Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Embodiment of Evil?

Sometimes I have to wonder what show people are watching.

Apparently, this site lists Gaius Baltar as the 21st most evil villain.

In the video, we start off with Alicia Quarles, "EP Entertainment Reporter", saying: "What makes a good TV villain is somebody that embodies pure evil."

Voice-over: "James Callis plays the embodiment of evil known as Gaius Baltar..." ['evil' music playing in the background]

Wait, what? This logic is so off, I don't even know where to start. Because one person - granted, she's probably not the only one, but her opinion isn't canon just because she said so - thinks a good villain is the "embodiment of evil", and because Gaius Baltar is on this list, he must be the embodiment of evil. This is not based on anything on the show, and I don't think she's even talking about Gaius Baltar. I hope she's not.

Gaius is not the embodiment of evil. Kevin Khatchadourian is the embodiment of evil. Hannibal Lecter or Sylar might be too. But Gaius Baltar? Half of his scenes in season one consist of "Gaius feels really, really guilty for unwittingly causing the destruction of mankind, and tries to escape the guilt". Actually, half of his scenes in the entire show are all about that. When I think "embodiment of evil", I think utterly remorseless, cruel, plotting, devoid of feeling, etc. etc. Maybe others have a different definition, but "causing a lot of harm by accident" isn't my idea of evil.

Michael Emerson from Lost describes Gaius, and this time I can agree:

"He's both vulnerable and manipulative at the same time. We're never really sure if we ought to feel sorry for him or if we ought to despise him."
Thank you, Michael. So - embodiment of evil? No. Vulnerable? Yes. The whole ambiguity that he describes here is what, to me, negates the idea that Gaius is evil. If he's completely evil, we're supposed to hate him. How could we ever feel compassion for a completely evil being? If we feel compassion, that must mean that he somehow shows he is worth it. We can relate to him on some level, and that must mean he has some goodness to him.

What baffles me is that they show James being photographed at the Comic Con, but don't actually have an interview with him, not even a soundbite. If they had, maybe he would have said, I don't know, something like this:

"My whole thing about baddies, anyway, or playing somebody who's uh.. morally bankrupt... You know, you always see these people and they're always, in some strange way, very powerful, and this.. he he hee, and you know, manic laughter. I think the reality of someone like that is that... you have to go through a lot of colors in your system or in your soul before you get to be that way. And I don't believe anybody's born bad and I certainly don't think Gaius Baltar is born bad, he's just made a dreadful, dreadful mistake." (Sci Fi interview)

This is why I think evil characters tend to be dull. It might be exciting to see them plot against the goodies, especially if they fail with their plans, but just to see an evil person go about his day is not very interesting. There's no moral conflict, no human edge, it's just some writer's idea of a completely bad person, and that makes it very black and white, very stereotypical. This is one of the things that elevates Battlestar above many other shows - they had the guts to write a character who's very human, very weak, sometimes does despicable things, yet feels bad for doing them. All of this raises questions about what good and evil really are and what makes a villain.

I'll probably write more about the guilt and "evil" of Gaius in the future, but here's a quick rundown of why I don't think he's evil:

Cruelty - I've never seen him be cruel. Well, maybe once, when he almost killed Chief to get an answer out of Boomer. But then he sat on the cell floor looking so guilty that it's hard to believe that he had thought it through. He seemed shocked by the prospect that someone could have died. It doesn't make the act itself less cruel, but it shows he has a conscience that might not let him be cruel in a premeditated way. (I'll admit that he almost never listens to it in beforehand, but even if his conscience might work with a lag, it would surely kick in if he was considering something really evil.)

Evil intentions - When has he ever intended to hurt, kill, or destroy someone else? He's caused a lot of bad things, but none of them were intentional, and he always feels terrible when he realizes his own role in it. He did provide the cylons with the codes for mass destruction - but if Caprica-Six had asked him, "Hey Gaius, wanna give me the codes so I can destroy mankind?", he would never have done it. I'm not going to defend the act of giving away military secrets to anyone, but Caprica-Six was someone Gaius trusted, so you could also argue that he was betrayed to do it. That's certainly the way he chooses to see it. But he didn't sell mankind out for his own benefit, and he didn't evilly cackle as he watched it unfold. And when the cylons asked him to sign that death warrant for 200 people? He flat out refused and only signed it because he was at gunpoint. That's how evil he is.

Hate - He doesn't hate anyone. He doesn't love people either, but there's a huge difference between hate and indifference, or even hate and superiority.

Lack of compassion - sometimes it seems that way, but other times he'll turn around and be very compassionate - in Pegasus with Gina, in He That Believeth in Me with the sick child. He's narcissistic, and by definition, that means you care way more about yourself than about others. But he's not completely without compassion. It's funny that people don't say Starbuck is without compassion, and yet she can torture Leoben and kill him over and over; Laura Roslin can airlock cylons left and right and lie to parents that their baby is dead and she's not seen as lacking compassion. I'm not saying that I think these two characters are completely narcissistic and don't care about other people; my point is that all characters on the show have, at some point, done things like this.

That's one of the things I really like about Battlestar, because no one's perfect and no one's a clear cut hero and villain. It's also the thing that baffles me the most about some viewers, because it really looks like some people try to make it more black and white than it is.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

YouTube Channel

I've opened a YouTube channel for this blog. Now, I'm probably not going to upload any videos, because I don't have anything exclusive to share. It's meant to be a resource for James video links all in one place, so I don't have to do the same searches every time, and hopefully helpful for others as well. If you have James videos I haven't yet added, please let me know either here or on YouTube. I'm starting with con videos and general BSG stuff he's in.

The channel is at:

I've created a couple of playlists:
More are coming.

It's not looking particularly good for the non-BSG stuff, because I haven't found anything except Chips, Sex and Rock'n'Roll. It seems like a good show, and James is great in it, so I'm not complaining. But I'm also looking for other stuff he's done to round it out a bit.

I haven't made a decision about music videos of BSG yet. Frankly, since there are so many of them, their quality is very varying, and most of them have the same clips over and over, I might just decide to not add any. But we'll see.

An annoyed side note:
Could people please stop tagging every single BSG-related video with the name of every single actor involved? This is a show with a huge cast and a huge array of characters, so obviously not every one of them is going to be in every video. It would be more helpful to only tag it with the names of people who, you know, actually appear in the video. I don't think a lot of people come to Youtube to search for the names of the entire cast and crew. It doesn't make your video look more professional, it just annoys people.

And don't even get me started about the Bridget Jones videos. I have yet to come across one where James appears for more than two seconds, yet the descriptions list him as one of the actors, so the videos come up in a search.

Also: "Recommended For You". What's recommended for me? Let's see:
The top ten list from Letterman. Bwah! OK, this will not be added, just out of respect for James and his condition while doing it.

Jay and Silent Bob Gag Reel. Um, I'd like to emphasize that I'm not really into gag reels in general, just BSG gag reels.

That all? OK. For the record, I don't really believe that they're ever going to recommend a video that is just the thing I've always wanted to see, like "The Entire Music of Battlestar Galactica Documentary", "3-Hour Behind the Scenes with James Callis", or "James Callis Talks About The Baltarstar Blog Praisingly And at Great Length". But it's still pretty amusing just how bad those recommendations were.

I started the channel yesterday, so obviously I'm still adding more stuff, but just to let you know it's out there. I also plan on doing more transcripts in the near future, starting with the Farpoint 2008 videos.

Is There a Toaster in the House?

Disclaimer: this post has absolutely nothing to do with James Callis. We apologize for any inconvenience.

My girlfriend's an avid Sims player, and recently she added a familiar-looking servant to her game family. You can find the design here - a cylon centurion in all its glory. She's made some screenshots, and I thought it might be fun for other BSG lovers to see the centurion in a domestic role for a change. Since the look hasn't been changed at all, it looks pretty menacing, but the family doesn't seem to mind. The character is named Toaster.

