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MIND MELD: If We Ran Battlestar Galactica

After 5 years, BSG has come to its end (in this incarnation). As you’ll see below, it appears that over its life it spawned a host of debates and rather strong opinions. Spoilers ahead!

Q: BSG has ended, and no one appears to be thrilled with the finale. What would you have done differently, if you could run the show?
Chris Roberson
Chris Roberson’s books include the novels Here, There & Everywhere, The Voyage of Night Shining White, Paragaea: A Planetary Romance, X-Men: The Return, Set the Seas on Fire, The Dragon’s Nine Sons, End of the Century, Iron Jaw and Hummingbird, Three Unbroken, and Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II, and the comic book mini-series Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love. His short stories have appeared in such magazines as Asimov’s, Interzone, Postscripts, and Subterranean, and in anthologies such as Live Without a Net, FutureShocks, and Forbidden Planets. Along with his business partner and spouse Allison Baker, he is the publisher of MonkeyBrain Books, an independent publishing house specializing in genre fiction and nonfiction genre studies, and he is the editor of anthology Adventure Vol. 1. He has been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award four times–once each for writing and editing, and twice for publishing–twice a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and three times for the Sidewise Award for Best Alternate History Short Form (winning in 2004 with his story “O One”). Chris and Allison live in Austin, Texas with their daughter Georgia.

Um, written a decent finale? Perhaps one that wasn’t a steaming pile of dogshit? Honestly, that was like a trainwreck wrapped inside a clusterfuck topped with a healthy splash of “Fuck the audience.”

Okay, perhaps I should step back and contextualize a bit.

At one point, I was convinced that Ron Moore had been sent to save us all. After penning some of the best episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he was a writer I would follow anywhere. But then with the launch of the “reimagined” Battlestar Galactica, he was suddenly taking us places I as a viewer never even knew existed. For those first few seasons, Battlestar Galactica was not just the best science fiction series in the history of television, but was arguably one of the best television series of any genre.

That held true up until the first few episodes of the third season, with the liberation of New Caprica. Everything up to that point was taut, clever, and engaging in a white-knuckled-sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat way. The story was an express-train barreling down the track, only no one in the audience knew where it was heading. And then, almost immediately after the surviving colonists were rescued from New Caprica, things seem to have gone off the rails.

I sit on a lot of fannish panels at conventions, talking about books and comics and movies not with any kind of authority but just as one fan speaking to others. At the WorldCon in Glasgow back in 2005 I was part of a panel on BSG with a bunch of other writers and fans, speaking to a packed auditorium. For more than an hour we ranted and raved about how great the series was, discussing the implications of this or that plot point, spinning out fascinating theories and hypothesis about just what the Cylons’ “Plan” might be.

And in that single hour in Glasgow, I think we put more thought and attention into how the plotlines of BSG might develop than Moore and the rest of the writers ultimately put on display.

By somewhere in the middle of the third season, as characters began to act in increasingly arbitrary ways in order to serve the needs of the plot, I began to suspect that this was not going to end well. With the airing of the two-part “Resurrection Ship” only a year before, I’d opined on my blog that one of the things I loved most about the series was that “I have no idea what’s going to happen next.” But when the unexpected happened on the show at that point, it was still in retrospect inevitable. The characters each had established personalities and prejudiced, and acted accordingly.

As the third season wore on, and then the fourth season was inflicted on the audience, the unexpected still happened, but it was seldom if ever the inevitable outcome of previous events. Instead, characters seemed to make sudden and arbitrary decisions because that was what the plot required of them. We need someone to play some Inherit the Wind scenes in Baltar’s trial? Why, look at that–Apollo has just rediscovered his grandfather’s law books and professed a (previously unsuspected) lifelong desire to practice law. Conflict between characters was often generated by having one or both of them behaving in uncharacteristic ways, and the large-scale movements of the fleet itself was often due more to arbitrary factors than any compelling story reasons.

This tendency only intensified as the fourth season ground to a halt. Having picked five of the cast at random and designating them the “Final Five” missing Cylons, and teaming the colonial fleet up with a group of renegade Cylons, for most of this last season it seemed as if the writers were simply marking time. What revelations there were had little to do with what had gone before, and were inevitably cast aside almost immediately. (“Earth was destroyed millennia ago? And they were all Cylons?” Within an episode or two, all but forgotten, and I find it hard to remember any character stopping even for a moment to say, “Hey, what was up with that?!”) We need Starbuck to receive some cryptic clue, perhaps in the form of a familiar tune? No problem, we’ll just reveal that she learned how to play piano from her father, and just forgot to mention it until now.

With the penultimate episode and the series finale, the worst tendencies of the past season and a half were put on full display, but without even a hint of the elements that had made the show so terrific in its first few years. The plot itself is littered with absolutely baffling decisions, and while they are really the least of the offenses on display here, I can’t resist listing just a few:

  • Boomer suddenly has a change of heart and rescues Hera, but only after it’s no help to anyone to do so
  • Tigh offers the resurrection technology in exchange for Hera, but only after forcing us to listen to Baltar rambling on about “God’s purpose” for a full five minutes
  • The Cylons, who defeated the Colonial fleet back in the destruction of the 12 colonies by exploiting wireless networks, somehow find it necessary to borrow the Galactica’s corded phones in order to call messages back to the Cylon colony
But these kinds of inanities are really the least of it. This is a show that has made terrific use of flashbacks since the original miniseries, and we’ve spent a lot of time in four seasons and change with each of these main characters. Why, then, did Moore feel it necessary to invent new backstory for each of the principles in these new flashbacks? Remember that time that Adama almost quit the military to go work in the private sector, but changed his mind? No? Perhaps because it has very little bearing on his character, and if it’s been mentioned before it slipped right past me. But at least it gave Edward James Olmos a chance to one up the requisite “Admiral Adama Cries” scenes that have appeared in so many recent episodes with “Admiral Adama Cries While Vomiting On Himself.” We get the bewildering story of the time that Roslin’s entire family was killed and so she went on a blind date with one of her former students–and who knew that in the Twelve Colonies “blind date” meant “come to my house where we’ll get drunk and screw”?–and then decided to go into politics after all. And why? I don’t know, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it took Roslin exactly as long as the series ran to finally succumb to the cancer she was revealed to have back in the first episode… but then, wouldn’t it have made more sense to link her flashbacks into that, instead? Strangest of all, perhaps, is the brief glimpse of those happy alcoholics, Saul and Ellen Tigh, getting plastered together at the strip club.

The scene with Saul and Ellen typifies just why these new continuity inserts were necessary, I think, since it established an idyllic past of sorts, a beginning to the journey whose final end we’re about to see. But the problem is that, despite the fact that there are scads of Saul and Ellen scenes over the course of the first few seasons of BSG, there simply aren’t any idyllic scenes that set them up as the happy couple that’s going to walk off together into the sunset of the primordial Earth. Colonel Tigh is an angry bitter drunk, and Ellen is his shrewish and manipulative ex-wife. We’re supposed to be happy for them that they’ve reached this destination together, and the only way for that to work is to give them some brief moment in their past where they seemed like happiness was attainable, so that now they can attain it.

(The less said about the weirdly cued flashback between Apollo and Starbuck the better, I think, except to say that it featured Starbuck revealing her deepest, darkest fear to Apollo… a deep dark fear that she would then never mention again, apparently.)

There was a lot of budget on display in this finale, with the huge ship-to-ship battles and the armies of deadly Cylons (though, that said, there seemed little left over to pay for some of the other scenes–the climactic moment when the Final Five joined hands to blend their memories had all the panache of a high school production of Frankenstein, and the dispersal of the surviving colonists on the primordial Earth was staged as “Twelve guys with rucksacks walk across a field”). What wasn’t clear, though, was where the writing budget had gone. Time and again characters would stop the action to declaim at each other, as when Roslin sums up her previous four years for the doctor, or Baltar preaches to Cavil, or Starbuck gives her cringingly out-of-character farewell to Apollo (“I’ve reached the end of my journey”? Really?).

I don’t mind all of the supernatural hoodoo, honestly. Moore and company have insisted on piling all that nonsense in since very early on, and there was no reason to expect that they wouldn’t bring it back into the finale. But “supernatural” doesn’t mean “nothing needs to make sense.” And while I admire the valiant attempt to tie in the Opera House dream sequences from earlier in the series, it falls a little flat when all of those portentous visions appear to add up to “You will walk through bright spotlights in the Galactica, and open a door.” And really, what was the big significance of Baltar and Caprica Six ushering Hera through the door, only for her to immediately be taken at gunpoint by Cavil?

Ultimately, though, this whole series appears to have been about two things, if I’m reading the finale correctly. The textual meaning of the series, what the story has been about on the surface, is getting Hera to Earth so she can grow up and be a mommy. (And really, I can’t help but pity poor Hera, who has been a central McGuffin for years but apparently never developed as a character in her own right, a mute and possibly severely mentally disabled child who wandered aimlessly through the plotlines without uttering a word.) And if we missed this fact, the narrative helpfully points this out to us with blaring lights and sounds, with Ron Moore himself holding a National Geographic featuring “mitochondrial Eve” while a newscaster explains the importance of Eve… and then a minute later the narrative explains this to us again when the “angel” Baltar points out that mitochondrial Eve had a Cylon mother and human father. Oh, wait? You mean…? That was that little girl?!

(Parenthetically, I loved the fact that when Hera appears in the CIC, Adama points at her and says “That little girl!” As though everyone wouldn’t already be on a first-name basis with the little girl they were all sacrificing their lives to save.)

Sheesh. And then, having bludgeoned us over the head with the forty-five-minute-long reveal that “OMG they are our ancestors!” the narrative allows the two “angels” to pause for a moment and reflect whether this can all happen again. After all, it happened before on Caprica, and on the “original Earth” before that (wait, did it? The original Earth was inhabited entirely by Cylons, until destroyed by parties unknown in a nuclear holocaust. Is that the same thing that happened “before”?), so it could happen again. And then… Asimo! And Roomba! And Robosapien! OMG NOES! ROBOTS WILL ETE US!

