Battlestar Galactica is Overrated

I hate saying it as much as you hate me for saying it, but it’s true. In what should be the best of its seasons, Battlestar Galactica’s final batch of episodes has been mostly dreadful.

Maybe I wouldn’t complain so much were it not for another show that is making its peers pale in comparison. The show you should be watching: Lost.

Further thoughts (and some spoilers) after the break.

First of all, let me make clear that I love Battlestar Galactica. It’s one of the greatest genre dramas ever. But that’s not to say it hasn’t had its flaws–and those must be recognized. The story is enthralling, but the show’s craft at telling that story has been spotty. The main points of the story are clear and compelling, but many of the details (especially those related to prophecy and visions) are convoluted to the point of approaching the X-Files record-setting level of convolutedness. Major characters behave inconsistently, flip-flopping opinions and relationships seemingly at random (Lee/Bill, Starbuck/Apollo, etc.). And the worst sin of all, manifested in the first few episodes of this final season, is squandering these last precious hours with boring and inconsequential navel-gazing on the part of the main characters.

The low point for me was a couple episodes ago, where Anders–after being shot in the head–finally reveals some of the show’s big secrets. So why am I complaining? Because all these great secrets were revealed through ham-handed exposition. After all the opportunities they had to uncover secrets on Earth or other locations, the big reveal comes via a conversation in a hospital bed. Ridiculous and disappointing.

Look, there’s still time to turn it around. If the final four episodes (and subsequent TV movie) wrap up the burning questions and generally kick butt, the legacy of BSG will be secure and you can call me a jackass. But even if it finishes in a blaze of glory, I’d argue that the show wasn’t as great as it could have been.

As I said before, the show that is ruling the airwaves this year is Lost. I’m the first to say that this series has had its ups and downs (season one rocked, season two sucked, season three was so-so, season four was good), but since premiering its fifth season it has absolutely been on fire. Lost, in its second-to-last season, has the things I was expecting BSG to offer in every one of its final episodes: exciting revelations about some of its key mysteries, throwing shocker after shocker to the audience in a way that makes them squeal with delight. (Okay, I admit that I squeal with delight. Out loud.)

Shocked as I am to say it, it feels like the writers of Lost know exactly where they want to take their show while the guys behind BSG are well, lost. I certainly hope I’m proven wrong.

But I don’t want you to think I’m just being harsh on BSG. Another show that should hang its head in shame is Heroes. I thought the last volume (“Villains”) brought some life back to the show, aside from the horrible waste of Papa Petrelli’s unsatisfying demise. The current volume, “Fugitives,” has been floundering. Sylar with a teen sidekick? Noah back into a clone of his previous job? Claire back to being a whiny teen? Nathan a jackass yet again? Please.

Look, we want Peter to have his powers back so that he can once again be the counterpoint to Sylar. We want the characters to have learned something from all they’ve been through. We want cool super-powered fights. And we want to show to stop leaning on the stupid draw-the-future power as its main method of framing conflict. (What the hell was that wedding in India about, anyway?)

Oh, and Dollhouse. I love Joss Whedon’s work, but this show won’t last long unless Fox is committed to keeping it on life support. There is certainly potential in the story arc, but the character of Echo has been portrayed as little more than a victim in both episodes we’ve seen so far. She better start kicking ass soon, or the public will never connect to her.

Finally, I’ll mention Legend of the Seeker. I read a promishing article about the show before it premiered, only to see the pilot which was dreadful. But I had some of the subsequent episodes playing in the background as I did other things and found myself enjoying them. It’s still by no means great, but it might shape up into something worthwhile.

I love it that there is a strong (or potentially strong) crop of fantasy/sci-fi/supernatural shows on right now. But loving these genre shows doesn’t mean we should hold them to lower standards. We need more great TV, and BSG and its cohorts need to work even harder to earn legitimacy in the eyes of the often narrow-minded public.

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Steve Danuser, also known as Moorgard, is a a writer, editor, and game designer.

15 thoughts on “Battlestar Galactica is Overrated”

  1. Yeah… Basil Exposition did a lot of work in that “babble babble here’s a great wodge of background info babble babble but it’s ok for me to do this cuz I’m dying babble babble.” Deific visions aside (which does rather fit those cylons), it’s still really clunky. Hell, it was clunky 20 years ago when TSR used the “dying breath” monologue every time the players killed a major NPC. I remember cringing when I had to read them. ;) And yes, I love BSG too, but I’ve got issues with the last few episodes we’ve seen. Lots of good opportunities missed and bad opportunities overused.

