As the countdown to the final (half) season of Battlestar Galactica ticks down in the US, SciFi are in the middle of a final run of webisodes (‘The Face of the Enemy’) which, as usual, are getting good press both on their own terms and as models of successful webisode content in relation to existing franchises. The New York Times, for example:
“The Face of the Enemy,” on the other hand, could serve as a model of the Webisode genre. It’s not something you need to watch if you’re not already a “Battlestar Galactica” fan, but those who are will appreciate the serious treatment this minidrama has received, the same kind of care taken with the cult-favorite series itself. The lead writer of “Enemy” was Jane Espenson, a “Galactica” co-executive producer and television veteran with “Gilmore Girls” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on her résumé, and its performers include series regulars like Grace Park, Alessandro Juliani and Michael Hogan.
The Webisodes, which will conclude on Jan. 12, just before the television series returns, are a self-contained murder mystery set aboard a small spacecraft that has been separated from the fleet. But they also expand on the “Galactica” mythology, through flashbacks, and flesh out major characters. Fans who had wondered whether Lieutenant Gaeta (Mr. Juliani) was gay found out in Episode 1 of “Enemy.” Or they thought they did, until his close encounter with a Cylon 8 (Ms. Park) a few episodes later clouded matters.
Along with the regular Webisodes the Sci Fi Channel is providing “enhanced” versions featuring commentary by Ms. Espenson. They’re a revelation in their own right. While commentary tracks on movies or even television episodes tend to get boring or crazy-making long before the show is over, commentary tracks on four- or five-minute Webisodes can actually be entertaining.
Ms. Espenson describes the chaotic, and poignant, circumstances in which the Web serial was filmed: with the television series’s final season already completed, the “Enemy” scenes were often the last things filmed on the “Galactica” sets. After a scene was completed, its set would be torn down for good.
Other tidbits — Ms. Park plays two parts in “Enemy” because the “Galactica” star Tricia Helfer turned out not to be available after the story had already been developed — might seem like too much information to have while the serial is still unfolding. But it’s really just a sign that NBC Universal is getting at least one thing right. In a world where the possibilities for elaborating your shows online are endless, the true fan wants to see and hear everything.
As per usual, the webisodes aren’t accessible for those living on the wrong end of the tyranny of digital distance (outside the US), but other avenues are readily available for those willing to look, and the webisodes certainly aren’t shying away from interesting and timely issues. Until it gets pulled, here’s the first webisode on YouTube:
(You can catch the same webisode with Jane Espenson’s audio commentary, too.)