Thursday, December 13, 2007

Galactica's Muddy Waters

Ok, for this entry, I’m going to step out of the 70s for a bit. Well, sort of. How can you really step out of the 70s when talking about Battlestar Galactica?

I’ve been watching the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica recently. After watching the two part mini series that aired in 2003 before the show became a series, I swore that I would not give this show an audience in my home. I absolutely hated it. I said the same thing about Star Trek: Enterprise and ended up changing my mind. I chalk up this recent viewing of Galactica as a weak moment of desperation for something, anything, science fiction in nature. While I’m not averse to exploring new science fiction territory, I didn’t start watching Babylon 5 until somewhere in the second or third year, I tend to fall back on familiar territory. So, even as flawed and awful that the new Galactica is in my opinion, I decided that since the show is about to begin its final season in March of next year it might just be time for a revisit. Now, the only problem was, the show was currently repeating its third season on SciFi. The first two seasons weren’t being shown so the only way to get caught up was to either buy the DVDs or rent them. And I hate renting. So, I plunked down the cash for the mini series and seasons one and two and began a two week marathon. After that it was just a matter of catching up on season three, which I have now done and giving the two-hour Razor movie a viewing.

I am now, I think, able to put a few things about this show into perspective. First of all, like the Thirteenth Tribe, I am totally lost here. Where is this all going? Somewhere in the middle of season two, I believe, things started to get really muddied up. The show has stopped being about the survival of the human race and has become some sort of spirit quest. At least I think so. I’m not really sure what is really happening here. The show has strayed so far from its origins as to become almost unrecognizable. And I’m not talking about the original series versus the new series, either. Although, to be perfectly honest, that has also happened. While I did have my issues with all of the changes that were made in the concept of the original to the new series, I was able to at least see the similarities between the two. The basic story was still there. And by basic, I do mean basic. Only the most basic of concepts and ideas had been transferred from the original to the new series. By the way, human looking Cylons were not a creation of the writers of the new series. There were human looking Cylons in the two part episode ‘The Night the Cylons Landed’ from Galactica 1980. Glenn Larson came up with the idea. Not Ronald D. Moore.

Anyway, there are several episodes in season one of the new series that really hit home the whole ‘struggle for survival’ aspect of the original series. The episode 33 was a really cool episode and a perfect first episode of the new series. Every 33 minutes the fleet has to make a FTL (Faster Than Light) jump or be attacked by the Cylons. The Galactica’s crew hasn’t slept in days. Nerves are frayed. Into this mix, a mysterious doctor sends an urgent message to the President asking for a face to face meeting. He has evidence about the destruction of the Colonies. Naturally, Baltar begins to suspect that it has to do with him. Eventually everything is resolved, of course.

I was really impressed with this episode of the series. There were moments that it felt almost like watching a more updated version of the original series. Then the mud started to seep into the water. Maybe it started with the mini series, I don’t remember. Suddenly the Cylons believe in a God. One God versus the Colonials beliefs in multiple Gods. While this idea was explored throughout the first season, it seemed to take a back seat to more ‘action’ oriented installments. Then, somewhere in the second season, it really began to rear its ugly head. In a BIG way. Again, I can’t help but ask myself, where is this going? What is the whole point of this? What happened to the idea that this show was about the escape of the humans from the tyranny of the Cylons? What about the quest to find Earth and the lost Thirteenth Tribe? Now the Cylons are also looking for Earth and for the same reason. It’s going to be their new home. Why? Why would they want to find and live on a world that is occupied by humans? Why are they even still pursuing the human fleet? In the original series, this was very clear. The Cylons after a 1000 year war were bound and determined to exterminate the entire human race. They weren’t looking for Earth. They didn’t know anything about Earth. And if they did, they weren’t about to cohabitate with the humans living there. Is this show about nothing more than a difference in theologies? I am totally lost. None of it is making any sense anymore. The show has strayed so far from its origins that it’s not even the same show anymore. Now we have this whole Starbuck returning from the dead thing happening and she has some sort of destiny that may or may not be good for the rest of the fleet. In the last episode of the third season, she said she’s been to Earth and she has come back to lead them there.