    Dollhouse isn’t quite as crap as I feared; I remembered the lead when she was only slightly less wooden than David Boreanaz back in the last millennium, but then he’s improved too. The enginerd is cute, so we’ll see.

    I poked my eyes out before inadvertently reading something about Lost — since we can’t get it on DVD RIGHT NAO!11 (at least not the current season), we’re DVRing and watching several episodes at a time. I am therefore currently several episodes behind. The antici……………………..pation is killing me.

  2. I agree.

    *spoiler alert*

    The minute we found out who four of the final five were, I started tuning out. It was clear that the writers just started making it up as they went rather than following logical paths. What are the odds that all five of the final five would have survived the holocaust? Why would it be two critical members of Battlestar? What could possibly convince me that an alcoholic XO was actually some super scientist who invented human-like cylons?

    I’ve basically started to pretend that everything after the escape from New Caprica has been one big “what if” and none of it is real. I just can’t stomach Sol Tigh being a cylon after what he did on New Caprica.

    Every dramatic moment of the previous three seasons has been shattered by the revelation of the final five. Starbuck’s rescue of her husband. Tigh’s terrorist war against the Cylons on New Caprica. The Chief’s breakdown when he thinks he’s a cylon. All of this is just shattered by a whim of the writers.

    Anyway, I’m finishing it out on Hulu, but my heart isn’t in it. You shouldn’t watch it beyond episode 5 of season 3. I wish I hadn’t.

  3. I agree, but I think Lost is suffering as well.

    Seriously. You HAVE to get back on a freakin’ plane in order to get back on the island? And all of these crazy stupid circumstances (with a little help from our friend Ben) lead every one on the same plane to Clarksville? I mean, c’mon…I understand that you have to be able to “suspend belief” a bit when you watch it, but this is getting a little ridiculous.

    Jason (resident drunken idiot of Channel Massive)

  4. Blasphemy! But yeah, it’s not as wonderful as it could be but it’s still some of the best broadcast TV around. I love BSG and didn’t get into it until stumbling across it on Amazon Unbox and have been glued ever since. I downloaded and watched all previous seasons to catch me up. I don’t know how people withstood all those cliffhangers having to wait a week for answers. OMG what will I watch when this is gone?!? *QQ big splashy tears*

  5. Never liked Lost or Battlestar Galactica. One took me nowhere fast and the other just never captured me and made me cringe in pain every time I heard someone say “frak.”

  6. Good on you for speaking the truth on BSG – that’s what happens when the story loses its way (and you’re making it up on the fly), death by writer’s committee. Listen, truth is the final season is a bloody mess and it’s beyond redemption. Maybe when the hardcore fandom dies down and people objectively look at it, they’ll realize that BSG simply fell apart after real promise. Sad, really.

    And Dollhouse? Awful show. Insufferable. Dushku clearly can’t carry this thing and it’s a derivative and uncharacteristically dull offering from Whedon. Put it out of its misery NOW.

  7. I have no qualms with the progression of Battlestar Galactica. I don’t think Anders revealed as much as you suggested either. I also have no qualms with Legend of the Seeker. I thought the pilot, cinematography, and combat scenes were excellent.

  8. I can’t say I disagree. I had really high expectations for these last few episodes and I’ve had a few warm feelings at best. The first of the ten was so terribly depressing and from there we’ve only gotten a little better. Time is drawing near and we still have two major issues:

    1. There are still a lot of really angry Cylons out there.
    2. They need a place to live.

    I understand that the final five relate directly to those two issues but I’m kind of losing the feel on the whole prophecy thing. Lets get back to some BSG action, buck up a bit, tie up the loose ends and give the characters peace (or blow them all up).

  9. I got into BSG late. I avoided watching it because I wanted to watch it all and enjoy the whole story arc. Late last year I finally started watching the DVDs with my better half, and we’re now watching the weekly series together.

    I read an interview that said the writers were very much playing by ear. For example, the “…and they have a plan!” bit at the end of the intro of the previous season was thrown in there because it sounded cool, according to what I read. I’ll be damned if I know what that plan was, though; anyone else got any ideas?

    I think one problem with this latest season is that they know it’s the end. The mutiny on Galactica took three whole episodes; that’s one less episode than the New Caprica storyline! But, during the New Caprica events, you had so many things going on at the same time: the plight of the people stuck on the planet, the discussions of the Cylons running the planet, the doubt of the military commanders on the ships, etc. During the mutiny, the story only really focused on the two sides. It felt excruciatingly slow, especially compared to the earlier seasons I had just watched. However, it still concerned the characters I had grown to know and love over the past several months, so it was still compelling to watch. But, as others have said, I don’t think it’s as good as it could have been.