Seriously, are you kidding me? What about the final union between creator and created, between man and machine, human and Cylon? Wasn’t that somehow “God’s” plan? But then…

Okay, went off track a bit there. What was the question again? “What would you have done differently?” Honestly? Anything other than what they actually did. Something good, maybe?

Paul Cornell
Paul Cornell is a writer of SF, comics and television. He’s written three episodes of Doctor Who, and Captain Britain and MI-13 for Marvel.

I was absolutely thrilled with the finale, as a lot of people seem to have been. I wouldn’t dream of putting myself in Ron Moore’s shoes. I’d like to think that, in the same circumstances, I’d have made choices as brave and strong as those. Because the end of a show isn’t the working out of a formula, it’s meant to surprise and hurt you. And as I’ve said before, this show, especially, is not your puppy. I was irked a little by Lee’s sudden anti-technology pose, but it was needed to explain where all the tech went. I hated, for ten minutes, the lack of explanation of Starbuck’s nature, but then she vanished and I loved it. If you want an explanation (like you wanted a lecture and a flow chart rather than a story), then the intrusion of the numinous into the physical would not have to fit with our logic. And doesn’t do so beautifully here. How could she fly Vipers and things? How could she vanish? Indeed. Do you want to put your fingers into that wound and wiggle them about? There was some beautiful plotting here, a sense of mythic shape, and when to bump away from it to good effect, and the notion, as throughout, that destiny and story are made from character. Some viewers seem to have objected to divine workings out as plot engine. Did they spend the last few years ignoring all those bits in the series? And just in case we might think this an Earthly ideology at work, ‘it’ for God, at the very end, kicked at the last moment away from us again, into the unknowable. Right until the end, Galactica resisted the lure of its fandom in the best possible way. Outstanding.

Saxon Bullock
Saxon Bullock is a 34-year-old writer and reviewer currently based in Manchester, and writes regularly for SFX magazine. He has a semi-regular blog – ‘Crawling from the Wreckage’ which can be found here: http://saxonb.livejournal.com/, and more of his work can be found on his website: www.saxonbullock.com.

Okay- I think the ‘no one appears to be thrilled’ might be a trifle inaccurate. I’m sure there are people out there who wholeheartedly loved the finale – and after all, finales very rarely manage to please everyone. I’d also suggest that it’s pretty likely that even the people who were disappointed by the finale (which includes me) were still thrilled to bits by the first half. The action sections of ‘Daybreak’ are ridiculously good, and there are moments in the first hour that are heart-stoppingly brilliant – but, for me things went adrift in the second half, and managed to sum up my feelings about the way the show has developed in general, having gone from a series I wholeheartedly loved to being a mix of astoundingly good, head-scratchingly odd and painfully dumb (sometimes within a couple of minutes of each other).

(And before I leap into this, I would like to say that in terms of actual emotional content opposed to Cylon-killing action – there were several exceptionally well-played moments in the finale, but nothing was as touching or genuinely emotional as the scene where Laura thanked Doc Cottle for keeping her alive. Beautifully played, done at exactly the right moment and far more affecting than the slightly overdone stuff at the end – it’s that kind of moment that I’ll remember about Galactica.)

But of course, this is all about what I would have done in the frankly rather scary parallel universe where I was the BSG showrunner. And I think, this is what I would have done:

  1. I wouldn’t have let the dramatic tension in the show’s overarching story drain away down the plughole.

    For me, if there’s a point where BSG jumped the shark, or at least started revving its engine in preparation for the leap, it’s when the Cylons stopped their ceaseless pursuit of the Fleet in the wake of New Caprica. When that happened, we got the lengthy (and frankly rather daft) Baltar-on-the-Base-Star plotline, and the non-stop pursuit was essentially abandoned. There’s only one more sequence where Base-Stars turn up to attack the Fleet in the entire rest of the show. Now, it’s true that shows have to evolve and change, but the show that BSG turned into without the Cylon pursuit wasn’t a particularly consistent or interesting one, littered with dull standalones (‘A Day in the Life,’ anyone?), increasingly kooky mythology and misconceived plotlines that went nowhere.

    One of the cool things about BSG when it started was that while it was prepared to be adult and intelligent and provocative, it also understood that it was a show about people in space being pursued by big-ass killer robots and evil android sex-vixens. It was able to be a pulp show at the same time as dealing with darker stuff, but the balance between those two opposites have just gotten more and more skewed as time goes by.

    And when Earth was found to be a radioactive cinder… well, that blew another bit of dramatic tension out of the water. While it did lead to the pretty damn good Mutiny plotline, it also meant that much of the last ten episodes were taken up with the Fleet dawdling around without the faintest idea of where they were going while Galactica fell apart around their ears. All very characterful, all very bleak. Not very exciting.

    BSG was at its best when doing nuts-and-bolts military SF, and taking an adult, practical approach to traditional SF problems. When it was firmly wrapped around the two main concepts from the original show (the search for Earth, and the constant pursuit of the Cylons), it was one of the best shows on TV. Without them, it got aimless, frustrating and pretentious.

  2. I wouldn’t have crammed all the action into the final episode.

    Yes, the raid on the Colony was thrilling. It also took us far too long to actually get there, as well as unbalancing the finale – by the end of the action, I was utterly exhausted and proceeded to be somewhat perplexed by what happened next. Out of the last ten episodes, only three genuinely qualified as seriously exciting – there were five whole episodes between the Mutiny and the Colony Raid, and most of these were slow, frustrating and overwritten talk-a-thons. If the journey towards the destination had been a little more exciting and satisfying, maybe people would be less disappointed, but considering the last twenty episodes were all leading up to this (and the seemingly promised revelations), I think it’s right to be a bit miffed.

  3. I’d have tried not to add in extra loose ends at a point when the series was supposed to be tying them up.

    It’s not a specific finale problem, more with the last ten episodes – but the decision by Ronald D. Moore to introduce the idea of Daniel the 13th Cylon and then constantly say in interviews “Oh yes, well people shouldn’t read anything into that at all, as Daniel isn’t really that important, it’s just to sort out a bit of continuity, really” is breathtakingly stupid. Considering how dawdling and vague much of the main arc is, and considering how often we’ve been told there are 12 Cylon models, the fact that suddenly there was another one around is pretty damn major. It’s a gigantic thing to bring into play, and like much of Galactica’s diffuse storytelling it ends up withering on the vine. And the fact that it only happened because they identified the Sharons as ‘Eights’ before they knew about the Final Five – was anyone actually worried about that particular piece of minutia? With the writing team making these sorts of bizarre priorities (“Yes! Let’s devote an entire episode to Ellen and Sol Tigh’s relationship!”) it’s no wonder that, at least for me, the final ten episodes were such a frustrating experience.

  4. I’d have tried to do the whole ‘abandoning technology and living as cavemen’ idea a bit more convincingly.

    This is the thing about the finale – the ideas are kinda sound, and they make sense in the context of the show as well in a more mythic framework. But once you get to Lee Adama saying “Hey, let’s be cavemen!” and everyone going “Okay!”, it’s obvious something has gone wrong. It’s done in a very didactic way, and in a way which I couldn’t help feeling is terribly Californian – a hippie-style “Getting back to nature, man” vibe, playing up the whole Garden of Eden imagery without making the slightest concession towards the fact that they’re basically asking 30,000 people to give up any dreams they may have had of finally settling and rebuilding their lives to be something like they were before. “Sorry folks, it’s arable subsistence farming or nothing, and I hope you weren’t attached to any of that technology as we’re going to be firing it all into the Sun!”

    For a show that used to be about approaching SF in a gritty, realist style, this is exceptionally bad- especially considering the lack of any negative reaction (but considering the lack of any continued negative reaction to the increased Cylon integration following the Mutiny, it’s hardly like this is the first time BSG has turned a blind eye to reality). There is a good idea there, but it’s being presented in such an airy-fairy “Hey, wouldn’t it be great to explore!” way that I simply can’t buy it. There’s a way to do this story without making a massive chunk of your audience go “Huh?” and this emphatically is not it.

  5. I’d also have tried to make the ‘God’ solution a little less head-spinningly crazy.

    Talking of things that make the audience go “Huh?” there were the revelations that (a) Head Six and Head Baltar are messengers of God, (b) Kara Thrace is a resurrected ghost/spirit/angel (“She’s not the Harbinger of Death! She’s a very naughty girl!”), and (c) God definitely exists, and is also a big Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix fan. Now, again the world of myth and religion was somewhere the series always seemed to be going; it has regularly (if not always consistently) dealt with the gaps between faith and rationality. But while the show might think it’s being ambiguous in leaving Kara’s nature and fate ‘to the viewer’s interpretation’, it’s actually tying it down to a ridiculous degree (How are we supposed to not think she’s a ghost/angel/messenger of God?). There’s a big difference between God possibly guiding Baltar to select the correct bombing site in S1’s ‘The Hand of God’, and discovering that the quest for Earth basically boils down to a demented scavenger hunt across the Universe set by a deity who seems to delight in messing with his creations (and which also reminds me of comedian Bill Hick’s routine about God burying fossils to test people’s faith:- “We’ll see who believes in me NOW!”). It doesn’t feel like an organic solution to the enigmas, more like a quick fix to convoluted stories that they simply couldn’t fix any other way – and it’s also hugely unsatisfying, when the series has been leading us along an epic and complicated dance with the “Starbuck is special” plotline.

    I mean- let’s just briefly look at what happens to Starbuck. She gets taught ‘All Along The Watchtower’ as a child, which has the co-ordinates for the planet we know as Earth buried inside it. She also gets given visions of the Mandala from the ‘Eye of Jupiter’ episode. She grows up into a fighter pilot. God then decides to lure her into committing suicide (using a phantom Heavy Cylon Raider). He teleports the remains of her Viper and her body to the nuked ‘Earth’. Three months later, he rustles up a brand new version of Kara, along with a sparkly new Viper, gives her lots of helpful visions that’ll turn her into an obsessed loon, but neglects to actually mention that these visions are guiding her to the wrong frakking planet, and a revelation that will nearly tear the fleet apart. And it’s only going to become obvious to her what the whole thing means when the Colony has been nuked and Galactica is on the verge of being dragged into a Black Hole, rather than at an earlier point when not quite so many people would have had to die,

    Are we actually meant to swallow all that? That’s the solution? After everything, it all boils down to ‘God moves in mysterious ways’? And what was with Head Six spending most of her time doing a very good job of conniving towards the destruction of the Fleet?

