Sci-fi update: it begins next week on the Sci-Fi channel in the UK, butI’ve seen a preview of the pilot of V – that is, the all-CGI, post-9/11 remake of the probably rose-tintedly revered 80s miniseries and series about a quasi-fascist alien invasion of Earth. This time around, with original creator Kenneth Johnson’s name all over the credits, they’ve added an FBI element, and toned down the Nazi allusions which probably felt fresh in 1983, although it looks like the Hitler Youth angle is going to be played out. I was quite taken aback in the pilot when the aliens promised universal healthcare for the human race: it’s post-Obama! Anyway, the formidable Elizabeth Mitchell off of Lost is the star, playing a Fed who finds her way into the resistance. The rest is very familiar – the big spaceships hovering over Earth’s major cities but mostly New York (look! it’s Big Ben! briefly!), the attractively humanoid Visitors etc. – but there’s added irony this time, as two geeks on some news footage make the comparison to Independence Day that we’re already thinking, with a dropped hint that they didn’t think of it. Other than that, it’s played reasonably straight, and quite gory, so hopes are high for the reveal with the guinea pig. Clearly, if you’re not old enough to remember the 80s, you can just start with a clean slate, but I like the way they’re rewarding older viewers with references back. I’m in.
Meanwhile, back at the motherlode of sci-fi War On Terror allegory and reminder just how smart it all was, one-off 2009 prequel Battlestar Galactica: The Plan has finally aired in the UK, on Sky1, and it was worth waiting for, if only for scraping some more crumbs from the table for aficionados of The Greatest Sci-Fi Series Ever Made. Using existing footage from the saga, and artfully dropping in and interweaving brand new stuff with the likes of Grace Park, Tricia Helfer, Michael Hogan, Kate Vernon, Edward James Olmos and others reviving their roles, under the steady aegis of Jane Espenson, it basically tells the tale of the destruction of the Twelve Colonies from the Cylons’ perspective – particularly poignant with Caprica ongoing – and fills in any narrative gaps that probably weren’t really bothering BSG fans that much, but which BSG fans will gladly gobble up anyway. I know we did. Like Olmos, who directed the fresh footage, said at the time, it’ll make us all want to go back and watch the whole shooting match again. Which it does. Great to see what amount to deleted scenes, with lots of Cavill, and Anders, and Five, and Six, and even the Chief, stringing it all together. As has been noted elsewhere, this is a REALLY BAD PLACE TO START, as it requires detailed, anal knowledge of the BSG saga to appreciate. They spoil us, Mr Ambassador, with their in-jokey, commitment-rewarding minutiae, especially the way Cavil effectively “loses” Leoben and Sharon to human empathy, the eavesdropped squeals of Starbuck and Anders having it off, and the insertion of a corner-cut note to the Old Man, hinted as Baltar’s, about the 12 Clyon models. Oh, it’s so indulgent. But who cares? It’s like finding outtakes from one of your favourite albums. And so say we all.