3.10.2009

HOW DID IT GO SO TERRIBLY WRONG?

It seems that Ron Moore lost interest in Battlestar Galactica as the writers' strike dragged on a little over a year ago. Various sources say he decided to change-up where the story was going in the episodes remaining from what was already in the can - through Sometimes A Great Notion. Maybe too much sun penetrated that thick mop of black hair and baked his noodle? Somebody with the access and the journalistic skills needs to do a postmortem on the show and find out where it went off the rails.

One would think that with those three months of free time Moore and the show's writers and creative team would go back and watch all the episodes again - sort of like a sculptor stepping back from his chiseling to take a look before continuing. This immersion in the episodes already aired would surely give context and global view of the story to help focus Moore and the writers as they completed the final ten episodes of the series and seamlessly wove together their many complicated story threads. We all thought they would come back refreshed and infused with the totality of the story energizing them to create a masterful ending.

But Season 4.5 has been just short of a mess. Sometimes A Great Notion is by far the best ep of the eight which have aired, but - as noted - it was written and shot before the strike. Now all fan hopes are that the entire series, and particularly Season 4.5, can be salvaged with the the two-night, 3-part Daybreak finale written by Moore. Regretfully, the teasers are none too promising. More Adama shouting, more sad looking extras in sets that look like they are all that were left as others were torn down, more gunfire and hand-to-hand combat. Much chatter tells us that a big chunk of the budget was held in reserve for a great final space battle in CGI, but there seems little reason for any kind of grand battle given the somber, cynical dénouement to the overall story. There hardly seems any point to having a bang with all the whimpers. What conflict remains? The great journey is over - it's just a matter of limping off to a habitable rock (oh wait, we still have to go to real Earth). Ellen, our-late-in-Act-III-resurrectee, wants Human and Cylon to integrate, and "John" Cavil, her, er, son, wants machine to be machine and humans to just go away. Cavil seems to have already won. He's outplayed his creators and seemingly set his plan in motion long ago and has his pieces arranged. And if the coming battle by the Galactica and its Rebel Cylon Alliance is against Cavil, what is the point? They eliminate their pursuer, is that all? Why waste the lives and resources? After the exposition-dump in No Exit, the story was made so small that much of the motivation for the hatred has evaporated. We are all the same - Kumbaya. Cavil has said that they are machines and can just go chill for 5000 years, and the galaxy is large - let the remaining humans go off an colonize some other planet far away - or die on the journey. It will be interesting to see what plot device they use to trigger the big battle. Cavil is still hell-bent on wiping out all humans? Short of that, what could be the reason?


Which brings me to the complexity of the story.

Even a simple arachnid can compose an elegant
web all on its own (and much larger than itself) through biological imperative, yet our creative team seems to have made this jumbled mess out of their story threads. They got bogged down, big time, and only seemed to dig themselves deeper and deeper into the mess.


Their ultimate solution? Cut the knot. But they w
ere not Alexander, and it was not the proverbial Gordian Knot - so it came out with blood spatters and slop flying everywhere in the form of the Exposition
M
onster in No Exit. Yikes. That was, frankly, the death-knell of the show we once loved. That hack-and-slash was fatal I'm afraid. It was a bonehead choice that greatly diminished the story and made petty what had seemed grandiose. If it is a belated attempt at irony, it is clumsy. [If you want irony, watch the original Wicker Man with Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee by Anthony Shaffer from the early 70s]

The miniseries and Season 1 were stellar, and most of Season 2 was excellent as well. With Season 3 it became clear that there was no overall design to the story as Moore and the writers foundered and flailed about - particularly with the mostly terrible stand-alones. But other than a few weak eps here and there and the stand-alones in Season 3, most episodes of the series, starting with the mini, would rate very highly with an 8 or 9 out of 10. Yet in Season 4.5 one can only rate Sometimes A Great Notion that highly. The other episodes rate thusly: A Disquiet Follows My Soul - 6, The Oath - 6, Blood on the Scales - 5, No Exit - 3, Deadlock - 3, Someone to Watch Over Me - 6, Islanded in a Stream of Stars - 6. This is not only disheartening, it is almost panic-inducing for hardcore fans of the show. We're left with anxiety prior to each episode now rather than happy anticipation, and often the feeling of being punched in the gut afterwards.

Moore is going to have to make that Luke Skywalker shot down that vent tube to blow up the Deathstar if he is to pull the proverbial rabbit-out-of-a-hat last-minute and come up with a satisfying ending. The alarm bells have been ringing for months with actor comments, however, indicating that this is anything but likely. Katie Sackhoff said, "Hmmm, that's the direction you want to go with it?" or some such, and the overly-effusive praise from some of the more senior actors sounds like spin. Ronald D. Moore: "This is not going to be the ending you’re anticipating." Jamie Bamber: “In the finale, it goes back to the beginning of Apollo and Starbuck, and you see where they come from. I think it’s as satisfying as it can be.[Is that damning with feint praise?] Kate Vernon: "The ending is like nothing you'd ever expect. I don't think all the fans could ever be satisfied by one ending, which is a good thing. So this way, they're be left going, 'but, wait!' " I've been going But, wait! for about 8 episodes.

It seems we might end up with an empty feeling, which is indeed a pity for a once great show that used to leave us so fulfilled.

3 comments:

Potiphar Breen said...

Well-put once again, RADII.

I think that "We are all family" Adama will be the softie he always was and offer the one-way mission to rescue Hera for Helo, Athena, Laura, and the rest of blended human/cylon's future.

Galactica, even stripped of weapons and essentials, is still a formidable foe.

I see Galactica entering the huge Colony entrance and confronting Cavil and the rest of the bad Cylons.

All Adama would do is sit in the middle of the Colony, FTL spooled up at the ready, demand Hera with a suicide threat to jump in the Colony's confined space.

Recall that time when Cavill and D'anna argued about Adama using nukes:
"He's bluffing" Cavil proclaimed and wanted to attack anyway.

And we all we told (and shown) what happened when Boomer touched off her small Raptor FTL a tad too close to the battlestar.

Hence the one-way trip proclamation.

It could happen - dying leader and all that!

Potiphar Breen said...

But I do know one song that the humans could play when attacking Cavil's forces:

Since "The Ride of the Valkyries" was used before (in Apocaplyse Now), how about an updated "(I Can't Get No) SATISFACTION?"

The question is: will WE get satisfaction?

radii said...

@ Potiphar


Well said.

I like the idea of Galactica spooling up and using its FTL to blow apart the Colony ... it does look from the promo image that it - or something big - is blowing up yellow at left ... and for Ractrack and Skulls to react as they do, something momentous must be happening ... you may well have called it