March 30, 2009

BSG Finale: Big Stinky Garbage

I know this is a blog about poetry/poetics, but I have to complain about the finale of Battlestar Galatica.

Didn't you think the final hour (on earth) sucked?

I was a big fan of the initial mini series and the first two seasons. Occasionally, there were slips into sentimental dialogue (see the Adama father/son moments), but there was an interesting tempo to the narrative, and I'm not even a big sci-fi kind of girl.

One strength for me during those first two seasons was the interaction between Gaius Baltar and Number Six. Baltar is a great character—complex, self-interested, conniving, and at times seemingly immoral with moments of a conscience. Number Six is ruthless (remember when she killed the baby in the carriage just because she was curious about life?), tempting, strong. The pair on screen created a dynamic that included intelligent dialogue and humor. There was also suspense and wonder: is Six just a chip in his head? Plus, Number Six was a cylon, a kind of hybrid between human and robot (not to be confused with the hybrids in the tubs, spouting barely intelligible messages to decode). There were times when I wondered if Ron D. Moore (BSG executive producer) had read Haraway’s
A Cyborg Manifesto: embracing the monster within, rejection of rigid boundaries, liberation through consciousness (and perhaps orgasms with lit-up red spines!).

But as the series progressed, I felt like it suffered from trying to take on too much. Instead of focusing on character, the scripts began to focus on large plots that were too much to handle in an hour, which is really closer to 43 minutes of airtime after commercials. Seasons 3 and 4 were often hit and miss. Landing on New Caprica put a damper on the show, and during that time, I longed for episodes like the very first one: “33”—a small, tight storyline. Thinking about this reminds me of a writing exercise I give in my intro to creative nonfiction course: Write about an event that lasts an hour or two. The point is to help students narrow the scene/time elapsed and focus on the details of the story. Go deep. It helps them to write description instead of working with grand sweeping timeframes. And I think landing on New Caprica (a grand sweeping plotline) pushed the writers of BSG to “jump the shark” too soon.

But back to the finale…

Some of the final moments were painful: they land on earth; Starbuck is an angel (really? this was the best they could come up with? and they never did answer how she was the "harbinger of death"); very few deaths in battle (how is this even possible?); a dead Racetrack sets off the nukes (oh, come on!); Dean Stockwell’s character kills himself (I can’t believe that would be in his nature after all his concerns for a new resurrection ship); and the underlying message seems to be: beware of technology (what?).

To be fair, they did tie up the Opera House story, and the moments between Gaius and Six and the “visions” of Gaius and Six added a nice touch. The battle scenes hearkened back to earlier cylon/battlestar attacks, and I enjoyed understanding how "All Along the Watchtower" played into the plot.

Overall, I think the series started off great and whimpered a bit towards the end. I wished they had focused more on Baltar and Six, as that seemed to be a strong thread for the show. Regardless of the lackluster finale, I will probably still watch BSG: The Plan, and tune in to see Caprica. What can I say, I'm hoping for some kind of resurrection.