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Battlestar Galactica: not a great show as it turns out (oh, the sacrilege!) An article by TV Geek Army

#1 User is offline   Aphrodite Icon

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 03:55 AM

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Battlestar Galactica: not a great show as it turns out (oh, the sacrilege!)
Battlestar Galactica is not a great show.

There, I said it.

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I’d even go so far as to say that it’s a stretch to call it a good show – though it is at times, in moments and patches (particularly early on). That said, overall it’s a hot mess, an unwieldy and overambitious sci fi soap opera obsessed with sex and religion and mythology that largely proved unable to convey anything truly interesting about any of those topics.

Perhaps it “hurt” my viewing experience that I watched much of the series in a compressed timeframe and not over the several years in which it was originally broadcast on SyFy. I had heard lots of good things from many people, of course, during the original run and as a TV geek (even before there was a TV Geek Army in which to codify my ramblings) I felt a bit ashamed about not having seen it, much like an English major who was deficient in Chaucer or Milton or some such.

I caught the first season somewhere along the way – via Netflix’ streaming service, I think – and thought it was quite good, and still do – but my attention had wandered off somewhere early in Season Two. Something about Helo and Sharon/Athena’s endless running around Caprica bored me enough that I dropped out. During the holidays this year though I vowed I would make it right. As a TV geek it was my duty, to the colonies and to the fleet, to watch the entire series end-to-end.

And so I did.

As I noted, the first season was by far the best, and in fact the pilot episode, “33” (which comes after the mini-series that acts as a first chapter of sorts to the series), is probably my favorite episode of all. The concept of the remains of humanity being on the run from vicious, untiring Cylons while an exhausted, beleaguered fleet is forced to stay on the run by making precise intergalactic “jumps” every 33 minutes is simply fascinating and thrilling.

Looking back, I wish that the series could have done a better job of keeping such a focus on tight and taut storytelling. That said, the first season was still rather good and had flashes of great potential that made me look forward to moving on. However, there were seeds embedded even from that early stage that would prevent the series as a whole from attaining anything close to greatness.

Examples include Gaius and Caprica 6’s endless religious and philosophical ramblings in the former’s mind. Don’t get me wrong: it worked in small and concise doses, and James Callis’ ability to playfully interact with “real people” and the sexy woman in his head at the same time could be a delight. I also mentioned Helo and Athena’s adventures on Caprica above. As soon as the audience knows that the human known as Boomer is actually a Cylon, the action – which plays out over multiple episodes – involving their attempted escape from the planet is largely diluted (yes, she eventually does change her mind to side with the humans, but that comes after far too much build up).

Really though the first two seasons were fine, and I’d have a much different attitude in total if Seasons Three and Four didn’t exist at all. In fact, I’d say the real (galactic?) fall off comes after there’s a time jump in the series stemming from new President Baltar’s demands that the colonists settle on so called New Caprica.

Almost everything that happens thereafter over the course of two long final seasons is far less interesting than the relatively minor quibbles I mentioned above. The mythological/religious/spiritual storyline becomes increasingly irritating and convoluted. Baltar’s transition from hated president to Cylon lackey to doomed prisoner to spiritual leader to… you get the idea. There are even a seemingly numbing series of episodes where the theme is drilled into our skulls relating the human toll of pushing on for one more day and one more mission (I kept thinking to myself, “we get it… seriously, we get it”).

Add on top of all of that increasingly protracted storylines dealing with the Cylons amongst themselves (every time the action moved to a Cylon base ship, I thought, “Ugh…”), dreams and visions about Hera and the opera house, Starbuck and creepy Cylon Leoben (Callum Keith Rennie) and her paintings, Zarek’s (Richard Hatch) uneven character arc (watch the whole series and you’ll see an erratic transition from “bad guy” to “good guy” to “really bad guy”), innumerable treasonous conspiracies/acts of sabotage, innumerable trials for treason, innumerable scenes of Colonel Tigh/Admiral Adama/Starbuck drinking themselves sick, innumerable things happening for no apparent reason (Tyrol beating Cally to a pulp, anyone?), innumerable plot holes/inconsistencies/wormholes (example: a Cylon is let out of prison on the Pegasus, who then murders Admiral Cain... and no one seems to care a whit), and on and on.

And don’t even get me started on how the series wraps. Angels? Really? I wasn’t touched, shall we say.

