Battlestar “What The Frack Happened?”

galactica s 4 number 6 cover(Spoilers ahead, lots of them.)

On March 20, 2009, hordes of Battlestar Galactica fans gathered around their TVs for the final episode of the show and uttered a collective “What the fuck?” that was heard not only around the world but probably in several neighboring galaxies as well.

Not having gotten round to watching the once-great show till halfway through 2013, I wasn’t amongst the bewildered hordes, but after a couple of months of watching the DVDs  I knew how they felt.

The funny thing is that I never paid Galactica any attention until so many years after it had gone off air. I knew it was out there, but if you had told me that a reboot of a crap Sci-Fi show from the late seventies would result in a couple of seasons of truly excellent space opera, I would have told you that you should go back on your meds. After all, the original Battlestar Galactica was a short-lived show meant to cash in on the popularity of Star Wars. As I recall, it wasn’t a terrible show, but it wasn’t good either. Of course, I was only nine or so at the time, so perhaps I would have a better opinion of it were I to watch it now. On the other hand, if I thought it “blah” at nine, I doubt I would be able to stomach it for more than a few minutes at 44. But the point is that the show tanked. As others have no doubt said, it was a show that everyone heard of but few bothered to watch. Huge blaze of publicity, then one season and that was it. Neither the public nor the critics gave a toss about the show and, unlike Trek, any cult following it developed after its demise was so small I didn’t even realize such a following existed until I heard they were pissed off at Starbuck going all girly. So it was only after several years of spotting the angelic looking Number 6 on the cover of one of the DVDs (yes, that one above) that I finally picked up the bloody thing and found, to my surprise, that Ronald Moore and company had somehow, magically and inexplicably, turned this turkey into a peacock.

Two years after its debut, however, the clock struck midnight, and the peacock turned back into a turkey…

While many fans see the beginning of the end at the start of the third season, I started feeling very uneasy towards the end of the second. As I recall, it is at this point that Baltar rescues a Number 6 who had been raped and tortured by members of the crew of the Pegasus. Having done so, he installs her on the ship called Cloud Nine and, in effect, says “Oh, you’re really badly fucked up are you? Bad case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Here, have a nuclear weapon!” As I recall, we are never given any justification for this act of idiocy, and that is when the ship started to sink. Soon after came the settlement on New Caprica, most of which we bizarrely missed out on. A whole year of plot and character development left unseen. How did Tara and Tigh end up friends? Hell, I don’t know – the bastards didn’t tell me! Then came the Cylon occupation and guess what? Most of that we didn’t get to see either! Four months of story left out, for Gods know what reason. Very frustrating. After that, things became increasingly irrational. Instances of characters behaving in ways that were inconsistent as well as moments thrown in for dramatic effect yet never explained or followed up in subsequent episodes were rampant. The one example that comes to my mind (probably because Tigh and Starbuck were my favorite characters) is the episode in which Adama has a big blow up at Tigh and Starbuck over their sowing of discontent amongst the crew. Adama tells Tigh to go back to being the man he used to be and Tigh tells him something along the lines of “That man doesn’t exist anymore, Bill. And you won’t be seeing me again.” Whoa! Heavy! Tigh is going into some sort of self-imposed exile! But no, a couple of episodes later there’s Tigh sulking in his cabin! Apparently, what he meant by “… you won’t be seeing me again,” was “I’m going to my room now.” Perhaps I misinterpreted the scene, but I don’t think so. If Tigh had meant that the old Tigh wouldn’t be seen again, why did he use the pronoun “me” rather than “him”? There was also an air of finality to the scene, as if it would be a while before Tigh and Adama patched things up and Tigh came back to the Galactica.

Then there was the mishandling of elements that could have worked brilliantly well. The death of Starbuck was handled adequately, not so her return from the dead. Let’s get this right – one of the major characters dies, returns from the dead, and the way they handle her resurrection is to have her sitting in her Viper waving “Hi!” to Apollo?!?! What the fuck is that!?!?! This is a major moment for the character and the series, it should be dramatic – not many people return from the dead you know! Instead, it is treated as if Kara has just been down to the shops to buy some pop and is stepping through the door while casually saying “I’m back. They didn’t have any Pepsi so I had to get Coke.” And how did she end up crashing on Earth when she was nowhere near it when the Viper went down? Hell, I don’t know. I guess it’s one of the many things the lousy writers expected us to put down to the idea that God works in mysterious ways. Given that the theological side of the show was on display from the start, they always had a built-in excuse to pull out the old Deus ex Machina. Indeed, many were the times during seasons three and four when I got the feeling that the writers were expecting us to blame all the inconsistencies on the Angry Old Man Who Lives In The Sky. If so, this two year, 40 + episode streak may well be the longest-lasting and most egregious case of Deux Ex Machina in the history of writing.

Also, what the hell was all that crap with Dylan’s “All Along The Watch Tower”? What a ludicrous device. Why the frak would a bunch of people be hearing a Bob Dylan song 150 thousand years before old Bob was squeezed out into the world? Oh, wait, I guess it’s another case of God working in mysterious ways. Poor God, not only does he cop it for all the other shit in the world, now he gets blamed for the last two seasons of Galactica!

