March 25, 2009

BSG Predictions Wrap-Up

Filed under: Battlestar Galactica — Chris @ 8:27 pm

Now that things have ended, and ended well (set your expectations, people), let’s revisit our predictions and see how we did.

  • H and Zohar are 0-2 on the true nature of Starbuck. In fairness, I must note:
    1. They were totally spot-on about the nature and origin of the Final Five, an aspect of their elaborate theory that I chose not to discuss in my previous post.
    2. They weren’t actually wrong about Starbuck, per se, it’s just that the show did not actually provide any explanation of the true nature of Starbuck (although the strong implication is that she was an angel/ghost/other paranormal entity).
  • I was 2-2 on the existence of Daniel and his further insignificance to the plot. (Whether he will come up in Caprica remains to be seen. RDM is fronting like he won’t, but I find that hard to believe. (I’m actually really interested in how the hell the last season of BSG is going to square with Caprica, which seems to be about the invention (or re-invention) of Cylon and resurrection technologies.))
  • Over on Twitter, I predicted that Galactica would be resurrected ala Starbuck’s Viper. Completely wrong.

What all of our wrong predictions share in common is the assumption the writer’s would feel obligated to explain some significant number of lingering mysteries (e.g., the head characters, Starbuck’s resurrection, the opera house vision, “All Along the Watchtower”) in the finale. As it turned out, they referenced all of these things, but they didn’t explain any of them. Instead we got: God did it. Any prediction rooted in physical phenomena and empirical explanations was bound to fail.

I think the finale would have been better and more satisfying—even absent any additional explanation—if my resurrection prediction had come true. I was pretty convinced it would through the first hour of the finale, right up to “there’s got to be some kind of way out of here”—especially with Tori and Cavil’s deaths immediately preceding that last fateful jump. When they made the jump, they could have arrived at Earth-Veldt with Galactica and all of the major characters resurrected. Voila. That’s what happened to Starbuck: she jumped to the magical coordinates and she and her ship were resurrected. Maybe they’re all dead and Earth-Veldt is heaven. Maybe their cindered corpses are right next to Starbuck’s on Earth-Prime. Who knows? No need to explain. The rest of the episode can proceed unchanged (with the exception of the fact that you have to deal with Cavil, Boomer, and the rest of the Evil Cylons being Not Dead. Easy: they’ve been converted to goodness and light by this dramatic turn of events (if you can trust the Centaurians, you can trust them, can’t you?). This can be dispensed with in about three lines of dialogue).

Overall, I feel like I didn’t get X-Files’d, parly because the BSG crew did a pretty good job of tamping down expectations (at times with a sledgehammer) and partly because I honestly didn’t care all that much about the mythology. I only wish the last season had had more episodes like “The Oath” and “Blood on the Scales” and fewer like “A Disquiet Follows My Soul” and “No Exit”. Still, a bad episode of BSG was better than… going out on Friday night.

My life now lacks a one-hour drama (except for Mad Men). What’s good on TV?


February 20, 2009

…And They (Might) Have a Plan

Filed under: Battlestar Galactica — Chris @ 10:37 am

At the risk of vanishing down a geek-trivia rathole here, I’d like to discuss one little problem I have with the state of Battlestar Galactica circa episode 4.17, “No Exit” (I actually had a fairly big problem with the inartful, anti-dramatic bullet-in-the-brain infodump, but that has been adequately covered elsewhere). The problem is thus: it is very hard to see how it could possibly be that the Cylons ever had a plan.

You see, way back when I first discovered BSG in the middle of the second season—before I had gone back and watched the miniseries or really understood exactly what was going on—the first thing that really grabbed me was the title sequence, which featured the following text:

The Cylons were created by man.

They rebelled.

They evolved.

There are many copies.

And they have a plan.

That just kicks ass. It perfectly encapsulates the appeal of the show in those first two seasons, the way that it captured a post-9/11 zeitgeist. The twelve colonies had suffered a devastating sneak attack. They had no ability to distinguish friend from foe. They didn’t know where or when the next attack would come. And there was a certainty that there would be a next attack. Moreover, that the Cylons had a plan. The trap might spring at any moment.

After New Caprica, whatever plan the Cylons might have had seemed to have been set aside. Once the Final Five were revealed, it became clear that there were no more sleeper agents waiting in the wings and that the Cylons were every bit as clueless as the humans about their origins and destiny.