Therefore, I find myself a bit perplexed by the enduring love and admiration that Battlestar Galactica seemingly continues to receive. I did some hunting around online and found Alan Sepinwall’s (one of the sharpest television writers out there) series finale review to be largely positive. What’s interesting to me here is that I was reminded of how much Lost’s series finale relates to BSG’s in how they both look to heavily spiritual/dues ex machina/the gods had a plan all along (and I suppose we now know who the “they” are in AND THEY HAVE A PLAN) solutions. While Sepinwall was also largely sympathetic to how Lost resolved, I was bitterly disappointed after hanging with a series I had greatly admired and defended for six long seasons.

As I mentioned, there’s a lot of good individual things to pick out even during the turgid final run of episodes. The performances especially of Edward James Olmos as Admiral Adama, James Callis as Baltar, Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck, and Tricia Helfer as Number Six were invariably strong. Additionally, while the sets could often feel oppressive (which is the point of course on spaceships where the crews are cooped up for years), the action scenes and space battles were typically impressive, especially on a basic cable budget.

The purpose of this article certainly isn’t to trash a beloved television show that many serious TV fans continue to enjoy for its own sake. I was genuinely surprised with the problems I had with it, which only seemed to increase the deeper into the series I went. I started wondering if I was more of a “soft sci fi” kind of guy (Firefly and Wonderfalls are two of my favorite all time series, for example) and even went so far as to go through a series of neurotic self-examinations to determine why I wasn’t enjoying myself as much as I “should.”

Of course, not everyone has to enjoy all of the series that are broadly considered to be all time greats. No doubt there will be many who dislike The Shield or Breaking Bad, series that I would easily consider to be in that “all time great” category.

But for me, Battlestar Gallactica just didn’t cut it.

So says (just?) I.



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#2 User is offline   dsgtdave Icon

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 07:57 AM

Ya well I guess I would tell this guy 'cool story bro'. There really doesn't seem to be much wiggle room after season 2. You either like it or you don't. I did.
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Posted 10 January 2011 - 08:35 AM

Sometimes, people think too much. Sit back, relax. Enjoy.
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Posted 10 January 2011 - 08:51 AM

Nonsense!
I've gone back and rewatched random points in the series, and it's STILL holding up quite nicely. And come on; not EVERY episode can be a "33"; not only would it gives the audience weekly coronaries, but eventually there'd be a backlash against all of the constant action (not enough character emphasis, they would say; and they'd be right. Which is why BSG wisely chose NOT to do just "33" style action every week). And his stupid comment about Zarek going from 'bad guy to REALLY bad guy.' This guy just misses the point; Zarek was NEVER a simple, cardboard cutout 'bad guy.' In his mind, he was a GOOD guy. Good and bad in the BSG universe (as in our own) are largely matters of perspective, and the show wisely chose to reflect this. It sounds like he'd be happier watching something a little simpler. His arguments are so wrong-headed, I almost spit my coffee across the keyboard.
:thumbsdown:

But he does have one point (even a broken clock is right twice a day); either you like it or you don't.
Pearls before swine, I guess. I mean, if "Ugly Betty", "Glee" or "Modern Family" are your reasons for living? You probably won't find much in BSG.
However, if you appreciate a finely-crafted, ambitious drama with heroic, but tragically flawed characters and dizzyingly high-stakes action (like AMC's "Walking Dead")?
Well, then BSG is your ticket... ;)

Personally, this article smacks of 'retro-hating' to me; especially his comments on season 2. Totally random, out of the blue-bulls**t, if you ask me (come on! Season 2 had Admiral Cain and the Pegasus arc!! Gimme a break, it was awesome! TV does not GET any better than that!). Reminds me of the kind of backlash successful franchises usually get after the smoke has cleared. James Cameron's movies (which have a 'BSG vibe' to them at times) are particularly vulnerable to this. Once they've made a gazillion dollars (or won a Peabody Award) suddenly, everyone and his little brother decides that they suck all of the sudden.
Remember "Titanic?" The first movie to gross a cool billion? Won a slew of Academy Awards? The soundtrack played everywhere in the civilized world?
Well NOW, suddenly; everyone seems to hate it. Calling it sappy, schmaltzy or this-or-that. Again; I cry BULLS**T.
I've seen it again recently (about two months ago); it's still a damn good movie, and it still works very well (and yes, gods damn it, I teared up! :crybaby: ).
All of this is merely inevitable (and dishonest) backlash against it's initial critical success.

