic The Hedgehog series really. While this was nothing new prior to Moore’s re-imagining the success of that show opened the floodgates to the studios not caring, and allowing storytellers who didn’t care about the original to use that marketing gimmick themselves to get their own stories out. The fact that Hollywood seems to have been taken over by ideologues wouldn’t be an issue if that door gate hadn’t been open. Let original stories be original stories and properties. We the audience love fresh takes and if we didn’t accept new works some of the shows out there that are popular, from Stranger Things to Black Mirror wouldn’t be discussion topics I see all the time. There is room for new works alongside the old, and there’s no excuse not to be inspired by other works. I saw part of a video recently about Japan’s “isekai” genre (think A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court only without getting to go home apparently) complaining that the whole genre does the same thing over and over but fans of it don’t seem to mind. If Galactica had been called “Manchine” or something, and Rings Of Power wasn’t given a Tolkien name or either using names from the original would you notice? If not, just do something new and allow fans of the actual product to make something. This may kill any chance of an actual Silmarillion adaptation from being made just like we probably won’t get a proper update of classic Galactica now.
Yet the studios have been told we don’t care about the original being given a fair treatment. It’s led to not-stalgia and mockstalgia, re-imaginings and namesakes, all with no concern for the thing they’re taking names from. It’s a cheap marketing gimmick with little to no understanding why the name became popular enough for them to steal. It’s just they don’t trust their original ideas or don’t like the original and want to do it “better”. Once again, if they don’t care…why should I?