Warning: There’s going to be spoilers in this post. If you haven’t seen the BSG Finale, don’t read below the spoiler fold line.
It’s been a week or so now since the “re-imagined” Battlestar Galactica series sailed off into the sunset.
Frankly, I was massively disappointed.
I wasn’t, however, surprised.
I wasn’t a big fan of the original series back in the 70’s.
Oh, sure I watched it. Like every other science fiction geek. Sure. But 70’s TV Scifi was so damned hokey. So poorly done. The science was miserable. The acting campy. The dialog lousy. The special effects weren’t all that special.
Hell even as a teenager I knew how bad it was.
I’d seen Star Wars, I knew what real Science Fiction looked like.
But, really, what choice did we have?
Star Trek (the original series of course) reruns. Probably the best scifi on TV, but regulated to an 11:30PM Friday night time slot on NBC.
Space 1999. Truly ridiculous science, even as a teenager I knew how utterly stupid this show was. I visualize the initial pitch meeting going something like “See, this giant nuclear waste dump on the moon blows up and pushes the moon out of orbit without, like you know, smashing it into, like, a gabillion pieces and the colony there is like untouched and the moon falls into like a bunch of warpy things and travels across the galaxy and shit and meets all kinds of people each week. Once viewers buy that, we can come up with any cockamamie idea for the weekly episodes because the stupid bastards will watch anything. Whatdayasay?”
The Starlost. Jesus H. Christ on whole-wheat toast and covered in cream gravy, what a piece of shit.
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Not quite as stupid as The Starlost, but not by much. Camp. Dumb humor. No grasp of science. And Sunday morning newspaper comic plotting.
And a handful of other short lived Sci Fi series (Logan’s Run, Planet of the Apes, The Questor Tapes, Quark), most trying to cash in on the Star Wars phenomenon with no budget and no vision and no understanding of why Star Wars was such a hit.
And then there was Battlestar Galactica.
A big budget, huge actually. At the time the most expensive series on TV. Great sets. State of the art special effects. Big name actors. Awesome wardrobe. Huge story arc. And a cool idea, humans weren’t native to Earth, they came from somewhere else. Oh, sure that’s an old, old idea in Sci Fi, but this was on prime time TV. The fundies damned near stroked out at the mere mention of it – so add daring to the list of things that made the original BSG different from any series that had come before. Not that they actually did anything with the idea, mind you. But it was there.
But after the first few episode, well, it was back to business as usual. The writing went to shit. The budget dried up. The show began, within the first season, to recycle clichéd ideas from other genres, westerns mostly. And the plot holes began to yawn wide like black holes distorting the space time continuum. Adama and his ragtag fugitive fleet as the last humans, fleeing the Cylons, seeking Earth, yadda yadda – except in every single episode, they’d meet more humans. There were humans everywhere. Every planet, rock, asteroid, comet, and derelict spaceship was full of people. There were whole spacefaring civilizations. It pretty much made a joke of the whole “desperate survival of mankind” theme. And the Cylons? What miserable villains. Holy crap, if your whole damned civilization was wiped out by those stupid refugees from a Chinese toy factory, you really deserved to be extinct. And don’t get me started on that damned kid and that stupid robot dog.
Still we watched it.
I’ve seen a few episodes in the decades since. It didn’t age well.
You can still watch the original Star Trek episode from the 60’s. They’ve aged, sure, but you can put that aside and still believe. BSG? Not so much.
Fast forward 30 years.
When I heard that Ron Moore was “re-imagining” Battlestar Galactica for the Sci Fi Channel in 2003, my first thought was a resounding “meh, I pass.” Seriously. A silly scifi series from the 70’s plus the Sci Fi Network – the people who brought you such sucktastic originals as Mansquito, Frankenfish, Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy, Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep, and Mammoth – equals a new level of suck that simply defies description.
Or so I thought.
Then I saw the original BSG mini-series.
And it was utterly fantastic. The series that followed was just as good, and even better in a lot of ways – for the first two seasons.
Then, something happened.
Suddenly, beginning with season three, the show was no longer a quest, no longer about perseverance against incredible odds, about the mysteries of the past and the promise of the future. No, it was suddenly all about angst.
Sure the story is about a group of people whose whole world has been blown apart. Everything they know is smashed, smoking, radioactive ruin. They’re refugees on the run, living in steel boxes with death waiting outside. If they die, the whole human race dies, or so they believe, and every life counts. So, sure, I can buy some depression, a bit of angst and grieving, anger. But all of a sudden, beginning with season three, the characters just became a bunch of miserable bastards. Every damned week, drinking, crying, fighting, moaning, whining, don’t give a shit and in the brig again. You could miss whole episodes, and you didn’t really miss anything – especially during season four.