    Essentially, story arcs are an illusion. They give the image of a ‘novellistic’ story, but they’re often improvised on the fly and significantly affected by the rigours of TV production. Galactica’s arc stopped convincing me long ago, and it needed a much bigger and better solution than “Oh, it was God” to make me feel like the journey through all those less-than-thrilling episodes was genuinely worthwhile.

  6. I’d have cut the flashbacks.

    Were they nicely played? Yes (well, mostly – Baltar’s father was somewhat creaky). Did they give a few effective glimpses of the characters? Yes. Would the episode have played that much differently if they’d all been cut? Not really, no. From the clumsy ‘In the gutter and looking at the stars’ moment with puking Adama, to Laura’s audition for a Joop commercial in the fountain (‘Roslin!’ For Women!), to the retconning of Lee and Kara almost having sex on their first meeting, to the flashback that can only be referred to as “The Significant Pigeon Moment”, they left the whole thing feeling flabby and self-indulgent, and should have been a lot more effective than they actually were.

  7. I’d have severely rewritten the end scene.

    It’s not quite the Hospital-in-a-snowglobe at the end of St. Elsewhere, but the New York flash-forward was mesmerisingly bad, from Moore’s overdone cameo (which even he now agrees was a mistake) to the finger-pointing dialogue to the clumsy montage showing us that yes, technology is evil and yes, Japanese robots will soon be coming to kill us. Again, this could have worked – but it ended the series on such a weak and misconceived note that I can’t help suspecting that I dreamed it.

  8. And finally – I’d have re-introduced Muffit in a big way.

    Just to see the look on the fans’ faces…

Judy Ann Ford
Dr. Judy Ann Ford is a medieval historian at Texas A&M University-Commerce. She studies popular religion in medieval England with a secondary interest in how medieval elements are adapted in contemporary popular culture. She has published on the similarities between Rome and Tolkien’s Minas Tirith in Tolkien Studies (vol. 2, no. 1). She is co-directing the N. E. H. 2009 Summer Institute on Tolkien with Robin Anne Reid.

What interested me most at the start of the SciFi channel remake of BSG was the idea that the humans were polytheists while the Cyclons were monotheists. I was intrigued because I study the history of religion–I’m a medieval historian. I’m also an atheist–common enough among historians of religion.

There was no obvious early plot-based reason why the Cylons developed a theology, especially a theology so different from that of the colonists. It was not, for example, given as any part of their reason for the attack on the colonies–so I believed that the makers of the series saw Cylon religion as important in its own right. What I most looked forward to seeing, as the seasons unwound, was the explanation of why religious beliefs mattered.

The series did not disappoint my expectations. We had prophecy, visions, and priests enough to keep up the religious theme. We saw Baltar found found a human monotheistic church and experience a religious renewal, a renewal which, believably, took a long time for him to accept in all its implications. More importantly, the series did not fall back on a simplistic view of believers as deluded or non-believers as deluded: both parties were treated with respect. I wasn’t surprised, because producer Ronald Moore had been involved in ST: DS9, in which we were treated to the perspective of those who believed the worm hole aliens were gods and those who did not, and saw Ben gradually move from one camp to the other–which I found one of the most interesting parts of DS9.

I found the BSG series finale very satisfying. I liked the notion that “God” communicated and interacted with people in the sort of ways that one might expect from reading medieval sermons: angels, visions, and a ghost sent back from the dead with a job to complete. But what I liked best was the way that the various themes and narrative threads were resolved around the notion of variation in complex systems, specifically, the idea that if a complex system goes on long enough, variations develop in it.

The idea that complex systems, given sufficient repetition, produce variations is, of course, a foundational idea to the theory of evolution. It is scientific. It is also a common theme in science fiction as an explanation of how artificial intelligence develops self-awareness, and was used that way in this series to explain the development of the Cylons. But in BSG, the notion of variation in complex systems operated on two other important levels as well: historical and theological.

From the episode “The Razor,” the audience had been told that all of what was happening had happened before and will happen again. From that point on, from my perspective, the series became less about a human-Cylon conflict and more about a series of human-Cylon conflicts repeating themselves through history. The finale, and many of the episodes of the final season, made it clear that the essential problem our characters faced was being trapped in a repeating pattern that they needed to understand in order to break. The finale allowed the viewers to hope that the cycle was broken (through a variation in the pattern), but also gave them reason to fear that it had not. I liked the open-endedness of it.

In regard to the theological level of this theme of variation in complex systems, I loved the notion of “God” being the consciousness of nature, emerging–like Cylon self-awareness, or genetic variations–spontaneously from the sheer complexity of the universe. Like the Cylons, God’s consciousness is not a vague sense of being, but a specific personality with likes, dislikes (for example, being called “God), a plan, and a willingness to act in ways that further that plan.

I thought the series finale did a brilliant job of tying the theological threads of the show with the character threads and the human-Cylon-conflict thread. The theme of variation in a complex system was used to tie together seemingly disparate elements in what I thought was a subtle and intelligent way, and yet the tying up of threads was accomplished in such as way as the leave the viewer with a pleasing ambiguity about whether the central problem was solved or would return.

Annalee Newitz
Annalee is the editor of io9.com and the author of Pretend We’re Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture.

I hoped throughout BSG that it would turn out that humanity as we know it is descended from human-cylon hybrids. So I wouldn’t change that aspect of the ending, cheesy as it may have been. I like that the show wound up suggesting that we are all already genetically-modified organisms, we are already cyborgs. It’s a nice shoveback against futurists who are afraid of how genetic engineering will mess with our precious genome. Ha! Our genome is already the product of scientific meddling, suckers.

What I didn’t like about the ending was the turn towards a kind of vacant spiritualism and Ludditism. Why not have the Head People be computer programs that are running in Baltar and Six’s heads, perhaps implanted by an earlier generation of genetic engineers? Maybe they’re a failsafe mechanism that kicks in whenever the species is about to suffer an extinction event. And why not make Starbuck a cylon hybrid, or just use her character to introduce the idea that the resurrection technology can actually work on anybody, not just cylons? Sure these are all somewhat goofy explanations – nothing would ever really satisfy – but at least they would leave room for rationality tinged with spiritual awe, rather than spiritualism evacuated of all rationality.

I should add that I am the only person from New Earth who liked the final sequence with the Sony bots. I love the sense of warning there because the simple fact is that we *are* trying to build a race of slaves. And we are trying to make them as human as possible. So if you ignore all that angel crap, you can think of the show as ending on this note: Don’t fuck with our bots, people. One day they’ll get pissed off, put on cocktail dresses, and nuke the shit out of you.

Lou Anders
Lou Anders is an editor, author, and journalist. He is the editorial director of Prometheus Books’ science fiction imprint Pyr, as well as the anthologies Outside the Box (Wildside Press, January 2001), Live Without a Net (Roc, July 2003), Projections (MonkeyBrain, December 2004), FutureShocks (Roc, January 2006) and Fast Forward (Pyr, February 2007).

This is an interesting question. For one thing, due to extremely important life events, I was unable to watch the finale for one week, so that by the time I finally sat down with the TiVo, and even making the effort to plug my ears, I had already heard how unilaterally disappointed everyone seems to have been with it, and picked up a few spoilers too (Starbuck as a ghost, etc…) The net effect of going in with such lowered expectations was that I really enjoyed it, as it was “better than I expected” by a large degree.

The second reason that this is an interesting question is that they did end the show very much how I would have. Way back in the second season, I started telling anyone who would listen that there were a number of possible endings. These were 1) show gets canceled and there is no end (obviously undesirable), 2) show ends right when we see earth in view but before any contact/repercussions (the Star Trek: Voyager ending), 3) they find earth and it is our contemporary earth (the Galactica 1980 ending), 4) they find earth and it is a completely parallel world, perhaps Kobol, etc… (the WTF ending), or, my preferred ending, 5) they find a prehistoric earth, and all of what we think of as contemporary “humans” are the descendents of humans and Cylons. Since this is the ending they went with, and it was mine, how can I be disappointed in their choice?

What would I have done differently about that ending – nothing!

But what would I have done differently overall is an entirely different question, for while I don’t fault them for their choice of resolution, they need to take some heat on their execution.

Now, before we lay into them, Battlestar Galactica deserves credit for bringing science fiction to widespread mainstream attention, for garnering unprecedented mainstream critical praise, and for being the first science fiction show produced on the level of production, acting, cinematography, and character writing as something like an HBO-level (or perhaps now AMC-level?) of quality. This alone is a landmark achievement and ensures that Battlestar Galactica was a worthwhile and important endeavor that deserves its place in television history up there with the best of them. Where it breaks down is on the level of the overall arc of the show. No one but no one believes the Cylons ever had “a plan” to begin with, despite the forthcoming telemovie to that effect.

I believe that the praise and the blame for all this both lie squarely at the feet of Ron Moore, and his time in the trenches at Star Trek. Ron Moore was one of the best, perhaps the best, writer to emerge from 90s era Trek. And it should be noted that BSG is not the first time an SF show had mainstream attention. The Next Generation enjoyed this in its heyday, to just such a degree, if not more so. I remember seeing “Picard & Riker in ’92” bumper stickers on so many mid-prices automobiles, hearing people buzzing “Spock’s going to be on TNG” in all the coffee shops the day before Leonard Nimoy’s appearance, going to the Pasadena convention and seeing all the bright, young yuppy couples with their small children. The stigma always attached to Star Trek in specific and science fiction in general was gone for a few years, eradicated due to the incredible level of talent and dignity Patrick Stewart brought to the role, and the level of craft of the production, and the level of writing of its staff. But Trek pissed it away by deliberately dumbing down Voyager at the behest of UPN, in an effort to “broaden the appeal” and “reach beyond their demographic” (phrases which never bring anything good and which we are hearing again, aren’t we?). And how soon they forget, too! It’s been a decade and a half, but SF has these ups and downs in the mainstream (2001 anyone? The Matrix?), and BSG was just the latest such, and there will be others.

