We’ll Always Have Caprica…

I may not have watched every episode or ever written about it before, but today I’ll eulogize Battlestar Galactica as great sci-fi television.  Was the ending problematic? To say the least.  Was the final scene pretty frakkin’ dumb?  Yup.  Was the show an amazing blend of 24, Lost, and Star Trek, intelligently exploring issues of national security, occupation and resistance, democracy in crisis, and spirituality, during the height of the Bush administration’s power, all in a kick-ass package of spaceships, robots, and sleeper agent androids?  You’re godsdamned right it was.

In the end, BSG just outlived its zeitgeist.  It was at its best from 2004-2007, and that’s no coincidence.  Once the era of Bush was on the wane, BSG didn’t have quite the same visceral urgency. Like 24, Battlestar benefitted from the dizzyingly paranoid atmosphere of the Neverending Global War On Terror. But while 24 quickly devolved into self-parody, going from innovative television thriller to campy torture porn at least a season before that meme really caught on, BSG had a much sounder premise and continued to churn out quality space-fi even in the twilight of its cultural relevance.

During the long wind-down, it seemed like the show considered explaining its lingering mythology a chore, and in the finale BSG produced as literal a deus ex machina as possible to wrap things up.  I enjoyed the incarnation of the Opera House visions and Starbuck’s decisive last FTL jump, didn’t even mind Starbuck disappearing into thin air even though this flies in the face of internal story logic.  But in the final scene, we flash-forward to the present day and the “Angel” Six & Baltar essentially watch as Ron Moore, the series’ creator, comes up with the idea for the episode that we’re watching! Really? Seriously?  Too meta by half.

Only WHO can prevent the robot uprising? You have selected YOU, referring to ME.  That is wrong.

"Only WHO can prevent the robot uprising? You have selected YOU, referring to ME. That is wrong."

Other than this ham-fisted move, I thought the Baltar/Six material was probably the strongest stuff in the finale.  The inclusion of flashbacks was very Lost-like and served as effective elegies for the characters and the distance they’ve travelled — not just in the case of Baltar and Six, though that was probably the best example.

The ultimate weakness of “Daybreak” wasn’t affirming a God-like agency as a force of nature for a free “get the writer out of jail” card, but the sudden abandonment of thematic complexity regarding humanity’s relationship to technology.  In the final showdown, our beloved characters forge an extremely shaky truce with their mortal enemy. Then the truce immediately goes to shit thanks to the sudden resolution of a lingering plot thread, the Big Bad immediately kills himself, and a “hand of God” accident destroys all of the Big Bad’s forces at exactly the same time.  I kind of loved that Cavil would blow his brains out in nihilistic despair as soon as he thinks the humans have cheated him out of resurrection, but the Colony getting nuked at random was lame, and the whole thing adds to the impression that after years of blurring the ethical distinctions between humans and the humanoid Cylons who are the apex of human technology, Moore didn’t properly unpack or explore the luddite overtones of the plot’s final resolution– not just the easy destruction of the enemy but the sudden unanimous decision by all the survivors to abandon modern technology altogether.

But even with those criticisms I don’t think the finale did some awful disservice to the series that preceded it — they really earned that lush nature photography, that’s for sure — because the show’s glory days were already behind her (and available on DVD).  In the end, Battlestar Galactica never got cancelled; it retired.

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