There were huge glaring plot holes, the biggest one being the Cylons. I’m talking about The centurions here. Now it should be pretty damned obvious that they were built for war. Period. They aren’t good for much else. In the original series, Cylons were the weapons of a long extinct race who hated mankind. In the new series, men created the Cylons. Why? Because that’s more poetic, men created the seeds of their own destruction. Dig it. OK. But, did you ever ask yourself, who, exactly were these intelligent war machines supposed to fight? There are no hostile aliens in the BSG universe, life is scarce. The Twelve Colonies are united under one government. So, where’s the enemy? Why in the hell did they build intelligent soldier robots in the first place? And so many of them that they became a self sustaining civilization in their own right?
The characters kept making infuriately stupid decisions. BSG had a great big greasy Mcguffin- Gaius Baltar. Here’s the guy who betrayed the whole damned human race, over and over and over – but, hey, let’s keep him around. They didn’t have any trouble putting the mutineers against the wall, but not Baltar. He’s a super genius? Couldn’t prove it by me. He spent the entire first season making a cylon detector and he was going to test the whole fleet – and you never saw it again. Because, of course, you couldn’t. Because, of course, that would have given you the Final Five in the first season before the writers even thought of them (There's an infuriating major mistake here - Baltar tested Ellen Tigh and confirmed her as human, not Cylon - in fact, there was an entire episode built around this very idea. Some how that just disappeared in the final season). Seriously, what was Baltar’s function anyway? Oh, wait – Baltar had a destiny, that’s right.
The characters kept missing obvious things and kept NOT asking the obvious questions. Say, who are the Gods of Kobol anyway? In the middle of Season Two, they’re on Kobol, the supposed birthplace of humanity, standing in the tomb of Athena – one of the “Gods” they they swear by – and nobody says, hey let’s look in the crypt and see what we’re dealing with here. When the priestess, who conveniently vanished after season two, kept spouting mystical nonsense – all this has happened before and will happen again – nobody said, hey, really, bitch, not helping and what exactly does that mean anyway? How about that new Viper Starbuck shows up in? Nobody says, hey, this is really weird folks. It’s like a brand new ship, brand new. Either Starbuck stopped off at General Motors or something is going on. Maybe we should figure out what that is. This kind of silly shit went on throughout the entire series, right up to the end, and by end I mean the last damned minute of the finale.
And then the clichés started showing up, starting with the magic baby. The mystical child who will save us all. Woohoo. You know the writers of a series, in any genre but especially science fiction, have run right out of ideas when they decide to pop out the magic baby. And in scifi, all babies are magic babies. There’s never been a kid on any scifi show who wasn’t supposedly special in some way, they’re always a genius, or have super powers, or special insight, or some damn fool thing. BSG was no different in this regard.
You know, I could have lived with it all if I thought the final season would pull it all back together again. But as the episodes remaining dwindled to zero, it just kept getting more and more obvious that the writers and the producers really had no idea of what they were doing or where they were going and that they had painted themselves into a corner.
Frankly, now that it’s over, I feel cheated.
Why? Why do you feel cheated, Jim? I hear you ask. Well, the answers to that and the rest of life’s mysteries are below the break.
If you haven’t seen the finale and you want to and you don’t want it spoiled then stop here. If you want to comment about the finale, then please preface your comments with “Spoiler” so folks reading through will know what’s safe to read and what’s not. Thanks.
Spoilers below this break
Way back when I first learned how to write stories, my teachers made it clear that you can’t put you characters into an impossible situation and then end the story with:
“… and then they woke up and discovered it was all a dream.”
That’s cheating the reader. It’s not fair to pose a bunch of questions or set up a mystery, and then whip out some heretofore unmentioned magical potion or super technology which vanquishes the enemy, solves all the problems, heals the mortally wounded girl, and saves the hero from the inescapable corner you’ve painted him into.
And that’s my major beef with the end of BSG.
Instead of working their way out of the box they put themselves into, the writers opted to cheat.
God did it. Surprise!
Son of a bitch.
I was afraid that this is where they were going when the fourth and final season kept wandering around aimlessly. I was afraid this is what was going to happen, when they kept posing questions that simply could not be answered in the time left other than with “God did it.”