Now, what Moore brought with him from Trek that worked was the skill and talent to produce great character moments, the ability to juggle a large extended cast (pioneered on Deep Space Nine), and the ability to do tremendous mini-arcs of three or more episodes within a season (the Pegasus, New Caprica). The problem is the way that Star Trek trains its writing staff to work, which is to think in two to three arcs per season, and not in terms of multi-season arcs. In fact, Trek writers would frequently write themselves a problem at the season finale, with no idea how they would go out of it, to deliberately give them a challenge to solve when they returned next year. Which is great in the age of disposable television but problematic in this new age of ancillary markets, DVD boxed sets, and “the television series as 21st Century novel.” And which is why, ultimately the Cylons never had a plan. Or rather, had a succession of plans, season after season.

What I would have done differently then, is to have had my ending in mind from my beginning, and to have laid the seeds of that ending from day one. In other words, I would have treated the whole four years as a novel, the form that relies on, more than anything else, a beginning a middle and an end, instead of a piece of cinema, that form which traditionally feels they can jettison and rewrite the ending of a movie if it doesn’t perform for a test market, as if the ending is a completely self-contained and modular part of the story that can be swapped out with another without unbalancing the whole. What I would do is think like a novelist.

Now, novelists don’t necessarily make good screenwriters and vice-versa. They are very different skills and very different media. But what I would have done on BSG is to revive that old “Creative Consultant” title that was created for Harlan Ellison on Twilight Zone, and later retitled “Conceptual Consultant” on Babylon 5, (still the only show that, for all its faults, tells one clear, pre-planned story across its arc and quits when done). I would have brought in a noted science fiction author at the start to help plot out the whole series, then brought him or her back once or twice a year to keep things on track. This isn’t expensive–a few hundred thousand dollars would make the average science fiction novelist ecstatic–and is hardly the catering budget of a few episodes of television, but would bring a level of quality control and foresight to television science fiction that is desperately needed. That this is precisely what Stargate Universe is going to be doing with John Scalzi (not presuming his fee, only his role) is why I’ll be watching that show, and, fortunately, Scalzi actually tops my list as ideal candidate for this. (Note that I am happy to share my second and third choices with other television producers looking to follow this example.)

Now, had BSG done something like that, they might have had someone on hand to get them where they wanted to go without the obvious last minute patches, course corrections, inconsistencies, and fan outrage that they have as it stands.

But I have to say that overall I’m pretty happy with Battlestar Galactica and the overall level of quality and respect it has brought to science fiction television these past four years. We have really gained some ground. My only wish is that we don’t have to wait too many years before its accomplishment is equaled and surpassed by a successor. And I think that sentiment is one we can all agree on, or, rather, proclaim, “So say we all.”

Abigail Nussbaum
Abigail Nussbaum works as a software engineer in Tel Aviv. She blogs at Asking the Wrong Questions, and has reviewed for the Israeli magazines The Tenth Dimension and Chalomot BeAspamia, as well as Strange Horizons, Vector, The Internet Review of Science Fiction, and Infinity Plus.

It seems to me that there are two different questions here. The first is what I would have done to fix the Galactica finale, and the answer is that I wouldn’t, because there’s nothing that could have been done to make “Daybreak” a satisfying and successful ending to the series. There are changes that would have improved it – basically, lop off its entire second half, and with it an ending that was not only anti-science but anti-science fiction and perhaps even anti-humanity, a resolution that invited us to cheer at the characters committing the equivalent of mass suicide, and expected us to accept the bizarro-world logic through which they decided that the only way to keep from repeating the mistakes of the past was to forget it. But this would not have given Battlestar Galactica a satisfying ending, because by the time it came to write the series finale, such an ending was impossible. The overarching plot was too swiss-cheesed. The characters too battered by the writers’ back-and-forth about their personalities, the relationships between them, and their roles in the fleet. Most of all, the show’s universe was flimsy and under-developed, the result of too much attention paid to thin allegory and facile real-world parallels, and not enough energy diverted to making Galactica’s universe its own living creation.

So the more interesting and pertinent question is what I would have done to fix Galactica as a whole back when it was still fixable – at the middle or at the very latest end of the second season – and to that I have a couple of answers.

  1. The first thing I would do would be to make Battlestar Galactica a science fiction series, as opposed to a series that paints a thin SFnal gloss on the present day but mostly ignores its SFnal aspect other than to throw in a cool space battle every couple of episodes. When Galactica premiered it was lauded for shrugging off the Trekkian sins of technobabble and wrinkly-nosed aliens, but in the rush to embrace this new approach we all lost sight of the fact that these absences, however refreshing in themselves, were merely an expression of the writers’ complete lack of interest in exploring and developing their invented universe. Galactica’s reality was never anything more than 21st century America with spaceships, and if the issues the writers wanted to raise conflicted with their setting – Roslin’s choice to ban abortion even though 50,000 people is a sustainable population and survivors of disasters tend to want to breed, depicting her political apparatus in terms more familiar from The West Wing even though realistically she’s the mayor of a mid-sized town – that setting was ignored, to the show’s detriment. By the same token, aversion to technobabble was used to justify selling viewers on a level of absurdity in the show’s SFnal invention that would shame the writers of Doctor Who – human-form Cylons can interact directly with fiberoptic cables, but they can also breed with biological humans; Cylon blood is made of different molecules than human blood, but a Cylon can transfuse a human and in so doing, save her life (because she has no antigens – much like myself and the many other people whose blood type is AB+).
  2. A lot of respondents are probably going to say that the show should have had its story planned out from day one. I’m not sure that’s necessary. Extemporization has been at the root of a lot of great TV, and most good series rarely plan their overarching plots more than a season or even a half-season ahead. Where the Galactica writers failed, however, was first in taking extemporization to unreasonable extremes – killing Starbuck off, then bringing her back within a few episodes, for example, without knowing how or to what purpose this resurrection was achieved – secondly in continuing to pretend, long past the point where any fan still believed them, that their increasingly surreal storyline was all part of a master plan, and finally in building up expectations of twists and revelations which, due to their random plotting, they couldn’t possibly pay off in a satisfactory manner.

    So if I ran the Galactica zoo I wouldn’t necessarily demand that the writers lay out a detailed multi-season plan, but I would insist that they not pretend to be telling a different kind of story than the one they were writing. More importantly, I’d want them to know what kind of story they were telling. What they wanted to say with the show. What journeys they imagined their characters taking. Where, in the general sense, they wanted to take the series. I never got a sense that Galactica’s writers had anything like a direction for either their story or their characters. They seemed content to tell self-contained, episodic stories, and occasionally to shake the snowglobe, only for most of the flakes to end up roughly where they’d started. A story mapped out from beginning to end isn’t a necessary ingredient of good television, but some idea of a direction is.

  3. Finally, if I were running Battlestar Galactica I would want the show to have some guts. Wait, I hear you say, this is Galactica, of the Tough Questions – but that’s just it. The show was great at asking questions, but never tried to answer them, or to imagine what would happen to its characters if they chose a certain answer. Adama and Roslin plot to assassinate the fleet’s ranking officer? A convenient Cylon commits the murder just after Adama backs off, leaving his and Roslin’s consciences clear but getting rid of the problem. Roslin decides to attack the Cylons with a genocidal plague? Helo kills the plague carriers, rendering the issue moot. Adama and Roslin sign a wildly unpopular treaty with the renegade Cylons which sparks a mutiny? The mutineers turn out to be murderers and are quickly defeated, as the rest of the fleet sits back and allows the treaty to go forward. Adama orchestrates a military coup, Roslin loses the election to Baltar, but within a few episodes of these upheavals everything is back to normal, and the characters are all more or less where they started.

    For Galactica to remain the show that asked Tough Questions, it had to avoid anything like an answer, lest it be forced away from this starting position. But science fiction is all about imagining the answers to fantastic questions, and a story that’s trying to go somewhere has to make some choices and dismiss others. The one quality, therefore, that I think would have made the difference between the spoiled promise of the Galactica we got and the excellence of the show we might have had is courage – the courage to be more than an allegory, more than the darling of mainstream TV writers and political pundits. The courage to be good science fiction.

Joel Shepherd
Joel Shepherd was born in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1974, but when he was seven his family moved to Perth in Western Australia. He studied film and television at Curtin University but realized that what he really wanted to do was write stories. His first manuscript was short-listed for the George Turner Prize in 1998, and Crossover was short-listed in 1999. Visit Joel Shepherd’s Web site at www.joelshepherd.com.

I can’t answer the question specifically, because here in Australia we’re yet to see any of Season Four. But I can answer the question in terms of what I’d have done differently for the three seasons I’ve seen so far.

BSG went downhill badly in Season Three. It started with the move to New Caprica, which enabled the writers to do a series of plotlines which, given America’s situation in Iraq at the time, gained them accolades of how ‘daring’ and ‘relevant’ they were. This in turn got them recently invited to the United Nations to talk about conflict resolution and such… which is all very nice, to see an SF show being taken so seriously (maybe the UN were hoping some of BSG’s credibility would rub off onto them) but I’m sure everyone would have been happier had the show’s ratings held up, and it hadn’t been cancelled.

To me, BSG’s problems are structural, and come from too little foundation. In other words, the writers didn’t know what was going on, or why things were happening like they were, and were just making it up as they went. The cylons didn’t really have a plan, Galactica was just going around in circles, and there was no long-term planning to figure where the show was going, or why.

Instead, the writers became stuck on the short term… which is always a temptation on TV, because you have to create a certain amount of shock and drama in every episode. But the problem with this kind of writing is that it leads to creative short cuts. Yes, the diversion to New Caprica enabled them to get some short term impact from their daring suicide bombing plotlines, but it did so at the expense of the broader plot structure. Previously, the cylons wanted to annihilate humanity. Now, in order to make New Caprica happen, the cylons want to coexist with humanity. How can they do both? The writers had to make woolly compromises, the whole cylon backstory became more clunky and convoluted, and the show’s dramatic focus began to fade.

