“What is Galactica? Baltar, don’t hurt me no more.” Haddaway, What Is Love? (BSG remix)
Enough time has passed that I’m meeting Ron Moore’s reimagining of Battlestar Galactica for coffee. No commitment, just coffee. It’s been awhile, maybe it’s time to give it another chance. Either way, I want to see how it’s aged, what it’s up to, does it have any kids, and did it ever pursue that masters degree in theology? Spoilers and quotes taken out of context ensue.
I mean, the ending can’t really be as bad as I remember, right? I just kept thinking of the good times: back before Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan were some form of Cylon God, back before Al from Quantum Leap tried to strangle humanity in its cradle, and back before a show that I was wiling to let do almost anything to me became the most reviled thing on the internet.
When I say most reviled, I may not be exaggerating. I googled “people who liked the end of Battlestar Galactica” and was given at least ten pages of negative vitriol, most of it well argued and articulate from people had previously loved the series so much they forgave even its most major flaws. How did BSG earn then lose such love, such trust? Is it possible it doesn’t really “suck so much bung as to come across as a single minded attempt to destroy space opera on television?” (not a real quote)
Like that time I got one one of the best mochas of my life and asking myself the entire time what I ever saw in her, I sat down with my ex-beloved Battlestar to see if there was something to be salvaged. I’ve heard rumors of an extended cut of the finale on the DVD, of commentaries that might shed light, but the whole time I am wondering if, as Caprica Six told Baltar in the miniseries, “You have a tremendous capacity for self deception.”
BSG had to be good to be so bad. It had to gamble on insanely risky potentially-series-ruining events such as the settling of New Caprica (along with the three year time leap and suicide bombings that ensued), the birth of Hera (babies kill tv shows like Caprica killed that baby in the miniseries), or going to Earth (the smoking nuclear wasteland they find resembles how many other space shows have ended up after being earthbound). Then, gambling, it had to pull it off.
Nothing really showcases this like the whole New Caprica arc of the show. It was risky. I remember showing BSG to my girlfriend at the time and she loved it despite her general dislike of the genre. The New Caprica arc nearly drove her from the show but I said, “Stick around. Trust the show. You’ll love it.” In the end, I was right. She turned around and looked at those episodes in a new light after that season.
So when four random characters stood together in a locked room singing “All Along The Watchtower” and Starbuck came back from the dead and it turned out the wizard was actually just a dude behind a curtain with no magic powers that could have gotten Dorothy home all along without the stupid quest to go kill the Wicked Cylon of the West, when the internet pointed back in time at that moment and said it was the when we knew the show could never redeem itself or even just not be a nutjob, when alll that happened I said, “Remember New Caprica? You didn’t believe in BSG then. Give it a chance. Just trust in it, believe in Ron Moore the way the Lucy Lawless character believed in whatever the heck it was she believes in. Besides, he wrote a pretty kickin’ ending to Star Trek The Next Generation. That’s gotta count for something.”
Sitting here, watching the miniseries and all the potential, I wonder if we didn’t just make the biggest mistake of all: inviting something into our relationship with BSG that never belonged there- something referred to as the Word of God, the author’s stated intent. So here I am, drinking a coffee, watching the first two hours of BSG and Ron Moore’s creative team is distinctly not invited to the table. I don’t care what he intended versus what was randomly decided by pulling the names of characters out of a hat.
Here’s an example. Baltar has just figured out that he let Caprica Six steal humanity’s defense secrets, dooming humanity to near extinction. He’s upset, he’s calling his lawyer, he’s crying like the pathetic joker we all know and love and he starts to rant. He says something to the effect of, “There has to be another way out here.” He, a joker, says this to Cap6, a thief. Ok, maybe I’m reaching, but maybe, possibly, and most likely unintentionally, there was actually foreshadowing of the Jimi Hendrix crap.
“See, stating something as the truth doesn’t necessarily make it so because the truth of the matter is I don’t believe a word of it,” Baltar says. So that’s the view I’m taking of anything anyone with a creative hand in the show has ever said about the shower. Instead, watching it again, it’ll have to stand on it’s own. Maybe all the pain and misery of watching the final season, maybe “all this will happen again” as it happened before. Maybe not. I don’t know. The desire to go back and find a show worth watching puts a pressure on viewing it again that no other show I’ve ever loved then hated has experiencd.
With the Lost ending, I had rewatched it recently and honestly I liked the answers they gave (but that’s another discussion). More importantly, I feel the lost team never really engaged in “Word of God” behavior the way Ron Moore did. I don’t recall them shooting down theories without direct show-related evidence. Ron Moore’s response to various controversies and interpretations he disagreed with, however, was to shoot them down. I mean, yay him for engaging with fans like Straczynski did during Babylon 5 but maybe that was actually part of the problem.
