Thursday, August 28, 2008

An Interview With the Hybrid

The cylon hybrid is an interesting part of the show - she's sort of involved in everything that goes on, yet sort of just living in her own world with no connection to the other characters. It might be easy to forget that there's a person behind the role, but when you do think about it, it's pretty impressive. The role is challenging, with all these lines to remember, most of which are on the surface gibberish and yet have deeper meanings that fans will analyze. Galactica.tv has an in-depth interview with Tiffany Lyndall Knight who plays her. She seems like an intelligent actor who reallys think about the character and her lines.

I especially liked this quote where she talks about the hybrid's speech as poetry:

I think actually my background with Shakespeare made a big difference because the trick with Shakespeare is, again, it's all obscure language for most of us. You have to be absolutely clear as the actor what you're saying and if your intention is clear, then the audience will hopefully get the gist of it. That was always the way I approached the text with the Hybrid. I'll break it down like a piece of poetry and find the connection for myself, so I can learn it. It doesn't really matter, I suppose, if anyone else can make those connections? But if I don't, it's just gibberish. I have a whole storyline that goes underneath all that stuff that's unique to me, that makes complete sense in my mind.

To make this a bit James-related, here's what she has to say about working with him:

He was very kind to me. He didn't try and mess me up, because I had a lot to juggle already. We would talk in between shots. We'd talk about theater a lot because he had a theater background too. That was really interesting and he, of course, was performing in England, in the West End and whatnot. That was most of our conversations. Like I said, I would do a lot of observing, watching the series regulars. Seeing their dynamic off camera is so fascinating because I was introduced to them as characters before. It's a real treat for me, just as a Battlestar Galactica fan, to watch them being just people and then turning on these characters. It's fascinating.


I love that when the other actors are asked about James, there's a genuine warmth to how they talk about him. I also love how all of the actors seem to be fans of the show.

Galactica.tv is going to have an interview session with James in December. I'm really looking forward to it - they seem to have a great feel of the show and its characters.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Galactica Quorum Transcript

This podcast at Galactica Quorum was the first James interview I heard. Like I said in my first post, I was a bit wary to get to "know" James, because he has such an off-puttingly arrogant air as Baltar. However, listening to this interview, that image very quickly melted as James sounded very warm, funny and approachable. He definitely made a positive first impression - one that has lasted while watching/reading other interviews. This podcast is, however, still one of my favorite, if not my very favorite, James interview. There's a genuine sense of respect between James and the hosts. The questions are in-depth and the hosts really know and appreciate the show, which is clearly something James appreciates. He sounds very enthusiastic talking about the show, and the atmosphere is warm. My favorite thing about this interview is that they really let James talk, instead of trying to impress him with their own theories or witty remarks. It's a conversation, but James gets to be the star.

I was going to post about my favorite parts with commentary, but there were just too many. The GC crew have very kindly agreed to let me post a transcript of the entire interview. So here goes! I might post my thoughts on it later on, but for full effect, stream or download the mp3 file. James is just a joy to listen to.

THE INTERVIEW

Brian: So we're talking to James Callis, we're at Farpoint convention, and I have to say, when you first came into the banquet last night, we were surprised, because you look much different than when we've last seen you on the show!

James: That's right!

Brian: Is this just something in the interim, you had another role or..?

James: No, funnily enough, this is for... There's two things going on. First of all, my character on
this how had an epiphany. And I thought the best way to show that he had an epiphany was that I had a haircut. [laughter] I think the fans have been asking me to have a haircut for something like three years [laughter], and it felt rather good, actually. It came out of... At the end of the third season, which everybody's seen, haven't they?

Michelle: Yes.

Brian: Yeah.

James: So I can talk about that. And the trial. I actually personally, you know, I didn't like to look at myself in the mirror after that. The man is, uh... Whatever you think about the man, it's quite a mantle to put it on, and I'd find myself in the morning looking in the mirror going, 'I feel like I'm sixty years old and unhappy and really low.' And it was amazing that shaving off the beard and cutting the hair was like a real release, it was like, 'No, I'm not that guy! I play that guy on television, I don't have to actually be like this, look like him.' Which was... And they were sympathetic to me. They understood, I think, that it's... It can take quite a toll on you emotionally, anything that you're putting yourself through, acting-wise like that. And so.. he had a kind.. he has a slight change of heart. And recently, whilst we've been on hiatus, forced hiatus as it were, because of the strike, I just thought... uh, a little trim?

Michelle: Why not?

James: [dramatic tone] James Callis is bald!

[laughter]

Michelle: Exclusive!

James: Exclusive!

Brian: Aaron Douglas is - his haircut, also...

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.' [laughs] I won't say who the others are, but there are people who don't have hair on our show. And they were like, 'No, you gotta keep some, James.'"

Brian: Now, Baltar has had some dark moments, but in the first season, he seemed like.. there was a little bit of lighter elementt to his character. That kind of tapered off as it went along. Was that a deliberate choice and [unintelligible] doing that?

James: No, I'm one of those people, I think, who just likes to do it rather than think about it too much, so it's just about you know, what's on the page for that day. And I suppose, with so many things in life, you get better the more that you do it, and the more applications... You know, practice makes perfect. 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.

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.

And this is in truth based on somebody I know, who is a brilliant, brilliant kind of scientist, pscyhologist, psychotherapist, and possibly the worst liar I've ever met in my life, totally transparent. Like, 'Oh, I was just at the shops.' -'No you weren't.' [laughter] Yeah, so I felt that was... You know, sometimes you've got these people who are very clever, but they can't tie their own shoelaces, or they don't know what day it is. And I think that part of the lightness was Gaius being very much in denial, cos he couldn't accept it for himself. And the more you are in denial, the more air you give yourself - you're running away from it, "It wasn't really me!" I wanted to get a T-shirt made called Not Responsible, and then on the back: Ever, but unfortunately "responsible" wouldn't fit across my chest, [laughter] and so they were like, "Well, do you want responsible like this, like downways..." I was like, "No, forget it, I'll just have to think that one."
[laughter]

Brian: You could get a sash...

James: [laughs] Indeed! Exactly! So... as the seasons progressed, and uh... There's some... I don't know who this person was who thought of this thing, but apparently there's... in going thru a crisis, what is it - denial, aggression, acceptance, you know, the five stages of something or other. And I think, straight away... Gaius goes through those five stages in every episode, every scene, every moment!
[laughter]

Brian: Yes!

James: But there's a kind of grand arc, and if I can say it in a podcast, the second season gets grittier and shittier, and you can't run away from it as much, and basically you're like... Do you know what... Have you heard of a king rat? Do you know what it is? It's actually revolting. Lots of rats get together in like a duct or vial from a pipe inside a church, and they're mashing over each other. There's too many of them and they can't get over each other. In the heat that they then produce, their tails fuse together, making a kind of Gordian knot, and then they're all trapped with each other, they all rip each other apart. It is, I mean...
[laughter]

Brian: Wow.