I see the same thing happening to "Avatar" as well; it made $2 billion (and also won a few Oscars). And now, suddenly, every snot-nosed blogger is saying how much it sucked; after they've seen it three or four more times.... just to be SURE, mind you. Oh, and that's after they've bought the dvd and upgraded their TVs to 3D for the inevitable 3D BluRay... just to see how much it sucks (in perfect, 1080p resolution). You just can't take 'retro-hating' critics like this seriously.
:thumbsdown:

Retro-hating is the least honest type of entertainment journalism. Pardon mon Francais, but this guy is full of crap. Frak 'im! :cylonnono:


PS: And just to clarify (obviously his attention was waning at some point), the show ran for FOUR seasons, not SIX. Idiot... :cylonnono:
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Posted 10 January 2011 - 02:54 PM

While I am growing increasingly critical of BSG as time goes on, I wouldn't go quite so far as this fellow. For example:

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There are even a seemingly numbing series of episodes where the theme is drilled into our skulls relating the human toll of pushing on for one more day and one more mission (I kept thinking to myself, “we get it… seriously, we get it”).


This was and remains one of my favourite parts of the show. It shows a rare level of commitment to a show's premise (I hope that makes sense; I can't think of a better description).

That said...

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And don’t even get me started on how the series wraps. Angels? Really? I wasn’t touched, shall we say.


QFT. The ending was a disgrace.

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Pearls before swine, I guess. I mean, if "Ugly Betty", "Glee" or "Modern Family" are your reasons for living? You probably won't find much in BSG.


Hey now, I take exception to that. Of all the shows currently on television, Glee is by far the one that most reminds me of BSG--even more than SG:U with its blatant attempts it imitate it. Both Glee and BSG were shows so brilliantly written that they attracted fans who normally wouldn't go near their respective genres--normally, I won't touch a musical with a ten foot pole. Both feature incredibly real, multi-dimensional characters that are generally neither entirely good nor entirely bad. Both feature superb acting--and, honestly, a freakish amount of eye candy.

And all BSG similarities aside, it's just an awesome show.

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PS: And just to clarify (obviously his attention was waning at some point), the show ran for FOUR seasons, not SIX. Idiot...


He was talking about Lost.
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Posted 10 January 2011 - 05:08 PM

It did lag in parts. The ending seemed a bit rushed, and I wish the pilot episode woulda had more attack on Caprica action, like TOS did with the Raiders sweeping over Caprica and blowing it to bits.

Meh...

To each his own. The author is just whinning.
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Posted 10 January 2011 - 06:24 PM

View PostColonialMarine, on 10 January 2011 - 05:08 PM, said:

It did lag in parts. The ending seemed a bit rushed, and I wish the pilot episode woulda had more attack on Caprica action, like TOS did with the Raiders sweeping over Caprica and blowing it to bits.

Meh...

To each his own. The author is just whinning.


Well, we DO see the attack on the colonies in much greater detail in "The Plan" later on...
And to EE; yes, my bad on the Lost/BSG mixup. :blush: I lost focus, as I was enraged while reading that stupid article. :ranting:
Still think that 'retro-critic' is an a$$-clown. :glare: :cylonnono:

I watch BSG episodes even now, and for me? It hasn't lost a beat; if anything, it gets MORE relevant to our world every day (especially in our 'supercharged' political climate here in the US). :cylonclap:

And not to sidetrack, but to EE I have to ask (and you can post an answer in a more relevant thread if you like); how would YOU have ended the show??
I really would like to hear what differences (in your opinion) would've made it better. Maybe I'm missing something, but personally, I thought the ending was elegant, symmetrical, and full circle; it answered enough questions but not all (to leave just enough mystery to chew on a bit).
Frankly, I can't imagine a more perfect ending for the series. I admit, the latter half of season four felt a bit rushed, but the endgame was played out perfectly IMO. :cylonclap:

Am I the ONLY one who dug it that much? :blink:
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Posted 10 January 2011 - 07:46 PM

Man, the guy that wrote all that BSG poopoo is a NUT! :adama-pancarte001:
EVERYONE KNOWS - When the newly-christened starship Enterprise's shakedown cruise goes poorly, Captain Kirk and crew put it into Spacedock for repairs. But an urgent mission interrupts their Earth-bound shore leave. A renegade Vulcan named Sybok has taken several ambassadors hostage on the planet Nimbus III, an event which also attracts the attention of a Klingon captain who wants to make a name for himself. Sybok's rag-tag army captures the Enterprise and takes it on a journey to the center of the galaxy in search of the Supreme Being.
"All base ships are now in range to attack the colonies."ť
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Posted 10 January 2011 - 07:53 PM