That doesn’t mean the cylons had to be typical ‘bad guys’, and it doesn’t mean having some ‘good cylons’ isn’t a good idea — it is. But the moral power of the first two seasons came from the fact that humanity had just survived a holocaust. The moral questions raised by this are extremely dramatic, and create a certain moral clarity where the perpetrators of that holocaust are concerned, as anyone Jewish could tell you. But the writers evidently became infatuated with this New Caprica plotline, and had to make compromises with the show’s central premise to make it happen, and suddenly the show’s focus starts to drift, as does its moral clarity. And now it’s ‘well, it wasn’t such a bad holocaust really, was it?’.

Similar short-termism began to infect the rest of the show. The whole ‘anyone could be a cylon’ meme is good for a short-term thrill, but becomes tedious quite fast, particularly when the placement of these human-cylons depends entirely upon the cylons’ ‘plan’, which is now fuzzy and muddled at best. And worst of all, the characters began showing traits of truly exasperating narcissism.

Now narcissism can be a great thing in characters, and all great characters are probably self-obsessed to some degree (House being the best television example). Self-obsessed characters create exciting conflict, because they are driven by personal demons into dangerous situations, and they rarely compromise. But Galactica is a military ship, on a mission to save humanity from extinction. And if everyone in the US military were half as selfish as the characters on BSG, they’d never have won a war, the United States would no longer exist, and no one would care because they’d have observed these self centered prima donnas doing the fighting and decided that they didn’t deserve to win anyway. The characters endless cynicism for any broader cause (remember Helo yelling at Apollo in Season Three ‘screw the mission, that’s my wife out there!’) means that we the audience become similarly uninspired. If the characters don’t care about their mission, why should we? Again, the short term drive to create moment-by-moment drama has triumphed over the need for consistency and focus over the long term.

If it had been my show, I’d have figured out all those background details in advance — who the cylons really are, what they want, where humanity is headed, how the series will end, and why. Then, I’d have stuck to it, no matter what. Once a show like BSG starts to drift and lose focus, it’s over.

Chris Dolley
Chris Dolley is the author of Resonance and Shift, a pioneer computer games designer, and the man who convinced the UK media that Cornwall had risen up and declared independence. His website is: www.humor.me.uk/mambo.

First off let me state that I enjoyed the three part finale. Could it have been better – definitely. Was it a sell out? Did it suck? Categorically, no.

A lot has been said about the overtly religious aspects of the ending but, to me, that debate has more to do with the viewpoints of the commentators than the actual show. ‘Christians’ saying atheists can’t stomach Starbuck being an angel and hard SF fans upset by so many Dei Ex Machina. Why couldn’t Starbuck be a wormhole alien!

But what commentators seem to forget is that BSG has had a strong ‘fantasy’ element from the beginning. There are prophecies that come true, dreams and visions too. The finding of the temple, the locating of the first ‘Earth’ – all were achieved through inspiration rather than calculation. And Starbuck was central to them all. Roslin may have had the dreams but it was Starbuck who found the arrow and the path to both Earths. So what’s wrong with her being more than human?

In Star Trek she might have been called Q or lived in a wormhole. In Stargate she would have been an ascended being. But just because the BSG writers didn’t spell it out doesn’t mean she has to be an angel in the Judeo-Christian sense. The same goes for Head Six and Head Baltar – you can interpret them any way you wish. Angels or aliens. Paraphrasing the now ascended Arthur C – any sufficiently advanced being is indistinguishable from an angel. Well maybe the wings are a bit of a giveaway:)

But what did get me about the ending is the speed in which the whole fleet decided to turn their backs on technology and go back to nature. What the frak! Now I’m a person who, when restoring a dilapidated house, lived for a year without hot water and six months without a toilet you didn’t have to dig a large pit for and I can tell you it’s not something you do if you have an alternative. And this was a fleet that had a history of mutiny, factions and civil war. They’d never all decide to get rid of medical facilities, technology etc to rough it in on a planet. This came across as a heavy handed way to make the series fit with the Eve/Hera ending – there are no Vipers in the fossil record therefore everything has to go into the sun and the fleet have to abandon technology. I’d have plumped for the Atlantis scenario. Let’s build our city but we’ll build it on that nice volcanic island over there close to the ready source of geothermal energy:)

My second nit-pick about the three-part ending was the large number of flashbacks. Why have them? Flashbacks in a finale are an interruption only to be used if they add to coming scenes. I don’t think these did – especially the Roslin, Adama ones.

And lastly we come to tone. One of BSG’s strengths has been the dark, gritty tone to the series. Bad things happen, people die and the survivors struggle on against the odds. I was expecting that to continue into the ending with one, maybe several, of the major characters laying down their lives. My banker being Colonel Tigh stepping into the path of a bullet meant for the Admiral. But the ending seemed too easy. They go on a suicide mission into the heart of Cylon space, achieve all their objectives and return without losing the ship or a major character.

Maybe the writers decided they’d suffered enough.

Me, I’d have put them through another wringer. Have Cavil escape and follow them to Earth to add that extra surprise just when you thought everyone had survived. Cue last battle and plenty of derring-do.

And if you think the ending to BSG was controversial check out the ending to Blake’s Seven. That was one of the weirdest and most unexpected series endings ever.

Andre Susanne
Andre Susanne has taught within the UC system at a variety of campuses for multiple departments since 2001. She has been a fan of SF since she was a child and currently does work on gender and the alien other in SF film and TV primarily.

Before I start I want to qualify my response in two ways 1) I have only seen the finale once and 2) this is more of a fan response than an academic one. I think I would have finished the stories of two of the main female characters, Starbuck (Kara Thrace) and President Roslin, better and more completely. I found both of their ends unsatisfying and more than of a bit of cheat. Roslin was such a central figure throughout the series and in the finale she literally just slips away unnoticed even by Adama. I would have had Roslin, in her dying days, make the decision, one she had been considering for some time, regarding a human/cylon truce based on the realization that hybridity, that Hera would indeed be the face of the future for human and Cylon alike. Though a deal is briefly brokered with Cavil, it is quickly broken when Tyrol discovers the truth about his wife’s death. I would have made it a more significant part of the finale. In my version Roslin would have ushered in a new, if not utopic era of human/machine merging in and attempt to envision a more hopeful alternative for both–one that scholars like Donna Haraway and Carnegie Mellon robotics researcher Hans Moravec have been written about and championing for years. The merging does come to pass as the newspaper article suggesting that Hera is the ancestor of everyone indicates, but I would have made it a conscious decision instead of a result of evolution.

As for Kara, she often said in season four that she didn’t know what she was anymore and I think that is true of the character as far back as their liberation from New Caprica. Her character becomes more and more erratic and her motivations confused so that her character, which started out promisingly, turns into more of a plot device than an actualized individual. No real explanation is presented regarding her finding her own body and still being around to help the humans. A colleague of mine suggested that the series was getting far more metaphysical and religious and that Kara and the virtual Caprica and Giaus were instruments of fate, stand-ins for angels, or even angels and perhaps this is so, but it just didn’t work for me. The scene in the finale where she says good-bye to Lee and then is just gone is hokey at best and left me feeling as if they simply couldn’t find a way to explain the event or indeed she was simply a narrative device by that point and when her usefulness was over she simply and quite literally disappeared from the narrative. I would have given the character and the viewer more closure one way or another. And that, since you asked, is basically what I would have done differently.

Paul Levinson
Paul Levinson’s The Silk Code won the 2000 Locus Award for Best First Novel. He has since published Borrowed Tides (2001), The Consciousness Plague (2002), The Pixel Eye (2003), and The Plot To Save Socrates (2006). His science fiction and mystery short stories have been nominated for Nebula, Hugo, Edgar, and Sturgeon Awards. His eight nonfiction books, including The Soft Edge (1997), Digital McLuhan (1999), Realspace (2003), and Cellphone (2004), have been the subject of major articles in the New York Times, Wired, the Christian Science Monitor, and have been translated into nine languages. New New Media will be published in 2009. Paul Levinson appears on “The O’Reilly Factor” (Fox News), “The CBS Evening News,” the “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” (PBS), “Nightline” (ABC), and numerous national and international TV and radio programs. He reviews the best of television in his InfiniteRegress.tv blog. Paul Levinson is Professor and Chair of Communication & Media Studies at Fordham University in New York City.

Actually, I was thrilled with the finale, but not with every aspect of it. Here, in order of importance, are what I would have done differently:

  1. A better explanation of Kara – because, the finale pretty much provided no explanation. She disappears in mid-sentence, talking to Lee. So, does this mean she’s an angel – like the angelic Six and Baltar? But everyone saw Kara, in contrast to Six and Baltar being the only ones to see their angelic partners. Ok, maybe Kara’s a different kind of angel – one who is seen by everyone. But Kara did real things – constantly – flying vipers, killing Cylons, etc., etc. And how can an incorporeal angel have impact on the real world? (The Baltar and Six angels only had psychological impact on their real-life counterparts.)
  2. I frankly was less than thrilled with any angels in the story – but, ok, I can live with that, and don’t really know how else I could’ve explained Baltar and Six’s apparitions.
  3. And a minor quibble: I would have liked to have been given, and would provide if I were calling the shots, a little more clarification about where this new Earth – our Earth – was, in relation to the atomically ruined Earth we saw earlier. I had the impression that the post-nuclear Earth was our Earth, in the exact same part of the galaxy – but maybe it was just the third planet around a similar sun.

And that’s about it. There was a lot in the finale I loved – especially Hera as our mitochondrial Eve, Helo and good Sharon happy together, and the sad but very satisfying ending for Bill and Laura. See my Not Goodbye But See You Around for more – and my expectation that Battlestar Galactica will now start to take its place along with Star Trek as one of the Shakespearean science fiction television epics that will been seen and enjoyed for centuries to come.