The family in question includes grilled cheese sims, and the preparation of a cheesecake seems like a natural chore for their servant. There's something hilarious about a centurion being used for baking and serving a cake.

Apart from being a chef, Toaster also serves as the family's loyal babysitter. The claws don't seem like the most convenient tool for handling a small child, but the baby is obviously gleeful to be playing with him.


This may look like a painful struggle, but the baby is actually being tickled by Toaster.

Aww, all warm and snuggly.

The baby has a need to sing a nursery rhyme with Toaster.

And after a while, when Toaster is around children, the idea of adoption (pacifier+phone) appears in his mind...

Time will tell if Toaster gets an adoption going.

When he's having time off, he encounters the most annoying situation. Don't you just hate it when you're writing a diary entry about garden gnomes and someone walks in?

Is it Garden Gnome Gaius* he's writing about?

*=that's what my girlfriend calls the bearded season 3 Gaius. I must admit it's pretty fitting.

The picture of the person who walked in, with a cross over her head, appears in Toaster's mind as she walks in. Privacy please!

Another version of the same situation. Note the heart with hands on the table, which somehow makes this all the funnier or me.

I might post more of these screenshots later. It's just so amusing to see the centurion in such an, um, dignified role.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The First Pictures from "Merlin And the Book of Beasts"

SideStepTheQuestion of the James Callis Appreciation Thread has found some Merlin-related links, so I thought I'd be lazy and reproduce them here.

An interview with the director, Warren Sonoda. Nothing about James here, but you can find out about the film - sounds pretty dark, actually.

"They are letting me take the more frilly fable of Camelot and dirty it up," he explains. "I'm doing a Braveheart. The Round Table is destroyed and Camelot is in ruin and the Book of Beasts is very much a weapon of mass destruction wielded by an anarchist with loose morals. It is a bit darker and more cool."

Wow. And this time James is the braveheart, not the anarchist with loose morals. Should be interesting!

A brief introduction of the film with a picture of James. Merlin bears a striking resemblance to season 3 Gaius. I like the wand-or-whatever that he's holding, very cool.

Photo 1 and Photo 2 at Mike's Critters. I see James is not afraid of snakes - in fact, there's a look of chlidlike glee on his face: "Awesome! I'm holding a snake!" And he's gotten very dirty during the shooting. Warning: if you're scared of snakes, photo 2 might produce an "is it on me? I feel like it's on me!" reaction.

And, of course, the first picture of the movie at imdb, which, ironically, still doesn't even list the movie. A very handsome picture indeed.

All in all, looks like a cool project. I'll link to more stuff as it comes up.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A New Message From James!

James has posted a message at the First Unofficial Website forum! The forum sadly resists direct linking, but it's in a thread called "Magic", started by "Merlin". Hee.

I feel more excited over this than over the other messages, because this time around, I'm one of the lupines and I feel like James is talking to me too. Three messages in four months is quite frequent contact with the fans, and the warm tone suggests we're all good friends (I know James is good friends with the site admins, so maybe that has something to do with it).

And we have a title for his Merlin project - Merlin and the Book of Beasts! The shooting has wrapped up, so I hope imdb catches up and posts some info on it soon. Sounds like it was hard work, but still a great experience. As usual, he shows appreciation for the people he worked with:
we shot an epic 100+ page script in 15 days - with mostly (99%) one camera... let me tell you for those unfamiliar with the craft of making televisual entertainment - that is a huge, almost herculean undertaking.

everybody involved with this project - was outstandingly cool and committed and (so often overlooked) some of the friendliest - easiest and just plain down right good eggs with good vibes.
I have yet to see a cut - but have every confidence in the crew and my fabulous director Warren - to make all the ends meet and patch up anything in need of stitching together...
In other news, he's obviously done an Audi spot and feels gleeful about it:

arrived back in uk to do a spot for audi on their audi channel - got to drive this amazingly cool sports car up and down the motorway - What fun!

If you find the Audi spot somewhere, please comment and I'll link to it. I'd be intrigued to see it. Or maybe I should just keep an eye on TV shows - maybe it shows up in a Finnish commercial break somewhere!

I might or might not muster the courage to post a reply in the thread (which he might or might not read again), but just for the record, this post was the cause of much fan glee and made my day. So thank you, James. Much appreciated.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Galactica Quorum Interview - Now With Commentary!

I've been meaning to discuss the Galactica Quorum interview, which I transcribed but didn't comment on yet. So I think I'll comment on selected quotes in this post, because it's useful to have a full transcript without interruptions too. I really like this interview, so I might or might not react on everything he says here. I might get Jamesly babblish when I'm excited. Be warned.

James: You know, actually, I really wanted to go bald, to be honest, for something coming up. And they were like, 'You know, to be honest we can't have that, because there's too many of you who are going thru similar things, essentially it'll be like, you know, the Three Stooges.'

Wow. I can't really imagine him bald, and even if he did shave his head, I bet he'd have a full head of hair again in like two days. I've heard of his amazing beard growing abilities, and I can't imagine it being different there. I wonder who the other bald characters are (it can't be Chief, since Brian the interviewer mentions Aaron's hairdo, and James says he doesn't want to spoil).

There was something as well about... I wanted to be very different, or at least thinking that I was very different, from lots of other... science fiction stereotypes. And what Gaius Baltar has only been involved with because of the explosion and the annihilation of most of his people, it's so monstrous. I always felt like, if I played that in any way that I really knew what was going on, then I'd be devoid of all sympathy, I'd be a monster. It actually wouldn't interest me. So I wanted to play it like, it's someone who's made the wrong mistake, he put his credit card in the wrong place and it got eaten, and then it's the end of the world. Somebody who's a bit hapless.

I really like this, and it's one of the things I like about Baltar. He's not a monster; you can have long and heated debates about whether or not he has a conscience - for the record, I definitely think he does - and there are different viewpoints on how much guilt he's really feeling or what morality means in his case. But the one thing you can't argue is that he's cruel and loves to torture people just for the fun of it. He doesn't knowingly conspire against people or plot to take over the world. I don't know if he's hapless so much as incredibly self-absorbed; I don't consider him an absent-minded professor type really. He just isn't interested if it isn't about him, i.e. his attitude on politics. Jumping ahead in the interview a little, James argues that Gaius is starting to care more about people:

He's been a little heartless before - heartless, vain, narcissistic, with no consequences whatsoever at the beginning of the miniseries. He's like a rock star, scientist with all these awards, sleeps with all these women, one of them happens to be a robot, oh dear, oh dear...

And slowly he's coming into contact with ever more people. I think in that house that he lived in, what would he ever have to do? Roll over to the lab, sleep with somebody, be in the house. It's not very much contact, you kind of keep yourself in a bubble, a rather nasty narcissistic kind of bubble, it's totally been burst. And now he's like with everybody else, and he certainly feels for.. people.

I think it's true to an extent, but I'm not sure how far you can take that argument. That's another really difficult and intriguing question - how much empathy does Gaius really have, and how much does he care for other people? He shows empathy with Gina and helps her out, then kills a black-haired Six with his bare hands. He prays for the sick boy and visits Chief after he lost his wife, but he's still obsessed with his own role in everything. It's not like he's become driven by empathy and caring for others, he's still the "chosen one" who thinks englihtenment ultimately means finding out who he is and acting out his important role in the big plan.

So I think that, you know, I do believe the second season was better than the first season, I believe the third season is better than the second, cos collectively, we all just... You start having a language that is not even... talking, you know, there's a look in the eye, I know what you mean, you know what I mean... and we kinda go for it.