View PostCylon-Knight, on 10 January 2011 - 07:46 PM, said:

Man, the guy that wrote all that BSG poopoo is a NUT! :adama-pancarte001:
EVERYONE KNOWS - When the newly-christened starship Enterprise's shakedown cruise goes poorly, Captain Kirk and crew put it into Spacedock for repairs. But an urgent mission interrupts their Earth-bound shore leave. A renegade Vulcan named Sybok has taken several ambassadors hostage on the planet Nimbus III, an event which also attracts the attention of a Klingon captain who wants to make a name for himself. Sybok's rag-tag army captures the Enterprise and takes it on a journey to the center of the galaxy in search of the Supreme Being.


Someone has been watching SyFY the last day or so. :naughty3dg:
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Posted 10 January 2011 - 07:54 PM

YES! And now YOU will give me the secret of the Genesis Torpedo! :ranting: OR I WILL HOLD MY BREATH!!
"All base ships are now in range to attack the colonies."ť
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Posted 10 January 2011 - 07:57 PM

View PostCylon-Knight, on 10 January 2011 - 07:54 PM, said:

YES! And now YOU will give me the secret of the Genesis Torpedo! :ranting: OR I WILL HOLD MY BREATH!!



"Genesis? What's Genesis?" :innocent:
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Posted 10 January 2011 - 08:02 PM

TELL ME! :( You meanie.
"All base ships are now in range to attack the colonies."ť
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Posted 10 January 2011 - 08:09 PM

View PostCylon-Knight, on 10 January 2011 - 08:02 PM, said:

TELL ME! :( You meanie.



"Life from lifelessness"
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Posted 10 January 2011 - 08:15 PM

View PostCylon-Knight, on 10 January 2011 - 08:02 PM, said:

TELL ME! :( You meanie.


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Agree with CK's wisdom, I do; make much sense, he does...

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Man, the guy that wrote all that BSG poopoo is a NUT!

:cylonclap:
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Posted 12 January 2011 - 12:13 PM

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And not to sidetrack, but to EE I have to ask (and you can post an answer in a more relevant thread if you like); how would YOU have ended the show??


I'm sure I've posted this before, but I'll give you the short version.

I wouldn't have had them find our Earth. I have a great deal of trouble suspending my disbelief for fantasy (and that is what BSG was by the end) set in our own universe, and that damages the show's credibility rather severely in my eyes. Not to mention the massive plotholes and cheating feeling that comes from, "Hey, we found Earth, and it's a wasteland, but there's also this other perfectly nice world that also matches all the prophecies and also has the exact same night sky and constellations apparently, and we'll just call it Earth, too, okay? Super."

Instead, I would have had them find another habitable world that is obviously not our own (finding it via All Along the Watchtower is still a good idea) and just build a new Cylon/human civilization. I always pictured a time jump into the future with President Lee watching over the construction of the new city, his father looking on proudly.

Secondly, I would have actually provided explanations for all those damn prophecies like Starbuck being the harbinger of death. I would have explained at least something about God's plan and the angels and made at least some attempt to wrap up the plotlines. I would also have made the Opera House thing into something a bit more dramatic. I'm sorry if that sounds awfully vague, but wrapping up all of BSG is a massive undertaking and one I am not willing to undertake. The BSG writers, however, were being paid to do it; they have no excuse.

You see, that's what really sticks in my craw after all this time. As a fan, I could live with the ending. But as a writer? It just sickens me. I am not much of a writer, but I would be embarrassed to just throw up my hands and say "I don't know how to end it" the way they did. I know they could do better; the brilliance of other parts of the show proves it. So I can only assume they were being lazy.

I often think it would have been better to end the show with "Revelations." Very little good came out of 4.5, and that episode was pretty much perfect. Possibly the best they did (yes, even better than "Pegasus").