James: I'm making like a very revolting face now, because that's so horrible. [laughter] But that's kind of what happens to the people in Galactica, we are totally trapped on this ship, and the more we're pressed together, the more you're forced to confront so many unpleasant things about other people and unpleasant things about yourself. This is one of the huge strengths of our show, because... I always like to say, it's the end of the world, and if I can possibly do my next door neighbor a disservice I will, because we're that petty. You don't actually understand how important it is. You've got your own flipping... Yeah, the world's lost and I lost everything and everything. Gimme back my five quid! [laughter] Or my five dollars, or whatever... It's pathetic! And that's the way that people are trying to run themselves. So yeah, that's a... that's a long-winded answer to a rather short question!
[laughter]

Brian: No, it's good. I love that the characters have had some major surprises to them, like the final five, Tigh and Tyrol... Your character - what had surprised you, if you had known when you first started, what would surprise you, now that you're coming to the end of what is a long arc?

James: Surprising, I suppose, is um.. I'm slightly jumping into this season now, because I'm a man of science originally, and yet a man of science who has Messianic visions. This is very odd. Somebody who thinks that's all bunk, and everything has a... There are no phenomena in nature, everything is natural, so... It's rather difficult for him to comprehend. And that's the huge reversal. I suppose as well, what has happened over the course of the series, that shouldn't be so hard to understand, this man is actually getting a heart. 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...
[laughter]

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. So, uh... He's kind of... I don't know if it's religious, although there is a religion kind of coming up, with some suitable nutcases to, you know, chant it all out, but I suppose the big difference or the big surprise is that this man of science has something else going on, that he finds it rather difficult to accept.

Brian: Listening to the Ron Moore podcasts, there's oftentimes when he will say... talking about a comic trick[?] for a show, that an actor had on the fly tought of something, improvised something. I'm thinking of a specific scene where Romo brings Number Six the pen, and Six smells the pen, I thought that was brilliant, and Ron said that Tricia had just come up with that, I thought that was great.

James: Yeah.

Brian: Is there anything that you particularly remember coming up with?

James: I think we all come up with stuff like, you know, the whole time. There's things written down in the script that you either pay attention to or you don't, as the case might be. The lines you're always paying attention to, some of the stage directions don't make sense, when you've got the thing actually on the floor. I think that we're all lucky cos we're kind of ... a very instinctive cast, and intuitive, this kind of thing is happening all the time, I think.

Brian: One of my favorite Baltar moments from season 3 is from the Rapture episode, when D'Anna's dead on the floor, and altar steps into the light...

James: Yes.

Brian: And he.. you.. Takes his shoe, and he just kinda flicks her wrist out of the way. I thought that was comical, I thought it was funny, I dunno where that came from, but it was hysterical.

James: I'll tell you where it came from, that's a thing like Tricia sniffing the pen. It's kind of like, what's the... ok... 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] 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?

Michelle: Yeah, it was a great show.

Brian: Yeah.

James: Oh, I loved Soap. Is it Burt from Soap, is his name Burt, the guy with white hair?

Michelle: I think so.

James: There's this wonderful bit where... But totally, I was copying this thing where Burt is sitting in the bath, and I think he's talking to Benson, or his wife at the time. And she says, "What's wrong, honey?" He goes, "I'm invisible, I can make myself invisible." And she says, "No, you can't, Burt." "Yes, I can, watch." And he goes... He does a similar thing that I was trying to do with my eyes, I was trying to... It's like [snaps fingers] like that! [laughter] And he says, "Am I invisible?" She says, "No, of course you're not invisible!" And he goes, [angrily] "I'm in the bath, it doesn't work when I'm in the bath!" And I had a similar kind of thing about, you know, when I was standing on that platform, it's like he wants, he wants so much to be this person, and it's so self-evident that he's not, in some way. He doesn't know what to do, and that's why...

For example, on that moment there as well, the end of that moment is Aaron, Chief Tyrol coming forward and smacking me over the face. Now, it wasn't written that way, the thing... 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. And that then really worked for us, because by knocking me unconcious, they could then.. 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. There was something very exciting about, I felt, in storytelling terms, this man who's come back to the ship, almost like Lazarus in a body bag, nobody knows, in a body bag, that's very Galactica. Somebody's on board the ship, nobody knew about it, et cetera et cetera. That gave us a credence to... the prisoner who was... then stuck there in kind of solitary.. et cetera.

Michelle: So how much freedom and input do they allow you as an actor, to add to the script, I mean are there points where you go, 'No, that ain't gonna work'?

James: No, I don't think we add to the script, to be honest. You know, it's all about time and making everything tight. The amount of time, what actors normally like to do.. I'll tell you a joke about that in a second.. We like less lines, nearly always, unless you are on stage. And the joke is that there is this Hollywood star who's like, you know, "I nee to be in this movie and I need to be in every scene of the movie, because I'm a star." They're going, "Wonderful, wonderful," because the more scenes the big star's in, the more people are gonna watch it and the better it is. And then the star looks at the script... There's too many lines! There's lines everywhere, what do, you know... I can do that with a look! [laughter] I can do that with a... and there's something very... difference between television and movies is that, you know, television is a lot of talking heads, and a motion picture, in a way, can tell you things just in the picture, it has a universal language.

And we believe on set that the people who watch our show are as bright and brighter than we are. So there's several things that we like to cut because we're like, "Hey, I don't need to tell them that twenty times, the people watching this show are really smart, and if they're not then they're not gonna get it anyway." But there's something really... pedestrian about spoonfeeding, and saying the same thing again, and again, and again. And... what's far more interesting is not telling you something, so that you then, as the audience are like... So it's not about adding, nearly always, it's about subtracting. And that sometimes is difficult, because.. not that people are particularly precious, but you know, the writers.. That's why they write, they write something down, they love it! "No, you can't cut that, why would you do that!" Well, because I can say it slightly differently or... because it might be - oh, so many words come to mind for backing up your case: it's gilding the lily, it's too on the nose, et cetera. 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.

So you only want to cut something if you find it, like, impossible to say or it doesn't come naturally out of your mouth. And as an actor, the only way that you're ever going to find that out is actually if you say the line yourself and try it. There's no point ever in like, you know, going to somebody like, "I can't say this, I can't do it!" if you haven't actually rehearsed it and been through it. That's senseless. So you've got to try everything. Which is... part of what we do.

Brian: Do you think in the post-strike TV landscape that... Well, we've been subject to a lot of bad TV, just reality shows, the American [unintelligible]... with smart viewers really, they don't wanna think, they wanna sit there and tune out. Do you think another show like Battlestar could happen again, or has the situation changed such that they're not gonna want to invest in a show where people do have to think a bit more, or...

