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Battlestar Galactica Series Finale: The Eulogy

March 21, 2009

“Daybreak pt 2”

And that’s that. Five years of sifting through false mythology and conflicting prophecies and in the end, we find out this was the lost episode of “Touched By An Angel.” Jeez.

It was no surprise to me that the series finale would strike me as much of the show did over its run as a mixed bag, some plot holes and slick FX and tiresome relationships made tolerable by fine acting.

The first half of the final episode brought the rain, the Galactica’s final mission to rescue Hera It was as well executed action scene as you’re going to get from a televised Sci-Fi series. The second, after the climax, was pretty damned tedious. Starbuck lived out her usefulness fulfilled her prophecized role and “lead the human race to its end,” the end meaning not death but the end of their journey. She found Earth . . . another Earth, our Earth, where humans have just learned to walk upright and bury their dead.

Okay, great! They found a new home. Then we’ll have a little catching up with them, perhaps a death scene for Roslin and then we all go home. Right? Noooooo. More flashbacks, more two shots of people talking to each other and not saying a lot. The last remnants of the colonies turns Luddite in some effort to try and stop the man vs. machine cycle.

I would have been just fine not knowing what happened to Tyrol (live out his existence in misery in the North on some island (Iceland? England? Greece?). His character got a proper send off when he killed Tori after the discovery of her murder of Callie. We all knew Tigh and Ellen were eternal lovers, we didn’t have to have Ellen tell us that, did we? Are we that stupid? Yes, Roslin had to have the death scene, her character deserved a final moment, as did Olmos and McDonnell for their performances over the series run (minus Olmos’ multiple collapsing in anguish scenes). It didn’t take an hour to do all that.

Oh, and Starbuck. She was actually an angel (or Jesus? daughter of God?) as were Baltar’s Six and Caprica Six’s Baltar. I was squarely in the Starbuck is Daniel’s daughter camp, and really there’s no reason to disbelieve that now given her vanishing act, despite Ron Moore saying she isn’t. Well, he offers us not much either way. Ah, the mysteries that will remain a mystery until the 2nd BSG movie.

For a show that constantly patted itself on the back for being risky and cutting edge, it went out on the most conventional of notions, and answered all the mysteries it raised by simply reconfirming a belief that most people, at least in this country, closely hold. It’s all a part of God’s plan and there are angels to guide us, show us the way.

If a show was going to go so far to create a universe with its own unique questions, those questions deserved a much better answer. Moore thinks the final “twist” of the show was that everything turned out OK. No, Ron, given the show’s trajectory we really didn’t think they would all die. Even if they did, there would be some sort of pseudo-mystical event, like the Five being resurrected or Starbuck and Adama surviving to become Adam and Eve. The final twist turned out to be completely conventional and really uninteresting. It’s pretty common for speculative fiction to punk out when dealing with religious issues and tell us, “There’s something out there guiding us, we don’t understand it, though, so it’s best we not try to explain and leave it up to the viewer.” Oh, take a stab at it, why don’t you?

Things I Hated about BSG:
Of least importance to many, but of a bit more significance to me was the inclusion of people of color in the cast and the way they were handled. Please note that the title of this post is NOT Ron Moore is a racist or anything so keep your powder dry. BUT, of those cast members of color with regular roles, all were women. Most all initially were sexual objects for the almost completely White male cast. They never began to express themselves as characters until they hooked up with one of the dudes or committed some act of violence. Yeah, I know, that was ALL Starbuck did, basically, until she “died.” Still, despite having a woman president (and gays in the military) I found this not very forward thinking.

It’s important to Sci-Fi because people of color generally have been handled rather poorly within the genre. The Star Trek generations have been the notable exceptions of course, but that seemed to be part of Rodenberry’s mission. Does Moore get a pass because he kicked it with Avery Brooks and Michael Dorn? Made Olmos, one of the hardest Latino brothers – politically at least – out there Admiral? I dunno. Maybe.

The Whole Starbuck/Lee Adama relationship. Bamber and Sackhoff never seemed to have strong chemistry. Nor did Sackhoff and Trucco. Nor did most of the other on-ship couples, really. It’s not easy to create on screen chemistry when people are getting together seemingly on the writer’s whims. But the Starbuck/Adama relationship was supposed to be part of the engine driving the damn thing.