Maybe all of this griping is premature. I mean, there is one more season to go. Everything might get explained by the end of the final episode of the fourth season. I doubt it. From past experience with Ronald D. Moore and his writing, things just might just stay pretty muddied up. The illustrious Mr. Moore did some of the same things with Star Trek: Voyager. Either his episodes ended in a simplistic way or there was so much techno babble that in the end you really didn’t care what everything had been about. Mr. Moore also likes to introduce certain concepts and rules and then promptly ignores them a few episodes later or just out and out contradict them. In Galactica, he’s done the same thing. For example, near the end of season two of Galactica, Baltar has been elected President and he orders Adama to jump to New Caprica and begin settlement. Ok, so Adama is answerable to the President of the Colonies and the President is the only one that can give Adama an order. Fine and good until you re-examine everything else that preceded this scene. Like, for example, the events of the episode Pegasus. If the President is the Commander and Chief of the military, and the highest ranking leader of the military can only be given orders from the President, then knowing that Admiral Cain was dangerous, why didn't President Roslin just simply have Cain relieved of her command and replace her with Adama? Problem solved. Right? Instead she and Adama hatch this plan to assassinate Cain instead. Dumb. It totally ignores or conveniently forgets, everything that has happed before. All through season one, Adama had President Roslin in his face at every turn. True, I don’t remember her giving him a direct order, but it was certainly implied that as the leader of the civilian government she certainly had the authority to give Adama an order. Even during war time. Whether she chose to do this or not, she certainly had the authority. As stated, this is finally made clear when Baltar gives Adama a direct order. So why all of the pussy footing around with Cain? If the woman is dangerous, remove her from command. It’s that simple. Maybe Roslin just didn’t want to rock the boat with the Pegasus crew? I don’t know. The only excuse that I can find for this is lazy writing. If you as the author are setting up this world, and you establish certain rules for this world, then you as the author cannot just ignore them when they become inconvenient just to fit your current plot.

I’m all for intelligent, adult oriented writing in SciFi shows. However, I don’t really find exploring the theology of machines built by humans to be compelling drama. Again, this is another area where the show has veered so far off track. The Cylons were (are) supposed to be the central villains. Other than totally wiping out the entire Colonial Fleet and Colonies, they really haven’t been much of a threat. Now, it seems that they aren’t all that concerned with wiping out the human race. Now they want to co-exist with them in peace because this is God’s will. Ok, if the Cylons were so religious, didn’t they think that mass genocide was a crime against God? So, what really prompted the attack on the Colonies? Again, why is none of this stuff making any sense? Maybe I missed a key piece of the puzzle along the way, but I don’t think so. Each episode begins by telling us that the Cylons were built by man, rebelled, evolved and that there are many copies and they have a plan. Well so far, they haven’t really demonstrated that they have a plan at all. When the humans settled on New Caprica, the Cylons didn’t know where they were nor were they looking for them. They only found them by accidentally discovering the residual traces of a nuclear explosion near the planet. So, what did the Cylons do? They flew in and occupied the planet along with the humans instead of wiping them out. True, in the end they started to kill them off, but only a few at a time. So, what is their so called ‘plan’? What is the real reason that they are now looking for Earth as well? I can’t be just because they have decided that this will be their new home. What about their old home world? What about the Colonies that they occupied after the mass attack in the mini series? Are there still Cylons living there? Then of course, there is the question of who are the final five human looking Cylons? It seems that four of them have been identified while the fifth one is still a mystery. However, the list of suspects is very small. It’s either Baltar or Starbuck. I really can’t see any other choices here. Now throw in this whole thing that D’Anna Biers (she’s a Cylon) is doing to her self and things just keep getting more and more convoluted. Not to mention that Roslin is sharing visions with Caprica Six and Sharron Valerii about the half human half Cylon baby. And let’s not forget that since the very first episode Baltar keeps having visions of Six and now Six is having visions of Baltar. Can anyone make any sense out of this whole mess?

It just seems that the writers just keep adding ingredients to the soup without any clear outcome or direction. Yes, I understand that they can’t reveal each and every single detail of the plot or it would ruin the outcome of the fourth season, but at this point we should be able to make some educated guess or assumptions. So far I’m coming up with nothing. There are either too many clues or there are too many red herrings. I can’t help but feel like I’ve been really led up the garden path. While it’s been a pretty view, it isn’t adding up to much. I can only hope that right in the middle of season four a really big piece of the puzzle is going to be dropped on us. If that happens, then it should be fairly simple to work out the rest of the plot of the series. It should be, but I don’t think that it’s going to be all that easy. Just like Harry Potter, there are too many things that are being purposely held back until the final episode.