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By Your Command: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Battlestar Galactica: Volume 2 - The Reimagined Series (2015. 658 pages. Published by Telos) is Alan Stevens and Fiona Bennett companion book, following their first which covered the original Galactica and Galactica 1980.
In some way the authors have, this time, a more difficult remit. For the first book it was possible to hunt down cast and production staff to add their reminiscences of working on the previous defunct show. With the rise of the internet and the very public forms of promotion available to a contemporary show a whole mass of information already exists, accessible for free. Therefore, the emphasis for this volume has moved its focus away from the production and more towards interpretation and criticism.
The new Galactica ran for many more series than its predecessor and so the finished book is a bit of a weighty tome, more amenable to dipping in and out of, rather than reading end to end.
The show was an important milestone in the development of science fiction television and yet it was built upon the successes such as Babylon 5 with its focus on season long arcs and emphasis on interpersonal relationships. Galactica took this idea further by filming the show in a mock hand held camera documentary style and adding shaky cam for much of the space conflict. It also went further in grounding much of what it discussed within the narrative of the show as a reflection of contemporary society. This had, of course, been a staple subgenre of science fiction for a long time; however, Galactica was confident enough in the audience to allow political and interpersonal conflicts to often take centre stage.
If you purchased the first volume you’ll realise that a very similar format has been chosen for the new show. The ancillary projects, comics books, which sprang from the show, are dealt with in a single essay, to do otherwise would have turned a large book into an unwieldy one. After a couple of pages of introduction, the book has a forward by Matthew Bennett who played Aaron Doral, Cylon #5
The book opens with a look at the various abortive attempts at bring the show back to life after the debacle of Galactica 1980, including Richard Hatch’s many years working on a project, which he didn’t own the rights to, although in his defence he was able to put together a proof-of-idea trailer which wasn’t half bad and his tireless promotion kept the idea of the show in audiences minds. This then moves onto an exhaustive account of how the show was green lighted for production and the many iterations it went through, before final filming of the miniseries.
The main bulk of the text is bookended with a look at the miniseries and the less successful Caprica. In the numbering scheme the authors have chosen to include the stand-alone projects, including The Plan and Blood and Chrome as if they were a continuation of the main show.
Each of the single episodes follows a similar pattern in its presentation, starting with episode centric production information, an exhaustive list of regular contributors is also included beforehand and a synopsis of the plot. Elements, such as character, references production and a critique of the show are discussed under their separate headings. The authors draw upon many sources for this including their own particular take on the narrative.
The nice thing about the book is that the authors are patently fans, but not slavishly attached to hero worship the show. They do not expect the reader to agree with all their conclusions, but are able to construct a reasoned rational for their beliefs.
I really liked the first volume and if anything Alan Stevens and Fiona Bennett have constructed an even better version for the reimagined show.