The impact of the BSG finale continues to reverberate around the web, and we continue to benefit. When we ran our original BSG Mind Meld, Jeff hadn’t been able to watch the finale yet. Now he has, and here’s what he has to say:
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?
Here’s Jeffrey’s response…
Much has been written about the end of our beloved Battlestar Galactica. I avoided reading most of it until recently, because I hadn’t seen the ending and didn’t want any spoilers. (Yes, I wrote the miniseries novelization, and at the time was given access to a limited amount of insider background information–though not enough to keep me from writing a few things that shortly became “noncanonical.” But I had no more idea than you did where the story was going in the end.) A couple of weeks ago, I finally watched the last few episodes in one long burst.
Whoa. Not altogether what I’d hoped for–but powerful stuff nonetheless.
My reactions were intense and complex. On the one hand, it was a stunningly choreographed conclusion, breathlessly paced, and to me at least satisfying in the sense that we finally found resolution, and our characters, battered and bruised, finally found a measure of peace. Even Kara. Yes, even Kara Thrace, Starbuck. The change of tone at the very end was perhaps a bit overdone. But I felt our people had earned it.
That they found and settled the world known to us as “Earth” came, of course, as no surprise. Most of us, I think, had been expecting an Adam and Eve story (or should I say, Adama and Eve) all along. How could it have been different? It seemed built into the very fiber of the series, from the start. And while the “Adam and Eve” story is perhaps one of the most clichéd ideas in all of science fiction, there is no reason that even a clichéd story cannot be retold in a fresh and engaging way. So I had long ago decided to forgive that point, granting that if the BSG people could tell it in a sufficiently original way, I wouldn’t quibble.
So, did they or didn’t they? Well…yes and no.
Plausibility-wise, the notion that the fleet would agree to transport all of the people down to a wilderness planet, equipped only with what they could carry, give or take a few Raptors, and send the rest of their considerable technology into the sun, was absurd. Suspension of disbelief–come back! What else can I say about that? Except it was probably considered necessary to the plot not to have too much star technology lying around to be unearthed by latter-day Indiana Joneses.
But BSG has never been about plausibility in the scientific or technological sense. Do we all remember back in–Season 3, was it?–when the fleet had to fly through an exploding star, instead of…um, going around it? And does anyone believe that after all this time, they would have left the fleet dependent on just one Tylium ship to supply the needs of everyone? Okay, forget scientific plausibility. It was never there to be an issue. When I wrote the miniseries novelization, this was something I encountered in a multitude of small ways, and I did my best to strengthen plausibility where it felt thin. But this BSG has always been about other things, anyway–humanity at war with its own worst elements, and the dark places of the soul where people find the strength to endure, and to fight back. For all of its edges, it was never hard SF; it was pure human-drama SF, and every time it careened near the edge of a cliff even in those terms, it always somehow staggered back.
So forget the scientific plausibility part. What about the angels? Starbuck–an angel? That seemed to stick in a lot of craws, including my wife’s and daughter’s, mainly because it seemed from out of left field, and not terribly…well, plausible. For one thing, how come Starbuck was a solid, hard-drinkin’, kick-your-ass physical kind of angel, while the Six and Baltar angels were purely will o’ the wisps, here this minute, gone the next, visible to no one else? And why did Starbuck have to go through such torment, trying to discover who she was? Is she the only angel who doesn’t know she’s an angel? I grant all of those quarrels. And yet–despite my qualms, I kind of liked it. For one thing, how many real SF shows have ever been willing even to entertain the notion of there actually being a God (even if he doesn’t like to be called that, says Baltar), or heavenly or spiritual beings? BSG had the nerve to do that, and do it baldly, in midst of a gritty human drama. Did they do it successfully? Certainly not all the time, and probably not at the very end. But my hat’s off to them for trying.
Having written a BSG book in which I was invited to make up answers to some questions that the producers couldn’t, at that point, answer for me, I was perhaps a little oversensitive to certain small points in the conclusion. One that comes to mind is Caprica Six, who had no name in the miniseries. I called her Natasi in my novel (and no, I didn’t notice that Natasi was “I Satan” backwards until a reader pointed it out). That seemed fine with the BSG staff at the time. Later, David Eick was quoted as saying that he’d imagined that Baltar never knew Six’s name, even as he carried on a torrid affair with her. Truthfully, I never found that believable. Then we saw it happening, in the final chapter, and I went, “Gah!” You win some and you lose some.
I will defend the writers against charges of racism stemming from the interpretation that the fleet personnel obviously subjugated and lorded it over the indigenous population, right up through the present day. What (goes the argument) about the African origins of humanity, which present-day evidence strongly supports? Well, as I read the ending, fleet personnel gradually intermingled with the native population, as their remaining technology wore out or failed, and thus 21st Century humanity is very much a blend of the native and immigrant forms of human. So Lucy and Eve and all of our other forebears are still very much a part of the picture. As for the Cylon blood–well, I guess there’s a little bit of that in our DNA now. Somewhere along the way, we lost the glowing spines, though. Tough break, that.
But now we know: “All Along the Watchtower” is in our racial memory. It just took Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix to give it back to us.