The fake pretentiousness. We remember what the world was like pre-Obama don’t we? If you don’t, go and listen to The Roots – Game Theory, the last 4 tracks. You’ll feel it. Anyway, BSG came up when we were all in the thick of it, and even Limbaugh was depressed because he didn’t have anyone in the White House to really despise. NINE-ELEVEN was still an effective battle cry, and some were still thinking about placing Arabs in concentration camps.

The show was supposed to reflect OUR TIMES; dark, at war, on edge, broke as a joke. And at first it sorta did, then when they found New Caprica it kinda did, then as BSG seemed to become a Lost clone the thing started tipping over, getting away from character and into the NEXT SHOCKING TWIST. The only time when the series effectively spoke to OUR TIMES was Lee Adama’s speech at Baltar’s trial about justice. He pretty much summed up not only the attitude of the Bush administration but the attitude of a lot of people at the time.

Granted, most of the time the producers talked about the show being about character rather than plot (which mostly went out the window when the Final Five stuff began). Still, there was plenty of room for the show to be relevant.

Things I Will Remember:

The cast: Callis, Hogan, Olmos, McDonnell, and yes Bamber and Sackhoff were generally on point, perhaps those last two less so, which I think was a function of their character’s roles as the Mulder and Scully of the ship. Aaron Douglas (Tyrol) came on strong once the New Caprica episodes began. Stockwell’s appearances on the series were always welcome, especially his first episodes and his last. And can’t forget Mark Sheppard as Romo.

The ship: I loved that ship design as a kid, and the redesign was one of the improvements of the “reimagining.” The design, the effects, for a TV series it was all well done.

In the end, BSG doesn’t rate in best all time TV series. I wouldn’t place it in the top five sci-fi/speculative fiction series. But when it was good, Baltar’s trial, the first half of the final episode, it was really good.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. Linda permalink
    March 21, 2009 11:06 am

    HI:

    Thanks for your comments re: racism and women. I totally agree and have been dissapointed with the stereotypical “kill off the women of colour” plot lines.
    I was particularly struck last night that Hera, white girl, is our common ancestor out of Africa. This “mother” of all peoples theory put forward by scientists who back projected mitochondrial DNA, was surely almost certainly black given the continent she came from. Yet, here the producers of BSG revision history in favour of caucasians – again. I am white and not impressed with the writing at the frakkin’ end.

  2. March 21, 2009 1:30 pm

    Well, half white she is (was) lol. The whole idea of her being “Mitochondrial Eve” is suspect not only because of her race but because the theory implies there are several Eves, not just one woman. If BSG would fit the theory, all the Eights that stayed with the humans would have mated with a bunch of human males (sharon being the person who would have passed on the mitochondria). But it’s a Moore script isn’t it? Psuedo-science OK!

  3. Will permalink
    March 21, 2009 8:36 pm

    First off, I don’t believe the race card argument works in relation to BSG. The fact is that this series was designed to represent our world in a darker and more twisted light. In that vein, race was dealt with throughout the series in ways that might not make white PC junkie’s happy, but it was dealt with. Why were there no black man in the upper-echelons of command in the Colonies? Because in the 12 colonies blacks were pre-dominantly from Geminon and Sagitaron, both outsiders do to their extreme religious beliefs. Racism, classicism and religious conflicts were some of the underpinnings of this series. Does having a black command officer warrant violating the reality of the setting just because some people seem to think only male actors are capable of representing racial balance in the industry?

    On a topic more related to the episode itself, I think the writers did a decent job of wrapping up the series. The obvious flaw is Starbuck, which is the only sub-plot whose resolution left a bitter taste in my mouth. I can take visions, prophecies and the cycle of history repeating itself, but having her be some sort of Angel is a bit of a kick in the junk. The show got out there at times, but re-watching the episodes usually led to an understanding of how you got from Point A to Point B without getting all deus ex machina on us. Kara the Angel is a huge cop out if it stands.

    As for the sentimental last half hour…deal. This was our last chance to see characters who have been emotionally and spiritually dissected for the last five years, and I liked the way they let everyone have a moment. Cheesy, yes, but it’s SCI-FI! The genre has been cheesy since the pulp days, so why should it change now? Besides, there was so much darkness throughout the years, let it end on a high note.