Jayme Lynn Blaschke
Jayme Lynn Blaschke’s fiction has appeared in Interzone and assorted anthologies. He’s the former fiction editor of RevolutionSF.com, and is currently the media director for Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. A collected volume of his SF-themed interviews, Voices of Vision: Creators of Science Fiction and Fantasy Speak, is available from the University of Nebraska Press. Blaschke lives in Texas and maintains a blog at http://jlbgibberish.blogspot.com as well as participates in the group blog No Fear of the Future at http://nofearofthefuture.blogspot.com/.

I, for one, didn’t hate the ending of the show. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected. It wasn’t a pimple on the ass of the brilliant first season, either. “Daybreak” was leavened with equal parts pretentiousness and self-importance (what the hell was up with all those tedious, character-developing flashbacks? This ain’t Lost, people!), but despite that, I believe the finale that aired was the best possible outcome, given the convoluted morass the show had descended into the past couple of seasons. And yes, that is damning with faint praise.

In hindsight, the “New Earth” the surviving Colonials found had always been part of Ron Moore’s narrative thread. In the media blitz leading up to the airing of the original miniseries, amidst all the fan outrage of horny Cylons and Starbuck becoming a girl, an errant bit of trivia in a select few articles slipped beneath the radar of many fans: The Colonists weren’t going to flee to Earth, as it had been devastated millennia before in a nuclear war. Somehow, I suspect that piece of information was not intended for the press junket, but it does show that Moore had a destination in mind when he launched his “Rag-tag fugitive fleet.” The only trouble is that he abandoned his star map somewhere around the time the fleet colonized New Caprica and from that point on all major plot developments were determined by whatever song Moore had playing on his MP3 player at the moment.

It was painfully obvious when the whole “Final 5” concept was introduced to the series that it’d been cut from whole cloth with little forethought or narrative groundwork. Colonel Tigh and rest of the gang deciding to have a rousing sing-a-long of old Hendrix tunes was the biggest bullshit plot twist since Patrick Duffy woke up in the shower and decided it was all a dream. Building up Starbuck as the “Harbinger of Death” was all well and good until it came time to put up or shut up. It’s fun to throw out random nonsense and not worry about it making sense until the time comes where you have to tie everything together-and the writers couldn’t. They took the coward’s way out, deus ex machina.

Magic happened. And not the good kind that flows from the pen of a writer on a roll. The sloppy kind that leads to Ships of Light and Robbie Rist in Lennon specs shepherding the survivors of humanity into a soft white future filled with hi-key lighting. Only we didn’t get Ships of Light in Daybreak part 1, 2 or 3. Heck, we didn’t even get Robbie Rist (and seriously, how much could he have cost?). Instead, we get a space battle that wasn’t worthy to hold the jock of the last ride of the Pegasus, Starbuck frakking disappearing and the Colonials interbreeding with moronic cavemen. The only thing missing was Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect observing that the entire Colonial population consisted of hairdressers, insurance salesmen and telephone earpiece sanitizers.

Moore and his writing staff didn’t respect the writing process. Drunk on the seemingly unlimited critical acclaim rolling in, they gave in to hubris. This random plot thread I just pulled out of my ass doesn’t make sense? Screw it! We’re such great writers, we’ll figure it out eventually. What? It contradicts what we’ve already established? thumps chest Great writing should not be hamstrung by slavish adherence to continuity! Besides, haven’t you heard? We’re great writers-we’ll figure it out eventually.

“Daybreak” was as good as it possibly could have been, but given a little discipline and forethought, it could have been so much more. A dose of humility early on and far less contempt for the viewers would’ve gone a long way towards turning a merely okay series finale into a great one.

Iain Clark
Iain Clark has contributed a number of genre TV and film reviews to Strange Horizons. He lives in the North of England with his wife and two cats, who feed him most of his best ideas.

As drama there’s much to enjoy in Battlestar Galactica‘s three part finale. The flashbacks remind us both that writer Ronald D Moore is adept in character drama and has some excellent actors at his disposal. The series retains its knack for sidestepping the normal conventions of SF TV and borrowing mainstream tropes, yet it still manages to deliver big battles, spectacular effects and human drama. On many levels, I quite enjoyed it. But it also does one other crucial thing: it draws all the plot threads and themes of the series to a close. And it does it really badly.

I have great respect for Ronald D Moore as a writer. His episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine often rank among the most enduring episodes of those series, and First Contact is certainly the best modern Trek movie. His subsequent work on shows as diverse as Good vs Evil, Roswell and Carnivale only cemented my opinion that he can crank out an hour of dramatic television with the best of them. What’s become apparent in his role as Writer/Producer on BSG, however, is that his strengths are on the level of an individual installment, not the long view.

The problem with Galactica‘s finale is the one that has plagued the series since its earliest days: the writers making it up as they go. At every level from the micro (character arcs) to the macro (how biologically indistinguishable are humans and Cylons?) there seems to be a complete lack of clarity in the writer’s minds. Rather than evolve gradually, characters and plots go unmentioned for months then suddenly lurch into a new status quo in the space of a single episode. Major resentments in the fleet flare up without the need for groundwork or foreshadowing, and go silent with equal abruptness. Even story arcs as central as Kara’s death, rebirth and destiny appear to be completely ad hoc. Eventually, cumulatively, we’re led to a situation where it’s difficult to care. When the level of narrative contrivance is such that anything can happen or be forgotten in the space of a week, then nothing matters.

In fact, late Season 4 made a remarkable attempt to retroactively make sense of every self-contradictory fact previously established about the Cylons and their ‘plan’, albeit one so convoluted that most viewers surely couldn’t follow it. However there are some aspects of the series that, it transpires, simply can’t be made sense of in any other way than to declare them miracles. So Baltar’s hallucinations, always poised on a knife edge between the Cylon and the mystical, have by now become so impossible that they can only be resolved by making them wholeheartedly angelic. There’s arguably nothing wrong with mysticism in SF; Deep Space Nine embraced the dual view of the Bajoran Prophets as gods and wormhole aliens, and Galactica itself has long dabbled with apparently mystical visions and prophecies, much as Babylon 5 did before it. The problem with Galactica is that in the finale these become not just one possible explanation for events but the only possible explanation for events. They are in effect a plot fix, the archetypal deus ex machina. They add nothing to the characters, the universe or its themes. They simply bridge the gaping holes left by four years of seat-of-the-pants plotting that suddenly have to be tied up with a neat bow as if they were intended from the start.

Not everything is waved away by theology, of course. Some things are just waved away. After years of the rag tag survivors of humanity counting every birth and death, they apparently see no problem in half their number volunteering for a suicide mission. After years of bitter political disputes, mutinies, terrorists and cults, not one human survivor appears to object to the idea of adopting an agrarian existence. Or sending all of their habitation, power, tools and medical care into the sun . Or appointing an insane bit part lawyer as President. This is a group of people who have never had a unanimous thought in their lives, yet they obligingly agree all of these things without protest.

It’s almost as if they know it’s the last episode.

About Karen Burnham (82 Articles)
Karen is vocationally an engineer and avocationally a sf/f reviewer and critic. She has worked on the Orion and Dream Chaser spacecraft and written for SFSignal, Strange Horizons, and Locus Magazine.

20 Comments on MIND MELD: If We Ran Battlestar Galactica

  1. I’m not surprised that the ending of BSG didn’t make a lot of sense because the whole series didn’t make a great deal of sense. The writers were obsessed with making BSG “relevant” to today’s events, like the Iraq war, rather than telling a coherent SF story. It had great acting, a great tone, but the characters had the strategic sense of drunk ducks because each episode had some pungent plot point that fit the news headlines but not the series story.

    You’re being chased by creatures who cannot die and who want to kill or enslave you across the galaxy. You’re the only group of your race left. So half of you decide to set up a colony without any military support, and then are terribly surprised when the Cylons show up to take over?

    Suicide bombings from that small population that can’t afford human losses against an enemy that cannot be terrorized and can regenerate itself to symbolically take out a puppet president who can be replaced by the Cylons in two minutes and no one likes anyway so no one cares if he dies? You only have a handful of pilots and no easy way to replace them — so shoot one out an airlock for making a mistake in how he tried to save people. You find a virus that can finally save the entire human race, and you don’t use it. WTF? Oh, but it’s like Iraq, you see, so it’s “good.”

    Well, it wasn’t good. Most of the episodes were crap and recycled military plots that have been done on t.v. or film dozens of times, as they tried desperately to avoid a SF label to the point of making the Cylons the ones to root for because as Waco-like cultists, they at least had a clearly delineated goal. And of course, they pretty much threw out the SF altogether in favor of fantasy. BSG relied on shock value (look, Starbuck’s a girl!) and pimping their female actors at every opportunity. I give them points for trying stuff, but BSG was always sizzle, not steak — emotional fireworks that weren’t real. Which is exactly what they gave fans in the end. You untied the pretty red bow and there was nothing in the box. To fix the ending, you would have had to fix the series from the first season, when they decided grabbing people’s attention was more important than logic.

     

  2. I really hope that next time Chris Roberson tells us how he really feels. I thought he was holding something back…

    πŸ™‚

    As for me, I would have loved an ending, involving the Cylons’ “plan”, that was aking to the motivation behind the Shrike in Hyperion. That would have made a cool, and extremely SF, ending. Instead we get robots made by Sony (and their evil proprietary ways, darn you Sony!)

    Greatest SF series ever? No. Greateset SF series first season ever? Quite possibly.

  3. I was going to comment about the third line of JP’s comment. But…he’s been on my case lately about this sort of thing, so I’ll just wait for somebody else to point out the obvious.

     

    πŸ™‚

  4. Pete Tzinski // April 1, 2009 at 11:26 am //

    So here’s a different question: With BSG ended and all told, endings good and bad…would you recommend it to someone who’d never seen it before? Was it overall good enough for the recommendation?

     

     

  5. Pistachio T Wildebeest // April 1, 2009 at 11:32 am //

    Have to agree with Chris Roberson on this one. Obviously it started to go off the rails with a season to go, but still the finale was shockingly awful, with the unfortunate effect of retroactively undoing much of what the made the series good. It’s hard to imagine watching the series again, knowing that behind every strand that appeared to be well thought out, a Wizard did it. That’s just amateurish, bringing a Wizard on stage to fix the holes writing, calling it an explanation and hoping an air of spirituality will give it some credibility. What started as an example of great Science Fiction ended not only as bad Science Fiction, but bad Fiction regardless of genre.

