A to Z in April: Adama!

So I’m launching yet another series, this one called the “A to Z Challenge”. The idea is pretty clear: write posts every day in a Month (excluding Sundays, excepting from that instances like today, when the first of the month falls on Sunday). I, of course, do post on Sundays, so this challenge may well guarantee that something fresh will appear on this blog every day this month. And who doesn’t want that!

So I’m doing this A-to-Z thing, and I’ve decided to give it a Fantasy and Science Fiction turn, as is my wont. So each entry in this series will take its inspiration from something or someone from F&SF, that starts with the respective letter of the day.

Thus we start with Adama, the Commander of the Battlestar Galactica.

Of course, we’ve had not one but two Adamas. The first one was played by Lorne Greene:

And then, in the remake of Battlestar Galactica from the 2000s, Commander Adama was played by Edward James Olmos:

Now, I’m at a small disadvantage because I haven’t yet watched very much of BSG 2003. In fact, I’ve watched barely any of it – all I’ve seen is the three-hour pilot movie, which I am actually currently re-watching as a prelude to watching the entire series. But I think I’ve seen enough of the Olmos Adama to make a small bit of comparison.

Both men are older, somewhat weary starship commanders who might well be at the twilight of their careers when the Cylons, humanity’s ancient enemy race of androids, launches a devastating attack that destroys the human homeworld and most of its remaining star fleet. Humanity is quickly rendered unable to stand and fight, and must instead flee in a desperate journey across the galaxy for a destination that may or may not be there. That destination? The fabled ‘Thirteenth Colony’, called ‘Earth’. So, Commander Adama not only has to rise to the occasion as a military leader; he must also be a political one, as he, his ship, and his crew are pretty much the only thing standing between the rest of humanity and the Cylon forces striving to kill them all off.

I’ve always dug this story set-up. It’s a nifty premise that can go a lot of ways, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it shapes up in the remake series. The earlier version, made with great fanfare in 1978 but canceled after one season because the ratings, while decent, weren’t sufficient to make the show cost-effective, was heavily steeped in Mormon lore and mythology; I expect that the mystical angle is downplayed in the remake series for a more character-driven SF drama. So it is that the later Adama seems to be a more three-dimensional individual than the earlier, Lorne Greene Adama.

Greene played Adama as a noble father figure who was often a source of wisdom to his crew. Olmos captures some of that, but his Adama is more flawed. He is tired and weary and, as the show begins, on the verge of retirement when the Cylons strike. Lorne Greene’s Adama is rarely seen anywhere but the bridge or his quarters, and I don’t recall ever seeing him out of uniform. This contrasts with Olmos’s Adama, who is in his dark, cramped quarters wearing only a t-shirt when his phone rings with the news that the Cylons have attacked. Adama sighs and says, “I’ll be right there.” But when the grim situation becomes clear, he is able to shake off his haze and take command in a forceful way.

There are also hints of future conflicts to come, which were not always in evidence in Galactica 1978. Greene’s Adama must also serve as de facto Head of State, but Adama is confronted by an actual Head of State: the Secretary of Education, who, as the only surviving member of the Cabinet, has just ascended to the Presidency of the Twelve Colonies. There is also conflict between the Olmos Adama and his son, Captain Apollo, whereas there wasn’t much conflict at all between the Greene Adama and his son Apollo. As the remake series dawns, the Adamas have not spoken much since the death of other son Zack. In BSG 1978, we see Zack die and we see the two Adamas commiserate over it.

Lorne Greene brought to the original BSG the gravitas that the show needed. So far, Olmos seems to be doing the same. So which Adama is my favorite? I don’t know yet. But we’ll see!

(By the way, the original Battlestar Galactica series is often derided as being a post-Star Wars bit of genre bandwagoning, and to be sure, the show probably never would have been picked up by ABC if not for Star Wars. But creator Glen Larson was kicking the idea around the networks much earlier in the 1970s, and really, the show holds up a lot better than many seem to think. It’s got its cheesy 1970s elements, yes, but it is not crappy teevee by any means. If you haven’t watched it, check it out. You may be pleasantly surprised!)

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2 Responses to A to Z in April: Adama!

  1. Jason says:

    Kelly, I just want to thank you for not reflexively dissing the 1978 Galactica, as seems to be par for the course ever since the remake. I've made no secret of the fact that I never warmed to the remake, and I've taken a lot of lumps for continuing to support and enjoy the original. It's kind of my prequel trilogy, in a sense.

    Regardless of my own feelings, I look forward to hearing your thoughts about Neo-Galactica (as I tend to think of it), especially now I know you're not down on the original.

  2. Kelly Sedinger says:

    I re-watched some of the 1978 version, expecting it to be MST3K quality…and I was pleasantly surprised that it really wasn't. The show's definitely received a bum rap over the years.

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