    PS: The “Mitochondrial Eve” is note black, white, Arab or Asian, but rather the point from which those later sub-species evolved. The point of it being Hera is that our DNA is a mixture of human and Cylon. Yah, there’d be hundreds or thousands in actuality, but we don’t usually found 150,000 year old mummies by the thousands do we?

  4. March 21, 2009 10:00 pm

    Let me see if I get the criticism. It’s psuedo-science that the little girl with the ROBOT FOR A MOMMY can’t be the “mitochondrial eve”, because she is the wrong color for that part of town?

    Tyrol mentioned the island had “highlands”, which tends to favor Scotland. And would be a subtle geek in-joke about Tyrol being the progenitor of red shirted Scottish engineers.

  5. Luke permalink
    March 22, 2009 2:03 am

    “I would have been just fine not knowing what happened to Tyrol (live out his existence in misery in the North on some island (Iceland? England? Greece?).”

    Shortly after you ask “Are we that stupid?” Well, Mark, apparently some of us are stupid enough to think that Greece is an island.

    I don’t even know where to start with with the rest of this article. The entire section about race is just hypocritical and childish. If you stop always focusing on peoples skin color, you will start to notice how little it matters. Not to mention the lead is played by a Hispanic.

  6. GLB permalink
    March 22, 2009 3:07 am

    “In the end, BSG doesn’t rate in best all time TV series. I wouldn’t place it in the top five sci-fi/speculative fiction series.”

    I would.

  7. March 22, 2009 1:47 pm

    I asked you people to keep your powder dry. For a lot who doesn’t want people of color to get emotional about race issues, you certainly do get emotional when issues of race are introduced.

    Okay, first off, Luke, how many times did I mention Olmos in the post? Did you just stop reading when I mentioned the phrase “people of color?” Second, have you not heard of the Greek Isles? I’ll let the comment about “how little it matters” slide because it appears that you’ve spent your life in front of a television set or with head buried in bad sci-fi novels and know little of real life.

    Sarcastro, I assume you’re joking as usual. Or you’re responding to Linda and not me. Which.

    Will, you must be taking your info from supplemental materials that I haven’t read or seen. It would be even worse for the show to have created this backstory concerning race/racism in the Colonies then refusing to acknowledge it and going on about “color blind casting.” Which is it? They really can’t have it both ways.

  8. March 22, 2009 3:05 pm

    yes, responding to Linda.

    • March 23, 2009 4:02 am

      PS, on Tyrol inside joke, I thought abt it in the shower (I rarely, if ever, think about Tyrol in the shower) and thought abt Colm Meany (Irish), Geordie LaForge (neither Irish nor Scot), Torres (Klingon/”firey Latina”) etc and thought that joke didn’t work. I really thought they were trying to insinuate he lent something of significance to world culture, like the naming of the Greek gods or som’fin.

  9. March 23, 2009 6:23 am

    Not to knock the spinoffs, but I will. Trek Original Recipe is the archetype. For good or bad. Trying to make that fit for ALL of the cash-in shows that followed obviously isn’t going to work.

    Surprised you didn’t throw “Welshy” from Futurama in the mix as well.

  10. BUZZSAW permalink
    March 25, 2009 6:20 am

    Enough of this black power bullshit. It was only a TV show, not another way for the white man to hold the black man down, give me a break. how about all the other races that didnt overy have a dominant role in the show. maybe you should go have fracking Tyler Perry write his own script of BSG maybe Madea could be the commander.

    • March 25, 2009 11:24 am

      Well BUZZSAW, thanks for your insight. However, I think you perhaps did not watch the show very closely, let alone read my post well. Perhaps a reading comprehension test is in order? Who said anything about “the black man” besides yourself? Grace Park is Korean-Canadian. Rehka Sharma is Indian-American. Kandyse McClure is I belive multi-racial. Go back and reread, then perhaps we can have a discussion about it if you want.

      There need be no comment about it being “only a TV show.” I don’t think I would watch BSG if Tyler Perry was writing the script. Besides, if you knew his work, you’d know that few people making films are harder on Black men than Perry.

  11. CenturionTerminator permalink
    March 26, 2009 3:26 am

    It may not have been perfect. No show is. There was a lot of unanswered questions. Not all was revealed, as was promised. But the finale was much better than Galactica 1980.

