Battlestar Galactica

Well, we have had some ups and downs, haven't we? Too many, perhaps. Sometimes I wondered why I ever stuck with you. And at the end of our time together... I'm still wondering.

Let's recap, before I don the surgical gloves and get all bloody. The revolution arc in the first part of the final season demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses of the show rather well. The idea itself is really, REALLY dumb. Why does the letdown following the discovery of Earth manifest as an anti-Cylon movement? I don't think Ronald D. Moore has an answer. His setup episode fails to provide a coherent one, and is one of the weakest in the season. Stupidity set aside, once the coup gets underway everything becomes enormously exciting. Fugitives, prison escapes, shoot-outs, sabotage, ultimatums, firing squads... Even the credibility-straining flip-flops most of the characters go through (the most hilarious being Lee's sudden, inexplicable anti-Toaster rant, or maybe it's Baltar's 180 degree u-turn after escaping the carnage, or maybe it's...) fail to sap the energy pulsing through the third and fourth episode. And the entire thing wraps with a very effective denouement focused on Gata, where the writers finally remember WHO THE CHARACTER IS.

Gata's final moments were the highlight of the season. The rest of the episodes had this air of unreality, of aimless, featureless coasting, despite a whole bunch of stuff happening. The reason: I had stopped caring. Battlestar had flung so much crap at me, I could no longer be bothered to keep up. Don't ask me what the final five are about or why they were important. The inexplicable explanation washed over me in a daze. The actions of the characters washed over me in a daze! They no longer made any sense, and I had given up trying to make sense of them. If the writers were not going to do their jobs, then I wasn't gonna bother.

Daybreak parts 1 and 2 were pumping, it's true. The Battlestar team know what they are doing, and the effects were as beautiful as ever. The Caprica flashbacks were very well done, apart from Roslyn's, which was dire. Apparently, you can't have hot hot sex with hot hot hunks AND a career in politics. Who knew? But Baltar's confrontation with his father was captivating television, the most engrossing scene in the whole three parter. Ronald D. Moore sometimes gets it right (although a lot of that's probably the actors covering his ass.)

Because then there's Daybreak part 3. First, the bad guy conveniently shoots himself in the head, FOR NO REASON, so we don't have to worry about him. I guess he was inspired by a higher power, as all of our characters have been. Yep. All those things that made no sense? God did it. I believe the phrase is deus ex machina -- known since ancient times as the most grevious sin a writer can commit. It's the weapon of last resort for all those who have written themselves into impossible knots. I quote from the fount of all knowledge: '[the technique] is generally undesirable in writing and often implies a lack of creativity on the part of the author'. Pretty damning.

Patrick over at Thoughts on Stuff makes a convincing case for seeing the finale as a meta comment on the writing process. That's fair enough, but what is Moore's point in making such a meta comment? The only interpretation I have is that Ronald D. Moore is a writer who has created some characters, but doesn't really have a handle on their motivations or personalities, and just moves them around to set up some cool shots of spaceships exploding. Not much of a theme to hang five seasons worth of television, I feel.

Or maybe the inanity is supposed to be satirical? Look! God is an idiot just like me! That's why none of this makes sense! That's why God doesn't make sense! Now THAT would have been a meaningful statement, and Angel says something similar with its fourth and fifth seasons. But no, Daybreak is played totally straight. I don't think Moore has the balls to make such a practical joke out of his finale. Nor is he inclined to do so.

Because Moore has something else he wants to say. As the closing sequence suggests: FEAR ROBOTS! FEAR OUR CORRUPT CAPITALIST CIVILIZATION! QUICK, BACK TO THE CAVES! Or actually, back to the Shire. I have a feeling the director watched a lot of Lord of the Rings before making the final episode. I swear I heard flutes straight out of Hobbiton playing over the sweeping shots of this new and improved Earth. In any case, I have enormous political, intellectual and personal problems with the anti-technology, anti-civilization sentiment being presented. I don't want to go into it too much (this post is long enough), so this is the short version: it rests on a myopically rosy view of history and prehistory. It implies that technology somehow corrupts morals and changes human nature. Finally, turning the clock back so fundamentally is impossible to do. To conclude: I don't want to go back and farm the land. I know enough about peasants to know that it's not a pleasant way of life. I'm quite happy that we have machines and fertilizer, and that I can spend my time doing other things. Like watching television, for one. So Moore and I don't see eye to eye on this. When the fleet sailed into the sun, I couldn't look at the screen. It was just the most colossal act of stupidity I have encountered in a work of fiction. Unbearable.

In my very first post on the series, I argued that Battlestar's success will hinge on its ending. The entire show was building up to this massive confrontation, where the Cylon conspiracy will be uncovered, each side would lay down arms and embrace each other as brothers. The fact that I knew the point of the show before it actually made it was a downer, but I was enjoying the ride. I think the writers were too, and a bit too much. The show became longer and longer. Inexplicable twist was added to inexplicable twist. The Cylon conspiracy lost all meaning. The central theme, eventually the characters as well, were diluted as vast quantities of garbled plot was poured in. In the end, you only had one, deeply embarrassing, way out -- the God factor. It ruined the ending, and by extension it ruined the series as well. I'm actually quite angry about this! Battlestar has wasted a lot of my time, and a sizable chunk of my money. I don't really want to watch the DVDs ever again.

As you can see, it has been a very bad breakup.


  1. My feelings exactly.
    You can understand how, some time ago, when you were enjoying the earlier episodes with better writing, how hard it was for, having just watching this god-awful ending to say anything nice.

    I feel like I should’ve warned you.

  2. Oh you did. But I had to be all stupid and ignore you. I knew where the series was headed in any case. A deus ex machina was looking increasingly like the only way out. But I still had to find out how they tried to sell it. Turned out to be a lot worse than I expected.