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Anti-science Fiction: Thoughts on the final BSG.

March 22nd, 2009 · No Comments · Art, Rants, Science

The final episode of Battlestar Galactica has come and gone and - I must say - I was disturbingly close to the mark with some of my predictions (please note: I assume you’ve seen the episode, so expect spoilers).

Overall, I give it a 6 out of 10 (which is about what I’d give the last two seasons of the show on the whole as well).

The final episode managed to tie up some threads quite nicely, while using deeply unsatisfying deus ex machina gibberish to resolve others. Some things were just ignored entirely. After the disaster that was Season 3, BSG never really regained its narrative footing, so I guess it’s no surprise that the series ended so haphazardly. Still, I’d hoped that there would be something at the end that the series had been driving towards on a macro-level and I was disappointed that that didn’t work out to be the case.

I realize that the show eventually became “character-driven” rather than “story-driven”, but far too many important elements of the show’s core narrative were just glossed over or ignored. There’s still a need for attention to the narrative - especially in a show that got its initial momentum from its mysteries, rather than its characters.

Anywho, general thoughts -

The Good:

- The resolution of the Adama/Roslin arc. By far, this was the best thing BSG did over the past two seasons. It was handled with consistency and an emotional sensibility that never deteriorated into saccharin glurge, even during its sweetest moments. The treatment of their relationship in the final episode was excellent.

- Adama himself. He really was the only character we ever got to understand properly. His evolution throughout the series was sensible and satisfying. His motivations were coherent and his ideas made sense. The flashbacks in the final episodes helped to add the last bits of detail to his character (unlike all the OTHER flashbacks, which were just stupid). In the end, all that was missing was a mustache.

- Space fights! Oh yeah, the show is called BATTLEstar Galactica. Maybe it’s not a bad idea to occasionally have some action to go with the relentless death march of soap-opera nonsense and mysterious Jimmy Hendrix-themed metaphyics.

- Galactica’s final jumps. Not the part where Starbuck is using Hera’s awareness of her ghost dad’s failed career as a lounge singer to find New Earth - that part sucked. The final jumps themselves were just very cool. Jumping into the Cylon colony - badass. Taking tons of heavy fire - badass. RAMMING into the colony - badass. Twisting and throbbing after the final jump - badass. It harkened back to the series’ greatest moment - Galactica belly-flopping into the atmosphere of New Caprica at the start of Season 3. So very, very badass.

- Cavil’s final acts. What can I say, by the time it happened, “gun-in-mouth” seemed like a pretty reasonable choice - both for him AND the viewers. He also managed to be the only truly menacing thing in the episode (his walk down the corridors of Galactica was legitimately creepy).

- The Music. It was pretty sweet.

The Bad:

- Starbuck vanishes. Honestly. What the hell was she supposed to be? Just a straight up “It’s a Wonderful Life”-style angel? I get that the show had a strong metaphysical component, but that was just ridiculous. And why did her dad know the magical musical coordinates to Fake Earth? Ugh.

- All the other stupid Angel Nonsense. After all these episodes, THAT’s the explanation for the Caprica/Baltar visions? They’re FUTURE ANGELS. Anything - ANYTHING AT ALL - would have been better. Baltar was driven mad with guilt. The Cylons put a chip in his head. He was a Cylon. It was all Bob Newhart dreaming. ANYTHING else.

- The Apollo Plan Launch all the spaceships into the Sun? Along with all of the supplies and technology? THAT’s the plan? And everyone agrees! Fling the ships into the Sun? Why not?! We all get to have sex with early primates! Who needs science?

Last I checked, your ENTIRE CIVILIZATION has three doctors - one of them is old and smokes a lot, one is in jail for killing the Space Amish and ONE of them is John Hodgman. I’m betting that defibrillators and flu vaccine MIGHT have come in handy while you’re all out seducing cavemen and trying to figure out how to farm after LIVING ON A SPACESHIP for years and years.

Oh, and splitting up the remnants of humanity? Smooth move, that. If there’s one thing Scooby Doo taught us it’s that splitting up is always the Path to Success. I wonder how they decided who got sent to the crappy parts of earth and who got to live in southern California?

- Mitochondrial Eve = Caveman sex or Inbred Genocide. There’s no good way around this. Apollo’s plan hinges on the fact that, at some point, Hera bangs a caveman OR the space humans hunted the earth humans into extinction, then got into some hot-hot inbreeding action. Either way, so very creepy.

- No ending for Adama and Tigh. They’ve been best friends for decades, have faced challenges and trials greater than any faced by the rest of the characters and they stuck it out regardless. And in the end, we don’t see so much as a firm handshake or a knowing nod before they PART WAYS FOREVER. Lame, guys. LAME.

- Unexplained religious gibberish. So, who is “god” again? We now know he doesn’t like “that name”, but beyond that he’s even more inscrutable than the “god” most folks believe in - which is saying something. Why is he making robots have sex with people? Is god actually Jimmy Hendrix? That appears to be the strongest case one can make - god digs sweet guitar licks and robot/human, angel/human, caveman/human intercourse, but isn’t terribly fond of polytheism or explaining himself. Awesome. Somebody write this stuff down!

The Ugly:

- The final coda. Fourth-wall-breaking, pedantic, anti-science bullshit. It was like getting hit over the head with a Stupid Stick (”These people are… just… like… YOU! Purchase an Aibo at your PERIL! Go to church or Asimo will walk up your stairs and kill you!”). Awful - just… AWFUL.

Final Thoughts:

In the end, I think that the first half of the entire BSG series will stand as some of my favorite TV programming ever. The show rarely stumbled (remember when the “Black Market” episode was BSG’s major flaw?), had a coherent vision of its characters and narrative and was consistently producing thought-provoking (rather than simply confusing) stories that had resonance and commented on the state of our world in a clever, engaging way. About 1/3 of the way through Season 3, however, things went sideways and never got fully back on track.

If you’ve never watched BSG, it’s still worthwhile. Even during its weak years, it was still better than 90% of what’s on television. My recommendation would be to watch it from the beginning, then stop after “Collaborators” (about 1/3 of the way through Season 3). That way, you’ll have nothing but fondness for the show. Also, you’ll never have to watch the boxing episode. Or the Space Amish episode. Or the ridiculous Cylon base ship sex-room episodes. Or the stuff about eating algae.

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