James: I'm not sure. I think the way that technology is going.. which is, you know, thriving! Look at the - we're recording on these very...funky-looking space age... things. [laughter] The technology is pushing us to a certain place right now. I have to say that, you know, that I don't see... I don't see TV getting dumber, particulary. I think once the bar is set, and there are so many great programs on, scripted shows on. You know, you learn from them and you want to do something slightly different from it. 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.

Brian: Right. You were in the middle of filming the last season before the hiatus. At that time, were you sort of looking forward to reaching the end?

James: Very much.

Brian: Now that you've had time off, do you feel reinvigorated, you want to do more?

James: That's exactly how we feel. We really felt that we were gunning towards the last stretch, we know that the show's gonna be over at the end of this. The break has given us all perspective on how nice it's gonna be to see each other again and...finish off the show. But yeah, I really want to finish off the show.

Brian: So you're ready to move on?

James: Well, I mean... Yes, I think we all are. I think the writers, I think you know the actors, everybody is. There's only so much, as well, I believe, on a really well contained show like ours, that you can do, and I think that was such a smart decision by Ron Moore and David Eick that, you know, they didn't want to go on for fourteen seasons [laughs]. There's the odd joke about - this is the episode where Adama loses his pen! [laughter] Oh dear. And now he'll find it.

Brian: No no no, that's next week.

James: [laughs] Exactly, exactly, when he finds it again. So yeah, we don't want to run out of ideas and we want to keep it kind of compact.

Brian: You get to play a character that has many aspects to his personality. But you also had a brief chance to do the Head Baltar. How did you approach him differently than the regular.,..

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. So, he's just more in control. I suppose, what is it? 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...so Head Baltar isn't necessarily...

Brian: I didn't wanna be the one to say it.
[laughter]

James: OK, well, I said it, there it is, there it is.

Brian: The show is pretty much a mirror of our time. It started at a time that was post-9/11, the New Caprica portion of the stuff could be seen allegorically as Iraq, or maybe the Nazi era in Germany. In this country, a common theme we're hearing now is change. And coincidentally enough, as BSG heads towards its conclusion, not knowing anything about the fourth season, just what I gather is change is coming whether it's cylons with humans or just in ...

James: Thats true, I think that's absolutely true!

Brian: Do you think it was prophetic on the writers' part, do you think it's a coincidence?

James: You know something, I think that they have planned out what they're going to do. I don't know if they've actually written all of the nine scripts. But I would imagine having had this time off in the hiatus... There's a certain amount of reality and... you know, in a strange way we've almost done the Clinton-Obama debates, when Mary and I had our run of presidential campaign in season 2. But I think there will be something of hope and change, very much so, in the last nine that we're doing. Certainly the first lot that we've done, it's almost like lots of pieces of string in a roll, and you blow them all out, and the last nine episodes is going to be the [concitenering?], the bringing together of all of the threads. I don't know if our show is ever, you know, an optimistic Battlestar Galactica, it's almost like an oxymoron. But there will be hope and there is change, yeah.

Brian: Thank you very much.

Michelle: Excellent.

James: Thank you very much!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The First Unofficial Website

It's a bit surprising that James doesn't have an official site at all, but sometimes fan sites are more comprehensive, because they're made with love and dedication. Such is the case with the First Unofficial Website, which still seems to be the only James-only site out there. The effort of the fans who started the page nine years (!) ago, when James was still doing bit parts, is pretty amazing. It shows James has had a fan base for ages. I feel like such a newbie, which is probably why I haven't mustered the courage to post in the forum yet.

The article collection goes back to 1996. Having been a fan of a band in the 90's, I know how hard it can be to hunt for articles in magazines without the help of the internet (and all articles still don't show up online today). The collection is quite extensive and must have taken a while to put together. The photo gallery shows a comprehensive collection of James' earlier career and also quite a few BSG photos. (He had a rather interesting look on Sex, Chips & Rock'n'Roll - I'm not sure if I find it handsome or just really effeminate.)

The page has contact with James, and there are lots of messages from him. There's a separate messages from James page, but also check the forum where he posts every now and then (the forum is still active, too, which is not a given on an old site). The latest messages are from June. Sometimes light and cheerful, other times and deep and pondering, the messages were a very informative read for me. Above all, you learn more about his private life (nothing too intimate though) - the constant traveling between London, India (where his wife is from) and Vancouver being one recurring theme. There are lots of interesting messages, and I'll probably make another post sometime and quote them a little, but I'm still in the process of absorbing them all.

Going through the page, I was able to form a picture of James' career before BSG. He didn't really have many TV or movie roles, and the ones he had weren't very impressive. He sounds understandably frustrated in the old messages - having almost nothing to do in Bridget Jones' Diary, doing some blink-and-miss-it parts, then the trouble with getting his movie Beginner's Luck shown anywhere. Coming to think of it, he was 32 when he landed the role in BSG - not old, but old enough to have been in acting for quite a while without a considerable success. With BSG, he finally has something challenging to work with, and you can tell it makes a difference. But whatever the era, he always seems appreciative of the fans.

My only complaint with the site is that the look and general coding stuff could use a revamp, but the owners are apparently aware of this. I do prefer it when sites stay online until they're ready to update, instead of having a big "under construction" sign up for a year. The site has exclusive content, and I'm glad the creators - Jin and Rikkie- have taken the time to keep it up and update every now and then.

I'm not sure how much I would have found out about James if it weren't for this page. Even if the Wikipedia entry on him is pretty extensive as far as Wikipedia entries go, it doesn't really give a very clear picture of his life before BSG, and neither do the newer BSG-related interviews (where, understandably, he really doesn't talk about much else than BSG). I've found some fan reports of cons and such - which are hard to find on Google, with all the spam crap getting in the way - but they're also all BSG era. Most of the stuff I know about James, I know through this page. It's really a great resource.

James Tops Hot Jewish List

This Hot Jewish List gave me a good laugh. Apparently this blogger doesn't know of many other hot Jews, but the point is that James topped it. And you can literally say that it's an honor to even be mentioned on a list like this.

Heee.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Fan Fiction by Millarific

Fan fiction is a tough thing to get right. You need to understand the characters and get under their skin, and you need to keep them in character, or the whole point is lost. This requires not only an intimate knowledge of the show, but also some writing and analysis skills. Few people can do it well, but I think Millarific at LiveJournal has a knack for writing Baltar. I came across these in a Baltar fan group on LiveJournal, which has several fan groups for BSG characters, including, amusingly, a Fat Lee fan group.