    Not to mention: the Colonial’s fate is portrayed as a Happy Ending. It’s anything but. Forty thousand people last seen arguing over how to divide up the last tube of toothpaste made the bizarre decision to give up everything they’d fought to save: not just their culture, but everything that kept them alive. Evidently they all died, very quickly, probably as their infant mortality went through the roof and the older colonists started to die of otherwise preventable diseases. Their descendents didn’t even have language for another hundred thousand years. Within a few generations Hera’s pitiful descendents were mating with preverbal cavemen. Roll credits.

  6. Pete Tzinski // April 1, 2009 at 11:36 am //

    Actually, what’s suddenly got me tempted to watch BSG is all the discussion of the religion and mythology stuff in it, and specifically the complaints. It sounds like it tried a lot of the same things Babylon 5 did, but didn’t succeed (why, I dunno, I haven’t seen BSG; have seen B5 enough times to memorize it, though). If I had to make an in-the-dark guess, it was because B5 would bring it up, make a point, then let it go and move on. It sounds like BSG tried to build too much on top of a shaky platform, instead of just making interesting points in the background.

    But I dunno, I’ve not seen it. Curious to now. And then write a long, blithering article for SF Signal about comparisons and contrasts between B5 and BSG, just to bother all you lot. πŸ˜‰

  7. An interesting set of points. I fall in both camps. Aside from the breezeblock subtle tactics of the last five minutes, I really enjoyed the finale. I found the use of higher beings and the cycle of life happening over and over seemed to neatly conclude what was important to be concluded – as with the original show, we are – apparently – influenced by higher forces, though we weave a destiny within their control. The cycle is tight, and while can be broken to some degree, appears to be controlled by those higher forces. That seemed to answer pretty much everything – since everything could now fall into “God(s) move in mysterious ways”. Something are a little crazy (Starbuck’s legacy, as Saxon rightly points out), but hey, whose to say why a deity does as they do? The Bible is repleat with contradictions, why not BSG?

    As for the rest (what happened to X? why did Y do Z in a particular episode).. I don’t think it matters. Even JMS, master of pre-planning liked the idea of not answering every question because in life, every question is never answered. So yes, many mysteries – but that seems to fall into BSG’s “real” remit.

    Civilisation abandoning technology? I’ve heard a few complain about this.. granted it was glossed over given the radical nature of the issue (and in favor of wrapping up the characters over the niggly political questions), but given these are a people fleeing genocide for 4 odd years in rust buckets, not seeing the light of day, with their own technological creations hounding them and Baltar eulogising about faith in their ears… to me, I could see the masses embracing a ridiculously hard shift in their culture away from technology. There would come a point where I think faith takes over, where people left to suffer in depravity (like the Ore ship) would have to believe that any portent of hope is more than chance. I think finding a fresh new world could be seen as a sign to leave the practical reminders of your doomed history behind and start again. I could see the idea spreading through a fatigued fleet like wildfire, and people supporting the hard road unbound from technology. I imagine there would be those (the sensible ones) who’d argue otherwise, but let’s face it, when the masses decide something, no matter how crazy/hypocritical/emotive, its hard to stop them – particularly when the echelons are equally affected. Certainly not the only outcome, but I think it’s a swallowable one.

    Which I have to say is the crunch – what’s digestible. While I loved this finale and feel it did give what I expected a show that had a luke warm relationship with sci-fi would offer in its ending. The nuances wouldn’t be answered, and the resolutions would be more character based that plot orientated. But I do agree with what 90% of the writers here have said, that the show’s greatest mistake was the lack of pre-planning and the almost arbitary reasoning that any situation posed could probably be resolved later on when they go round to it. By season four, this very fluid approach to storytelling was showing signs of weakness – and perhaps the show hadn’t bitten off more than it could chew within its “realistic” constraints.

    But then those elements quite possibly kept the show alive. The Final Five storyline did feel contrived, but it did generate a fresh mode for the show to travel. New Caprica was a bold move to unstitch formulating dynamics and give the character inter-relationships a bold new direction. For me, I always felt BSG had a naturally short benchlife, because there is only so far you can realitistically dramatize the perpetual and circular nature of running from a more powerful foe before the audiences either lose interest or get too depressed to watch. You either shake things up or end early. I would say a realistic show like Galactica probably did only have a couple of seasons without the more soapy orientation that began in season three. When I look back at the characters, I don’t really see any avenue not touched by season three. After New Caprica, I loved the show as much as before, but was aware the show did feel like it was looking to find longevity in characters that had really spent their course (Balter, Roslin and Lee Adama to name three).

    And to prolong any show longer than it naturally demands, I think one needs preplanning – and I think if BSG made any mistake in taking the show to four seasons, it was not structuring itself to manage such a difficult task with a show that is naturally too tense, too depressing and too confined to make such a journey ad hoc.

  8. Much of how I reacted to the BSG closing episodes has already been said above via Chris Roberson’s comments, and others. I just have one frakk’n question…can someone please explain how Ron Moore possibly thought the ending he wrote could **possibly** become accepted by the majority of BSG’s fan base, and not have viewers think he was either:

    a) off his head

    b) wildly drunk

    c) gone insane

    d) all of the above

    …for writing the season finale he asked us all to swallow? Oh, and there’s always option e) that he was bribed to write a piece of trash, that went coldly in the face of all the good, cutting edge story telling he did in the first 2-3 seasons! Do I have any takers on option e? At least, $$$ corruption would make SENSE. Unlike the finale…

    Can someone PLEASE comment on this? I watched the season finale 4 times, trying to make sense of it, that, somehow…in there somewhere, it all made sense. But, it doesn’t…

    Ron, I bowed to your ability to take us down gritty, human alley-ways we’d not seen in other sci-fi series of the past, but this was just a disgraceful way to end a very promissing and realistic sci-fi series!

     

  9. Kid Rock // April 2, 2009 at 11:03 am //

    I want the Centurions they released to come back, wipe out the rest of the humans and just take over so that such lame writing never happens ever again anywhere in the Universe.

    BTW, does anyone have ANY idea where “our” Earth is in relation to their Earth and the Twelve Colonies?  Can it possibly be in the same galaxy?  Was Adama serious about the one million light years comment?  Because if he was, the Milky Way is only 100,000 light years across and all nearby galaxies are either much closer or much further than 1 million light years.

    Did Ron Moore and Friends not bother to do a little basic astronomical research, either, all in the name of characters over scientific accuracy?

     

  10. I would like to respond to the comments by various writers on this thread about whether 38,000+ people would happily throw off their technology, in the face of having fled a holocaust, being on their own, tired, being pursued by an implacable enemy, and traveling with limited supplies & options…etc.

    I live in Southern NH. This past winter we had quite probably one of the worst ice-snow storms we’ve had in over a decade. People went without heat, light, electricity, and in many cases…running water for the better part of a week to two weeks.

    Generators were scarce, and people acted very uncharacteristically. (Think the way people acted after Katrina in New Orleans, but not quite that desparate)

    This storm affected about a million people in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

    I can tell you all with absolute confidence, that seeing the lights come back on, and the heat return to all of ours homes, was not only a joyous moment, it was a moment we won’t forget for a long time to come. Even with wood stoves burning to keep part of our homes warm, this was a great burden that people of all ages had to find ways to cope with, and endure. Some…didn’t endure. They died. And, suffice it to say, the utility companies won’t be forgetting this storm for quite some time.

    I am bringing this up, because I’m trying to imagine any of my neighbors, gleefully walking down into their basements and chopping up their central heating units or taking a blow torch to their PCs, or casting their cars into the junk yard…all so they could repent and save their souls from past deeds done by either themselves during their lives, or by their direct ancestors.

    I’m sorry. I don’t buy it. People trapped on a planet with no means to fend for themselves, or people trapped in homes via a power outage have one thing in common: they need to survive, and you don’t do that by casting off that which has allowed you to survive up to that point. You do it by making the technology better and lasting as long as possible. You do it by performing maintenance on said technology, and making sure it sticks around for a while. You don’t cast it into the sun, or anywhere else! If BSG wanted to be realistic about this idea at all, it should have had a full blown rebellion in the fleet itself when such a thought was introduced!

    President Lambkin was the only one to mention it, and Adama brushed him off talking about a need for a clean slate. Bill, (aka; Ron Moore) you dissapointed all of us at that point.

    So again, Ron, I ask you…what the hell were you thinking? Or, is that the answer to all of this BSG soul searching many here have been doing? You…WEREN’T! Saying that faith offers hope where this is none, and that justifies the above…is rather lame. I realize hope is important, but, again, I don’t know anyone who would prefer to sleep out in the bushes to supposedly help their soul, if they had the choice of sleeping in a warm home with food while they try to figure out what they did wrong in their past.

    Try living without any modern conveniences for a week or two, in the middle of winter, when it’s 10 degrees outside or colder, with a family of 3 or more, and you might come to terms with the fact that Moore’s version of a perverbial piece of…uhemm…you get the picture.

  11. Well I like Roberson’s alternate plotline/ending. I don’t know how they would do it on the series, though, unless they started with it from the beginning. Apparently, Moore says he was inspired to make it angels and God by a cup of coffee that spilled on paper and the stain resembled Michaelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel painting of God and Adam. So he decided to go with that, and he doesn’t understand what having a story that was all due to God has to do with religion. Nor does he see the ending as anti-technology. He just wanted to have that cute robot at the end. (Brief interview on Tor.com.) So I’m starting to understand why BSG had the problems it had.

    That doesn’t change the fact that the actors were terrific, the dialogue was often very good, there were some neat ideas along the way, and yeah, the first season was pretty fascinating. It’s a landmark series. But unfortunately, like too many series, it fell apart because the writers/producers didn’t really care about the characters and coherency. On the upside, the show did pull so many people in who otherwise might never have watched a SF show. So for all my harping about how the Iraq parallel didn’t work, maybe it did some good in the end. The religious end, Moore. C’mon, please. 

