(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

What BattleStar Galactica can teach Doctor Who about television in the digital age.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

As readers of this blog have probably figured out, I'm a big fan of the reincarnated Battlestar Galactica series. I think the writing is clever and thoughtful and the issues explored add real depth to the series, not to mention some great characters and battles. However, something else seems to be setting Battlestar Galactica apart from other SF TV series, which is the fantastic online presence of the show's braintrust and their innovative and creative use of digital technology to enhance the experience of the show and build their already sizable fanbase. Examples so far include the fact that Ronald D. Moore, the show's executive producer, has a detailed and candid blog talking about the show, responding to questions, sometimes admitting flaws in the overall story and occassionally sequeing into more personal territory; this not only expands the fan/producer interaction Joss Whedon or JMS style, but also adds a very human face to the production process. The second innovation was to put the entire first episode, "33", online freely watchable for all to view, complete with four deleted scenes. Putting this episode up was, I think, a very clever move especially since so many people have already downloaded torrents, and again builds a lot of goodwill. The deleted scenes are a nice touch, and the website also has deleted scenes from each episode which has aired in the US. The only downside is that it's streaming realplayer footage which is a little crappy at times (but entirely understandable insomuch as it prevents most people from saving the file). Finally, and most impressively, Moore is now doing a podcast before each new epsiode which contains a commentary on the episode. This is pretty much the same content that, I imagine, will turn up on the DVD, but releasing it online in advance certainly ties fans and the production team together very effectively. More to the point, all of these online extras can certainly enrich the experience of the show, as well as solidifying the US fans who may have already seen the epsiodes via torrents (the UK versions aired several months before the US), and tying those viewers directly to the US airdates. All in all, it's a better experience for fans who want all the Battlestar they can find, means the producers have already made a lot of the DVD material as soon as the episodes have aired, and relishes the possibilities of online distribution.

Meanwhile ...

BBC News reports that an entire (but possibly not entirely post-produced) episode of the newly revived Doctor Who series has turned up online as a bittorrent file. Moreover, the rather miffed BBC is investigating, leading to some blushing Canadians:
A show spokesperson said the leak was a "significant breach of copyright". "We would urge viewers not to spoil their enjoyment and to wait for the finished version, which airs at the end of the month," a statement said. [...] "The source of it appears to be connected to our co-production partner," the BBC statement said. The partner is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). A CBC spokesperson said: "We are looking into it. That's all I can say at this point because we don't know exactly what happened. It certainly wasn't done intentionally."
While I completely empathise with the show's producers who have been cheated of their big launch, now that the "damage" has been done, the best thing the BBC could do is follow the lead of the SciFi channel and Battlestar producers and put the first episode up online officially as soon after the official premiere as is possible. The worst thing the BBC could do (and they've show no signs of doing so yet) is prosecute fans who've downloaded the episode as that would erradicate the hardcore fanbase before they've even had a chance to embrace the new show. It's time to try and run with your fans and use all the tools of online distribution, not run against the digital winds.

In the words of Commander Adama: "So say we all ..."


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