The Life Within is a particularly clever study in the psychology of Baltar, Six and D'Anna. Partially based on season 3 and the Basestar events, partially imaginary (Six carries Baltar's child, which really is much better than carrying Tigh's child), the story explores the relationships between Baltar and the two cylon ladies. In my favorite scene, D'Anna asks Baltar - just to torment him - if he doesn't feel guilty at all for helping with the destruction of the twelve colonies:

She makes a soft line over his tightly folded arms, down his sternum. “Billions of people – your people – dying a horrific death, all because you couldn’t stop thinking with this?” She stops short at his pelvis.

He hates the terrified way his feet trip over themselves to get their distance from her. “No,” he yelps. The sound of his own voice embarrasses him.

“You don’t ever think of them?” she presses, walking into him while he retreats, their bodies falling into a rhythm not unlike a dance. “Corpses on fire? Half-dead, screaming survivors, their burned and scarred bodies stumbling about blind? Flaming cities? Ash-filled skies? The thought of all that doesn’t bother you in the…”

“Stop!”

[....]

“Oh, so there is a conscience in there after all?” D’Anna mocks him, clearly thrilled with her victory.

“Frak you,” he rasps at her, turning away, afraid to close his eyes.

I was amazed at this, because I can imagine the characters saying these lines. The visual way in which it's written also helps one to imagine how their movements would look on camera. D'Anna's cat and mouse routine is always enjoyable to watch on the show, and it's enjoyable to read here. Of course, she doesn't give a frak about Gaius' conscience, she just loves being able to torture him. And Gaius, of course, tries to deny all guilt and run away from it as well as he can - and is not always entirely successful. I cut some of the longer paragraphs out of my quote, but I was intrigued by the mention that he'd have experience, "going back as far as childhood", of images haunting him when he least expects it. Is ignoring his conscience something he's been practicing since he was a child? I found this thought fascinating.

In Life in Mono, Gaius wanders around the Basestar and meets Boomer, who asks him about the cylon test and why he lied to her that time. It's an interesting scene, and like the author says, we don't often see them together on the show, despite the two important scenes in season one.
More astute analysis of Gaius:

But Gaius didn’t do sympathy well with women, or with anyone for that matter. Despite being charming, articulate, and much smarter than anyone else he’d ever met, he had a hard time paying attention when women got like this– sentimental, brooding, angst-ridden. Generally, in these situations, he either extricated himself as quickly as possible, or else he tried distractions.

Gaius sees himself in a pretty flattering light, and his lack of compassion with most people comes across well here. "Much smarter than anyone else he'd ever met" cracks me up, partially because it's so what he would think, partially because I think Six, in his lover's form, was probably smarter than him ("I re-wrote half of your algorithms"?). He would never admit that, though. I also like the sexism in that paragraph.

“I … I didn’t know what you would do if I told you the truth about your nature. You might have killed me, snapped my neck before I knew what hit me. I was afraid you’d destroy the fleet.”

“Were you?” Her harsh laughter ran him through like a sword. “You know what, Doctor? So was I.”

His head smacked the back of the chair. He closed his eyes. So many mistakes, he thought.

So many mistakes since the destruction of Caprica. And yet, none of them had been his fault, not really. What was he supposed to have done? Go around telling President Roslin that well yes, it was true he’d been in a romantic relationship with a Cylon just before the Attacks, but that he hadn’t actually known it? Or that an imaginary version of said Cylon lover was constantly in his head, chattering at him about his destiny to help the Cylons supersede the human race? That Hera was actually his baby, and that his imaginary lover was threatening to kill him if he didn’t keep their hybrid baby alive at all costs?

What sums up Gaius better than that paragraph? Nothing was ever his fault. It was just the frakking cylons! He made mistakes - yet he couldn't have done anything any other way, because it was all destined to go that way, and he was between a rock and a hard place. All of this is implied on the show, which is what makes this such good fan fiction. It doesn't stray too far from the characters' reality as we see it on the show, but rather expands on it and offers a more detailed view of their personalities.

Crossed Frequencies chronicles a brief mail exchange between Baltar and Felix Gaeta. It takes place in season 4, when Gaius has already acquired his cult-leader persona. The delicious bickering and Gaius' incredibly condescending attitude - "Felix, Felix, Felix: You've got to let go of this anger" - are spot on. It's a shorter story with no ambition to show the characters' inner motives, but it still manages to portray both Gaius and Gaeta deliciously in character.

The only time I don't agree with Millarific's take on the characters is when s/he writes gay porn about Gaeta and Gaius, for instance in Muscle Memory. I've tried to put my finger on why it doesn't work for me. It's not that Gaeta wouldn't want Gaius - he surely would. It's not that Gaius wouldn't sleep with him, either - I think he'd sleep with anyone, to be honest, and he certainly has no moral considerations about sex. But would he be submissive in a sexual relationship with Gaeta? No, I don't think he would. I don't think Gaeta would command him to undress, and I don't think he would do it. It'd be too much for Gaius' giant ego. He may be submissive in his sexual relationship with Head Six, but she's a cylon, and she has a choke hold over him because of his guilt. I don't think Gaeta would be that domineering, and I don't think Gaius would be that submissive, and I think some of the dialogue beomes forced as a result. Some of the porn fic is good though; I quite enjoyed the Six-Head Six action in Aperture.

All of Millarific's fan fiction can be found here.

Friday, August 8, 2008

My First Impressions of Gaius Baltar

Baltar Kitteh is trying to erase the photo. Made by didymos1120 at the SciFi Forums. More BSG LOLCats in this thread.

The first episode of BSG I ever saw was Six Degrees of Separation. I caught it by accident one night - it had a terrible airtime, something like 11:30 PM on Fridays - and I didn't become a rabid fan or anything, but it was an interesting watch. I've tried to go back to what I felt watching it then, and it's rather amusing to compare that to my current knowledge of the character. It's also a case study of what a casual viewer might pick up about Gaius Baltar.

My impressions, as I remember them:
-This guy is the villain. He's obviously guilty and they're about to find out. He's very despicable - lecherous, cowardly and selfish. I like this type of villain a lot more than the cackling evil genius, because he obviously suffers for what he's done.

-He's some kind of mastermind behind these "cylons" (are they robots?) - he knows more about them than the others do, and even seems to share a mental connection with this female cylon. Has he designed the cylons? Does he control them?

-What's this house it keeps cutting to? Is he actually on the spaceship or inside this house? Maybe the house is where he really lives and he's only mentally projecting himself on the spaceship. Or the other way around. No one else has this alternate reality thing going on, so he must be some cylon agent - or the cylon creator - living on the ship and finding out about humans.

-Wait, they let him go? WHY? Clearly he's guilty. He looks like the embodiment of guilt and deceit. How can they not see it? He must have played some mind game on them.

