As a fan of mainstream science fiction (i.e., I avoid those Stargate shows but am dedicated to Star Trek), I feel this column must be dedicated to Friday’s finale of Battlestar Galactica. The finale of any acclaimed science show with a rabid cult audience can’t help but to not live up to expectations — with the exception of the truly excellent, poetic Star Trek: The Next Generation finale — but BSG‘s last episode seems to be getting a resounding “eh” from its loyal fanbase. My excuse for discussing it here: Battlestar is one of those latter-day television shows whose reputation and fan base has been built up largely through its accessibility on DVD, which is how I got into it this year.
For me, while the smart update of the cheesy 70s show had moments that placed it among the best dramas on television, it could be quite uneven. Take the middle of Season “2.5” where a poignant, tense storyline about the limits and morality of military power and justice is followed up by four stand-alone episodes that evoke not relevant human dilemmas after a catastrophe, but the kind of space operatic storylines the show typically dismisses. This was one of the only problems BSG had: for almost every moment of cool space action motivated by relevant themes and intriguing political drama, there was an episode like “Scar,” a shoot-em-up which barely pretended to thematic depth. (But then, for every boring, irrelevant stand-alone episode, there was a truly touching stand-alone episode like “Unfinished Business”.) While Friday’s finale was by no means bad television, it was unfortunately one of those uneven moments.
Throughout Season 4.5 (this, its last), the show has seemed more and more lost. Stuck between trying to explain five years worth of mysteries, conundrums and contradictions, and keeping the show interesting, 4.5 was as full of retcons as it was of dead-end plot twists. The BSG faithful tried to make excuses for it, anticipating a mind-blowingly awesome finale that summed everything up. The episode where Anders becomes Captain Expedition after getting a bullet in his brain was necessary to clear the way for the finale, we said. Two episodes about Adama sobbing and drooling heightened the dark atmosphere of the series and important developments in his character. An entire 40 minutes dedicated to Ellen’s jealousy of Tigh’s baby was … alright, that one was infuriating.
The first half of the finale gave us what we wanted, and honestly, so did the second half, in a way. We got our action and badassery in the first half, and a true sense of closure in the second. That alone can’t be easy. But the show packs in a very literal deus ex machina in its closing 40 minutes that, despite its frequent theological explorations, doesn’t seem to fit the show as a whole. Sure, religion played an important part on Battlestar, but it was almost always in the context of an examination of the ways in which religion works in human society and politics. Often something “magical,” inexplicable even by the standards of BSG science, would happen, but I think few of us ever thought that God would show his hand at the end of the show.
Maybe its because much has changed in American life and politics since 2003, but the Battlestar Galactica that ended four days ago was very different from the one that was on the air from 2003-2007. That show’s level of relevance was shocking and even subversive — as when the good guys turn suicide bombers during the Cylon occupation of New Caprica in Season 3 (2006), at the height of the Iraq insurgency. Its turn from this to a mystical/metaphysical opera was arguably a misstep, though gods know I’m still going to watch all the frakking spinoffs.
New Releases From the Box
Quantum of Solace
Fans wined about this supposedly heady title, apparently missing the good old days of anatomy-based punnery and nonsensery like Octopussy and Goldfinger. If only it had been called Ear of Solace. Anyway, Daniel Craig’s second outing as Bond, at times, blatantly copies the Bourne series’ proven “jump around rooftops with shaky camera” formula, but it’s still an exciting action flick, something Bond hadn’t been for a while before Craig. Weaker than Casino Royale, stronger than 4/5 of the Bond catalogue!
Animated movie about a superhero dog. It’s probably not any better or worse than you’re imagining it to be right now.
Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter
A straight-to-video adaptation of a short fictional comic-within-a-comic, removed from its context and rendered a mere gory pirate story that, without its clever juxtaposition and interplay with the larger text, underscores no theme in the film adaptation from which it was excised? And for only $29.98? Where can I get it?
Andy Richter Controls the Universe: The Complete Series
Correct me if I’m wrong, but this show was awesome. OK, I admit it, at the time this was on television I was a young teenager who was also convinced that Whose Line Is It Anyway was the funniest sketch comedy in the history of the universe. So please, correct me before I go buy this.
Next Week on From the Box
The greatest Bollywood movie of all time, Slumdog Millionaire, is released, and our hero will try his best to watch it before he makes sarcastic remarks about the co-option of Bollywood filmmaking by arrogant British directors and Hollywood moguls. Other big releases include Marley & Me and Seven Pounds. Also, hyper-overrated French thriller Tell No One is on DVD; look for an explanation of why, even though France may have the most artistically successful national cinema in the world, movies are not good only by virtue of their Frenchness. So Say We All!