Friday, January 19, 2007

Battlestar Galatica: the New Way Forward

Battlestar Galatica, hmmm… I have to confess, I’m getting bored with this show. I was really into it for a while. The apocalyptic vision, the deep drama, and allegories to current political disasters were engaging, but now I’m burned out. Maybe, I’m getting a wee bit tired of the heavy-handed emotional flip outs by the characters. I dunno. I watched... heck, I bought the original mini-series that jumpstarted the new re-imagined BSG, so I knew what I was getting into. I understood the tone and enjoyed it. So why would I suddenly find myself losing interest in it now?

Well, three possibilities come to mind. The first is that several elements of the show have been grating on me of late, the second lies in the fact that I am a crossover fan, meaning I was a fan of the original BSG but decided to give the new show a chance, and third, is the current reality of the world.

As BSG has rolled along into its third season, I realized that it has no real direction. This program has the illusion of direction in that the human survivors are trying to find earth, but Ron Moore and his staff really don’t have a plan for the over all series. It seems that the characters are floating from one angst-filled episode to the next. Examples of this lack of planning include Boxey who just disappeared after the miniseries (why have this character if you don’t want to use him), the two sharons, and Helo, a throwaway character that that Ron Moore liked so much he decided to shoehorn him in even though he was left to die on Caprica. I understand that things change during the run of a TV show, but I just don’t believe BSG has any significant direction, beyond plot points that are just dropped in and maybe used later. I feel this contributes to wild swings in character behavior like: Tom Zarek the ‘freedom fighter’ creating secret panels to execute collaborators, and the sudden adultery between Lee and Kara just to mention a two examples. That’s why when it says “…and they have a plan.” during the opening sequence, it strikes me as very ironic.

When the original show wasn’t continued but re-imagined, I was terribly sad that the BSG I knew wouldn’t be coming back. Especially when it came so close to being a reality with Bryan Singer’s Battlestar Galatica project. But I put these feelings aside as I dove into the grim and grittiness of Moore’s new show. But over time, the fact that the new BSG is a drama first and a Sci-Fi show second has worn me down. The naturalistic style means no heroic adventures. With only humans and the humanlike cylons in the entire galaxy, there is nothing to discover but the void. There is no hope as the survivors travel from one empty planet to the next. That’s not to say that there aren’t things I like about the current BSG, it just means that the show has become an emotional slog. Moreover, I miss the old cylons. The clunky armor, the synthesized voices, they were just good fun. I had this weird feeling that the BSG crew would stumble across the old cylons at some point as a lost group, but because Moore abhors the old show this isn’t going to happen. Although, the old style cylons do appear in the new BSG comic set between current storylines. So I guess my weird feeling was for the comic book version.

Finally, with all the bad news in the real world, the grim militarism and political assassinations on BSG are becoming too much of a downer. I guess I want a respite from the turmoil rather than such a direct reminder of it. The show’s allegories seemed an important expression of the shock of 9-11 and the war in Iraq, but now not so much. I just need a little more fantasy in my science fiction entertainment right now. Although I gotta' admit, some of those new cylons are hot.

With my interest in the show waning, I still don’t think BSG should be cancelled. The Sci Fi Channel currently has a dilemma as the show’s ratings have sunk, that’s why they moved it to Sunday nights, but to not provide a proper ending for BSG would alienate what’s left of their base viewership. Remember the PR disaster the cancellation of Farscape caused? I suspect that Battlestar Galatica will get a fourth season regardless of ratings as there is nothing to replace it and a forth season would solidify the show for reruns. I just personally won’t be as concerned about skipping episodes anymore, besides I can just download them anyway right? I read on the Sci Fi forums that the more that Battlestar Galatica moves away from the premise of the original show, the more it’s audience shrinks. That makes me wonder if a continuation would have been more successful. We’ll never know. All Sci Fi can do now is move forward with the current BSG. Boy, that’s an allegory all by itself.



Dean Wormer said...


I haven't been able to watch most of this season because of computer problems but the show has consistently been on the top of my to-watch list.

So I'm unable to comment on your observation that the show has meandered other than to say the previous seasons and the occupation stuff on New Caprica from this year never seemed to me unfocused as a whole, though not every episode focused on the overall arc and those episodes were usually less than stellar.

But the show has never had the "making it up by the seat of your pants" quality that the later seasons of the X-Files had, IMHO.

There are moments that literally sent chills down my spine which is a difficult reaction to get from an old cynical me via a television show. Adama getting shot, the title sequence of one of the episodes in which Adama and Apollo were boxing and Helo shooting Sharon were interspersed over classical music.

Still better than 99% of what's on television if you ask me.

ladybug said...

I kind of had the same feeling, and I only watched a couple of episodes! It seems to have moved from one gut-wrenching emotional scene A all the way to scene Z every time.

I've already switched to Scrubs. At least I get my laughs on, and it's only half an hour.

Overdroid said...

You are dead to me.