One of my favorite episodes, Baltar and Six wise, is Home, Part 2 in the second season. There's a pretty long scene where Baltar starts to question Head Six and she plays mind games with him, and James and Tricia are just brilliant, the way they play off each other's reactions. I don't think they could have done that scene in the first season, at least not as effectively, because you can tell that it's a result of leaning to read each other and react to each other better. I think the same is true of all of the couples on the show - Adama and Laura, Lee and Kara, Helo and Athena - and maybe it's a thing with the viewer as well. You know their history and the way they interact, and it adds to your reading and enjoyment of the scene. I realize James isn't only talking about romantic pairings here, but the ensemble as a whole, but I think it's especially true of actors who often do scenes together.

Asked about the scene in Rapture where Gaius kicks dead D'Anna's arm out of the way, James clearly gets excited and almost doesn't let Brian finish the question, which amused me. You can always tell he likes a question when he does that.

... Let me digress slightly to talk about musical farts, okay? [laughter] Because this is a very... Actually, it's not my phrase, it's a friend I work with in London. It's when you set up something amazing, [in a very dramatic voice] the warrior comes forward, he's got his sword on his hilt, his face is all [inhales sharply] bloody and everything like that, and then somebody farts. [laughter]

And he brings up farting like it's the most natural thing in the world. Which, of course, it is, but it amuses me how comfortable he seems about it. This was a cute story. He's just so dramatic here, which, I guess, he has to be to really sell the joke. It's like he's acting again for a moment, and then he comes back to his normal tone in a heartbeat. He can just snap into acting gear and snap out of it effortlessly.

It's like, you totally take way the awesome, you know, like that, you're... You're pulling the rug out from under somebody's feet.. and I thought that this was this huge thing, and the big moment, and you know, if you are the chosen one, there's a certain deference that Gaius certainly doesn't have. So he's gonna kick her leg, and ... "Get out of the way, you selfish cow! It's my moment now!"[laughter] And he doesn't even know how to control his own moment, which is why I did that shuttering thing about... Actually that totally was ripped from Soap. Did you ever see Soap?

I loved Soap. In a fan's life, sometimes you'll have happy moments of "Yay, my idol likes the same thing I like!" And I had that moment with this (and also when I saw that he likes to drink cola, but I digress). He talks about Burt, who was my favorite character on Soap, and how he was flailing and bulging his eyes in a scene where he's in the bath. It's a bit hard to follow in an audio file, but I know what Burt could look like when he was flailing and bulging and twisting his eyes - brilliant body acting by Richard Mulligan, and actually something I've noticed about James as well. I wonder if Baltar's body language as a whole has been influenced by that. If you're not familiar with the character, try this clip. It's not the scene James is talking about, but you can see the type of purposefully exaggerated body movement that Burt was famous for. When he's talking about the scene in Soap, James once again starts acting, and he does sound quite a bit like Burt. Awesome.

More about Rapture:

It was, as they felt, a cinematic out, for literally a gun to click by the forehead and you'd then pan to Aaron's face and he'd go, "Hello, Mr President." And I was like... I said to Michael and Aaron, I said, "You know, Chief, you hate me. And you're a kind of a bear of man, and if you see somebody like Gaius standing there, and you've got the opportunity, you're not just gonna to put a gun to my head, you're gonna smack me out.

Hee, "bear of man", I like that. And I agree about Chief hitting him. Actually, I think that line is incredibly dramatic, so much so that it comes off a little comical and I wish they'd left that out. It's just too... movie-like. Basically, it's a line no one would actually say in that position. I think Galactica seems so realistic in general because the dialogue is naturalistic enough to be believable. That might also have to do with the improvisation of the actors. But this line is just off. It's "Welcome back, Mr President", actually. I think the scene would be much better if Chief had just hit him and been done with it.

We totally made all this up about getting me back onto the Galactica. Because I was saying to Michael, Michael Rymer the director, "Well, if everybody knows about it, then as soon as I get back on the ship, I'm going to be lynched!" So then we developed this intricate thing about me being, you know, in a body bag, et cetera, et cetera,. And I remember, when we were filming it, there were some executives on the ste going, "What?! Well, where is this in the script with the body bags and tadada..." [laughter] Hey, you saw the numbers, leave this thing to us! And I think it really worked.

I hadn't thought of that. Actually, the body bag thing was always very weird to me, but now I know why. I remember watching that for the first time and wishing they had shaved him in the bag, now that he was unconscious. Too bad they didn't. There's something sad about the scene, when Tigh asks, "He's not dead?" and he's told, "No, unfortunately", or something like that. It feels pretty cold and tragic that everyone wants him dead. Even if it's almost entirely his own fault.

And listen to the man, when I'm talking, people can't even shut me up! [laughter] I'm on set saying I'd like to say less, or do less, or be... Even though this might sound like the pot calling the kettle black, especially coming from my mouth, we prefer to be on the subtler scale than not. Obviously my character has difficulty with that, because he's not subtle. But there's ways in which people can be.

His point was that they want to be subtle and cut down on the lines, and then he ends up babbling for quite a while. He notices the irony of that and adds his characteristic self-deprecating humor to it. But since the question was "do you add to the script", he could have said, I don't know, that he added the part where Baltar goes against signing the death list in Precipice. Or, you know, that he added "What have I done?" in the Miniseries. Or anything else he's ever added. I'm not sure why he didn't think of that here.

It's interesting that he's often brought up the "less is more" idea. He's said that himself and Jamie Bamber, both British, were more happy with the show being over than the rest of the cast, because the British mentality is that you end on a high note, when the show is still good. British shows tend to have seasons of only six episodes, and many prominent British shows (like my favorite, The Office UK) only ever had two seasons and a Christmas special. This is something I respect about British TV, even if a fan always wants more and more. (An example of overdoing it would be something like Absolutely Fabulous, where the first seasons were brilliant, but the last one was completely off).

That said, I find it annoying that so many Baltar scenes have been deleted, and every time I see deleted scenes on the DVDs, I find myself thinking: "Did they have to cut this?" Many of the scenes with the Adamas, for instance, are long enough on the aired version and you can tell why they cut some of it, because the cut scenes often feel like hammering the point home a bit too much. But I feel like they already show too little of Baltar. Or am I just a fangirl who can't have enough?

Asked if he thinks TV is getting dumber in the post-strike world, James ends up talking about a reality show he likes. This is a quality in James that I really admire, and one that I think is unusual in highly intelligent people. Intelligent people are often snarky. The smarter you are, the more flaws you see in other people and their behavior, and the easier it is to look down on others. But it seems like James has the opposite reaction to people - he always finds something to respect and praise.

There's some reality TV shows I love watching, I mean really love watching. I don't know if you saw Jack Osbourne and the recruits. Did you watch any of that stuff?

Michelle: I watched some of that, yeah.

James: It was just such great drama!
Michelle: He really buffed up for that too.

James: Did he?

Michelle: Yeah, cos he was a big kid, but...

James: Yeah, but he still looked big, I thought that was kind of cool in the sense of... he was very... you know what, I just, I thought he showed a lot of grace looking after those children . And I was... I don't know how old he is, but he surprised me with his maturity and his leadership. So I was like glued to this thing. It was like, it was great drama. It was kind of like Lost, but I knew what's going on.

It's always easy to earn points by mocking reality shows and people involved in them, so I really liked this. I also liked that he's so nice about Jack's weight, sort of putting a positive spin on it. By the way, I have no idea which Jack Osbourne show he's referring to - there have been so many and I couldn't find anything with "Jack Osbourne and the Recruits" on imdb.

James: I think on a very simple level, Head Baltar is just in control in a way that Gaius isn't. We've done some Head Baltar in this season coming up as well, that has been.. for me, really great. Watch out for that episode, I love it! [laughter] I mean, why would I love it? [laughs] Uh, yes.