Okay, that wasn't so short. But, you did ask for it.
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Posted 13 January 2011 - 02:00 AM

Good points. :cylonclap:

Apples and oranges, I suppose.
I can't agree or fully disagree with anything you posted because it's really (in the end) a personal taste issue.
I find the vision of a President Lee Adama presiding over the building of a new city too 'linear' and obvious (again, maybe that's just me). I like the idea of the crew 'going hippy' :thumbup: (after all that technology has destroyed in their lives, it's not a big leap to imagine them starting anew on a virginal planet).
I also kind of like that it lines up with our Earth, because for me it makes all the Dylan stuff ("All Along the Watchtower...") more viable ('all this has happened before and will happen again,' even Bob Dylan! The colonies and Kobol probably had a Dylan too; as well as 'Earth 1.0' :lol: ); in other words, it makes this important (to me) chunk of fiction more personally relevant to me; it's not some fantastical imaginary place (even though we all KNOW it is). But I just love how this epic struggle eventually
leads up to OUR world; you and I. To me, that just makes it so much more real to me (like whenever they mention the Apollo project on Star Trek, or something like that). One of the reasons I usually prefer hard scifi to fantasy; good scifi deals in the (often only remotely) plausible. I find fantasy less relatable for me personally.

Again, you made some strong, good points, EE. Also again, it's all subjective; and I will NOT attempt to refute or challenge any more of it because you are you and I am I. :D :nBSGsalute: :cylonclap:

Thanks for that, EE (and yes, I did ask for it). ;) :thumbsup:
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Posted 13 January 2011 - 04:24 AM

I thik it could have been better, but I agree with OT on the link to Earth and abandonment of technology. And I love the idea of the ship falling to pieces, but still fighting one last time.

The only added elements I'd have would be a full explination/resolution of why Starbuck had to ascend to lead them to Earth (as she didn't really do much leading to anywhere). That said, the moment she realised what she was did come together nicely. But that could have been the soundtrack as well as the scene itself.

A big issue a few people have is Starbuck being an angel, I don't mind that. I get it (and I get the arbinger stuff), but... a little more logic would have been nice ;)
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Posted 13 January 2011 - 09:16 AM

View PostI Voted Baltar, on 13 January 2011 - 04:24 AM, said:

I thik it could have been better, but I agree with OT on the link to Earth and abandonment of technology. And I love the idea of the ship falling to pieces, but still fighting one last time.

The only added elements I'd have would be a full explination/resolution of why Starbuck had to ascend to lead them to Earth (as she didn't really do much leading to anywhere). That said, the moment she realised what she was did come together nicely. But that could have been the soundtrack as well as the scene itself.

A big issue a few people have is Starbuck being an angel, I don't mind that. I get it (and I get the arbinger stuff), but... a little more logic would have been nice ;)

I think the 'harbinger of death' prophesy had a two-fold meaning;
she brought the fleet to a dead planet (Earth 1.0; the 'real' earth, as 'angel Baltar' put it).
And her return also foreshadowed the end of Cylon resurrection with the destruction of the hub (and the Cylon colony); so the remaining Cylons could live 'mortal' lives on Earth 2.0 (our earth), alongside humanity.

That's my take on it, but yeah, it could've been clarified just a liiiittttlee bit (without OVER explaining it, of course...).

And I totally agree with you on the beautifully shot scene of Kara's 'ascension' when her and Lee are talking. :cylonclap:
It reminds me of that fragile moment when you're talking to someone in a dream who has passed on (and it feels totally natural), and then you wake up, and the bubble of that reality is burst, and the cold truth that the person is really gone sets in.
I've had that feeling a few times in my life (when I've lost people close to me), and for me, that scene just NAILED it perfectly (right down to the momentarily astonished, but quickly accepting look on Lee's face). :cylonclap:

Starbuck, like Galactica herself, had fulfilled her purpose, and it was time to be one with something greater (an afterlife, or in G's case, the sun). :thumbsup:
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Posted 13 January 2011 - 09:26 AM

I see a third meaning in the harbinger of death...
...the death of the human race. Well, as they knew it. Humanity would have to evolve and mix along with the Cylons to create something new - but that thought came in the last scene, with the cover of the magizine.
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Posted 13 January 2011 - 11:17 AM

View PostI Voted Baltar, on 13 January 2011 - 09:26 AM, said:

I see a third meaning in the harbinger of death...
...the death of the human race. Well, as they knew it. Humanity would have to evolve and mix along with the Cylons to create something new - but that thought came in the last scene, with the cover of the magizine.

Bingo! :cylonclap:
I didn't even think of that; mitochondrial Eve (Hera) was the start of something new (a human/Cylon fusion; us). Original 'Kobolian/colonial' humanity (the one without 'o' type blood in it's collective genome) was over....
:cylonnono:
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