'BS' Doesn't Stand for 'Battlestar': Battlestar Galactica Finale

Posted by Charles Reece, March 22, 2009 12:44am | Post a Comment
spoiler alert.

You know how after a catastrophic accident or tragedy some religiously inclined individual looks at it as a miracle that something even worse didn't happen? Say, some burglar botches a job, not realizing the family is still home, and winds up murdering all of them except the young daughter he didn't see hiding in the closet. Afterwards, some bozo will inevitably suggest God's light must be shining down on the little girl, since she was so lucky to have survived. Maybe I'm a glass-half-empty kind of guy, but I'd say what's being conveniently ignored there is that her entire family was slaughtered, indicating there ain't anything moral giving much of a shit about her wellbeing. Or, if you don't like hypotheticals, take the Hulkster's use of Divine Intervention to comfort his son, Nick, during the latter's stay in jail for a drunken crash that rendered his "best friend" and passenger, John Graziano, a tomato:

Well, I don't know what type of person John was or what he did to get himself in this situation. I know he was pretty aggressive and used yell at people and used to do stuff. And for some reason God laid some heavy shit on that kid.  I don't know what he was into .... John was a negative person.

Forsooth, God's Will is deep and mysterious! So say we all! Thus, how might the 30 or so thousand survivors of Caprica find a little bit of meaning in their civiliation's destruction at the hands of the Cylons? Well, by realizing it's all part of God's plan (that is, the one, true God, not "the gods" the humans always swear by). See, with old Yahweh not being much of a utilitarian, it was necessary to kill so many to get a few to Earth, as a way to help our ancestors along in their development.  This is the Divine Scenarist's way of getting humanity to realize its full potential as what Caprica 6 refers to as another iteration of the civilization that gets too big for its britches and will destroy itself with nukes.

Here are but a few of the inanities we long-time fans of the show were dealt in the denouement:

The luddite screed that Ron Moore and his writers turned the show into. The finale clearly sets up the dangers of relying on robots (the symbolic embodiment of technology), but conveniently forgets it wasn't the centurion models built by the Capricans that resulted in their near total annihilation, but the numbered Cylon models designed to look like humans by the alien Cylons (who came to Caprica after they'd nuked their own homeworld into oblivion 2,000 years ago). At best, the symbolic warning here is beware your toaster or microwave, because some alien technology might mate with it in order to bring about your species' destruction. Shark-jumping has happened before, and will happen again...

Which brings up another problem: why were the Cylons still chasing the humans? They had Caprica to themselves. They had New Caprica to themselves. Surely, if Cylons can build those wondrous baseships and replicate life, they could build up either of those planets to their liking. Why care about where a few remaining humans were going afterwards? Oh, that's right, the "prophecy" and the oracular vision about the little hybrid, Hera, shared in some form or another by President Laura Roslin, Dr. Gaius Baltar, "Caprica" (the primary #6 model), Sharon (a good #8), D'Anna Biers (the last #3 model who stayed behind on Cylon Earth when her contract ran out).

What was this important message contained in the fateful dream? After 3 seasons of building up its relevance, it turns out to be nothing more than a literal transcription of the movements made by Hera, her rescuers and captors during the big budget battle scene. For no reason other than plot contrivance, Hera keeps running away from her rescuers until all the major characters are in place for Baltar's big speech. Now, there's a divine plan: give many people the same mysterious dream, so that they go chasing after it in order to get them all in the same predestined location: a faceoff on Galactica's helm between all the principal agents. This is prophecy by way of The Life of Brian: you shall move here, and then there, and back to here. Destiny is starting to sound a lot like the scriptwriter who didn't have anything planned out, and is merely reverse-engineering to make the required final episode fit into the corner that he has written himself.

