Sail On, Battlestar

Society has a different inner voice; one that sounds more like Nickelodean or Michael Bay and less like Heroditus or Adam Smith. That, in the end, is likely why Battlestar Galactica was canceled and aired its final episode this past Friday with such an ending that it would ensure—amidst the regret of seeing such a show go by those who got it—no DVD’s, no movies and no sequels. (Any subsequent stories should rightly occur before the events that transpired in this episode and not after.)

The reason is not that complex but it will take Battlestar Galactica spoilers which will occur after the jump.

Battlestar Galactica was ambitious. From the very outset the writers and producers wanted a show that approached the emotional level of a Grecian Tragedy, the introspection of philosophy, the nature of religion and the complexity of character, usually found in a novel, during a one hour block of television.

They wanted the voice of a book on the home screen; they didn’t hold back

If the story arc demanded that they would jump ahead several months, fine. Several years, okay. As long as they could crank up the pressure on the characters and provide a story of humans forced to ask questions regarding the nature of humanity, the producers were fine with it.

This entire season, in fact, has been building up to this “opera house” of an ending—yet people forget that Opera’s, like books, aren’t known merely for their gorgeous sets and powerful climax; but also the denouement.

After a high paced first hour and fifteen minutes of a horrifying war where the core characters are, for all intents and purposes, doomed; the show goes on for another (I thought beautiful and necessary) forty five minutes of closing story lines.

We really get to see the hand of God in play, but not in the awful Deus ex machine sort of way. God, the story long said, has been involved from the very beginning. But how is it possible among such catastrophe, such pain, and such senseless s death?

Death-defying characters find peace by having had died already; their contribution is finally selfless instead of selfish.Characters that threw themselves into action finally sat down, breathed, and watched a sunset. Characters that spent their time rubbing shoulders with others, or in anguish over desires for others, finds peace by going off—away from others—and enjoying it. A character that lied about his past, changed his  accent and denied his roots—this one made me cried—admitted that he identified “great soil for cultivation”, that he was indeed the same individual from his past (while cracking to weep); and was thusly embraced by the love of his life.

Her response: “I know Gaius. I always knew.”

The show closed with our world, repeating the cycle of ancient Caprica and Earth, Godless and making robots in man’s own image. Will it all have changed? The writers don’t tell us. Sometimes, they suggest, small variations make big changes.

It’s the type of ending, with such heart-felt tying of character threads and such opening question of the future (being our today) that forces us to say “yeah, the show has made its point.”

As the curtain closes on this chapter of television history, one can hope that the cycle of near slap-stick television can be broken by the contributions of shows like Battlestar Galactica. Television that reaches above itself and tries to think differently.

Well, I can’t answer that question; but I do raise my glass to these writers. Great job.

3 responses to “Sail On, Battlestar”

  1. I wondered where they were going with the flashbacks last week; at the time it seemed like an odd choice to delve into backstories NOW when there was so much left to resolve in the present. But it all paid off and made sense in the finale, especially with Gaius finally embracing his roots, in every sense of the word. I never would have expected a scene like that from the character he was four seasons ago. Every character experienced growth in this series, whether bitter, sweet, or both. It’s sad that so many viewers didn’t seem to get it, or perceived the instances of divine intervention(that have been sprinkled throughout the entire series from the start if you consider things like Gaius surviving the nuke that destroyed his house and Six’ previous body) as a cop-out on the part of the writers. And it wasn’t like the show was being preachy and forcing any particular god on viewers who might not believe in such things; I thought they were ambiguous enough about the nature of the being the angels/demons were agents of so as to allow people to draw their own conclusions about what that force was, whether it was beyond good and evil, and what was on the other side(which I think the Hybrids and Sam were plugged into; his final line makes me think he definitely understood Kara’s nature).

    Powerful stuff, though, a four year commentary on war, politics, science, religion, and relationships that just happened to have the backdrop of spaceships and robots but was so much more. I’m glad you’re one of the people who got it.

  2. The Baltar flashbacks paid off. To a lesser degree, the Adama job hunt when he was expecting to retire had some payoff. I didn’t see the point of the Tighs binging in the bar scene, which seemed to go on and on. The Lee/Kara story and Roslin’s family loss would have been appropriate in earlier episodes focusing on those themes, but there didn’t seem to be a need to waste space in the finale for them, especially when they had to cut out a full half hour that will be appearing on the DVD. Why not save these stories for the DVD? They had a lot of footage of Adama and Tigh from their early military days filmed during season 2, I believe, that would have been more appropriate for this episode. I wonder if we’ll ever see that footage. Also, what was the point of informing us that Roslin had lost her family just before the attacks? Everyone lost their families in the attacks, so it doesn’t add much to her backstory to know that she did but in a different way. Where was the payoff in the finale itself? That was probably the most otiose, but the Lee/Kara one was pretty unconnected too.

  3. The connection with Roslin was a bit tenuous. I saw it as a mini-trial by fire that propelled her into the position of becoming the mother of a new family, that being all of humanity. But it wasn’t an obvious connection and I’m not even sure the DVD will actually touch on it since the way it was cut implied “You see; there it is. Makes sense now, eh?”