Few TV or film composers can command the attention of the entire cast of the shows they work on. But when composer Bear McCreary and the Battlestar Galactica Orchestra turned up on Comic-Con weekend to play two shows at the San Diego House of Blues, they had a few, shall we say, “special guests.” Specifically, both shows were M.C.ed by Edward James Olmos (Adm. Bill Adama), and he was joined by Grace Park (Boomer/No. 8/Athena), James Callis (Baltar), Michelle Forbes (Adm. Cain—stand back), Nicki Clyne (Cally), Michael Trucco (Sam Anders), and Michael Hogan (Col. Saul Tigh). I was at the Friday night show, but apparently at the Thursday show Hogan brought down the house by growling into the microphone, “Can anyone else hear that frakkin’ music?”
I met with McCreary in the basement of the House of Blues a few hours before the band went on show. He’s not a big man, maybe 5′ 8″ or less. He wears a goatee, keeps his hair long, and he has that pale-skinned pudginess that geeks earn by long hours in front of a keyboard, though McCreary uses a totally different keyboard. But he had none of the geeks’ renowned social awkwardness. Maybe that’s what happens when a composer starts scoring Battlestar at 24, and then held the gig for the whole run. Along the way he became the composer for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Eureka, among others. These days, McCreary is working on Caprica, the Battlestar prequel; he’s even written the Caprican national anthem.
Put two stars of Battlestar Galactica on stage with an artificial intelligence expert and two leading robotics professors…and you suck the sci-fi out of the room and replace it with reality (sort of). The World Science Festival event “Battlestar Galactica: Cyborgs on the Horizon” drew a large crowd at the 92nd Street Y on Friday night, for a discussion of how human brains might soon fuse with computer chips to create real cyborgs.
Moderator Faith Salie introduced the panelists: Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University; Michael Hogan, also known as Colonel Saul Tigh; Hod Lipson, director of the Computational Synthesis group at Cornell University; Mary McDonnell, a.k.a. President Laura Roslin; and Kevin Warwick, professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading in England.
Salie asked each panelist to define what a cyborg is. Everyone had different answers: Warwick said it’s something that is part human, Lipson said it’s a moving target or a physical device that takes on biological life, and Bostrom said it’s the essence of human intelligence.
We are teaming up with Jennifer Ouellette and the crew at the Science and Entertainment Exchange to produce a panel on “MAD SCIENCE,” i.e. Science as a double-edged sword, ethically and morally neutral in and of itself, but dependent upon who wields it, and how.
Beloved Internet Personality Phil Plait is lined up to moderate (after he gets his tattoo) and we’re expecting guests from Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, Fringe, Stargate: Universe and more. Watch this space for additional details.
Earlier this week in New York, Battlestar Galactica‘s co-creators David Eick and Ron Moore, along with cast members Mary McDonnell (President Roslin) and Edward James Olmos (Admiral Adama), sat down with the press for a Q&A session following a screening of the last episode. We were just as brimming with questions as you are about the finale, and here are some of the answers we got. Needless to say, what follows below the jump contains MASSIVE SPOILERS if you haven’t already seen tonight’s show, so don’t say you weren’t warned!
Kevin Grazier is, among other things, the science advisor to Battlestar Galactica. With the show wrapping up tonight, Science Not Fiction talked to him about some of the science behind the science fiction. Warning — unless you’ve seen the finale, what follows below contains LOTS OF SPOILERS!
As the series finale approaches this Friday, yesterday the Battlestar Galactica caravan found it’s way to the United Nations for a high-powered discussion of human rights, the impact of armed conflict upon children, terrorism, and reconciliation.
Moderated by Whoopi Goldberg, who confessed to being a such a big fan of BSG that’s she started saying “Frak” on The View, the event was held in the UN’s Economic and Social Council Chamber. In a nice touch, the placards that normally held the boring old names of countries like “The United States” or “Japan” were replaced with the names of the twelve colonies (I became a “Gemenon” delegate for the evening.) The placards may be auctioned off for charity later, and if that happens we’ll let you know where you can go to bid. Many of the attendees were high school students brought in under the auspices of the Sci Fi/SyFy channel’s Visions For Tomorrow project.