     

  12. Kid Rock // April 3, 2009 at 2:56 pm //

    KatG said:

    “Apparently, Moore says he was inspired to make it angels and God by a cup of coffee that spilled on paper and the stain resembled Michaelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel painting of God and Adam. So he decided to go with that, and he doesn’t understand what having a story that was all due to God has to do with religion. Nor does he see the ending as anti-technology. He just wanted to have that cute robot at the end. (Brief interview on Tor.com.) “

    Please tell me this was a slightly late April Fool’s joke on your part – please!

    Otherwise – oy vey!

     

  13. Kid: yes, that was one of tor.com’s April Fool’s entries. No worries!

  14. SF journal — Thanks for doing this! The insights of your contributors made for a very interesting read. I’d like to second Lou Anders suggestion for the role of creative consultant. I’m more optimistic about Stargate Universe after reading his post.

  15. Kid Rock // April 6, 2009 at 8:28 am //

    Thank you, Karen B!  Though the fact that Moore did as poorly as he did with the ending made me honestly wonder for a moment or ten.

     

     

  16. I will make sure not to buy anything from the authors who liked the BSG ending.  Is it any wonder science fiction isn’t more mainstream when we put up with crap like the BSG ending?  It’s bad enough the Sci Fi (no I’m not using the new name) channel puts out those weekly craptastical movies, but to ruin a legit show like BSG….is just crushing.

  17. Ftatateetah // April 24, 2009 at 4:29 am //

    Some things were so well done in the first two seasons and part of the 3rd that you just grit your teeth when others fall flat. What I realize is that the stretch-and-snap effect of most series really ruins the overall arch of most. They never know as they start a season if they will be allowed to continue for another season, so they start all guns blazing and it looks like a lot will happen; then 1/3 through they are told, yes, we’ll have another — then they start to dawdle and delay everything making pointless episodes, to then sort of “snap” it back towards the end of the season to create a cliffhanger and then they do it all over again in the next.

     

    Also I think they are too influenced by what the audience is thinking and what the blogs are saying. If they had a plan and someone guessed it in a blog, ooops, plan B, or throw some dust in their eyes or a variation thereof.

     

    All of which probably creates this loss of threads or payoffs which are disappointing.

    I was very disappointed!!! 

     

    I must say right off that Cavil’s speech  was the best thing about the whole thing. His frustration was fantastic, and fantastically expressed. And here goes the problem with everything. This is almost what Blake said about Milton, that he was of the devil’s party and did not know it because Satan in Paradise Lost was such a great, complex character and God, Adam, Eve, the angels so boring…

     

    Throughout the series, and through the highs and lows, I loved the intelligence of it.  How the machines were monotheistic and humans were sort of polytheistic or almost pagan at times, how the Cylons were doing “ethnic cleansing” because they thought humans were just not good enough and had made a mess of everything; then the turnaround of the machines that became confused by their human feelings. This whole debate of good vs evil being very grey and the borders always switching was very, very smart. It was complex throughout, and I expected a complex ending.

     

    What did we get?

     

    – For the second half of Season 3 and Season 4 one of the best characters, Baltar, is practically dropped. What happened to him? Did he really have a sort of mystical experience or was he just pretending so as to get away with what he had done? They seem to be setting us up for the first option in a crescendo, his own confusion being attracted and almost hoping to be a Cylon (that would make sense, he is a scientist and would be attracted to the power and knowledge of the machines), then he seems to be losing his mind, interesting, where is that going, wishing to be a God or a machine maybe too much for him and then…splatter. The guy just seems to have created a cult where he can screw beautiful young girls and he goes on and on like that until all of a sudden he has a “change of heart” (why? because of Caprica??) and decides to fight for the humans and gives that utterly absurd speech to Cavil that is horrifically unconvincing, especially at that moment with everyone standing there, gun to the child’s head (resolution used in most bad films) etc…What happened to the Baltar who was so interesting? A very disappoining progression to a great character: they had the chance and seemed to be creating a “bad guy with a British accent” who was complex, but he gets lost for a long, long time and re-emerges in a very unconvincing turnaround.

     

    – Apollo: now he never managed to be a good character, he had Starbuck to contend with. From the beginning they could have built him up better. But he was a sort of counterpart to her impulsiveness, the chemistry between them worked, but at one point he becomes a lawyer/politician and then: lost. The guy just becomes a wimp.

     

    – The fifth cylon: I might have swallowed the idea of the 5 cylons creating the others (doesn’t make much sense if they stay amnesiac) if it had gone another way. But Ellen comes back like Mother Nature, full of love and “my children” and that I couldn’t swallow. When she has the dialogue with Cavil and he says very fantastic things (almost reminds me of Rutger Hauer at the end of Blade Runner), she counters with “I gave you something wonderful, the capacity to love, etc”: here I think the series lost a lot of the complexity which I talk about above. It seems that we are being put squarely on the “human” side of the equation, we may be weak or faulty but we are wonderful, and what was so fantastic about the series is that it was NOT making this claim up until now, it was always going back and forth in the grey area which I find so interesting. I kept expecting for Ellen’s words or idea to be challenged, but it was only being challenged by Cavil, who is the Big Bad Wolf. On top of it her household problems with Tigh were absurd at this point, or should have been handled better.

     

     

    – Starbuck: it seems we are to think that she was a spirit or an “angel”. One that is able to pilot planes and shoot guns. They probably did not want to make her a Cylon, and to leave her alive at the end would have been too banal, so an “angel”. Noooooooooooo. Again, the series had a lot of mythology/superstition/religion in it, but what was interesting about it is that it never made a claim one way or the other. As in life, it was all up to “one” to decide. The prophecies could have been self-fulfilling, the marker in the eye of Jupiter could have been technology, etc, etc. But for a character to be dead yet present, that’s making a claim and on the side of religion/superstition and that was just terrible. I am trying to stick to the idea that her father was the 7th Cylon, but even that would not explain how she disappears in the air!

    Watching it again,  I realize now that Leoben was quite important, he loves Starbuck (his obsession with her and her killing him repeatedly was one of the interesting things of beginning of 3), he goes through almost martyrdom to convince her that she has a destiny and then, when she discovers her own ship crashed on Earth and starts screaming What am I? He literally runs away and becomes totally unimportant. Scared of ghosts???

     

     

    And then at the end when they are in Africa, there was a sort of rush to say “and this happened and that happened” and it was all a bit ridiculous. The Chief says “I want to be alone” (only indication that humanity may not be that great at this point), Baltar goes off farming with Caprica, God knows why Adama says goodbye to Lee when he is just going on top of the hill, Lee says “I want to explore” — and even though he loves Kara and there is no reason for them not to be together (especially considering the scarcity of men and women), she says she is going and he just says “OK”. It was all a bit ridiculous, frankly, considering what the series has been up till now.

     

     

     

    I suppose one could argue that these cylons and humans arriving could be the origin of many myths, maybe the Chief is Odin or Thor (as he goes north) and Athena, Apollo, etc, etc are origins for the Greek Gods and maybe some end up in Mexico helping with the pyramids, but for that to make sense they would have to have landed on earth at the beginning of recorded history, 6,000 years ago, NOT 150,000. They wanted to do that because of the Eve thing = Hera, but that’s just a ridiculous idea.

    They truly painted themselves into a corner and literally used a DEUS EX MACHINA to get out of it. It was God and the angels!

    When watching this again I will stop in the middle of season 3 and dream another ending…

  18. I watched the entire BSG series on DVD and Amazon video on demand in about five weeks.  I loved it all, especially the ending.  I’m looking forward to watching the entire series again when it comes out on Blu-Ray.  Oh sure, I had quibbles but not many.  I was so sucked into this show that I often watched 3 and 4 episodes a night.  I’m a pretty critical nitpicky kind of guy if you read my blog, and I’m an atheist, and I I’m especially tired of space opera built around FTL drives, but hell, I loved BSG.  I also loved the religious angle of the story.  Having accepted robots becoming religious zealots, I had not problems with actual angels.  Very cool.

    If BSG had stayed pretty much like Season 1 and 2 where could they have gone with it.  Season 3 changed just when I was ready for a new direction.  And I was thrilled over the Cylon 5 plot thread, and the selection of characters who were Cylons.

    Like I said, I’m not religious, but that doesn’t mean religion and faith doesn’t make for great fiction.  I’m sure after I watch the series another time or two I’ll start finding fault, but for now I was totally on board with the wild ride BSG gave me.  It was fresh and entertaining, and that means a lot to me because I’m really jaded with fiction in general.

    I’m also immensely glad BSG ended in a reasonable number of episodes.  I like stories to end, and the BSG ending was totally satisfying for me, especially the “All Along the Watchtower” part which reminded me of The Matrix.

    And boy, am I so into the Caprica pilot.  I can’t wait for the series to start.

  19. James N Smith // August 25, 2011 at 3:06 pm //

    I’m coming up with a definition of a fan as opposed to an artist/creator. While I beleive that the majority of artists (especially is the field of SF) come from fans. I think the shift from fan to the next stage comes with the realization that the object of your affection is flawed. You can see it, you comprehend the reasons, and you can determine ways to have prevented it. You have decided that you could in fact do better, and many writers and filmmakers have gone on to do just that. Nothing wrong with remaining a fan, but it does take a bit of willful and selective blindness.

    I was totally captivated but the first two seasons of BSG. Less so with the 3rd that didn’t seem nearly as bad as I was lead to believe, but by the 4th I thought I was going to have a stroke, and it all started to make a weird kind of sense, especially when you watched every eps twice the second time with the commentaries. Moore was always saying how he wanted to stay far from the conventions of SF, or television drama. Around season 3 it hit me that this did not include the genre of soap opera which was what many of the characters and plots started to resemble. Secondly it became clear that BSG was ashamed of its SF roots, so it didn’t try to make stuff make sense, it figured its audience was too stupid to know when someone was blowing smoke up there arse, you could always fall back on “it is SF after all”. That’s almost as good as, “It’s magic, you don’t have to explain it.”

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