Few words strike terror into the heart like ‘webisode’. You can normally expect shonky bolt-ons that function as low-wattage previews, filmed for a fiver and using bits of the set that no-one else wanted.
That is mercifully not the case with the Razor flashbacks, which instead largely use material from Razor itself. Still, it would be fair to expect something half between preview scenes and trailers. But here’s the really surprising fact – the material works far better as a webisode than in the show itself.
The webisodes follow a young Adama at the end of the first Cylon war, and after briefly meeting Nico Cortez in the role we watch him crash land out of a battle, dropping through the atmosphere and locked in mid-air battle with – fan-wank ahoy! – an old-model Cylon. This is absolutely preposterous and significantly less fun than it is probably supposed to be because of it, but it is also astoundingly well filmed and diverting enough for a three minute insert.
After landing, the surprisingly good young Adama finds a House of a 1000 Corpses style testing lab of human prisoners. And then he runs away, hearing a few ‘noises’. Yup, that’s right: Adama is an incompetent yellow-belly.
First things first: young Adama, a role that could easily turn into a cheap charade of Edward James Olmos, is nicely down as a game but lucky soldier by Cortez. Despite the fact that these flashbacks are laden with references to what happens 41 years after it is set, it is generally not inferred that the viewer should be basing the entire personality of Adama on these 15 minutes of time-passing content. Considering the probable temptation to do that in order to imbue this side-alley of Battlestar with meaning, then congratulations to the writers for resisting the urge.
Like Razor itself, these webisodes are somewhat disarmed in their potency because we know exactly where it is going to end up, being set in the past. So rather than the destination, they have to milk the journey for all it’s worth. The journey is a mix of being part gung-ho and part absorbing, but works particularly well as a webisode because it isn’t very important, and it’s set far away from the rest of the action.
In Razor itself this stuff is embarrassing, taking Battlestar into just the sort of space battle nonsense that it typically does so well to avoid. But it works in this fragmentary state, building suspense before the programme and effectively making nods to both the original and the remake. Watch Adama’s descent to the planet, just like Starbuck’s before she dies; the way he growls like the Old Man; and the nice way it bridges the old Cylon model, to the newly-built biological basestar.
The important thing is that this isn’t exactly like Battlestar proper; they have tried to do something else with it, and the creators found a suitable plot for the platform. Perhaps ‘webisode’ is no longer the dirty word it once was.