23.2.09

Battlestar Galactica

(In response to The Armchair Critic's review of season one)

I was really excited about Battlestar before I watched it, because (from internet chatter) I thought it would be like The West Wing in space. Take a couple of thousand people, make them fugitives facing extraordinary danger, and see the roots of human society and how it develops. A friend of mine told me to lower my expectations, saying it's more like 24 in space. He's right. The series could have explored ideas that just don't exist in American television. Instead it became a slick, well made, well acted, sci-fi war show. It's Black Hawk Down with robot sleeper agents.

The religion stuff is a perfect example of this. There is nothing in Battlestar about how religion is created or how it works, interesting sociological questions that any sci-fi show worth its salt can grapple with. The polytheism versus monotheism demarcation only serves to suggest that the humans are pluralist and the robots are authoritarian. Tellingly, Joss Whedon's Firefly goes a lot deeper into the workings of religion in the pretty sub-standard episode 'Jaynestown'. And it does this in one episode.

What's strange about Battlestar is that the significance of the entire series will be revealed at the very end, when the central conflict is resolved. Who will win is the question that propels the show forward. But this mystery is no mystery at all. Pretty much from the end of season one, and certainly from the end of season two, it was clear to me that the ending will be a reconciliation between the two antagonistic forces, where the robots learn to dissent, gain their individuality and become truly human. It will be a powerful and resonant statement when it's eventually made. But knowing what it will be sucks the tension out of the immediate goings on (otherwise perfectly interesting) in plot and character. The firefights and avoided disasters become petty developments in a theme that's yet to be reached. I find myself wanting the show to get to the point already. I've still got two seasons to go before that happens.

I'm being harsh. The show really is very good. But the fact that it's the best sci-fi show out there is more a sign of how poor other sci-fi is than it is about Battlestar being fracking amazing. Imo, of course. Shouldn't forget the imo.

3 comments:

  1. I pretty much agree with you. I like Battlestar a lot, and from time to time love it, but I think that the structure is troublesome. there's this constant emphasis on upcoming revelations, but the most interesting storyline for me was New Caprica, which was all about putting the characters in interesting situations in the present day. Unfortunately, there's a tendency to go back to the status quo way too often, which means that for all the random change that happens, the show is still essentially the same for the vast majority of its run.

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  2. I've just got season three from a friend. The end of season two promised a great new set up. So it doesn't change all that much? That's a shame...

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  3. Without getting into spoilers, the start of season three is absolutely brilliant, that is a new setup. But, it doesn't quite last. But, season three definitely has my favorite episodes of the series.

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