I think he meant "I love it because I get to play against myself", but then realized he can't spoil that bit. I'd really like to see an interview where he talks about that scene, because I've been wondering how they shot it. The timing is really good and the two Baltars are just so different and delicious in their interplay.

I love his analysis of their differences:

It's almost now, thinking about it, it's like if Gaius had a hero, it might be Head Baltar, who's like in control, he knows what he wants, he's dapper, he's serious and he doesn't have the same... um... You feel like if you got hold of Head Baltar, you'd actually be able to hold something, whereas Gaius is like a fish, it's like... grab him, it's gonna... [laughter] He's like teflon, he's gonna fly out of your hands or... He's - slimey? [laughs] I don't know if slimey...

It's true, I think, that HeadBaltar is a lot of things Gaius would like to be. However, at least when he's talking to Caprica, he's also mean, mocking, cynical and much colder than Gaius. He didn't seem as tormenting or conscience-like with Gaius, it was more like "come on, get a grip", which I liked. And I would really, really like to see Head Six interact with Caprica Six, but I doubt we're going to see that.

A little Easter egg I didn't transcribe: if you listen to the whole file, there's silence in the end, and then you can hear James saying: "I hope I'm going to talk about Battlestar", and the others laugh and say he can talk about anything he wants. A cute little extra dose of his self-deprecating humor. Maybe a little true, too - what did he end up talking about? Battlestar, yes, but also Jack Osbourne, Soap, rat kings and musical farts. God bless his babbly little heart.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Thoughts on Season 2.5 Deleted Scenes

My DVDs - which are very random on the extras anyway - don't have any of the season 2 deleted scenes past Flight of the Phoenix. Tonight I saw the missing ones. I'm deeply touched by the Gaius/Gina scenes. I'm just crying over here.

It's amazing that James and Tricia really get to play four different couples on the show: Gaius-Caprica, Gaius-HeadSix, Gaius-Gina and Caprica-HeadBaltar. Each relationship is different and brings new nuances out of the characters and actors. They were good from the start, but as the seasons go on, their cooperation becomes impeccable. They react off each other in such a seamless way. I'm constantly in awe as I rewatch their scenes.

They absolutely should have kept the plot where Gaius and D'Anna conspire together to smuggle Hera out of Galactica. In the aired version of Downloaded, Gaius really does almost nothing - he feebly tells them to not airlock the baby, but is that really all? He should do more.

I love that they show D'Anna more, too. Any scene with Lucy Lawless is a good scene, and it makes sense for D'Anna to want to save Hera. The scene where she's told Hera died: awesome. Also: Gina interacting with another cylon and protesting to Hera's name - "Just call her thirteen" - also awesome. Gina looks much more comfortable with D'Anna than she ever does with Gaius, and D'Anna seems sisterly and completely natural towards her.

After seeing Razor, I almost wonder if there's something more than sisterly feelings going on here, but maybe that's just wishful thinking.

The scene where Gaius and Gina discuss Hera is important, because it gives space for their reactions to each other and the difference between Gina and HeadSix. Gaius obviously thinks they're one and the same, even asking Gina if she didn't say that Hera has a destiny and they should protect her. Gina looks at him like he's nuts. (Which he might or might not be.)

Suddenly, HeadSix appears to tell him Gina's damaged beyond repair - obvious jealousy from her, once again. It's sort of confusing even for the viewer to see Gina and HeadSix in the same scene. It confuses me more than seeing HeadSix vs. some soulless Six copy, which is weird because I know these two are not the same at all. Maybe it's just that I see them through the eyes of Gaius?

Why did they cut all of this? I think they should have made Downloaded a two-parter, with just cylons and Gaius, Gaius and cylons. That would have been perfect.

I've always read the scene where Gaius cries over the Cloud Nine explosion as the ultimate moment of guilt. Maybe I misread it, because the deleted scenes have Gaius and Adama intercut with Gina putting clothes on a crying Gaius - their goodbye. Is his heart broken? Is he capable of feeling love? It makes him way more relatable and likeable, and it really makes me feel for him. In a way, it's just his selfishness that's hurt him, because he doesn't realize that Gina is way too broken to have a relationship at this point, and he doesn't even seem to consider that Gina might - gasp! - not love him. But he's Gaius and that's his way of thinking, and I'm always inclined to feel empathy for him, because he doesn't know of another way to be.

Like Head Six often does, Gina seems to act maternal with Baltar. He just sits there like a child, helplessly, as Gina buttons up his shirt. Later, she puts his tie on as he looks away in tears.

The way the scene is edited, cutting back to Gaius and Gina in little moments, his eyes full of tears both in the flashback and in the present, is beautiful. The music is beautiful. James' subtle acting is beautiful. I can't believe they cut it.

...Not to mention Tricia's subtle acting. I was so surprised to learn that she hadn't had many roles and was brought in as a newcomer, because she really delivers. When I watch the Miniseries now, I can see she's gotten a lot better though. You can see her development in the subtlety of her facial expressions. She can express more now with just a look. I love her.

Non-James-related note: WHY did they cut the scene where Laura tells Hera, "Thank you for saving my life"? I would have liked Laura a lot more in that episode if they'd aired that. She came off as heartless, taking the baby away from her parents and not even appreciating that her life had been saved by Hera's blood. It should be a crime to cut scenes like this, and it wasn't even long. It's like they've gone out of their way to make Laura less relatable and more tyrant-like, and I'm mad. She's a great character. Mary McDonnell is a great actor, and she should be given more emotion. Look at her in The Hub, that was really something.

Non-James-related-note2: I think Katee Sackhoff is brilliant and I hope to see some of her other stuff in the future. I don't always like Starbuck, and at first I thought Katee wasn't that good. But after seeing the heavier stuff as well as the drunken slurring and giggling - it's always spot on, spot on, spot on, whatever the scene requires. I'm eager to see where they're taking Starbuck's character, too.

Other scenes they should have kept:
-Cally and Chief talking after he's attacked her. Cally plays a prank on him to break the ice. It's a great, natural moment. It makes their marriage seem a little less out of the blue.

-Lee and Dee scenes - several of them. See above; their marriage really came as a surprise to me, and if they'd aired at least a couple of short scenes with them, I might have seen it as less of a sudden plot twist and more of a story they built up over time.

The screenshots are by me, with editing help from my girlfriend.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Best. CrackFic. Ever.

I'm not very familiar with the fan fiction communities yet, but the crackfic stuff really, well, cracks me up. If I understood correctly, the point is that the stories are intentionally fantastical and mix elements from different genres and traditions. There's a lot of humor and self-irony in them, and I find this style of writing fascinating. Most of the time, the crackfics go very off-character, and I'm not sure if that's intentional or not. But here's one that I thought was both in character and very funny (as well as focused on my favorite characters, of course).

Written by Nicole Anell, she of the awesome torture question, this fic is called Like Rogue Unicorns (hee and wtf?). The idea is that Baltar and Caprica Six have children, and then Baltar also has children with HeadSix, and Caprica has children with HeadBaltar. Of course, the invisible children can only be seen by their parents. It gets really confusing at some point, but the whole story is just hilarious and shows a great knowledge of the characters.

Some of my favorite quotes:
As Caprica-Six watched Head-Gaius go about his bored and sexy business (partially sexy because he was not covered in messianic facial hair), occasionally saying some kind of cryptic love couplet, she knew this was the right choice. She'd been burned by threesomes before, after all, but (as far as she knew) Head-Gaius was not a duplicitous whore. He couldn't possibly go off on some destiny kick and abandon the only person who could see him. Yes, this time it would work.

