- Adama = Lord Grantham
- Roslin = Cora
- Tigh = Dowager Countess
- Apollo = Matthew
- Starbuck = Mary
- Dualla (or Zac) = Lavinia
- Baltar = Edith (?)1 Thomas
- Sharon = Sybil
- Helo = Tom (Branson)
- Gaeta = Carson
- Caprica 62 = Mrs. Hughes
- Tory = O’Brien
- Tyrol = Bates
- Cally = Anna
- Cottle = Clarkson
- Galactica = The Abbey
- CIC/Colonial One = upstairs
- Flight deck/pilots’ areas = downstairs
- Fleet = Village
- Preserve the fleet/human race = preserve the family/aristocracy
Adama and Starbuck, Lord Grantham and Lady Mary; Mary and Matthew, Starbuck and Apollo—individual personalities (and general competence) differ, but their relative positions in social hierarchies, and the resulting tensions and affinities, peel away the surface of Rolls and Vipers to very similar narrative engines: caution vs. audaciousness, directness vs. subterfuge, desire for preservation vs. change.
But while Galactica’s full-length seasons accommodate bottle episodes and outright stinkers, Downton’s mini-seasons, plus the number of subplots Julian Fellowes sets simmering, and his apparently increasing concern that we note prevailing social currents, leave little space for extraneous dialogue. Characters are always talking about what the episode is About. The Dowager Countess gets her zingers, but they are now so expected that however well they’re set up and delivered—like the brilliance of her telling her son that she’d thought he was a waiter—they, or the anticipation of them, are the stuff of a different kind of show than the music under the credits suggests. I kept hoping for digressions through the metronome-paced dinner scenes in the season 3 premiere, but dialogue remained doggedly on. The. Nose. In Galactica, Lee and Starbuck’s tension and chemistry, uncertainty about what it would come to, the pleasure of it moment by moment, remains a rich vein right up until she vanishes into thin air throughout. Very few episodes concern their tension per se, but we can forecast what a lifelong disaster Lee and Starbuck together would be. In Downton, Matthew has finally told Mary that he couldn’t be happy with anyone else as long as he knows she is in the world, but, at least in the American edit, their honeymoon is elided. Fittingly—what do they talk or care about except the A Plot?
Downton’s best episodes—the Christmas special, the premiere—are stunningly orchestrated, in event, in scene changes and the flickering from one plot line to another, but even there, I now can’t help tracing J.J. Abrams-like tendencies: keep so many things in doubt that the audience is more committed to what hasn’t happened than to what’s on screen. But it becomes difficult to feel one way or another about what happens to characters whom you begin to suspect exist only to get you to their final scenes. In Galactica, though Starbuck was a natural pilot, Adama a seasoned commander, the war—their work—resonates because it yanks them from lives that continue to torment them. With all the disastrous events that befall the Crawleys, they never quite seem interrupted or unprepared. They’ve been talking about the plot all along.
1, 2. Suggested by Alexander Chee in his reblog of the Tumblr posting of this piece.
First published on sarahwrotethat.com.
Chee, Alexander. Tumblr, 9 Jan. 2013, alexander-chee.tumblr.com/post/40101521797.
“Downton Abbey Symbolic Logo.” Downton Abbey Wiki, downtonabbey.wikia.com/wiki/File:Downton_Abbey_symbolic_logo.jpg.
Fellowes, Julian, Gareth Neame and Rebecca Eaton, executive producers. Downton Abbey. ITV, PBS, 2010-2015.
Moore, Ronald D. and David Eick, executive producers. Battlestar Galactica. R&D TV and Universal Television, 2004-2009.
Spillik. “Logo of TV series Battlestar Galactica.” Wikipedia, 14 July 2013, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battlestar_Galactica#/media/File:Battlestar_Galactia-logo-black.png.
Zoic Studios. “Battlestar Galactica Elevations.” Starship Schematic Database, 10 March 2010, www shipschematics.net/bsg/images/colonial/battlestar_galactica.jpg.