The only remaining thread to be woven in was the last Cylon, Ellen. (Or, as it turns out, the last two, Ellen and Daniel.) Maybe Ellen was part of the plan?¹

Wrong. Ellen sat out the whole “plan” phase of history, living on Caprica, married to Tigh, having no idea she was a Cylon.

So let’s recap. The plan was to: annihilate the vast majority of the human race in a nuclear holocaust; allow a small cohort to escape; chase the survivors through the universe, launching small-bore attacks here and there; allow the survivors to colonize a new planet and get complacent; occupy the new colony; allow the survivors to escape; then chase them some more.

Good plan!

Now, it’s possible the plan involved the presence of the Final Five in the fleet and that part of the plan was for Cavil to have Ellen present at the moment of his ultimate victory, so that she might understand how profoundly she had been defeated. In that case, Cavil is just a Bond villain. That plan is stupid.

We’ll see what happens. On the whole, I’m pleased with the mythological developments of this season (though I honestly don’t care about them that much). BSG is on track to wrap up without completely disgracing itself. But it’s hard to see how they’ll cap things off without leaving the plan in tatters.

P.S. There’s a BSG movie special coming out in June called… The Plan. As Balki said to Larry: “That spackle must be amazing stuff!”

¹ Daniel does not seem to have been part of the plan. I predict that Daniel will not figure in to the end of BSG. That thread will be picked up in Caprica.

February 11, 2009

A Battlestar Galactica Prediction

Filed under: Battlestar Galactica, Not Tech — Chris @ 8:06 pm

H and Zohar came up with a theory about the mythology of Battlestar Galactica that I won’t share in full because it’s too complicated (it involved flowcharts), but from which I would like to enter into the record the following predictions (which are due to H and Zohar, and not me):

  • Starbuck is a pseudo-Cylon, reverse-engineered from or secretly devised by some of the “Final Five” (aka Earth Cylons) as a colonial super-soldier. All of the people who would have known this (except maybe some version of Ellen) were killed in the attack on the Colonies.
  • Starbuck’s Earth Cylon biological roots will account for the fact that she was downloaded by some still-active resurrection center on Earth. (Or maybe Earth Cylon resurrection technology is advanced enough to download anything and everything, which would account for the “resurrection” of Starbuck’s Viper.)

I would simply observe the following: isn’t it interesting that the tribes of humanity number 13 while the Cylon models number only 12?

[UPDATE, post episode 4.17, “No Exit”] A point for me, I think, on the numerological prediction. Of course, anybody who can count to eight has been wondering what happened to seven since Season 2, at least.

June 8, 2008

Top Chef and BSG Catch-Up

Filed under: Battlestar Galactica, Not Tech, Top Chef, TV — Chris @ 4:18 pm

I have been remiss in blogging Top Chef and Battlestar Galactica this year. Suffice it to say I’m watching and enjoying, but my ardor for both has somewhat dimmed.

Unlike previous seasons of Top Chef, I don’t have a real rooting interest in any of the cheftestants this year. If I were forced to choose I would guess Richard is probably going to win (he’s about as well-liked as Stephanie and more consistent). I—along with the rest of the world—loathe Lisa, but she’s just kind of a bad trip, not really a boo-hiss, lie-to-your-face villain in the Tiffani/Omarosa mold. An interesting bit of data, for those Lisa-haters who suspect they are suffering from an irrational aversion to her attitude, looks, and posture: she has—by far—the worst record of any cheftestant to appear in a Top Chef finale (1 Elimination win, 1 place, no Quickfire wins; she has been up for elimination or on the losing team in the last seven consecutive episodes (!)). Incidentally, Richard (3 Elimination wins, 5 places, and 2 Quickfire wins) and Stephanie (4 Elimination wins, 5 places, and 1 Quickfire win) have by far the best records of any previous cheftestant, period. (In comparison, the previous three winners (Harold, Ilan, and Hung) had only 4 Elimination wins total.)

On the other side, BSG has been doing a lot of the mythical flim-flam (I don’t really care where Earth is or whether they ever find it) and not so much of the intense post-9/11 fractured-mirror business that made the first three seasons so addictive. The characters have been getting pushed around the chessboard willy-nilly without much attention paid to consistency or plausibility (to wit: President Lee Adama), all in service of a presumed “mind-blowing” series finale (to arrive not before calendar year 2009, as I understand it) that I am quite certain will disappoint (I’m not going to be X-Files‘ed ever again).