Naming was, of course, a difficult task. They had set some initial rules against naming their children after human gods, prominent Colonial officers, and any former sexual partners of the father (which would be a reasonable enough request, if his stint as president alone hadn't cut the name book in half and made Caprica wary of the otherwise lovely name "Felix.").

"I had twins," Six clarified. "Technically the boy is the first of God's new generation, but only by about 80 seconds."


"Want to fo... ffff..." the little girl looked to her Head-Daddy for help.

"Foment Civil War among the Cylons," he prompted.

"Want to fomop sibillwomong Cylons?"

Caprica bristled and put her down, shooting a look at Head-Gaius. "That's really unfair."

"Before you judge me, darling, you have to admit it sounds adorable when she says it."


Thus the newest member of their family had arrived, and again they had to adjust. If it was difficult for their secret imaginary polygamous marriage to work, it soon became twice as difficult to take care of all the children -- the invisible and non-invisible ones all had their own special needs. And no one adequately appreciated the effort Gaius Baltar was putting into it, in his own opinion.


"Oh, this is unbearable," sighed Head-Gaius. "I'm just depressed now." But depression looked exponentially sexier on him that it did on Regular-Gaius.

I could basically quote the whole thing. The brilliance of the narrative is that it combines fan reactions - like Head-Gaius being hot - with stuff implied on the show (like Caprica's issues with threesomes above). Even if it's intentionally fantastical, it's still in character, from HeadBaltar's bristly sarcasm to Gaius' self-absorbed nervousness. These aren't necessarily easy characters to write either, because you need to take into account that Caprica Six is not like HeadSix, and Gaius is nothing like HeadBaltar. In the same vein, Caprica and Gaius have a completely different relationship than Gaius and HeadSix, who have a completely different relationship than Caprica and HeadBaltar. So you have four characters and three relationships going on here, and I think Nicole is doing a good job of keeping them separate and in character.

Add to that the various children, both visible and imaginary - it's actually a very complex story, even if it's also very silly. Great job!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dragon*Con Panels, Part 3: Dradis Contact Is Made

Sunday Panel
"Dradis Contact Is Made"

I'm sorry for my tardiness with this post. I had a big job thing come up, and I was really engrossed in that for a week. This was actually my favorite panel with the best James quotes and cutest photos, and I wanted the post to be well thought out and not just a quick transcript.

As usual, the videos are courtesy of MrBamberrific/transplant42. You can also find the two other panels in the link - Tahmoh/Richard and Edward James Olmos solo - but those don't have James, so I will not be transcribing them. The photos are courtesy of Bamberrific and can also be found at the James Callis Appreciation Thread at the Sci Fi Forums. Thanks again guys!

Dianora's writeup of this panel, with pictures, here.
Nicole_anell, who asks the torture question in part 3, also has a writeup of the panels and the two times she met James here, here and here. Well worth reading. (I hope I linked to the right things - I don't know LJ as well as I know Blogger. Just scroll up and down the page to find the BSG related stuff if it gives you something else.)

Part 1

It's the day after the Colonial Fleet Party, and everyone looks tired and hung over. James still manages to look gorgeous though.


Michael Hogan, who apparently got very drunk indeed, comes in on all fours (as a joke, he's not drunk anymore), to much laughter and applause from the audience. Tahmoh's a no-show today - he was at the Dollhouse panel and apparently very sick from the party. Edward James Olmos didn't show up either, after having two panels - one with the others and one solo - the previous day. Colin Corrigan was there, but he didn't talk much, and to be honest, I don't care about him. I don't care if he is a good friend of Aaron Douglas, he doesn't really belong in the panel. One of my pet peeves with BSG is that there are too many military characters, and I just can't keep track of them all.

"Do the microphones work?" says the moderator.
"No," James says.

Aaron quips, "One of you motherfrakkers put booze in my drink last night. When I find out who, and I will, it's heavy Raider all over your asses." Hee! The audience cracks up.

Richard Hatch says some guy lost his beer to Aaron, and asks if that guy is there. He doesn't get as much of a response, though.

James takes out plastic mugs and starts pouring water in them for everyone, which I thought was sweet and considerate. OK, maybe I should save my squees at this point because there's a lot of goodness coming in this panel.

The first question is about the craft of acting, and how they approach that.

James: "Yeah. This comes up a lot, this kind of question, actually, and my response to this is that you know, the craft is very important and on set, um, craft service [laughter] is actually even more important. To those of you not in the industry, that's like the food they give us so we don't fall over. [laughter]

Um, I kind of... There's lots, there's no one way. It's like there's no one mantra about being an actor. It's really horses for courses - the demands of the scene, or the demands of your character. I was actually telling someone yesterday, one of the things I learned at drama school, which I found really important, was um... being experiment... Experiment, and allow yourself to get it wrong, rather than right. If you're imposing a mantra, "this must be my definitive performance, I can only give this, see", you've imposed something on yourself that .. You've made a vacuum, it's less interesting, so that you allow yourself to get something wrong, you might get something right."

I think this makes sense for life in general, as well. If you have your mind set on "I can only be this", you won't even try to do other things. I also learned a new phrase, "horses for courses". BSG must have had an awesome craft service, this is not the first time I heard it mentioned. I also think it's cute how James pronounces it "crahft". Yeah, I know, it's probably just regular British accent thing.

Hogan and Richard Hatch seem to agree with James on this. Hatch goes on for a while, but I don't think he really adds anything to what James said. He talks for about five minutes, and people applaud him, but I must say I drifted off. I'm sure it was very deep.

part 2

Question from the audience: "We all enjoy the Battlestar universe for different reasons and characters", so what aspect of the BSG universe do the actors enjoy most or what would they like to see in real life?

Aaron: The communal showers. [laughter]
[James seems very amused at this one.]

Michael Hogan says it's the flashbacks, and he waxes poetic about one particular flashback in Unfinished Business: "Me with Ellen, just laughing with each other, and I had both eyes, I was young and healthy, and she was beautiful, and I was telling her how much I love her." He talks like it's a real memory from his own life, which was sweet. He doesn't talk in a Tigh voice or anything, but obviously he's talking as Tigh here.

James: I really like the... I really got switched on to it not by the sci fi, but by the kind of dark, political, edgy.. for me, because Baltar and his position, it felt like being in some kind of spy thriller. You're all spies, you can't tell secrets, you don't know who you can trust. I find that really exciting and I think there's a lot of... We use that currency a lot on the show, and I'm glad that my own reality isn't anything like that at all. [laughter]

I thought this was an interesting answer. I haven't really thought of it as a spy show, but Baltar is a character who's very much alone with a secret. Episodes like Six Degrees of Separation might read like a spy thriller, although Baltar definitely lacks the composed manner agents usually deal in. Maybe the original Baltar was more like a spy, because he knew what he was doing, while the new Baltar is more a victim of his own weakness who never meant anyone any harm. Which elevates it above a simple spy thriller, because there's moral conflict.

Richard Hatch wishes they brought back the "social aides" from the original show. Which I guess means hookers. Eh. He says the closest to that is "Trish, the cylon". I might have heard that wrong - does he mean Tricia? James doesn't look very amused. I don't think I like the idea of Tricia being a "social aide". If I'm wrong, please correct me before I start hating Hatch. He goes on to say that on the show, life is precious so you need to live every day to the fullest. Which is actually a good point.

Hogan is asked about the BSG movie, and he starts about that, but then ends up discussing the BSG directors - Michael Rymer shoots a lot of footage, and Hogan likes that and loves his episodes. He also talks about Exodus I & II, which he thought was one of the best episodes ever, and how different Felix Alcala, who directed that, was because they used basically all the footage. I'm not sure what that has to do with the BSG movie directly, but it was a nice detail.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

Aaron: I'd go back to the time of Christ and say, "Really?!" [laughter]

Michael: I'd go back to last night and to the party you guys threw. [laughter, applause]

I was hoping James would answer this question, but he didn't. I have a feeling he would have had something interesting to say.