The entire event took over two hours, so I won’t try to recap the whole thing here, but speakers such as Craig Mokhiber, Deputy Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, praised the show for rejecting the idea that national (or species) security is incompatible with human rights; illustrating how societies dehumanize people to make it easier to attack those people; and for not allowing viewers to come to easy answers about the morality of what happened on screen. On the BSG side, co-creators David Eick and Ron Moore were present along with Mary McDonnell (who plays the role of President Roslin), but it was Edward James Olmos, (Admiral Adama) who stole the show with his impassioned comments about BSG and the dialogue about real-world issues it has sparked over the course of its run — two examples:
The Sci Fi channel became Syfy last night, with a network presentation to the press and advertisers that featured many of the channel’s new and recurring shows — and a screening of the series finale of Battlestar Galactica. Emblematic of BSG‘s traditional secrecy, Ron Moore led the screening audience through an oath not to reveal any spoilers about the last episode (backed up by NBC Universal reps making us sign little bits of paper to the same effect) so I can’t reveal anything about what to expect beyond a promise that it’s a wild ride that’s going to spark a lot of discussion. Check back with Science Not Fiction on Friday after the finale airs, and we’ll have excerpts from the Q&A that followed, featuring producers Moore and David Eick, as well leading cast members Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos, where we get some more answers about the deep background of the show. We’ll also have an interview with Kevin Grazier, BSG’s science advisor, about some of the science behind the rag tag fleet’s search for home.
If you can’t wait until Friday, come back tomorrow for coverage of tonight’s panel discussion at the United Nations, where the Battlestar crew will be joined by high level UN representatives to talk about the show’s take on human rights, terrorism, and reconciliation.
In other news, Eureka is still on track to return to our screens this summer, and the next season of Sanctuary is getting stuck into production this Monday. I’m also looking forward to Warehouse 13, which is set to premiere this summer and looks like a lot of fun.
One of the best things about the final season of BSG has been that much of the annoying mysticism of previous seasons has now been explained by science. I’ll admit it was convoluted TV show science, but at least it wasn’t people seeing ghosts or having divine inspirations.
The Chief being mysteriously pulled toward the Temple of Five? Turns out he was one of the aforementioned five and had been there before (my apologies if that’s a spoiler for you, but really, catch up already).
BSG is best when it revolves around people and politics, as opposed to the god(s) and the lost tribes of whoever. Desperate people, dirty spaceships and ragtag resistance movements? Gripping and relevant TV. President Roslin’s visions and imaginary shamans? Not so much.
When I saw Galactica’s hull break open and the Six shoot into space, I was reminded of BSG science adviser Kevin Grazier explaining what happens when you fall out of a spaceship. We’re hoping for a post from Kevin on the potential explanations for artificial gravity, but we appreciate that the show has a solid science adviser and appears to listen to him occasionally (no aliens, no time travel, real constellations).
With all that in mind here are non-supernatural solutions for my five favorite Battlestar mysteries (note that these are suggestions not spoilers): Read More
SciNoFi sifts the mass of SciFi news to find the bits worth knowing.
• Battlestar Weirdness: For reasons more arcane than the Cylons’ plan, Universal is talking to Glen A. Larson about making a Battlestar Galactica movie–based on the original Battlestar series. What the heck? I loved the original series in my bespectacled youth, (we were really starved for space fights back then), but they couldn’t hold a blaster to the reimagined series. In other news, the actor playing Ellen Tigh and Battlestar creator Ron Moore will be making guest appearances on CSI. Don’t ask why.
• Watchmen Watchmen Watchmen! Despite getting wrecked by most mainstream critics, Watchmen cleaned up this weekend with a $55.7 million haul at the box office. Anyone out there see it and think it’s awesome? I haven’t seen it yet, but my nerd network seems to be rating it a solid “meh.”
• Smells like Teen Kirk: OK, I know this has made the rounds, but everyone needs to know that about the Star Trek themed colognes: “Pon Farr”, “Tiberius”, and—my personal favorite— “Red Shirt”. Because tomorrow may never come. Also worth noting, Paramount put replicas of the models of the new Enterprise on display at the Arclight (a.k.a. best theater in the world ever) in Hollywood. Click through for images.
• Fantastic art Spectrum announced the 16 winners of the best in 2008 fantasy art. This is not the usual fantasy dreck promulgated by Wizards of the Coast and well worth the click.
• What’s on TV : Last week Knight Rider sped off into the sunset for good, but news isn’t all bad for sci fi fans. Heroes got picked up for one more season, and, perhaps more enticing, Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller is trying to generate momentum for a new Star Trek show, oriented back toward the original series. Also, Red Dwarf will make its return after 10 years with a two-parter expected to air over Easter in the UK.
In a comment to Stephen’s last Battlestar Galactica post, Bionic Man asked: “Is there a real-world equivalent to the Cylon bio-metal? How far along is research into self-repairing materials?”
At this stage, the research into self-repair could best be described as promising — certainly promising enough to motivate several of the top materials research teams in the world to work on the project, and promising enough to inspire significant investment by major corporations like Airbus. Plus, anyone who solves the myriad problems behind self-repair is sure to be richer than Midas, maybe even richer than Bill Gates.