Don Snabulus said...

I've not watched much of the new season, but what I have seen reminds me of the show "Lost" with sub-plots overshadowing the original premise.

The SciFi channel original shows are about 90% crap from what I've seen, so when a gem like Farscape or BSG comes along, I must give a lot of slack.

Swinebread's analysis of the current event angle rings very true with me. Torture is the domain of Nazis and I don't want any part of it in my TV entertainment unless it is in the form of condemnation. F**k Jack Bauer!

Watching the Star Trek re-runs on Spike gains more of my attention to be quite honest.

Seymour said...

I like BSG well enough, but it never seems to really get rolling. Too many 'meaningful looks' between the characters.

I want to give a shout-out for my fav sci-fi show, Babylon Five. I loved that show.

Ladybug's got the right idea, Scrubs is funny. NBC's lineup on Thursday nights is when I actually watch network TV.

ladybug said...

Don't get me wrong,BSG isn't a BAD show-it's actually very well done. But kind of like Babylon-5 (sorry Seymour), "It's just not my bag, baby!"

Of course Farscape was one of my faves..why'd they have to go and cancel that show for?

Maybe that's all BSG needs-some comic relief provided by an insufferable puppet.

Swinebread said...

dean Yeah, it is better than most shows that's how sad it its. I think now, I realize that Moore should have done his own project rather than hijack all the work the BSG fans put into it.

ladybug more puppets!

overdroid reboot swinebread 2.0

snabulus Again you say in two sentences what I said in several paragraphs!

seymour B5 is the real deal...

Dean Wormer said...

Just want to say that I love this post on your blog and have read through it a couple of times. I like the pictures with caption bubbles.

On the old show since I think you may be arguing for a continuation of that story and storyline-

I think you've heard this from me before. I greatly enjoyed the show as a young Wormer. Even then I recognized they looped special effects to save money, quite common with the television scifi of the time and I didn't care. I loved Starbuck's swagger. I loved Lorne Greene's fatherly demeanor and I loved Boxey and his Daggit. I loved the designs of the ships- especially the vipers.

As I got older and watched the show occasionally on reruns an unmistakable subtext began to reveal itself in the stories. Again and again elected leaders made horrible choices that would almost lead to the destruction of the RTF. Only the wisdom of the benign military dictator would save the fleet from certain destruction. At it's heart the original series is hugely anti-democratic thematically and a perfect fictional precursor of the looming Reagan years.

I love the orginal series but thematically it's message is not something we need these days.

Again - just my humble opinion.


Swinebread said...

Thanks for reading it again! As for a continuation I don’t see that as a realistic possibility anymore. There was a chance with Singer’s attempt but that’s gone. I think I am feeling nostalgic for more fantasy adventures right now, especially the old cylons for some reason.

Your criticisms on the undemocratic nature of the original BSG are accurate, but as Firefly/Serenity was a western in space, I see the old BSG as a sword and sandal epic in space. When I look at it with that kind of mythological trope, it makes sense. Note my emphasis on mythological.

With GW Bush getting a second term, it felt like no one was listening and BSG was lone voice in pop culture about the craziness of what was going on. After this last election it feels like society at large has woken up to some extent, and so I need a rest from the hammer of political thought on the new BSG. I wanted to include this in my post that the post-election hangover maybe one of the reasons for my change of mood on the show, but I felt it was getting too long. Regardless, it is good to know this post is engaging, and who knows, maybe it was all worth it just to see that picture of Grace Park!

Dean Wormer said...

After this last election it feels like society at large has woken up to some extent, and so I need a rest from the hammer of political thought on the new BSG.

This makes a lot of sense. As I mentioned I haven't been able to watch much of this season but the idea of the cylon-centric episodes they handled did make me cringe a bit and I'll have to admit to reveal a lack of direction for the series as a whole.

Do you watch "Heroes?" I recently read that they plan on keeping those story arcs seasonal much as classic television used to do.

And Grace Park is a frickin' hottie. :-)

Swinebread said...

I haven't seen much of heroes as I work nights...

Gotta' figure out the Digital Cable hook up...

The Moody Minstrel said...

Speaking of Babylon 5, ironically enough, one of the most common complaints I've heard about it is that it was too locked in by its underlying plotline! People actually thought it would be better if each episode were totally independent of the others, continuity be damned!

(Funny...lack of continuity was one of the biggest complaints against the various Star Treks, but whatever...)

I like Babylon 5, too...and I'm happy the DVD sets have JUST been released here in Japan! (Can you say "buying frenzy"? But seasons 4 & 5 aren't available yet...)

I have yet to see any of the new BSG...

Swinebread said...

I don’t know if they’ll come out with it Japan, but there is a 6th boxed set that collects all the made for TV B5 movies.

Also J. Michael Straczynski is creating a new B5 series called Babylon 5: The Lost Tales, It’s supposed to be strait to video movies using established characters.


I agree with Don.

Since the second exodus the subplots have really taken over the show.