Asked about their plans after BSG, "and does anyone know what Eddie's plans are as well?"

Hogan: I don't think Eddie himself knows what his plans are. Eddie has two cell phones going and texting with a third one while shooting a scene...

Aaron does his EJO impression - which is indeed impressive, see part 7 - and says Eddie can be talking on the phone while he's directing: "Hang on a second. - James, get over here.-OK, anyway, so I was saying..." [laughter and applause] Back to his own voice: "I am not kidding!"

James: I'm gonna do a television movie about Merlin, in actually Vancouver again, which I'm really excited about. It's one of the most beautiful places to be ever, with the most wonderful people. Funnily enough, I finished BSG, and relocated back to London, and then got a job back in Vancouver. If I'd actually waited two weeks, I could have saved myself some money. [laughter]

Michael: Are you playing Merlin?

James: I am playing Merlin.
[the audience cheers; the panelists applaud]

James looks psyched and sort of humbly proud that he gets to play Merlin. The audience is very excited for him. News about this spread online on the day of the panel, but there was no mention of it being in Vancouver, so everyone assumed he was going to be in BBC's Merlin. I've heard from someone who heard from someone else that James had confirmed it's a Sci Fi movie on Merlin. He doesn't like to talk about projects before they're confirmed, so we can be pretty sure this is going to happen. Awesome!

part 3

Richard Hatch talks about a misunderstanding that happened when he was confused with Richard Hatch on Survivor. "This has caused me deep pain," he says. James cracks up, as does the audience. I've tried, but somehow I can't focus on anything Hatch is saying. Does anyone else have the same problem?

Nicole Anell asks her question about the torture scenes. This is awesome. Firstly, because it's an awesome question, and secondly, because she asks it without sounding fangirlish in the least, and just comes off as really intelligent and makes James fans look good. James is so eager to answer that he barely lets her finish the question.

Nicole: Hey.

James: Hi. [inaudible, but you can see him mouth it, which looks cute.]

Nicole: My question's for James. I was wondering... The season previous to this one, basically every other episode, Baltar was getting tortured or trying to kill himself, and there was a lot of [?] darkness [unintelligible] I was just wondering, was that kind of difficult to go through as an actor, compared to the lighter stuff earlier?

James: Truthfully it was really difficult to go through, um... This is with all of us in the show, it's something that we bring up. We...we...[can't bear to ? this thing] all over... Well, we're trying to hold the mirror up to nature, so there's this thing while you're doing it, and you're just on a television show pretending, but you know that there are people who are being tortured. And uh... That's really troubling and really sad, you wanna get yourself in a state where it looks like you really are, because in some way, if you don't, it's almost like slandering people's memories who really are going through this kind of thing.

The lighter moment... I was going to bring this up in the panel yesterday, the lighter moment about that was actually that it was directed by Eddie, who had even more insane ideas than we actually filmed. So I mean, the first thing he said was like:[EJO voice] "How are you with sharks?" [laughter, applause] I was like, what are you talking about Eddie? And he was,[EJO voice] "In the psychotic episode, I've been speaking to the Vancouver Aquarium, we're gonna put you in the shark tank. How are you with the sharks?" [laughter, woos] I'm like, Eddie, don't be ridiculous. You know, when you go to Vancouver Aquarium, you can't spit in the water, you get pulled out, it's like, you know, "don't infect the animals". I'm like, how are they gonna let you in the shark tank with me?

Visualizing the head brace and the clips in his eyes. So cute.

And then he's got this thing about, when my head was in that brace and this thing, they brought in this special doctor to absolutely... What's the word, this thing where they keep your eyelids open with special metal clips. And the producer Harvey is watching them on a tape[?]. This is, like, the week before we're gonna shoot and they're putting it in... I can't remember... it was like, "This one really hurts", and "Yeah, that got broken in my car."[He mimicks twiddling with a small clip; laughter.] I'm like, "Just to be really honest, I'm not being paid enough to have metal clips." [laughter] Eddie's like, [EJO voice] "We really need that", I'm like, "No you really don't, and you don't need the sharks either." [laughter] So that kind of kept me going, it kept the humor going in my mind, about also, as well...

But I also think it's really important, you know, there are lots of people who want to see this guy get his just desserts. He's done so many dreadful things, and then he... We're asking the audience again: Do you really want to see another human being suffering, just because he's caused some suffering? Is this justice or is it punitive? And at the end of this very thing, one of the reasons I got rid of my hair and shaved it all off was cos, as I've said to lots of people, I looked in the mirror every morning and was like, "I feel like Gaius Baltar." [laughter] And when I shaved it, it was like, "No, I'm just an actor, I'm James Callis." [applause.]

How does he make something funny out of the torture question? I don't know, but he does, and it's awesome. During the EJO impression, he does this frown that's as spot on as the voice. The audience is in stitches - he even has to pause for a moment to let the laughter die down. It's especially cute to see Aaron cracking up at everything he says, especially the EJO impression (see above). I love that the others in the cast seem to have a similar sense of humor, and they're obviously listening to James very attentively every time he speaks. As for the torture scenes, they were very painful to watch, and I haven't been able to revisit them, Taking a Break in particular with the mental torture. Somehow that was much worse than the physical torture, because Baltar's mind is so important for him, and even Head Six abandons him there. Heavy stuff. I think the torture scenes were the only time that I wished James weren't such a good actor, because it really felt real.

Is it just me or did James and Aaron look exceptionally close in the panels..?

James: "I'm just an actor, I'm James Callis."
Aaron: "James, I love you and I want to have a hundred of your babies."

Aaron is asked about The Bridge, a cop show he's starring in. He sounds very excited about the show and its politics, and compares it to The Sopranos, which sounds good.

Part 4

A question to everyone "but especially for James": do the actors influence their characters or do you have to do it the way it is on the page?

James: I'll kick the ball off then. There is a lot of freedom to experiment and change with, uh, with the show, and that's not just my character, it's everybody's character. Everybody has had a hand in creating their characters as far as I'm concerned. And I think the reason... I've never been involved in a project where so much floor is given to the actors and, "You know the character, how does it feel for you"? But I feel that the reason we're in that forum or in that milieu, is because the people who write and the people who direct have so much innate confidence and a lot of generosity, they're not micromanaging us at all, that would be ludicrous.

So for me, it's... It's just, it's special that the writers allow us to find certain things. That makes me think of them as terribly confident, and very very smart, and like I say, really generous, uh, so that you... Because we're trying to make the best of the best, everybody wants to do the best thing. It's not about, "Oh, I don't want to do that cos that's your idea." I mean, that would just be insane. But I've certainly been in a lot of projects where they did that thing, it's like, "No, I didn't write it, no. And you must say "and". [laughter] So, you know, that's kind of pathetic and that's what I think [chuckles]. So we all, I think, have a lot of... freedom to experiment and like I said, I think that comes from the confidence of the team behind us.

I didn't get that "and" bit until I was listening to the Roundtable podcast last night, and he expanded on the idea there. I'm going to act as the James Callis-English dictionary here for those who aren't as familiar with this metaphor.
James: "And you must say 'and'."
English: "In the UK productions, they expect you to say things exactly like they are in the script, so they complain if you leave out an 'and'."
Seriously, James, elaborate. The way he said it here, I took it to mean that if they tell you, "I didn't write that", you must reply with, "And?"

I've been amazed at how much of a role James apparently had in creating his character. If it weren't for him, Baltar would have signed that death warrant without putting up a fight. If it weren't for him, Baltar wouldn't have said, "What have I done?" in the mini. I mean, seriously. James obviously made the character more relatable and human, and I love the creators for letting him do that.

