Battlestar Galactica (TV, 2009)
I wrote this review of the Battlestar Galactica reboot shortly after the series finale in 2009, for Death Ray #19. The show was not entirely successful. Looking back on it, there was too much standing around talking about who might or might not be a Cylon, and not enough seat-of-the-pants pursuit across the galaxy. Cut down perhaps by a third or so, it might have been stronger. And I can’t help but think we’ve not yet had the definitive version of this story. Still excellent, though.
It’s been a long and emotionally exhausting odyssey from the end of Colonial Civilisation, but the remnants of humanity and their one-time enemies the Cylons have finally found a home, a little place, 150,000 years later, we like to call Earth (though as it turns out, ours is not the first planet to bear such a name).
To find a suitably impressive finale to a series such as Battlestar Galactica, one of the finest pieces of television of the last decade, was obviously a tough job. Perfection is impossible, more so when you’ve been carefully cultivating an audience with a million of their own pet theories. That old adage about pleasing people all of the time springs to mind.
BSG further complicated its position by delivering a pulse-pounding pre-finale story of mutiny in ‘The Oath’ and ‘Blood On The Scales’. A hard act to follow, the end was more contemplative than action packed, more concerned with God than guns.
BSG certainly has not been coy about pursuing a religious story line. Glen A Larson’s original might have been steeped in Mormon mythology, but even he stopped by the banks of inspiration. Adama might have been Moses in space, but there was no divine meddling behind it all. In Ronald D. Moore and David Eick’s reimagining, religion was not the backdrop, God was in your face.
That religion was only partially successfully integrated into the SF plot is undoubted, and BSG ever suffered from tying itself in knots with virtually every character swinging back and forth across the moral compass. Adding a layer of angels at the final call only compounded the fragile credibility of the show’s quest for meaning. God is a get out card, to some extent. You can show the monster, but never god. As god is unknowable, then so to an extent is our finale. Sorry folks, show’s over.
But this was very brave. And it was the right thing to do. Much of the rest of the end comprised teary, faraway looks, but we got some emotional satisfaction at watching our broken and drained heroes fade, hand in had, into the landscape of their new world.
What was not so successful were the lengthy flashbacks to Caprica before the fall of man, which did little to add to already layered characters. Ultimately these proved boring, and stretched our engagement with our soon to be lost friends too far. It’s like the show was demanding we well up, shouting “Don’t you love them? Aren’t they so human? Will you not miss them?” It’s almost crass.
But, you know, we do miss them. And they were human, and they were baffled by a god that said loved them, and they in turn screwed their own children over. As close as BSG came to making no sense at times, that’s not something that gets served up with robots and space battles every day. The show deserves much respect for that.