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In the original Battlestar Galactica TV show, Starbuck was named Starbuck, and he was the manliest of Galactica's manly men. He was the character all nine year old boys wanted to be, because he was a slick, trash-talkin', cigar-smokin', poker-playin' ladies' man. If you didn't think that was totally awesome, you had to be a sissy who played with Barbies.

He was a slut, and his character was about as deep as a Hallmark card, but it hardly mattered because the whole show was like that.

In the new Battlestar Galactica, Starbuck is named Kara Thrace. Still the manliest of Galactica's manly men, Nu Starbuck is a slick, trash-talkin', cigar-smokin', poker-playin'... woman. If you can't see how awesome that is, you must be some kind of genetic throwback who collects Transformers in their original packaging.

She's still a slut, but she feels kind of bad about it, and her character is developed to truly preposterous depth as the writers of the newer, more dramatic Galactica try to outdo each other in giving Starbuck more and more background and character quirks in every episode. And that's kind of what the whole show is about.

Two generations, two radically different shows, two Starbucks. Or maybe not.

I kind of like Starbuck Mk. II, but it's flabbergasting to see how every episode of BSG squeezes in yet another side of Starbuck. The new BSG generally tries to project an aura of military authenticity, but Starbuck is ludicrously overskilled at everything. She's the best fighter pilot in the universe, a damn good flight instructor, a master tactician, a lethal hand-to-hand fighter, an amazing starship mechanic who can get an essentially alien biomechanical fighter craft to fly (apparently without any help from Galactica's actual mechanics), a great car driver, one of the best poker players around, an artist (the only artist in the show) and a music lover (the only one on the show) whose father was a musician (the only time on the show that anyone's father is mentioned, other than the Adama family), an amazing lover, dedicated wife and brilliant basketball player -

And I'll stop there, because the basketball thing is where the extent of Starbuck's characterization really went over the edge. You see, according to whoever wrote that particular episode, Starbuck was a world-class basketball (OK, "Pyramid", for frack's sake) player, who nearly went pro but was held back by a bum knee.

Now, I would be fine with that if Starbuck was one of Galactica's flight deck grease monkeys. We see a lot of Tyrol's crew, and they are some good characters. But Starbuck is a fighter pilot. Her knee has to endure constant stresses from acceleration, deceleration, high-speed turns and random jolts. They actually mention this on the show, damnit. Plus she's engaged in some kind of heavy infantry action in every other episode.

And she has a bum knee that interfered with her basketball game?

Sorry, Galactica. You can spout pseudo-authentic jargon all you like, you can make your characters realistically flawed and your starfighters engage in all sorts of neat-o maneuvers based on real-world physics, but you just flubbed it big time. I have known fighter pilots, and I know what their training is like. And as it happens, I started my own military service with a damaged knee, and I know exactly what military career paths are prohibited by such a handicap. One of them is "fighter pilot".

In one throwaway line, Starbuck went from an improbably overdeveloped character to an unbelievable caricature, and the new, more realistic, better written and altogether deeper Battlestar Galactica lost a bit of my respect. Not because they flubbed one teeny military detail, but because that momentary lapse in my suspension of disbelief showed me that there really wasn't any artistic rhyme or reason to Starbuck's character development, and she was just another character archetype carefully groomed to appeal to a certain demographic.

Which I guess I must be part of, because I still watch the show and I still like Starbuck, because no matter how silly she gets, she's just plain cool. I mean, come on. She's a slick, trash-talkin', cigar-smokin', poker-playin' fighter jock hottie. If you can't see how awesome that is, you must be some kind of pretentious artistic type who watches European films and played The Settlers of Catan until it got popular.

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