The salvation of Baltar, or "boy, my arms sure are tired." Everyone's tired of the struggle and ready to settle down, even the nefarious Cavil (Cylon humanoid #1). So inspiring is Baltar's speech that an agreement is reached between his party, the hardliners, and the Capricans with their the rebel Cylon allies. However, everything goes wrong because of the Chief's personal problems with fellow fiver, Tory. Personal foibles resulting in major catastrophes has been a driving theme of the show since the beginning, so that's okay. What's not okay is the resolution to character arcs resulting from the Chief's actions and Baltar's speech. As Starbuck hastily types in warp coordinates based on "All Along The Watchtower" and Galactica escapes the Cylon baseship, Cavil shoots himself for no other reason than the writers didn't want him on Earth. Or, perhaps, it was Baltar's speech, which worked well enough on Adama, so that he could get over his hatred, even joking with the traitor to the human race by the end. Is the audience supposed to forgive Baltar for his signing the death warrants of his fellow humans back on New Caprica or his role in the 6 billion supersized genocide at the beginning of the show? The scenarists obviously have South Africa's Truth and Reconciiliation in mind, rather than the Nuremberg Trials, but the parallel of setting up a racist Afrikaner leader as some glowing hero because of a change of heart at the end is minimally just plain dumb writing, and morally repulsive at the worst. The T&R committee wasn't the result of heroism, but done out of a miserable practicality where the aggrieved had little other opportunity to find out the truth about what happened to their loved ones. In the end, the best, most complex character BSG had is reduced to the old-fashioned Hollywood cliche of requiring heroism in every protagonist.

He hates these cans. Stay away from the cans. In order to explain away the fact that we modern Earthlings have no evidence of Caprica's technology from 150,000 years ago, Adama and crew decide to run everything into the Sun for a "fresh start." They have all these stoves, guns and intergalactic means of transportation, but it makes them feel better to hunt with rocks and start fires with two sticks. Imagine if Europe had turned to the Jews and said, "don't you want to get over this sordid mess by some good old fashion dirt-farming with nothing but your hands?" Aside from the chance to win a million bucks, what human used to living under a roof would opt for Paleolithic habitation?

The missing link. When cylons have sex, their spines glow red, yet no scientist of modern-day Earth has noticed any of their descendants with that peculiar phenotype, nor has there been any Cylon skeletal remains surfacing among the fossil record? Likewise, wouldn't thousands of Cylon skeletons leave some screwy evidence for our anthropologists since they're exactly the same? Seems to me that the best resolution to this well worn sci-fi conceit of aliens founding modern culture would've been Atlantis. Yeah, that's not original, but it's no less original than what's offered, and it would've circumvented the ludicrous need to destroy all traces of advanced technology (except the Cylons and Adama's carrier that he keeps).

Speaking of Aryan dreams: where are all the black Capricans? Did any of them survive the journey to Earth? Was blackness just a development from all the white aliens populating the warmer regions in our past? Or maybe the only blackness 150,000 years ago was that already extant on Earth. Good thing some white aliens came along to teach the natives English and about the one true God, even though they forgot all that stuff until being reminded during colonialism.

Which way did they go? Everyone -- Capricans and Cylons alike -- is racing to find Earth as a place to rebuild civilization and continue the survival of the respective species. During this time, half of the cylons joined the humans in their search. Now, it was demonstrated that humans could still live on Caprica back in the first or second season, even after the nuclear holocaust. Why, if everyone's getting along, didn't someone suggest, "hey, why don't we go back home?" Or, if the threat of cancer is too great, why didn't anyone think of simply going back to New Caprica? The humans left it behind only because the Cylons invaded. If everyone's so tired of traveling, wouldn't that have been the most logical solution?

Now you see it, now you don't. After 3 and half seasons, there's suddenly a 13th Cylon type that's been boxed, one of whom could've been Starbuck's father, making her the first human-Cylon hybrid. This would've explained her artistic visions in a cohesive narrative, connecting plot points that have been around since the beginning. Yet, the possibility was completely dropped in the finale. Turns out, Moore and company needed to fill in a numbering problem they'd developed a couple of seasons ago, calling Boomer a number 8 instead of 7. Better to just bring back the most irritating character in the show, Ellen, to nag Tigh some more. This frees the writers up to make Starbuck an angel. A fucking angel. Oh yeah, I should've known. One of my rules of entertainment is that I don't watch shows with angels. I hate 'em, because, regardless of the popular examples (Wings of Desire, It's A Wonderful Life), they're never more than a thematic convention to supply cheaply earned import to the unimaginative scenarist's need to get from A to B. If you want some justification for my hatred, compare the existential investigation of Wild Strawberries or 8 1/2 to any show using an angel to look at the meaning of an individual's life. The atheistic mysticism of Bergman and Fellini offers continual possibilites of what might've been while celebrating what is and what the is might mean, whereas someone like Capra merely presents the way things would be in a concrete, literal and entirely boring fashion had things gone differently.

So, instead of a finally getting a hard science fiction show on TV, which the BSG miniseries and first season promised, we get another gimmicky Doug Henning-excuse for faith over reason: it's all magic. Gods, that's some Bullshit!

Relevant Tags

Television Criticism (12), Hulk Hogan (3), Bullshit (10), Battlestar Galactica (4)