toysI, Apple Moskowitz, do admit with full disclosure that I have spent the last two weeks bingeing on Battlestar Galactica. I watched all of it, sans commercial interruption, extended unaired episodes and all, from the comfort of my couch, while knitting hats (some with ears) and coughing my brains out. And aside from the coughing, it was a pretty good two weeks, really*.

I am a dyed in the wool sci-fi geek. I was born into a house with bookshelves full of Asimov and Heinlein. I went to see Star Wars with my dad the Saturday after it opened (dude – I was six. Say it with me: matinee matinee matinee). Spaceships on teevee held then, and still hold today, a Super Special Place in my family structure.

Do you remember where you were in 1978? I was seven, and I was picking the freeze dried marshmallows out of Boo Berry cereal,  sitting on the livingroom rug with our german shepard, Brutus, who was vying for the oat pieces, as we watched Battlestar Galactica (with Lorne freaking Greene) on teevee.

My best friend Erika and I were all about the Battlestar, with all the enthusiasm you can even imagine from a pair of seven year olds. When we weren’t watching the show, we were riding our vipers (bikes) around the neighbourhood, shooting down cylons, and generally annoying the heck out of the homeowners of quiet Twin Rivers. I got to be Starbuck, and she got to be Apollo, and we flew through space, well, you know, looking for Earth and being tiny heroes. In spaceships.

Occasionally a neighbour would complain about our antics. Michael, the sheepdog down the block, would have fed off our excitement and jumped his fence and barreled over a bunch of kids showing off their sticker collections, in an effort to eat us as we pedaled our hearts out and made pew-pew noises at him. Or we would have raced past a kid on a Big Wheel and freaked him out or something. And then we were In Big Trouble, and would be sent to play in one of our basements.

Thank gawd for cardboard boxes and cereal companies. Boo Berry did the most osm thing ever.

Going to Earth nao, BRB (photo by Planet-Q)

Hello, basement viper flight practice! I wish I could tell you how many boxes of Boo Berry we went through to do this – I know there were accidentally discarded empty cereal boxes along the way. I also know that there was a shipping and handling fee applied, ‘cos I remember squirreling away allowance for weeks, and savoring every quarter I set aside instead of buying red Slurpees on Saturday afternoons with Erika. I know that we haunted the poor postman (who was already terrified of Brutus, mind you***) every day, from the day we sent our proofs of purchase to General Mills until the day our viper dashboards ( I know, I know, it’s a command center for the Galactica herself, but to me and Erika, it was a viper dashboard, ok?) arrived. We painted our cardboard vipers in anticipation of the day our “electronics” would arrive (one of the other ships in the fleet was building them, natch), and when they did arrive, Erika and I installed them together with real tools our dads had left out in the hangar deck (basement). We turned out the lights because space is dark, and we flew missions. And we were badass.

It never occurred to either of us that there were no girl viper pilots in on the teevee Galactica. Or maybe we noticed but it just wasn’t important to a pair of tomboy kids with hippie parents growing up in New Jersey in the 70s. We were totally Starbuck and Apollo, and that was the big deal. It wasn’t until much later, looking back with a more modern eye on the halcyon days of guitars in classrooms and Schoolhouse Rock between cartoons, that I realized how much feminism was really in the throes of growing pains back then.

So when BSG was remade, imagine how excited I was to see Starbuck and Boomer played by ladies! I hear Dirk Benedict pitched a fit about it, but haven’t read the original articles about it. Seriously? Whatever. He doesn’t own that Starbuck business, Erika and I do.**** So there. And a Starbuck who’s a lady, a badass, a screwup, and a hero all in one? Yes yes yes, please!

The new series was good. I will even say, better than the original. For one thing, special effects has come a looooong way since 1978. For another, the writing on the new BSG is pretty spectacular (No, I don’t want to talk about the finale). And the storyline stretched out over 4 seasons, as opposed to just one and a little more, so it got to be grand and detailed.

I went back and tried to watch the originals last year, actually. Netflix had them as instant streams, and so I moved the cushy chair to my computer, made a snack, and settled in. You know what? I couldn’t do it. I got about five minutes in and the soundtrack nearly killed me. It wasn’t just that the score was mixed terribad, it wasn’t that the whole shebang was dated late-70s kitchy. More, it wasn’t the way I remembered it. For one thing, the way I remembered it, the plot moved faster. And when the vipers took off from the launch tubes, I really felt like I was flying. I bet Erika would agree if I asked her today.

This is why science fiction is so important, I think. It opens us up to these possibilities about who we are and who we can be. It stretches our imaginations wide enough to fit whole universes inside and peek at what’s there. Then make some stuff up, too. But that’s how we build our world every day, right? We make it up as we go along.  We reimagine when we don’t meet the mark, and we try again. We update as we learn. Sometimes we don’t even know what we need to learn.

But we keep searching. We turn out the lights because space is dark and we’ll know what we need to find when we see it, out there, reflected by a sudden sun.

And the special effects, well, you know – they just keep getting better.


*Let the record state tho’, that I have some issues with the finale.
**OMG I was totally excited to find this picture this morning! I had a brief moment there when I thought, after searching fruitlessly for a picture, that maybe I had imagined that business up. -whew!-
***That german shepard was 100% sure that the postman would taste yummy. Luckily, our postman was a fast motherfucker.
****Because I say so.  Neener neener.