    After enduring genocide, war, terrorism, occupation, torture, depravity, scarcity, fear, despair — the crew deserved a relatively happy ending. It may have been conventional to you. But it was quite fitting.

    As to inclusion, BSG had the first Hispanic admiral as well as the first gay or bisexual admirals: Admiral Cain, Admiral Gaeta and Admiral Hoshi. Even Star Trek did not go this far.

    Personally, I think this is one of the best sci-fi series ever. Being older than you, I’ve watched many sci-fi shows since the 1970’s. There was a lot of crappy shows too numerous to mention and only a few good ones. Making good sci-fi is not easy to do on television. But the new BSG managed to pull it off. (Eat your heart out, Dirk Benedict.)

    Long live Ronald Moore. Can’t wait for Caprica.

  12. March 26, 2009 4:53 am

    HA! I bet you aren’t older than I am. Not much anyway.

    I don’t begrudge them a happy ending. All points led towards a peaceful resolution. Some through lines couldn’t have had a happy ending (i.e. Adama/Roslin relationship). Some like the Tigh story, couldn’t have gone off the rails in the end. I’m not questioning the resolution to the personal conflicts, I’m talking about the BIG QUESTIONS the writers dared to pose and then copped out sadly on the answers.

    Had admirality played a larger role in the ST series there may have been. Admirals were usually guest stars. There were, however, explorations of gay characters in individual series (and of course the infamous lesbian kiss on DS9). ST didn’t go that far only because TV hadn’t gone that far.

    But if you want to get to brass tacks, ST:TOS had the first Latino admiral, Commodore Mendez (“The Menagerie”). The rank is equivalent to Rear Admiral in the Navy. I’m not certain that it is in Trek universe, but that’s geekier than I care to get at this hour.

  13. CenturionTerminator permalink
    March 26, 2009 5:42 pm

    Points well taken. But you are wrong. A commodore is not equal to a rear admiral in the US Navy.

    Originally, a commodore was positioned between a captain and a rear admiral. Commodores were basically senior captains. Some were promoted to rear admiral following WWII. But the rank of commodore no longer exists.

    So the new BSG does have the very first Hispanic admiral. Star Trek has a lot of catching up to do.

    And I am older than you. You are a young man in your late 20’s or early 30’s, I guess. I happen to be in my mid-40’s. And I’ve seen more sci-fi than you. You probably never heard of Ark II.

    You have a lot to learn, young man.

  14. March 26, 2009 6:55 pm

    Well we can nitpick, but first I’m just curious what is it that makes you think I’m that young? Or that you’ve seen more SciFi than I have (as if it matters vis a vis this conversation)? It may be one of the sillier Internet pissing contests ever.

    Oh, I heard of Ark II. I can also remember seeing the last televised episode of TOS. It’s one of my earliest memories, granted.

    Age (your age is as I thought, which proves my thinking that you’re only a few years elder correct) or amount of Scifi observed (when you lump in all the Japanese series and films I’ve seen, well . . .), this fact remains; the ST series have been groundbreaking in a way that BSG simply was not.

  15. CenturionTerminator permalink
    March 28, 2009 8:38 am

    You’re right. This claim of who has seen more sci-fi is getting silly. I overestimated your youth. I had assumed that, as a very young man, your sci-fi experience was quite limited compared to mine. I stand corrected.

    And I can understand why you thought the finale was a cop-out. Many people did. Angels were too easy an explanation. But for some of us, the finale was fairly consistent with the old BSG storyline about the powerful Beings of Light. (Remember “War of the Gods” and “Experiment in Terra”?) Ronald Moore often borrowed from the original. And this brought some heartfelt closure.

    As to which show was more inclusive, let us acknowledge that Star Trek and BSG were both groundbreaking. This is in sharp contrast to Star Wars which, despite its heavy Asian influences, has no major Asian characters. (And I happen to be Asian.)

    Basically we are sci-fi geeks engaged in a geeky debate which ended in a draw. Some might laugh at us now. You and I were probably teased as kids. (Although you look more like a jock than a dork.)

  16. December 10, 2009 1:49 pm

    Hi. Very good article. Thanks for sharing!

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