BSG review part 4

battlestar-galactica
Spoilers reminder: I’m not going to worry about them. If you haven’t seen the series and don’t want prior knowledge of plot points don’t read this.

At the end of season 3 four people on Board Galactica discover that they are Cylons and didn’t know it. These include Starbuck’s husband, the President’s aide, the Master Chief who’s been keeping the Galctica running, and Tigh.

All along there’s been this schtick where there are 12 models of Cylon android, but we only see 7 of them. Big big mystery, who are the “Final 5” is built up into this enormous suspense. The last one turns out to be Tigh’s wife Ellen. A baffled yawn is appropriate here.

Why were there only 12 models in the first place? Why so many identical copies, with only a few Sixes even changing up their hairdos? No explanation is ever given. Why did the final 5 Cylons choose to erase their own memories, to the extent that they massively impeded and disrupted the Cylon aims? Ditto.

Each episode of the series begins with a little intro, which mutates slightly as the story progresses. Earlier there had been a claim in there about the Cylons: “… and they have a plan.” It makes sense that this was dropped, because apparently the script writers mislaid the plan.

This is particularly baffling in view of the fact that the plan apparently depended a great deal on happenstance, but is supported by prophecies and destinies and remembrances of “all this has happened before, and will happen again” – the abysmal first section was drenched with such, the middle section almost completely let it slide out of view, then it all comes rushing back again like water up the nose at the end of season 3 and into season 4.

There is at least better writing going on in between the dull workaday fulfilling of destinies.

When Earth is finally discovered amid much rejoicing, and turns out to have been devastated thousands of years earlier in its own nuclear holocaust – that was genuinely moving, and the inconsolable baffled rage and sorrow of the humans and Cylons alike is well portrayed.

The discovery of Starbuck’s own body on Earth is interestingly creepy. The signal from it had been what led the fleet there, while the mystery of how she was resurrected and returned to Galactica (in an immaculate Viper which “could have come straight off the showroom floor”) – well, actually, as far as I know it remains a mystery to the end. It is confirmed that it’s her blood when Baltar runs a DNA scan. (Apparently he also ran some magical test that confirmed the blood came from a dead body, even though it obviously exited the body while it was still alive, but that’s another matter.)

The writers may have forgotten to explain it, or to be fair maybe I just missed it because it was explained during one of the interminable talking-head episodes where some major characters yak on and on and on about something or other, such as Starbuck bitching at and then hitting on a piano player in a bar, or Ellen bitching at Tigh because in 2000 years of marriage he never could keep it in his pants. There were several of those, and they made me nod off sometimes.

The Final Five regain some memories of how they lived on Earth – by an amazing coincidence, one of their atom-blasted shadows is preserved on the only piece of a particular wall to survive. In the open air. By the sea. For five or six thousand years.

Yeah, that’s what the SF sensibility of the series has degenerated to. And then there’s the Babies of Destiny…

One of the babies is Tigh’s with one of the Sixes that he fell for while she was his prisoner. It’s the first and only Cylon-Cylon child conceived via lovemaking, and it dies when Ellen jealously ruins the relationship between her husband and the mother.

Apparently such a baby requires that the parents love one another wholeheartedly, and it seems that’s too much for them to manage. It’s a bit obvious and clunky, but on the personal level it’s not too bad a sub-plot, just a little soap-opera, and it has to be said that the lives of gods are often very soapy.

Then there’s the human-Cylon cross Hera, who has an utterly ridiculous load of destiny expectations dumped on her. She’s the future, you see, so much so that it’s a perfectly reasonable proposition to risk an entire Battlestar and a significant percentage of the surviving human and Cylon races to save her from a bad Cylon who wants to perform experiments on her.

Not because she’s a baby, mind, but because she’s the Baby of Destiny, the future of both races. Why? Well, that’s a good question, another one that is never answered. It can’t just be because she’s a crossbreed; if the races can crossbreed once, surely they can do it multiple times. If they can’t, then the blended race of the future is going to be a bit more lopsidedly human than can really be considered a destiny for Cylons.

The waste of lives being put aside (they’re all volunteers after all), it isn’t any big deal to risk the Galactica itself, once it’s been stripped of useful materiel; the old girl’s on her last legs, flaking apart, held together only with the Cylon equivalent of duct tape aand chewing gum, and even that is only staving off the inevitable end.

It’s pretty obvious that the writers intend this as a metaphor for how the Humans and Cylons need each other, but it works pretty well as a metaphor for the quality of the series itself at that point too. It was limping along, its plot structures riddled with cracks of inconsistency, and it was a mercy when it died.

The final episode has a flashforward to a future city on a second Earth, with two revenants, of human Baltar and Cylon Six, discussing the banal inevitability of it all happening again. (Yes, we’re reviving methods of epilogue that hoary.)

Despite the extremely poor quality of the beginning and ending generally, I can’t say I regret watching BSG. It reminds me a lot of the little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead; when she was good she was very very good, and when she was bad she was horrid.

Still, even when they’re flawed, you have to love them for the good parts, and BSG did have a lot of good too. I just can’t help regretting the horrid; with a little less cheap prophecy/destiny gosh-wow and pointless hype about the Secret Cylons, it could have been much more than it was… it could have been more of what it was in the middle section, which was genuinely excellent SF drama.

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~ by B.T. Murtagh on May 30, 2009.

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