So there’s your TV-blogging for the year. Back to work.

November 25, 2007

BSG Is Back (Then Gone Again)!

Filed under: Battlestar Galactica, Not Tech, TV — Chris @ 4:50 pm

BSG: Razor is basically a very solid, two-part flashback episode in TV movie form. Admiral Cane is resurrected* for some Hot Lesbian Action and to dictate a torture memo** (“Pain, degradation, fear, shame… Be as creative as you feel the need to be”). Eighties vintage Cylons are resurrected for no apparent reason. New characters are introduced and then killed off with ruthless efficiency. There was a bit of the old, vague mytho-babble (“All of this has already happened… and will happen again”) pointing towards the next season, which makes me terribly worried the show will end badly, in grand X-Files and/or Twin Peaks style.

It doesn’t look like Razor is scheduled to re-air, if you missed it, but it will be out on DVD next week (in an annoyingly expanded version). Season 4 is scheduled to begin in March (or April?). Till then, work…

* Not in the “she’s a Cylon” sense.

** Isn’t it fun how “torture memo” is now a cultural reference?

March 26, 2007

BSG 3.20: "Crossroads, Part 2"

Filed under: Battlestar Galactica, Not Tech, TV — Chris @ 2:40 pm

Lots of juicy developments, most of which were so vague and ambiguous as to render analysis pointless. To summarize: there is some mystical connection between President Roslyn, Boomer, and Caprica Six which centers in some way on their connection to the human-Cylon baby, Hera; four principal cast members (well, two A-listers and two B-listers) become convinced that they are Cylons—four of the “final five”?—and it’s just possible that the last unknown Cylon is either Bob Dylan or Jimi Hendrix; one of the new Cylons had a baby this season, so there is a second probable human-Cylon baby out there that nobody is having any apocalyptic visions about; and a certain supposedly dead Galactican is not dead, is a Cylon, or has transcended such issues in the Fourth Dimension (or else a certain ace pilot, defense attorney, and prodigal son is seeing things in much the same way that certain other people saw certain things before crossing over into a certain Fourth Dimension).

The only issue that’s really worth chewing over here is the acquittal of one Gaius Baltar. It is fairly gratifying that the lack of accountability aboard Galactica I have noted a few times in the past was a significant plot point this week. Apollo’s speech was fairly convincing in an emotional-impact kind of way, but I was surprised that it carried the day. It seems to me that the signed death warrant—on which Gaeta’s perjured testimony could not be contradicted, except by Baltar and a few Cylons—was pretty much grounds for conviction by itself. (The irony being that Baltar can’t really be held responsible for the death warrant…. but the jury didn’t know that!) That said, it was very clever for the writers to push Baltar into a new situation, where his instinct for survival and skill at improvisation can serve him in new and possibly interesting ways.

Season 4 is scheduled for 2008 and “a special two-hour extended event” will air “fourth quarter 2007.” What am I supposed to do till then? Work?

March 5, 2007

BSG 3.16: "Maelstrom"

Filed under: Battlestar Galactica, Not Tech, TV — Chris @ 3:55 pm

There be SPOILERS ahead.

File this one under: be careful what you wish for. Ballsiness aside, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing Starbuck again in one form or another. Which will it be: Cylon, dream sequence, or creature of pure energy?

As much as I’ve enjoyed Katee Sackoff throughout the series (in those scenes where she wasn’t making puppy-dog eyes at Apollo), I think I would prefer if the point of this episode was that Starbuck totally lost her mind and died for no reason, rather than following her spirit into the fourth dimension wherein she will fulfill her Destiny. I’m getting pretty tired of all this Destiny crap.

As H said to me last night, “So, remind me of what it is you like about this show again?” To which I respond… I think the last few episodes of last season and the first few episodes of this were some of the best that BSG has ever done. But ever since “The Exodus” from New Caprica, I feel as if the drama of the show has gone slack. I’m afraid we may have jumped the shark… Here’s hoping for a rocking season finale.

P.S. Last week’s episode, which barely merits comment, provided some new data for my ongoing research into discipline aboard Galactica: treason merits a slap on the wrist, fomenting a general strike will almost get your family shot.

February 20, 2007

BSG 3.15: "A Day in the LIfe"

Filed under: Battlestar Galactica, Not Tech, TV — Chris @ 3:21 am

Roslyn to Adama: “I’d love to turn you on.”