Both Lost and BSG ended with a reaffirmation that the faith of major characters was accurate, vindicated, that these fictional universes did have a mysterious force that we never get to fully understand with tremendous impact on the plot. So why did I love Lost and not BSG at the end of the day? Maybe because the scope of the BSG finale pulled away from connecting to the characters to focus on plot. I don’t know, but I’m going to find out where the show went off the rails.
When asked for comment, Commander Adama had this to say about watching the show again:
“The cost of watching Battlestar Galactica can be high…. sometimes it’s too high. When we watched the finale, we did it to save ourselves from another Firefly lack-of-ending. But we never answered the question why. Why are endings as a concept worth saving? When that show turned against us, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it wasn’t our fault, not really. But you cannot play be a fan then wash your hands of the fandom you’ve created. Sooner or later the day comes when you can’t hide from the shows you’ve watched anymore.”
Frell if I know what that means. And yes, I use Farscape curse words, not BSG onesg, but that was even Starbuck grew wings and turned into a scifi angel.
One of the best parts of watching the pilot now is seeing the characters as they were, knowing what they will be. There is a resonance about them: seeing Cally before she even knows she has a chance with the chief (let alone that she’ll die from finding out he’s a Cylon), seeing Boomer cave to allowing people on her ship only at the mention of children, and Dualla. Just, Dualla. She hasn’t blown out her brains in despair yet. I mean, Dualla. She’s like the avatar of hope in the show, you know, and then she ? Watching her is heartbreaking.
The earnest admiration Gaeta has for Adama, Tigh’s shocked indecision followed by brutally but pragmatically killing a number of crewman to put out fires. “No ones a rookie anymore.” Remember that line?
Remember that moment Baltar almost steals that lady’s ticket off the planet but doesn’t, mostly because he’s about to get caught?
There was so much promise in these characters and, honestly, much of that was delivered. From Roslin’s affection for men in power (describing the president as having “this way about him”) to the slow mental breakdown of every character of the show. It’s there, in the opening. The only thing missing is the hope, Adama knowingly promises a false hope to find Earth. From the moment he says it, we know it’s a lie. Sort of like many of things Moore and others had said about the ending before it aired.
Hence my hesitation at even considering this date with the series. There’s been lies, there’s been pain, and I know I’m not alone in the feeling that everything that was once beloved about the show was turned awful by the final moments, twisted into some hideous version of itself like something out of The Walking Dead. But I can’t help it.
I’ve read many critiques of the ending citing the “God did it” explanation was one of the most pronounced flaws and have stated this myself. As viewers I don’t think we ever expected the show to say that to us with a straight face. It isn’t done. Not this blatantly, anyway.
In fact, I recall reactions from the characters immediately following the finale:
“This is a joke. The show’s playing a joke on you. It’s a series finale prank. Come on.”-Tigh
“How, why, doesn’t really matter now. What does matter, is that as of this moment, the series is at war.” Adama, on the forum flaming bound to follow.
“This better be for real.” -Tyrol, wishing he’d never said this once it turned out that it was for real.
“You are one surprising son of a bitch.” -Tigh, to Ron Moore, after the broadcast of the finale.
“You’re either the series creator or you’re not.” -Adama, to Ron Moore, on accepting the hatred of fans he would soon be earning.
“The lesson here is not to ask follow up questions.” -Roslin, on discussing the ending for even a microsecond.
I know I didn’t truly ‘get’ Lost till I rewatched it after having seen the finale and am hoping that, somehow, a rewatch of BSG will yield similar rewards. Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, we know that the show itself believes Head 6’s belief in God to be the One True Path (OTP) and I am eager to see if the show bears this out in the earlier episodes.
As a closing thought, I remember a story of a line cut from the finale. Kara Thrace was supposed to say something similar to “We’ve made it here… all along the watchtower” but the actress couldn’t get the line out without cracking up. Ever since I first heard this story it reminded me of what maybe should have been used instead of the Bob Dylan song- Somewhere Over The Rainbow. In a show that focused so much on the mystery of who the man behind the curtain was without ever revealing the truth beyond “God did it,” maybe what we really needed was to be reminded of what the show really was about: the hope, real or otherwise, that Earth might be real, the hope that inspired the original journey.
Topics to consider later, perhaps:
Ripping off Farscape’s “chip in the brain”
Reworking more quotes to make fun of the ending
More comparisons between watching BSG & a relationship that ends horribly. I mean seriously bad, like slashing your tires bad.
So dust off those BSG mk2 dvds.
“You sure they’ll play?” -Starbuck, girl version
Oh yes, they’ll play. This was our show once and we have the videos to prove it. Only time will tell if watching them will bring a joyous afterglow or more nausea.