-Eww, he's so lecherous. (The scene where Baltar runs up the stairs, unzipping his fly, and going, "May God's will be done" - I still consider this to be one of the more yucky sex moments for some reason.)

It's interesting that I gave Baltar so much power, even if he spends most of the episode in a state of cowardly panic. Obviously he has no power whatsoever, and HeadSix controls him - but on a first watch, without knowing anything about the show's themes, I saw him as the mastermind with all the power, and Six as some kind of ... love slave for him? I don't even remember what I thought of her. The alternate reality he has going on - which I thought was about where he is, but is really more about who he's with - sets him apart from the other characters and gives him a special dimension. I thought he was on the cylons' side, which is really sort of true, although he's not the criminal mastermind I thought he was - a thought that rather amuses me now. In the third season of the show, the other characters actually see him somewhat that way, especially Laura, who even asks him if he is a cylon.

One thing that strikes me about my initial reaction is how disgusted I was by him. I found him repulsive. It's not just the scene where he unzips his fly, either - throughout the episode, I found him intensely unlikeable, yet fascinating in some way. The nervous ticks and emotional highs and lows make Gaius interesting. If he didn't suffer at all on an emotional level, I think he'd make a very boring standard villain, even if he didn't knowingly collaborate with the cylons. I've always been a sucker for guilt, especially the deserved kind that isn't redeemed by the character becoming a better person. If the baddie expresses any guilt over his actions, no matter how slight, I immediately start liking him a little. You could say that what Baltar experiences in this episode is not guilt, but the panic of being caught; I personally think both are in there, but the latter is definitely stronger - perhaps strong enough to conceal the very real guilt Baltar feels, which would have made me like the character a lot more.

But that's not all. I thought he was ugly, and that's what shocks me the most now. When I began to watch the show from the beginning, I instantly found him likeable and attractive - and I don't find many men attractive. All of the other men on the show leave me cold. It's not that I have such high standards, I'm just gay.

Why did I think he was ugly, then? He had oily hair and a sweaty gray shirt on most of the time, so he wasn't at his best in that episode. But what else was there? I seem to recall something about his lips - this is where the Baltar character happens: arrogance, narsiccism, lechery, cowardice. When you see an interview with James, the same lips signal intellect, humor, kindness and modesty; this must be why I mostly find him more attractive in interviews than on the show. Maybe this also explains why he's not usually toted as one of the hunks of the show, and doesn't have a thousand-page bunny love thread at the Sci Fi forums. There may be some not-conventionally-attractive cues I'm missing, but I dare say that there's something so detestable about Baltar's face that most viewers don't want to feel anything positive for him.

I can say that James did an effective job portraying him in that episode, since I was able to deduce so much about the character. I saw him as someone who stands out from the rest of the characters, and I still see him that way. This episode shows how alone he really is, and how he has no one to turn to in times of need - other than Six and her God, both of whose motives are at best questionable. I don't focus as much on the sexual debauchery and such anymore, knowing about the more intricate details of his life and character, but it's not like he's not debauched, so I read him right there also.

One more amusing memory - I thought Gaeta had more power and a higher status than Baltar. I didn't realize he was the apprentice at all. It must be because he was so composed and calm throughout the episode, as opposed to Baltar's panicky weakness. He does play a major role in the acquittal, so based on this episode alone, he has a pretty central role on the show.

Maybe it's not that surprising that I should have read Baltar as detestable and lecherous. The real question might be why I like him so much and find him so attractive now. I blame James - he gave Baltar a human, relatable edge, a layer of guilt and compassion that I personally find irresistable.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The San Diego Comic Con Panel

I've been following the San Diego Comic Con reports with great interest, and Sci Fi has posted a video of the entire Galactica panel here. There's an interesting analysis of the panel here, and I agree with almost everything the writer said (I think they were a bit too hard on the female panelists though). Here are my thoughts. I'll transcribe most of what James says, so this is going to be a very long post. If you're not that into James, you can scroll down for observations on the other panelists.

Added: Nicole_Anell has taken the time to transcribe the entire panel here.

James Quotes And Observations

Starting on a shallow note, I was glad to see him so vital and healthy, clearly all better after the stomach parasite he had in the spring. He was energetic and happy and looked very good. Also, I loved his fluffy hair.

You don't have to be a fan to see that the audience loved James, and almost everything he said got either a laugh or applause from them. He gave deep and thoughtful answers and was generally entertaining and funny. Unfortunately, there wasn't all that much of him. Watching the panel was like watching the show: James and Tricia Helfer were the best part, but they didn't get nearly enough air time. There were simply too many participants in the panel. It seemed like two different panels, really - James/Tricia/Ron Moore/David Eick on one side of the table, and Katee Sackhoff/Jamie Bamber/Michael Trucco/Tahmoh Penikett (who arrived late) on the other. That's nine people and only 40 minutes to spare. In addition, the Sci Fi video - which has great quality and steady camera, so I don't want to complain too much - focuses on the person talking, so you miss people's reactions a lot of the time.

But on to James' responses. Smith asked, of course, about all the sex Baltar has. James started with "I had to pay a lot of money", which got a pretty hushed reaction from the audience. Not his best joke ever, moving on.

James: "I think that's one of the things that, in a story - especially like this - uh, what is it? Um... In an American mindset, the bad guy gets more tail, you might say? I've got a sign here saying, 'Please be aware that many members of your audience may be under eighteen years of age.'" [laughter; James waves his finger as a mock warning.] "OK. So I think 'tail' is a good way to put it then. And funnily enough, actually, I found making the first stuff a real... What's the word? If you're preaching to people that you're in love with God or you're seeing a new way, can you also be a nymphomaniac on the side?" [laughter] "You know, genuinely, I'm being serious, it's like, does that make you less spiritual?"

Man from the audience: NO!

James: [points at him] "Absolutely! [laughter] But it took me like three years to work that out! All the time I was like, 'I want to be one thing but I'm also like woman crazy and a nymphomaniac.' The way you think is like, that makes him a bad person, or unreliable, he's only got one thing on his mind. But then I was like, there must be so many people who... they've got goodness in their heart, but they're obsessed with something, one particular thing."

[A "woo" from the audience]
James: "Thanks, again. Mom."
[The audience really cracks up at this. He has to pause a bit to let the laughter die down.]

James: "I would just say.. Yeah, it's been exciting on that level, and these last two seasons I've found a way, I've felt, of... Gaius makes peace with himself on that level. He's not... He doesn't mind, and he doesn't care. At least on the TAIL issue."
[laughter]

David Eick: "I just want everyone to know that these are the kinds of conversations we have when in the script, it says, 'And then Baltar has sex with her.' An hour later, we're going, 'James, just have sex with her.' "
[The audience laughs a lot at this. James cocks his eyebrows and laughs at himself a bit.]