For example: What, exactly was the significance of the Final Five? Nothing really, apparently. What exactly was the difference between the organic cylon models and humans? Because both originally came from Kobol, or did you forget about that? Organic cylons can’t be told apart from humans except with very special equipment. Both species can interbreed – which makes them the same species if you ask me – maybe just separated by time and technology. Cylons bleed. They die without specialized technology. The organic cylons are just as petty and emotional as humans – and they look damned fine in a skimpy red dress. Really what’s the difference here? And, as noted up there above the spoiler line, the cylons are the biggest mystery of the show. The cylon earth? Weren’t they all cylons on Cylon Earth? So the organic cylons created the metal cylons and then the metal cylons killed the organic cylons but the Final Five escaped and then were welcomed by the colonial cylons 2500 years later and then they created more organic cylons at the behest of the metal cylons who then perversely subordinated their freewill to the new organic cylons who then betrayed the Final Five and sent them to exile amongst the humans and what the fuck? Seriously.
In the end, they just didn’t have the guts or the imagination to pull it off. In the end, every single thing the characters did, every decision they agonized over, every chance they took, every moment of angst and anger and fear and love and hate meant exactly dick. Every bit of interest and emotion we, the viewers, invested in BSG over four years, meant exactly nothing.
Because, see, God did it.
The things about this finale that irritate me are endless, but here are my major complaints:
- Who was Starbuck? An angel? What? This probably pissed me off more than anything else in the BSG finale. If Starbuck is not human, which the finale makes abundantly clear she’s not, then why all the bullshit? Why the attitude and anger and misbehavin’? Why bother with Starbuck finding her dead body on Cylon Earth? In fact, that whole scene becomes utterly irrelevant – it’s supposed to be profound, but in the end it just means nothing. What’s the deal? She was raped and abused on New Caprica. She suffered and bled and was reborn. She agonized over her identity. She struggled with guilt and pain and anger and endless angst – and in the end, she was just, what? A tool? Really, what a complete fucking cop out. The writers painted themselves into a corner and in the end Starbuck wakes up and finds out it’s all a dream.
- The refugees decide to give up technology, shuck their clothes and rejoin nature? Yeah, sure and 90% of them would have been dead in the first 6 months, and the rest of them a year later. 160,000 years ago the Earth, this one anyway, was a damned hostile place. Everything would have been trying to kill them, from the climate to the animals to the germs. The first winter in the new world killed half the Plymouth colonists, and they were prepared. They planned their colony for years. How many of the high tech pilgrims of BSG were survivalists? How many could chip a flint arrowhead, skin a deer, tell poisonous plants from eatable, make fire from scratch, build a shelter to survive winter in cold climates, jerk meat, tan a hide, smoke fish, set a bone, birth a baby with nothing but a pointy stick? And there wasn’t one guy who stood up and said, hey fuck you, I’m keeping a ship and some technology and I ain’t spending the rest my life wiping my ass on poison ivy leaves. Really, fuck you. Seriously here, the idea is just stupid.
- But you know? Maybe that’s exactly what happened. Maybe they did all die off. Every last one of them. Except the magic baby, Hera, the “Key” to each race’s survival. Flash forward 160,000 years and we find that Hera is “Mitochondrial Eve” the ancestral mother of humanity. Um, Oooookay. I guess she mated with Australopithecus after everybody else was eaten by the wildlife. Of course it doesn’t really matter because it’s all part of the plan, none of it has to make sense because, of course, God did it.
- And speaking of Australopithecus, or Neanderthal man, or whoever the fuck it was wandering around out there naked on the African plain with the pointy sticks. No explanation of what humans are doing here. Will they become us 160,000 years later, without the refugees? If so, then the glimpse of the future is irrelevant and has nothing to do with the story. But if you add in the whole magic baby bit from the previous paragraph then it would appear that we are descended from the colonial refugees. Toss in God, and you’ve got the perfect Intelligent Design science fiction series. Whoa, betcha didn’t see that coming, did you?
- And speaking of God, why the hell didn’t he break this so-called cycle of violence? What’s with this it’s all happened before and it’ll happen again bullshit? How exactly do we, supposedly careening toward our own cylon Armageddon, benefit from the knowledge of the colonials? The lessons they learned, the trials God put them through? I mean they flew all their records into the sun and went back to nature. Is God going to wait until the Toasters are bombing our cities before he sends the Angels to give us cryptic messages though sex in our heads? Hey, far be it from me to question God’s elaborate plan but allow me to point out that if it always ends in abject failure, well, maybe it’s not such a good plan. And seriously, according to the show He diddled directly in people's lives and directly in the success or failure of whole civilizations, plus he speaks to cylons by playing music in their heads and creates Vipers wholecloth and so on, but He refuses to break the so-called cycle of violence that He created? I guess this makes about as much sense as any actual religion. There's a couple of spin-off series in there somewhere, none of them good.
- And finally we jump forward 160,000 years and find out what the show is really all about. Technology bad. Robots dangerous. Computers will kill us.
Technology is evil. God doesn’t like it.
Creation science fiction?
You’ve got to be kidding me.
What a colossal waste of my time.