28 Feb 1991: Desert Storm Ceasefire

On this day in 1991, after 100 hours of land battle following roughly 5 weeks of air operations, the United States declared a ceasefire in its military campaign to drive Saddam Hussein’s invading forces out of Kuwait. That was a good day, but looking back now it was the first major battle of World War IV, and the conclusion to that battle has been accomplished only recently with the sovreignty of a free Iraq. Let’s hope it sticks.

Battlestar Galactica

You won’t believe how good this series is. It’s very smart and highly addictive.

When I heard lat year that Sci-Fi channel was re-making Battlestar Galactica, my reaction was “eh.” The original was a lot of fun for a 10-year old, but seeing re-runs of it, as an adult, were not very exciting.

Flipping through TV channels a few weeks ago, I happened upon an over-the-air broadcast on NBC of last year’s 3-hours pilot episode. At first, I didn’t recognize it; all I saw was a space panorama and some really good camera work, zooming in from a distance onto a far battle scene. It was an amazing shot, communicating the vast distances of space and the dynamic of the dogfight at the same time. Although I had stumbled across it by accident and the story was already half over, I was hooked immediately.

This new Battlestar Galactica is a very, very smart piece of work in too many ways to detail in one sitting. I cannot begin to describe how exceptionally well-done this series is: the characters are well developed and have distinct and conflicting personalities and motivations, the effects are amazing, the physics is really quite decent, the backstory is believable, and the bad guys have religion (really!).

Above all, the plotlines are not stupid; the writers assume you can figure things out yourself, and then hint you along so you can keep up. They don’t use technical jargon and pseudo-science as deus ex machina (*cough*startrek*cough*). There are some great surprises, little touches that you would not have guessed but are funny and realistic and enjoyable.

Not to wax too enthusiastic (although I am very enthusiastic about this series now) but the effects are spectacular. The attention to detail is superb. To take one element, look at the Viper combat spacecraft. When a Viper is shooting out of a launch tube, you can see its counterweight-driver racing backwards beneath the track; while maneuvering, you see the attitude jets firing; and the maneuvering itself is three-dimensional — it looks very like space combat should, with a full sphere of action, not just a plane, and arcs of fire, not just straight lines.

The camera work, even though a lot of it is CGI, is both believable and engrossing; you just cant take your eyes off it. The interior shots are shaky, as if it were a documentary. There are lots of little homages to other science fiction films in the set work; in particular, the interior design of the President’s ship reminds me a great deal of the Pan-Am LEO shuttle from 2001. The first time I saw the blonde Cylon agent, all I could think of was Maria from Metropolis.

A friend of mine snagged the entire first season and passed it over to me last night. I have now lost all productivity as I watch “just one more epsiode”. I watched two last night, and three this morning, ignoring homework, domestic duties, and programming. Get your hands on it as soon as you can, and then set aside a weekend to watch it (or five sequential evenings). It’s just that good.