This all shows how much James thinks of Baltar and the motivations behind his actions. The intriguing part for me is that he's talking about the sex aspect, not the destruction of the Twelve Colonies or giving the nuke to Gina, as the defining issue for whether or not Baltar is a good person. A better moderator might have asked about that here and gotten us a bit deeper into James' reading of Baltar. Of course, Smith is only interested in sex, but James manages to make something deep out of it anyway. It's an interesting dance they do here - Smith asking about shallow stuff, and James acting like the question was "how does Baltar relate to the people around him?"

Smith: "He never occurred to me as the kind of guy that would have to be talked into bed. [Ugh.] Especially the last season must have been very painful, it was just one big holy sex orgy the whole time."

James: "Yeah, I must admit I loved that whole idea of... [The audience starts to laugh, and James hastens to explain himself.] Well, I like the idea of Gaius being, eventually, kind of set up by these people, who he thinks are even more crazy than the people who wanted to kill him. There's all this crazy stuff with, you're being toted as this God or spiritual leader while really you have no idea, and you... not despise, but you kind of think very little of the people who have supported you and put you up there. That lends to... a lot of worry upstairs. So that's been a lot of fun to play."

Smith: "Almost led to a name change for the show - could have become Battleslut Galacticock."

James: "[chuckles] Yeah... Watch this space."

Oh dear. That's gotta be the single worst pun on the title that I've ever heard. James' chuckle sounds forced, and I get the feeling he's annoyed. It's hard to tell since they don't show his face. I do think the profanity was gratuitous and unfunny, and I've noticed before that James has a lot of consideration for his audience when it comes to swearing. (Edit: James' children were apparently in the audience for this panel, so it's very understandable that he'd be annoyed at this.) The way Smith focuses on Baltar's sex life is annoying, because it's belittling the character. After all, there's a horndog on every show, but characters with secret cylons in their heads are a rarity. I was also wondering what David Eick's "James, just have sex with her" thing was in reference to. Tory Foster? Does James find the sex on the show gratuitous and annoying at times, or is it just a thing with his character's motives and wanting to be clear on them?

"A lot of worry upstairs" is a very defining comment about Baltar. You could basically sum up his whole character with that. He's a man with a lot of worry upstairs. Awesome.

Asked about the most "badass" moment on the show:
James: "I don't know if it's bad-arse, particularly... I always feel ... strange coming out of my... 'bad arse'..." [laughter] "Anyway, one of my favorite bits on the show is when Adama and tigh are together - I think it's this season - and it's a very serious conversation about, food is running out, you know, people are committing suicide or whatever.. and Adama says, 'Are the people on this particular ship still eating paper?', and Tigh goes, 'No', and Adama says 'Why?', and Tigh says, 'Paper shortage'. And then they both laugh, and I hadn't seen that, you know, it was a different part of an episode I wasn't in. It just blew me away, the reality, the tragedy, the humor, the humanity, I thought that was fantastic.

And actually as well, on a level of shooting guns, cos I shot guns with Tricia at the end, and that was so exciting and so much fun. At the very end, we finished around. .the main unit finished around 4:30 in the morning, and two nights ago in Los Angeles, I just caught Apocalypse Now, and filming the end of Battlestar was like being in Apocalypse Now. It was like.. 2,5 units, 3 units on different stages, not with enough walkie-talkies. So some guy runs up to me at about 2:30 in the morning and goes [panicky tone, points with his finger]: 'Second unit!!! Second unit!!!', then disappears into the night."[Lots of laughter here.] "I arrive at the second unit, and the second unit aren't there, they've moved on, and there's some guy going, 'Oh yeah, they've moved on, pal, I dunno where...' And you can hear sporadic gun fire going off into the night... It was frakking awesome!" [laughter and applause.]

I don't have much to add to this, except: heee, "bad-arse"! It's a funny story, but I wonder if the entire last episode is shot in darkness with people shooting, or something. The shooting scenes are generally the ones I enjoy the least, but seeing Baltar and Six - Head Six? Caprica? Some other model? - shoot guns would certainly be something new and potentially exciting.

A question from a fan online: "When people from the fleet hear the name Gaius Baltar, there are usually strong emotions that follow. Up until recently, it was almost 100 % negative. How did you, James Callis, feel about the cult following that Baltar found himself among? Did you have a hard time balancing who Baltar was with his followers and who they wanted him to be?"

James: "Uh... One word answer? Yes."

Smith: "Sweet, moving on."
[laughter]
James: "Thank you." [laughs]

Smith: "No, go ahead, give them their answer."

James: "No, that's kind of it. I think I addressed that question before. He gets involved in something that uh... that the can't fathom, and he's also, I think, immensely bored with a lot of people who don't challenge him, but just are like.... Whatever he does, they're like, 'Oh Gaius, how wonderful! Isn't that great?' And after a while that's like... it's like being in a prison, it's debilitating. So, um... One of the great releases that you'll be seeing is um... is the journey of this guy and his cult and how they... how they work out."

It's a good analysis, and someone like Gaius would probably judge people based on how much they challenge him. Actually, this is an aspect that I wish James had played on more in the show. We don't really see Gaius mocking or despising people for being dumb or obvious very often. Someone as intelligent and arrogant as him would surely spend a lot more time looking down on the workers on the ship who don't have a formal education. The only instance that comes to mind is when Tom Zarek is talking about the election, and Gaius very openly mocks him for his lack of insight. (I also love when Zarek says, "You're a genius!" and Gaius responds with, "And..?")

I wondered here if this comment had to do with James Callis as well as Gaius Baltar. Does James feel unchallenged because of all the BSG love? Would he have preferred more negative critique as well as appreciation? Does he feel that people - like, say, Kevin Smith - ignore the deeper issues and nuances of his character to talk more about how hott the sex is?

About his favorite moment:

James: "I don't really have one moment. I've had too many incredible moments over five years, practically... I mean, I used to joke that if I was invited back to the set on the second day, I took that as like a personal triumph. And... yeah. I'm really surprised my character, you know, made it as long as they did, I've just had a ball.

One of the things that... The axis that I played on mostly is guilt. I don't think anybody's had as much guilt going on in their own head as Gaius Baltar has had, but then very few people can have.. what is it, billions and billions of people being killed on their conscience. That's been a tremendous thing to work with, because you find out a lot of your own humanity - what really touches you, what you're really upset about, what you're really... It's not just guilt, I realize - it's shame, real shame. And if you have that or that's pushing through you, I found it to be almost like a kind of lubricant or fluid inside Gaius Baltar... It's like the thing that makes this guy go. And getting rid of it, finding a redemption, it's been like an exorcism, it's been incredible."
[Applause. Tricia looks at James with a smile; I think she looks proud of him here, which is sweet. They seem to really like each other.]

