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The epic saga continues 20 years on............(PART 1)
on August 14, 2003
NB: This review is in two parts.
Armageddon is not the best battlestar galactica book I have read, I feel that accolade should go to Robert Thurston/Glen Larson's original BSG novel. The reason, beside's that it is brilliantly written, is that it is the story of BSG at it's most raw. The novel was written directly from the original script as the first episode (Saga of a Starworld!) of BSG was being filmed, hence the reason why there are pre-production paintings of the battlestar and it's vipers displayed within the novel as opposed to actual FX shots from the episode. The story reflected how Larson originally envisioned the BSG saga to be, with the Cylons being scripted as a sort of cybernetic reptillian hybrid, plus Serina (Apollo's love interest) survives at the end of the novel as it was originally scripted. Though for the TV episode, at Jane Seymour's request, the death of her character was written into the final shooting script and filmed, only to have her death then edited out again of the episode when test audiences found it too upsetting. So I would recommend the Thurston/ Larson original novel to any fan of BSG who wanted to see how the story was originally envisioned.
The reason why I mentioned that novel in this review is because Hatch's Armageddon returns the BSG saga to this standard. I have read some of the unfair complaints here about how Hatch is only glorifying his character of Apollo at the expense of the others. This is untrue, actually the plot revolves around quite a lot of the original characters (some of whom merely served as window dressing in the TV series) as well as the new ones. Hatch actually creates an intriguing character out of Athena, turning her into a thoughtful but discplinarian individual who finds herself promoted to battlestar commander.
Hatch not only ressurrects the BSG saga but also adds a touch of much-needed revisionism to it's studio-induced faults. For instance Hatch completely ignores the final TV episode "The Hand of God" in his continuation (which I welcome because I always found the idea of Adama releasing Baltar just because he aides them in destroying a Cylon base ship absolutely ridiculous - I mean the presence of the base ship threatened Baltar's life as much as the Colonials, there was no need to make any bargains with the traitor!). Hatch most probably ignored this episode because at the end of the it the Colonials receive a transmission of the Apollo moon landing from earth which led way to the whole awful Galactica 80 concept.
The Cylons themselves also undergo some revisionism as Hatch reverts them back to their reptillian/cyborg origins. I think this is the most welcome change! I hated the way the studio execs interferred and had the Cylons rewritten as being robots (explained to us through an awful piece of exposition between Apollo and boxey which was added at the last minute to episode 1 befored it aired on TV. Thankfully the cinema version had no such interference!). Another character who gets a bit of a rewrite is Lucifer, the annoying "fem-bot" who was obviously modelled on C3PO and who spent most of the series involved in a "queenie" power struggle with Baltar. In Armageddon Lucifer becomes an evil and physically strong cyborg who lusts for the death of Baltar and the human race. He comes off as quite a scary character in the novel. Thanks to Hatch, he finally becomes a villain worthy of the name of "Lucifer".
Hatch also tries to explain some of the plot holes in the TV series that were caused by studio-interference. Hatch, for instance, explains why Baltar was promoted to Cylon commander in the TV series whereas in the movie/ original novel he was killed by the Cylons (according to Hatch the Cylons were secretly studying the logic traits of Baltar so they could create a Human Logic Function chip for their cyborg warriors. They planned to kill Baltar once it was completed!). It turns out the Cylons were only using Baltar after all, he never really was in charge of a Cylon base ship. Anyway I never liked that absured studio-induced plot device in the TV series which saw baltar being the main villain who leads the Cylon task force against the Galactica. I much preferred the poetic justice of him being killed off by his Cylon collaborators. I do like the way that Hatch has Baltar being a scheming prisoner (like some sort of Dr Smith from Lost in Space) of the colonials. I feel that this concept suits the Baltar character much better than the "primary villain" he became in the TV series.
As for villains, Hatch does reveal the origins of the Cylons :
****SPOILERS******!!! In the novel it is explained that the natives of the planet Cylon were a reptillian race who were visited by Count Iblis who gave them the technology to evolve themselves into cyborg warriors and conquer the universe. ******* END OF SPOILERS!!!!
Now although the above explanation for the Cylons is not exactly one that I would have preferred, it is however far better than the awful one conjured up by the studio-execs in that exposition delivered by Apollo in episode 1 (That the Cylons are actually meglomanical robotic servants of some long-exctinct alien race, who hate humans for getting involved in their affairs).
Continues in part 2....