And then, like a worm-ridden cherry on top of an increasingly putrid cake, came the finale that had me wanting to punch Moore in the face. Not only was the thing lifeless, irrational, and badly written, it came across as an act of utter bastardry towards the fans. That the writing would continue to suck was predictable, that our favorite characters would all meet such a miserable end was not. It does not take a genius to give the fans the happy ending most of us would have been wanting. But by then even the most dedicated fans were complaining about the massive decline in quality and as what I can only see as a huge “Fuck you!” Moore and company gave us exactly what we didn’t want. After several years wandering the universe, the last remnants of the original human race finally find a fertile, habitable planet. So, are they overjoyed, dancing and laughing while bounding gleefully around on the green, green grass of their new home? No, they aren’t. They basically go “Meh…” Not only is this unrealistic given all they have been through to reach such a planet, it is something that I can only see as deliberately denying the fans what they would have wanted. “You bastards want to complain? We’ll give you something to complain about.” That’s the only viable explanation I can come up with.

That Laura Roslin would die was expected. That Adama would become a hermit, apparently permanently leaving his family and friends to die what will no doubt be a miserable, lonely death in the woods was not. This turn of events was irrational garbage at best, sadistic at worst. Adama was neither that solitary nor that weak. He would have withstood the trauma of his Sine Non Qua’s demise and would, if anything, have wanted to spend more time with Apollo, Tigh, and Kara, not less. And he never even says goodbye to Tigh, despite all the fuss made over their great friendship throughout the series! Again, irrational at best, sadistic at worst. Then there is Tyrol’s doing the same thing as Adama. Sick of both humans and Cylons, he too exiles himself, in his case to a remote, frozen island where he will no doubt put on even more weight and end up becoming the basis for the myth of Santa Claus!

But the most absurd thing about the finale was the way the humans and humanoid Cylons decided to dump all tech. Not only the kind that could lead to eventual annihilation but, far as I could tell, all of it. No more antibiotics, painkillers, disinfectants, vaccines – not once the current supplies run out. Who the hell would agree to all this? A few loons maybe, but not the great majority as happens in the show. The idea that most of the survivors would think “I see… all these years complaining about living on crowded space ships with dwindling supplies and few comforts, and now you want us to go and live in the woods like a bunch of monkeys? Sure, why not?!” No, that would not happen. Again, crap writing at best, sadism at worst. Think about it. What is life like in the natural state? Do the words “nasty, brutish, and short” ring a bell? That’s right, it’s a Hobbesian nightmare. Tigh, Adama, Ellen, they’re already pretty old, in a few more years they will be dying slow, agonizing deaths – unless they’re lucky enough to be eaten by bears! Thanks, Ron. Then there are the younger ones like Apollo. Hell, he’ll get old sooner or later. Unless of course, he cuts his foot open after all the meds have run out, then he’ll get gangrene, start to rot while alive and eventually die of blood poisoning. This is life in the natural state and it is what Moore and company condemned the characters to. But back to the tech. They dump everything in order to lessen the chances that they will once again develop sentient robots that will try to exterminate them, and then they let the sentient robots who already have tried to exterminate them go off into space! What balderdash! That’s like saying “We want to make sure we don’t destroy ourselves so we’re going to get rid of all the handguns. We will, however, be keeping all the nuclear weapons!” Sheer idiocy. Some fans may think it would be morally wrong of the fleshies to destroy the centurions, given that they are sentient beings, at least since Caprica Six gave them the upgrade, but here’s the thing – they could have kept control over them by having them settle on earth with everyone else. Like humans and skinjobs, metal Cylons get “old,” break down and rust away, especially when the tech used to maintain them has been sent hurtling into oblivion! This would have allowed the centurions to keep on living, while allowing the humans some measure of control over their behavior. But no, that would be too rational for Moore and company…

The one positive aspect to this slimy act of contempt was Starbuck just disappearing into thin air. This seems to me to confirm that Leoben was right in saying she was an angel. While not explicitly stated, it would seem she died, God brought her back, and now that she has done her job by leading them all to a new home she gets to go off to heaven to be with daddy and Anders. Good for her.

So what the hell happened to this formerly-great program? How did it go from being a great achievement to being a total disaster? Did the writers all suffer massive nervous breakdowns at the same time? Did they suffer exposure to radiation, causing brain damage? Was it the Canadian water? I don’t know, but I do know that I am not the only one wondering what brought about the decline of the once mighty Battlestar Galactica.

That’s it. I just had to get this off my chest. At the completion of this piece, it has been several weeks since I watched the finale and it is still giving me the shits. Yes, it’s a pain that never ends…

I would, funnily enough, like to finish this vitriolic diatribe on a positive note. I would like to thank the actors who took part in this train wreck for not letting us down the way the writers and Moore did. To the last episode, they all  continued to deliver the same quality acting they gave us before the show headed south. Some of the actors were great, others were merely adequate, but they were never less than the latter, not even after the rot set in. So to the cast, thanks for not fucking up. As for Ronald Moore, I still want to punch him in the face.

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