FP: Which are the most realistic sci-fi movies in portraying space warfare?
CW: There isn’t any show that does a really good job across the board. Some do better at different parts. For example, the new Battlestar Galactica is probably the best at depicting life on board a ship. That ship is very spacious compared to a U.S. Navy warship, but the inside of it looks correct. One of my all-time favorite TV shows is Star Trek, especially Star Trek: The Next Generation. But one thing that drives me crazy is that on Star Trek, you’re either on watch or off duty, when a real naval officer has a whole other job, such as being a department or division head. So he’s constantly doing paperwork. Most shows don’t get that right at all … Star Wars is probably the worst. There is no explanation for why X-Wings [fighters] do what they do, other than the source material is really Zeroes [Japanese fighter planes] from World War II. Lucas quite consciously copied World War II fighter combat. He basically has said they analyzed World War II movies and gun camera footage and recreated those shots. Battlestar Galactica has other issues. One thing I have never understood is why the humans didn’t lose halfway through the first episode. If information moves at the speed of light, and one side has a tactically useful FTL [faster-than-light] drive to make very small jumps, then there is no reason why the Cylons couldn’t jump close enough and go, “Oh, there the Colonials are three light minutes away, I can see where they are, but they won’t see me for three minutes?”
A naval warfare expert assesses depictions of space combat.