This was beautiful. The guilt aspect is really what attracted me to Baltar in the first place, and I can't understand why some people say he's irredeemable, has no conscience, no guilt, etc. I'm glad James doesn't see him that way at all. I would have liked to hear a bit more about this idea of guilt vs. shame. Does Baltar's shame stem from his conscience or from his ego? In other words, is he genuinely ashamed for what he's done, or mainly just disappointed that he's not the great, virtuous person he'd like to be?

I'm a bit surprised that he thought Baltar wouldn't be there until the end - he's such a central character, I would have been very disappointed if they'd dumped him early on. I also think it's amusing that James used the generic "they" instead of "he" when talking about Baltar. It's a common modern overcorrection, but one you see women make more often than men. I like that he seems to consider that the generic "he" annoys some people.

The actors were asked about the closure their characters had, and whether they were happy with it:

James: "My character's had full closure, but he could have had a few more affairs."
[laughter and some applause]

His shortest answer in the panel - I wonder if something happens to Baltar that he couldn't or wouldn't discuss here. On the other hand, he had already answered this before, given the issues with guilt and finding redemption. Perhaps we've already seen that closure on The Hub, where Baltar finally confesses to Laura that he was the one who gave the access codes to the cylons. That was, in my opinion, the biggest moment of closure for Baltar. It's the thing he's feared the whole time, and now he's survived it. Maybe this is the moment of redemption James was referring to earlier as an "exorcism".

All in all, beautiful answers. I think it's his theatre background that makes him such an engaging public speaker. It's not just the content and the overall charmingness that he brings to the table; he articulates and rhythms his speech in a way that is very easy to follow. He's just a pleasure to listen to.

The chemistry between James and Tricia, as well as James and Ron/David, was great. His appreciation for the show and its creators is obviously great, and it's always nice to see when an actor loves the show he's on. When David joked that they were debating about revealing that Baltar is the final cylon, James laughs and then acts mock-annoyed - I think he says, "How could you, David?" but it's hard to hear him there. I tried to read this as an indicator of whether or not Baltar is a cylon. Based on his reaction, my money's on "not"; he looks surprised and amused. It takes a moment for him to start laughing, but I think it's because David was talking quite seriously, and it probably takes a moment to register that there was a joke about Baltar being a cylon in there.

Tricia tells an amusing story about how James accidentally hurt her doing the toilet stall scene with Shelly Godfrey, because he slammed the stall door really hard to her knees. You can't see James' reaction in the Sci Fi video, but you can in this YouTube video. He looks endearingly embarrassed about it. Don't be so hard on yourself, James - it's just a funny story.

Thoughts on the other panelists

Jamie Bamber came in as a surprise guest star and got a thunderous round of applause, but personally, I would have preferred the panel without him. He looked bored through most of it and didn't have much to say. Asked about doing scenes in a suit, he talked about his hair, when he could have been talking about the character development. Kevin Smith was all, "is that all you're going to say?" and turned to James, which I loved. I think it was the only Kevin Smith moment that amused me. Smith asked Jamie how he lost so much weight so quickly on the show, and Jamie's response was - a joke about bulimia. Half of the audience booed or groaned at that point. Dude, bulimia is not funny. People die from bulimia. I'll chalk that one up to ignorance, because I don't think he intended it as mean as it came out, but it shows poor judgement to say something like that. He should have known better.

However, I did like the way he talked about the last episode as something that brought closure and was deeply satisfying. The final read-through was "a disgraceful orgy of self-indulgent tears and lower-lip wubbling" (said in a very British accent). He said the ending "does everything and everyone justice". I liked that. I hope I feel the same when I eventually watch it. The actors all seemed excited about the last episode. It also seems like Jamie, like James, has a lot of respect for the show and its creators, and that was refreshing to see.

Katee Sackhoff didn't really have very much to say about her character either, or perhaps didn't dare say it. She seems to go into giggling schoolgirl mode in these things, which is unfortunate. I'm not sure what kind of person she is underneath that act, but you can tell she felt uncomfortable and insecure of herself in that panel. She especially didn't know what to say about being a female/lesbian role model, and went speechless for a moment. She ended up saying that people should take Kara's good sides and leave the bad - "Use protection."

I personally thought Smith was exaggerating; Lucy Lawless's Xena is a tough one to top, and considering the totally kick-ass role of D'Anna the Three that Lucy herself has in Battlestar, I thought that comment was a bit annoying. Not to mention that Smith didn't say anything about Tricia Helfer being a lesbian or feminist role model. I'm not very active in gay circles, so I can't speak for the gay culture at large, but when it comes to my girlfriend and me, it's definitely Tricia who's the bigger feminist or lesbian role model, followed closely by Lucy. I wouldn't even include Starbuck/Katee on that list because of the "sassy girl" stereotypes she exhibits - drinking, traumatic childhood, etc. These things, to me, sort of cancel out the general badassery. I'm not sure if I should read Katee's reaction as a disagreement to Smith's gushing, or if she was just flustered and unprepared to really go into it.

Her nervousness melted a bit later, as she was giggling about funny stuff that happened on the set. David Eick mentioned the fight scene between Tricia and Katee in Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 2 as his favorite badass scene, and Katee said they were calling each other a week later to say, "I've still got that bruise on my shin.. that was awesome!" She also said they became friends that day, and Tricia agreed. "But they wouldn't kiss, no matter what I said," said David. "He told us that if the ratings drop, we'd have to do the fight again but in jell-o," Katee said. "Thank gods you guys kept the ratings up," said Tricia. This was a fun bit, and it seemed like the fight was still fresh in everyone's minds, which was cool. It was one of the greatest Six moments.

Tricia, who sat next to Katee, generally seemed very caring towards her, giggling with her and generally looking like "Aww, you remind me of a younger me." (They're apparently good friends outside the show, so maybe that's why.) Tricia seems like a very kind person, but the problem is that she's a bit passive in these things. I felt like she had a lot to say but didn't want to hog the spotlight to say it. Smith should have asked her more about her characters.

The things she did say revealed that she cares about being an actor more than being a sex symbol - much respect to her for that. She specifically mentioned playing Gina as a refreshing diversion, getting to "not be kinda sorta glamorous at all, and it was just a lot of fun, which is really odd to say, but it was a challenge, and I like challenges." She said basically the same thing about Shelly Godfrey - she was happy that "she's a little bit different", and she got to try something new as an actor. I also liked how Tricia said that she had finally found out something about her character - I took this to mean Head Six/Caprica Six, and I'm very intrigued to see the new episodes and find out more about her. She also seemed very excited about getting to use actual guns in the finale. Sadly, she wasn't asked about the love child with Tigh, which was the biggest WTF moment of the whole season for me. I would have liked to hear her reaction to it.