BSG gives off the vibe of a show where the stakes are high, but the only semi-major characters who have ever died were Ellen Tigh and Kat.* This is getting pretty unbelievable… How many planets has Starbuck crashed and been abandoned on? Cally and Chief aren’t even in fighting trim… they’re supposed to survive explosive decompression with nothing more than a burst blood vessel?

I have no use for these bonus scenes. Cut it into the episode or put it on the DVD. I don’t need your leftovers.

* The Sopranos benefits from the same perception and suffers from the same problem. You think nobody is off limits, but the only long-term character to die since Big Pussy was Adrianna. Characters like Ralph Cifaretto are blatantly brought on to get whacked—the only surprise in that case was how long it took and why it happened. Would it kill you to lose a Paulie Walnuts just to maintain some believability here?

I assume that in the last season, we can expect a little more blood to flow. Though I also assume, since the idea of a Sopranos movie has been knocked around, that we can expect Tony to survive.

February 15, 2007

BSG 3.14: “The Woman King”

Filed under: Battlestar Galactica, Not Tech, TV — Chris @ 2:48 am

I did not like this episode. Specifically:

  1. In partial answer to Query the Second, it turns out treason and sabotage won’t get you court-martialed, but it will get you busted down to administering a refugee camp in the basement.The last thing in the world Helo needed was for his God complex to get a little boost. This episode would have been much more dramatically interesting if he had turned out to be wrong, if the stress of being the “man (who’s not Baltar) who loves a Cylon” was making him paranoid and delusional. The episode could have gone in this direction right up to the last minutes, but opted for the pat, feel-good ending instead.
  2. The Mystery Disease could have been handled in more dramatically interesting ways as well. As Matt Zoller Seitz suggests, if the disease had been incurable, this could have led to an interesting long-term arc that would mirror the AIDS epidemic. If the disease had been more virulent, the theme of public health vs. religious anti-medical conviction could have been developed further.
  3. Where is the constituency that will rise up in insurrection if Baltar goes on trial? Baltar publicly collaborated with the Cylons in the enslavement of humankind. It’s as if the writers just take it for granted “every event has a real-world parallel” (in this case, obviously, Saddam Hussein) without going to the effort of setting the parallels up properly: remember, guys, the Galacticans were the insurgency and Baltar was Ahmed Chalabi…
  4. What’s the deal with the titles, lately?

January 30, 2007

BSG 3.13: "Taking a Break from All Your Worries"

Filed under: Battlestar Galactica, Not Tech, TV — Chris @ 3:18 pm

Yeah, this episode reminded me of “Cheers.”

Despite its use of one of my great filmic pet peeves, the revelatory dream sequence, this was one of my favorite episodes in a long time. I have little patience for the “mythological” elements of the show (e.g., the Arrow of Apollo, the Eye of Jupiter, and the Quest for Earth) and this season has been thick with them. Consequently, there have been episodes this season (particularly 3.5, “Torn,” the episode that took us inside a Cylon basestar for the first time, alongside Baltar) that bored me senseless. I think the show is strongest when it’s dealing with the grim reality of its characters’ situation, sucking in the bleakest realities of our modern age and remixing/re-contextualizing them in surprising and insightful ways. We got a bit of that this week, a little canon of coercive interrogation with an unexpected hint of MK-ULTRA, and the promise of more to come (does anybody think the trial of Gaius Baltar may contain a dash or two of Saddam Hussein?).

Query the First: Given that BSG has a habit of omitting key events in character’s relationships until they become dramatically useful (e.g., the tryst between Apollo and Starbuck that occurred half a season before we got a hint of it) and given the odd and inappropriate snuggling between Laura Roslin and Admiral Adama in this and previous episodes (see 3.9, “Unfinished Business”), may I assume their relationship is sexual in nature?

Query the Second: In this season, we have: Helo sabotaging a plan that could have ended the human/Cylon war forever (3.7, “A Measure of Salvation”); Helo “delivering” Sharon to the Cylons, to whom she may have provided sensitive intelligence (3.11, “Rapture); and Gaeta stabbing a high-value detainee in the neck. Again, I ask: is there anything a person can do to get court-martialled on this ship?

Query the Third: Is it “court-martialled” or “court-martialed”? Google is inconclusive. Blogger doesn’t like me verbing “martial”.

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