I should totally write that thing. I'd title it "What The Frak Is He On About - A Concise James Callis-English Dictionary For Noobs".

Michael says James basically answered the question for all of them, and he's lucky to be Tigh, because the writers love the character. "Sometimes they love it too much, because I am a hardass.. and they kind of think that I am a redneck right wing, just because I say the truth, so sometimes I have to pull them back." He talks a little about the others in read thrus - "James will take it and ad lib, what's he doing now?" - and then continues about Tigh.

He mentions a line that is pretty disturbing: "We've been chasing these slit-eyed black bastards for years now." Wow, that's two racial epiteths in one, and since there's an Asian and a black cylon, it gets a bit too literal. It's meant to refer to the centurions, but I'm not sure if that's everyone's first connotation. Hogan calls this "overwriting". While he thinks it's in character for Tigh to say it, he feels that it maybe shouldn't be said on TV. Gotta agree there. Hatch, who at first can't find any working mikes, asks him if they left that line in, and Hogan says yes, and it's in an episode that's in the coming season.

James listening (?) to Hatch and looking adorable.

Hatch gets a question from the moderator about his character, and playing a terrorist oir something. Hatch thinks Tom Zarek is "a pretty gutsy, courageous guy" for standing up to the president after 25 years in prison. He compares that to Nelson Mandela, who "came out a better human being. How many of us would come out that way? I think most of us would come out damaged." So - Zarek is like Mandela? I think that's a bit of a stretch. He goes on to say that Zarek came out having lost his family, his faith in the government, and so forth, so there's a lot of anger. Hatch makes the same point that James makes later: in this show, "good people do bad things. Sometimes who's judging you is violating the constitution..." I think the point is good, but again, I find myself drifting off even if I agree with what he's basically saying. James and Aaron are talking to each other, but leaning away from the microphones so you can hear nothing. I wonder if they're talking about Hatch or something else.

Hatch gets back on topic and says, "This is a very rare show that recognizes opportunities, does not lock themsleves into a box. When they see something interesting, they're willing to capitalize on it." James runs his hand along his chin. Aaron stretches. They both look like they drifted off in there somewhere. Hatch says that someone has six of the final episodes with them in this convention, and Hogan says it's Eddie, and then everyone laughs. To be honest, I didn't really get this bit. He had the episodes with him? Uh - maybe someone who went to the con could tell me what this was about.

part 5

A man from the audience asks how it feels to be a part of Battlestar, because it started out with such low expectations and grew so quickly into something that has a huge impact on other shows.

Aaron says that these conventions are the only time he feels how big the BSG phenomenon really is. He hates on the Sci Fi channel, who "couldn't market water to a guy in the desert", and says he feels that the network has completely ignored them, no matter the accolades. "I'm sorry, ten episodes is not a season! Twenty episodes is a season," he says to much applause. He thinks it's a disgrace that people have to wait so long to see the rest. This is where the infamous "no new episodes until April" rumor started. You can hear a collective gasp and some "no"s as Aaron says "you might not see it until April now" - I'm not even sure if he's being serious, or just exaggerating, or giving disinformation on purpose. Either way, Sci Fi was quick to nip those rumors in the bud, thank gods. Aaron tells an anecdote about how he was walking down the street with a friend of his who's also an actor, and two people came to them: "They walk past me and go, 'French's mustard, right?'" Ouch. "Nobody watches BSG," he says. "Thank you for watching BSG."

Hatch says that it sucks how Battlestar's success is measured with the Nielsen ratings, because TIVO'ing it doesn't count. If you like a show - he mentions Dexter, which gets applause - you want to see it again. The only thing they care about is if you saw the commercials, which does indeed suck. "People don't want to watch 20 minutes of commercials anymore," he says. Word, but when did they ever want that?

James: "They do a thing in London, and maybe they do it here as well. Somebody pays money and sponsors the show, and one of the things is they sponsor the show so that there are no adverts, so you get like, say like... I don't know who the sponsors are, but like say it's a car, it's whatever... Ford or Chevrolet, it's like "Chevrolet sponsors Battlestar, and is happy to tell you there are no adverts." So you pay money and... There's a few shows like that in London, and it's really crazy that adverts pay for the thing, and possibly pay for us to be on television, but in a show like Battlestar where you want to be glued into the box, because that's where the drama is, as soon as you know, it's like "Hey, brush your teeth with this!" [laughter], you've lost a lot of attention and the story that we want to tell. So I think it screws everybody up. It might just be a necessary evil, I don't know."

It's cute how James calls them "adverts" rather than "commercials". I sometimes wonder if he notices that he's using a different word than the others, or if he just uses the word that's more familiar to him without paying attention to it. But on topic - I was lucky enough to see the whole show on DVDs, which means no commercials. In Finland, you at least get a sign when it goes to commercial, so there's a transition between "OMG, Starbuck's viper just exploded" and "Does your stomach feel cranky after a stressful day?" We also have four channels with no commercials at all. Of course, these channels are paid out of a fee called the "TV permit", which most countries don't have. Nothing's perfect.

A woman tells Richard that he inspired her brother to become a viper pilot. Richard is very moved and asks her to come up after the panel, so he can get the contact information. That was a sweet moment. James applauds with the crowd and seems appreciative of this.

Awesome question for James, part deux: "Who do you find more challenging to play: the atheist Gaius or the God-loving Gaius?"

James: I definitely find the god-loving Gaius to be far more challenging. That's just because of where I, uh, I come from... I was given a book about two years ago by Aaron Douglas, called The End of Faith by a man called Sam Harris. And it's this... It's quite brilliant, it, it disseminates all of the cultural, political...I would say, problems that are going on in the States and while 9/11 happened. Anyway, one of the things I found so fantastic and interesting about it, he says that we call the people who, you know, blew up the twin towers, we call them fanatics. And what does it mean to be a fanatic? He's like, the only thing that these people are fanatical about is their faith. And in a world... I'm like basically paraphrasing some of his tracts, but he's like, if you asked, if you resurrected a man from the 13th centruy, he's like: what would he know about child care? Zip. What does he know about geography? Not very much. What does he know about technology? Zero. What does he know about God? Just as much as you. Because the concept of God hasn't changed in over 500, 600, maybe over a thousand years. And this adherence to this ideal is actually clipping the wings of our common sense.

One of the others things he said that's very funny is that, you know, a man can stand up in a pulpit and say, "God spoke to me last night in a dream", and the congregation is like, "Oh did He? Great, that's very interesting." But a similar man could say, you know, "I wired myself to a toaster and I spoke to God." And we're gonna stick him in a mental asylum. So I find the concept of God-loving on that level really, really difficult because of my own beliefs. [applause from the crowd and the other panelists]

Awesome question, awesome answer. I'm not really sure what James is saying here, though - that fanaticism is bad, or that religion itself is bad? It's a bit hard to tell just from that quote. He discussed religion in a negative way in the AV Club Interview, but somehow that didn't give me a totally anti-religion impression. Let's dig out that quote and see what's in it.

On a personal note, myself, I find religion—I can understand it, I can understand why we have it, as a kind of force on the planet. And I also at the same time think it's ludicrous. My Latin education teaches me that religion comes from religio, which means, "to bind." To bind with rope. And that's all it means. So whenever I hear somebody go, "I feel so religious right now!" I'm like, "Well, you're tying yourself up in knots, are you?" There's no spiritual connotation to that word whatsoever. And while it binds you to a rope, because it's about belonging, it alienates you to others. That can't be part of God's plan, if there is a God.

