Wednesday, 25 September 2013
REMEMBERING 'BATTLESTAR GALACTICA' BOOK 2: 'THE CYLON DEATH MACHINE'
Following hot on the heels of their novel success with the adaptation of the movie version of Saga of a Star World, Glen A. Larson and Robert Thurston would return to pen a second novel based on the scripts for the next planned TV movie of the series, Gun on Ice Planet Zero, which ultimately went through varied adjustments and re-filming before it eventually made the screens as a two-part episode during the end of the shows first quarter run. Book two doesn’t quite have the depth of the original, but it’s a terrific and exciting read nonetheless, featuring new and expanded material that I wish could have been in the TV version. One day, it would be interesting to compare all three versions of the story: its original scripts, its eventual shooting script and the novel (if anyone can help with the first one please get in touch…)
For the moment, though, here are some of the intriguing differences and additions within the FUTURA published novel:
The location of the Cylon pulsar weapon is Tairac, and, in a nod to the original idea, located on an unusual planetoid rather than a planet. The Diethene storms present there are a by-product of Cylon weapon technology. In charge of the Cylon pulsar and garrison, Vulpa was a lieutenant with great brainpower who had been exiled to the ice planet because he was a threat to the current Imperious Leader
The Cylons now have Ghost Fighter ships that are remote controlled, armed with a powerful missile, to attack the Colonial Fleet. They are amongst the Cylon ships attacking the Galactica and herding it into the range of the Pulsar- prior to the opening patrol discovering Tairac, the Cylons press another of their attack the Colonial Fleet, where we also get to see one of its vessels holding the in-training, up and coming viper pilots, and there’s mention of a foundry ship making new combat craft from raw materials. These newcomer vipers are a little clunkier than the original ships but are a necessity to protect the fleet…
A lot of CDM is told from newcomer Croft’s point of view, presenting his backstory, the relationship with his renegade team, and how they were captured and arrested by a younger Commander Adama (unnamed in the TV version) after raiding a Cylon platinum mine. By books end, with his success in destroying the weapon, he returns to being a Colonial Warrior. The book also some has some more history on the characters and situations in the Adama Journals.
Despite her presence in the previous book and not being killed off it, CDM has no mention of Apollo’s love, Serina, or what happened to her since the first book. The same with Cassiopeia, who wouldn’t be introduced back into the TV series until the later filmed Lost Planet of the Gods (ultimately shown before Gun).
The accompanying Galactican warriors alongside the experienced criminals are introduced during a pep talk given by Adama, as in the deleted scenes for the story on the DVD release.
Viper pilot and escort to the Galactica ground force, Killian, has a braver death than on TV (where he's destroyed by the Ravashol pulsar weapon)- here he destroys several Cylon ships and suicide rams into one of their Ghost Fighters before it can get to the shuttle.
Rogue turned medic Leda’s intentions to desert the Galacticans and the mission takes place in the book earlier than the TV version’s part two.
Starbuck, with no Cassie in the story, keeps many of the skirt-chasing characteristics of the pilot, heavily enamoured with the Tenna clones females. He is still also not the best friend to Apollo he would be by the series.
To further understand the humans and their plans, the Imperious Leader creates a simulacrum of Starbuck in order to guess their next moves. Suffice to say, this Starbuck is imbued with the original's personality and proves an irritant to the Cylon.
Five Clone Planners, looking like more youthful versions of their Father Creator, run the colony near the garrison, of which Ser 5-9 and Apollo see them in order to get permission to meet Ravashol. One of these Planners then goes on to tell the Cylons of the Colonials arrival in the village, resulting in their disruptive search beginning (as seen in the TV version). A Planner with blue stripes and white hair resembling Ravashol can be seen in the TV version’s finale (played by Liam Sullivan) but his role in the final two-parter is pretty much removed, also looking different to the way the Planners are described in the book.
Unrestricted once again by the TV censors as the weekly series had been, this is another tougher, novelization. An about to escape Thane almost tries to force himself on to Leda and almost kills her, but she grabs his throat and almost kills him in response.
Originally, Ravashol was part of a research team on the planet. The Cylons arrived and killed the others but spared him, recognizing his potential usefulness with the pulsar weapon. Ravashol then used some of the genetic material from his dead friends to research and create the evolving clones over the years.
Their hiding place discovered, Boxey and Muffey lead an escape with the clone children from the Cylons and go outside into the garrison airfield containing Cylon fighters, which they then stow away on.
Going upwards on their dangerous mission, the book has believable passages about mountain climbing for the Galactican party, especially from the viewpoint of Croft- obviously some major research into the field has been done here by the writers.
The ending of the book has some notably different scenes than the TV version. Ser 5-9 and the main Tenna are with the party all the way to the end of the mission with Apollo’s party. Wolf doesn't make a run for it- instead he and Leda are forced by Croft into helping to attack the pulsar. Taking on a Cylon gunner commander lieutenant in physical combat, Wolf is killed- his neck broken and thrown to the floor like a rag doll. Leda survives the battle and helps lay the charges to destroy the weapon. After the top of the mountain is destroyed, the group, having escaped in the elevator shaft, finds that their journey is cut short through power and mechanical failure, resulting in their having to rappel down to the bottom of the shaft. Sadly, Leda is killed here, falling to her death, with Croft, guilty with her loss, unable to save her.
With the weapon destroyed, Athena leads a rescue shuttle with full Viper escort, and soon gets to show off her piloting skills. Vulpa, having survived the garrison attacks, takes command of a fighter and several Ghost Fighters to attack them, one of which contains a trapped Boxey. As Athena tries to avoid destroying Boxey’s ship, and with the vipers unable to do further battle, Apollo and Croft take a Cylon fighter and perform a risky mid-air rescue of Boxey, with Croft descending on a ladder in mid-air motion to get him. Then the remaining Cylons are shot down by the eager Vipers.
The book ends with Vulpa’s ship crash-landed, the warrior damaged but not destroyed, going into a hibernation state in order to conserve power, though likely soon to die in the icy wastelands around the destroyed gun mountain.