I was impressed with Michael Trucco. He was quite articulate and funny. But he, too, had nothing to say about his character. In this case, it was clear that it had to do with the writing - Sam Anders isn't much of a character. He said as much, when discussing the day Aaron Douglas (who plays Chief Tyrol) came to him and told him they're cylons. He was incredulous, because he's such a secondary character that they don't even know him on set: "Lots of people even call me Steve." I loved that.

Ron Moore and David Eick were there, but they didn't really get to say much, which was a shame. I would have liked to hear more analysis of the characters - it interests me more than the final cylon, which is bound to be anticlimactic and disappointing when it finally comes out. Ron's self-congratulating bit about the "one year later" scene in Lay Down Your Burdens, part 2 was a bit much, though. It's one thing to do something daring, but to flat out say that no show has ever done this before is just arrogance. And yeah, Alias did it. With two years.

They made two jokes that sounded like they just make the show up as they go along - first about trying to decide the fourth cylon blindfolded: Gaeta? Anders? Gaeta? Anders? (If this is true, they absolutely should have gone with Gaeta!) and secondly, about having Tigh count how much booze he had left, and then deciding he should have lots of it, because it's so funny to see him drunk all the time. Some of the cast did their impression of Michael Hogan's "haw haw haw" laugh - that was really cute.

Tahmoh Penikett came on last, towards the end of the panel. The audience was very excited, but his entrance did take some time away from fans asking questions and such. The audience seemed to love him, though. He didn't have time to say much, but he did wax poetic about the final episode, saying that the whole cast was "on the same page" and that it was "brilliant". The audience was left with a nice feeling of closure, which helps wait for the new episodes.

On a more sour note:
An open letter to Kevin Smith

Dear Mr Smith,
This panel was supposed to be about Battlestar Galactica. Not about you, or how you love swearing and that makes you cool. Your "stage persona" seems to consist of crude sex jokes and swearing, and frankly it's unimpressive. Saying "fuck" so many times deprives it of all shock value, and your talk about sex wasn't entertaining, it was boring. If you think "frak" is so awesome, why did you only use it twice? It would have been much funnier.

Several times, you stalled the panel and even interrupted the panelists to make jokes about yourself, when there were so many jokes you could have made about the show. Why did you have so little to say about it anyway? You had the creators in front of you and what did you ask about? The Caprican version of "cocksucker". You made that joke at last year's Comic Con too, and it wasn't that funny to begin with.

You claim to be such a fan, yet you couldn't even remember who Shelly Godfrey was. Granted, she only appeared once in season one, but she was a pretty big deal. Don't waste the panel's time by asking which episode that's in, because all the fans in the audience knew right away. Oh, and that really long name last episode had? Revelations. Too long for you to remember?

Please never moderate a Galactica panel again.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

You Might Be a Cylon!

This video by Galacticast is a lot of fun. They've taken the basic idea of "anyone could be a Cylon" and turned it into a game show - a bit of Battlestar parody, a bit of their own humor and a lot of Gaius Baltar. These types of parodies are very hit and miss, but I was impressed by the attention to detail here. I've seen this about five times now, and it still makes me laugh.

At a first glance, I didn't think the Baltar was enough of a lookalike, but after hearing him speak, I was sold. The accent and speech patterns are just right, and there's a nice overtone of arrogance and flirtation (Sheba... Yes, Sheba...) His pride at his "challenging question - are you a Cylon?" is played just the right amount of ridiculous. I got the feeling they were making fun of the character rather than James' acting. And whatever happens, Gaius will get laid.

I also liked what they did with HeadSix (my minor quip is that she has dark hair). The way she whispers, "They're on to you, Gaius!" sounded a lot like Tricia Helfer's HeadSix at her meanest. The theme they use here is not Sense of Six like on the show, but rather the Cylon theme from the beginning - and I must admit I didn't notice that on the first watching. Likewise, the "cylon sound" is actually the sound of the dradis consoles on the Battlestar. It's a clever way of using the original show sounds to create the right atmosphere.

Gaius framing Aaron Doral for being a cylon - which he ended up being - is straight from the miniseries. Sheba's rundown of the typical viper pilot hobbies seems to cover just about everything they do - yes, drink is the big thing, but my personal favorite was the one about emotional moments that don't lead to anything. The turtle in the desert metaphor was apparently a Blade Runner reference, which I personally didn't catch, but someone on YouTube remarked on it. El Cylono is, of course, a bit obvious, but I enjoyed it because it wasn't overdone. (And I loved how he's apparently played by Matt Damon!) I have a feeling that "they should think of puppies... and kittens... and apple pie... and being human..." is also a reference, but I can't place it.

All in all, good job. Parodies rarely manage to scrape more than the surface of the actor mannerisms and plot clichés, but in this one, I think they had some pretty astute observations.

Welcome

Welcome to my blog on James Callis, Gaius Baltar and Battlestar Galactica - in that order. I very recently discovered Battlestar - in fact, I've watched the whole series so far in 1,5 months. I'm not usually a big sci fi fan, but this show has something new to it. There's a depth to the characters, the cylons are unusually interesting villains, and no one's purely good or evil. I especially found Gaius Baltar's intricate personality with all of its built up guilt, denial, and narcissism fascinating. The reference to Baltarstar Galactica is, of course, from James himself, but it's also sort of how I see BSG. Baltar and Six in all her incarnations are, to me, the heart of the show, and there are many interesting themes explored there that are somehow novel to me.

After becoming fascinated with the character, I became intrigued to find out more about James Callis. I thought he'd be at least a bit like Gaius - a bit pompous, a bit arrogant, not intensely likeable. But so far, everything I've found on him has been surprisingly positive. He seems like a very intelligent, warm and funny person. The complete opposite of Gaius, in other words (well, apart from the intellect). You can really tell he has given a lot of thought to the show and the psychology of Gaius Baltar. You could say that I became a fan of James because he's a fan of Gaius.

I haven't found any James Callis blogs in my searches, so I decided to start one. Most of the posts will probably revolve around Gaius Baltar and/or James Callis, but I do intend to write some general BSG stuff too. Nothing too deep, perhaps - I think there are enough Battlestar analysis sites, and I doubt I have much to add to that. At this time, I have no interest in writing episode recaps or posting any final cylon theories. (Laura Roslin! Laura Roslin! Please be Laura Roslin! Ahem.) I will, however, analyze Baltar and his complex characterization on the show (including Head Six and Head Baltar). If and when James appears in other interesting roles, I will be blogging about them too - which is why it's a James Callis blog first and a Baltar blog second.

I'm also interested in collecting any James or Baltar related links, so please submit yours in the comments section if you have or know about a site I'm not currently linking to.