I think he sounded more like an atheist in the panel, but more like an agnostic in the interview. Coming to think of it, I think it's more in character for James to be an agnostic than a full-on atheist. He seems to take a diplomatic stance on many things, and despite the negative tone about religion in both the panel and the interview, I think it's a diplomatic way of putting it. I imagine Aaron is more of an atheist, giving James the book and also judging by his comment on Christ earlier in the panel. I also wonder if the original example in the book had "plug himself into a toaster", or if James is drawing from the available BSG metaphors.

It's interesting to note the differences in audience response. While he was talking about commercials, there were some "yeah"s and "uh huh"s in the audience. When he talked about religion, on the other hand, there was just silence, and then applause. The other panelists, likewise, were listening attentively and applauded him in the end. It speaks of the respect they have for James. Aaron applauds the most, of course. Those two must have pretty in-depth conversations.

Part 6

Question from the audience concerning how three-dimensional the characters are, and how you end up loving characters you hate and hating characters you love at times.

Aaron: When could you hate the Chief? When could you possibly hate the Chief?
Laughter and applause. That's actually a good question.

"As an actor, how much fun is it to jump over the line between likeable and reviled?"
That's a great question! It's also one of the things I love about BSG. At first, some of the characters seemed a bit too heroic, but I think as the seasons go on, it would be very difficult to pinpoint the perfect heroes vs. the evil villains. BSG really has people who are human (as well as some who are cylons, of course) - they're not always perfect, they make mistakes and do things that you might despise, and they're imperfect and just real. I love that about the show. I think it's quite rare on TV, The Sopranos is another similar show with very unlikeable characters on that level.

Aaron makes a growling noise into his microphone. James says something that I can't hear - I'll edit this if I hear it when I listen to it more.

James: Actually, I've... Well, one of the things I thought was interesting about the show and one of the things I wanted to bring into it was genuinely not to be likeable. Cos I see that all the time on television, people just like, [smiling and cocking his head back and forth as if he's posing] "Hey, like me, I've got a pretty smile! Hey, isn't that cool? " Like no, that's like... excuse me, BS! And I think that's... yeah, BSG. [laughter, applause] One of the things I've always said about the show and the thing I thought about it was that it's the end of the world, and if you can possibly do your neighbor a disservice you will, cos we're that petty.

And uh, I love the idea of people... this actually came to me when I was in drama school, I was with this guy who was pretty raw, and he walked up to this guy in a pub and said, [angrily] "Where is my five fucking quid? Where is it?!" And I was like, God, I would never do something like that. If I wanted the money that I'd given to somebody, I'd take them aside slightly and, you know, not say it in front of the whole pub. And then I realized that that's, what he did was like really real, because he doesn't care, it's not about on camera, it's not about, [grinning and posing] "Hey! Where's my five pounds?" [laughter] He really wanted it, it's important[?], you get your fingers dirty, and it's gritty. So on that level, I think it's um...

I think we're all trying to do that kind of thing, it's kind of a bit more fun to be... Somebody came up to me yesterday and they said, "Everybody was so unlikeable, why was I watching you?" Cos actually that's kind of one of the reasons why I became glued to this series, because everybody seems so human. And then you can't... when you despise them, then you'll find things in them that you do admire, find things that you [think more of it?] [applause]

The way he says "fucking" is kind of snipped, like he doesn't properly say the vowel in between. So careful about swearing, maybe because he has small children. When you hang around children, it just becomes a habit. Or around a mother who doesn't like swearing. For a long time, even after I moved out, I swore with initials. "oh ef!" But yeah, it's one of my favorite parts of the show too. What I don't get about the anecdote is - what is his point? That ultimately it's OK to be rude to someone because that's real? It's not how he operates and I doubt it's what he's really saying, but it does come off like that.

Aaron says that to "look Eddie Olmos in the eye and tell him to Frak off, or get me off your frakking ship... It feels good sometimes."

A question about Bear McCreary. The fan mentions the video with James Callis. Now that we're on topic: if anyone knows where to find the full thing, I don't care in what quality, please comment or email me (swanjonasAThotmailDOTcom). I'm desperate to see it. The above is the only file I've been able to find, and James is so funny in it. For those who haven't seen the link yet, do check it; it's from the mockumentary James made for the Bear McCreary concerts. Everyone pretended to not know who Bear is (for the less hardcore fans: he's the composer for the show), and hilarity ensued. Also James made his own, terrible theme song for Gaius Baltar.

The question is about people's relationship with Bear McCreary. "Who?" James says. Hee. For a moment there, he's acting again, looking genuinely confused. Then he gets off the role and laughs. "I don't have anything to do with the music," says Aaron jokingly, but then goes on to say that the music on BSG has touched him more than on any other show, especially the bagpipes at the end of Flight of the Phoenix, "I can't help but to cry." So what does he think of Bear? "He's a genius." Applause. "But he lives in a little room and just creates." Gotta agree about the music, even if I can't think of the bagpipes offhand.

I love Aaron. Not as much as James though. I love Aaron like a brother, or something.

Part 7

Question: Who is your favorite actor to work with, "and I think I know James' answer". The audience laughs, but James actually looks a bit confused and whispers something to Michael Hogan. Hogan says something inaudible to the audience, and James leans back in his chair laughing. It's very cute. I'm not sure if this is referring to Tricia or to his "I want to be Tricia so I can be with me" comment in the roundtable podcast.

Aaron says Mary, and he loved the last scene of Dirty Hands, "I'll take it away with me forever." He also says that Michael Hogan is the least like his character, "and to watch him outside going ehehehe, having a cigarette, laughing at you..." The laughter imitation is pretty delicious. Hogan suddenly goes into angry Tigh mode, "Gaius Frakking Baltar!!!", gets up and walks towards the exit, but then returns calmly. Everyone's laughing. Aaron says it's "bizarre" how Hogan turns into the character, "thats' a real treat for me." Applause. And after seeing these panels - word. I would have never thought he's so unlike Tigh.

Hogan brings up Dean Stockwell, who plays Cavil. He does a pretty awesome imitation. Apparently, when they met for the first 3rd season episode, Stockwell said: "Hey, man, whoa, man, shit, last year I was here, I was doing a gig. But I've watched the episodes since then, wow, we're on to something here man! Whoa, this is good!" It really sounds like Dean Stockwell. Laughter from the audience. James, who's resting his head on his hands (hangover?) nods in this cute way. Hogan continues that they did the interrogation scene, "and he was good, you know, it was good to work with him on the second season, but he was on board for that third season. He was amazing to work with." Hogan says he's Canadian and doesn't often work "with these American actors with names", complete with finger quotes. He says the actors come in excited, with respect for the show, especially in the last few years. Applause.

Why do I feel like this was the best panel, not just for James, but for everyone? When Hogan speaks, everyone goes quiet and attentive, and he has the same effect on me as well. Maybe it's because he hasn't been on these panels so much, or maybe he's just a really engaging speaker. James applauds him with the audience. The respect between the actors is great to watch.

Last question: Everyone has their imitation of Edward James Olmos - the audience bursts out laughing - but who's the best? Loved this question.

Hogan says that when they do read thrus, and EJO isn't there, "Guess who reads Eddie." He points at Aaron, who pumps his fist in the air a bit.

Aaron: "It's great when I have a scene with myself." When Chief and Adama have a scene, "I have like two full pages where it's just me talking, it's great." [laughter] "I feel like Callis." James loves this, and he applauds and laughs.

Aaron: "I feel like Callis."
James: "Aaron, I love you and I want to have a hundred of your babies."

That's about all for this panel. They get ready to leave, and Aaron says something con-specific that isn't of much interest to me. James puts on his sunglasses. Hee. He loves those sunglasses. They really should get a nickname. But I haven't even nicknamed his chest hair yet, so that'll have to wait.

The crowd starts to spontaneously chant, "So say we all!" So as a final favor, Michael Hogan indulges them and shouts back "So say we all" three times. Awesome panel.