    Sadly, I think this is still some of the best TV overall. It’s the only show I bother watching on a regular basis. We’ll see if the series ends with a bang or a whimper, though. Knowing what they’ve pulled in the past, though, it could be both.

    My thoughts.

  10. My plan worked!

    I called BSG out and they responded with the best episode so far this season.

    Seriously, I liked this episode quite a bit. It gave a side of Starbuck we rarely get to see. If Starbuck doesn’t turn out to be part Cylon (either we find out she’s actually the first Cylon/human hybrid or she has part of that 13th model’s DNA somehow), I don’t know how they’re going to explain her death and rebirth.

    It was also nice that they finally got back to Hera being important. Cool use of psycho Boomer, and a nice twist with the Chief.

    Three episodes to go.

  11. I think viewer expectations can differ radically depending on how many TV serieses a viewer is watching. I’m following about a dozen TV serieses during any given season, so I tend to be a bit more of a forgiving viewer. I’m not concerned about “bangs” and “whimpers” for example. If you’re following only one series, your expectations will be dramatically higher for that single series.

    Regarding the plan, there will be a movie called just that, “Battlestar Galactica: The Plan”, in June which will explore, well, the plan from a Cylon perspective. If you missed the other movie, watch “Battlestar Galactica: Razor”. In early 2010, the “Caprica” series will begin which will explore the feuding families and the origin of the Cylons. The pilot will be available on DVD in late April of this year.

  12. I’ve seen BSG up through about halfway in to season 4. I’ll eventually watch the 2nd half, but right now it’s sorta a pain, since I don’t get sci-fi channel in my cable package and I don’t currently live where my PC is so hulu or a torrent are currently out. Ah well.. I’ll catch it eventually. For me, most of watching it has been like watching a train wreck — you’re fascinated and can’t look away, yet it’s simply a bloody awful mess. I want to finish it out, just so I can “know what everyone’s talking about” amongst my friends, but that’s about the only reason I’m gonna worry about it.

    Never seen Lost nor had any desire to.

    Heroes…. I don’t know why I keep watching. I know I wouldn’t miss it if I stopped. I think I’m back in to “train wreck” territory here.

    I’ve enjoyed Dollhouse so far — 3rd episode was better than the 1st 2 for sure. Rumor has it that even Whedon says it kinda sucks until about the 7th episode, though. I'[ll give it a half season and see what I think then, I suppose.

  13. The main problem I have with BSG is that the concept of the “Final 5″ was just a gimmick to keep people watching. This show won’t hold up on repeat viewings. If you go back and watch it seems arbitrary who is a Cylon and who is human. Maybe that was the idea, but it does not work for me. Also Ron Moore and company seem to enjoy pulling out the rug from under the viewer, shocking us. Some will say “I didn’t see that coming.” I say lazy writing. Spending several seasons giving us so much prophecy about Earth only to get there and then leave insults the viewer. Ron Moore and Co. think it would be just more fun to watch it all go to hell. I say think outside the box and give us something new, not just something negative. Hopefully “Caprica” will be better.

  14. In a nutshell, I could not agree more with the author of this post. BSG is an incredibly overrated series, one that I am quite surprised has lasted so long.

    Honestly, I really enjoyed season 1 of BSG. Great story, the whole concept of humanity trying to escape from the Cylons, who are on the verge of exterminating humans as a species. The ending of season 1, absolute cliffhanger (Adama gets shot by the cylon Sharon).

    Watching the first season, I was noticing that the acting, and particularly, the writing for each episode, were weak. But, it was the main storyline that kept me hooked.

    However, watching the second season, the poor episode writing and poor acting really started to grate on me. I fully realized how sub-par the acting was when Lucy Lawless (of Zena fame) was a guest star, and absolutely stole the show. She outshone every regular actor on that show. With all due respect to Ms. Lawless (she looked fantastic by the way), I would not classify Lucy Lawless as an Academy Award candidate by any means, but the fact that she outperformed every single regular actor on the show really made me realize that this show is casted by, well, amateurs. I am sure many will completely disagree, but really, it is true.

    Col Tigh I would be happy to see gone tomorrow; both his character and the actor are enough to make me ill. How is it that when he was a captain (Adama was shot and in critical condition), and drinking heavily, the crew put up with his poor judgement and drinking on the job? Really, there should have been a coup right there, he was completely unfit for duty and the show kept going…that drove me nuts.

    The fundamental aspect that really bothers me is that even after Cylon Sharon’s attempted murder of Adama, the crew still decided to take the second Sharon on board. As a rule I try not to criticize the plot/stunts of action/sci-fi movies because they are simply that, action and science FICTION. However, bringing a Cylon on board is simply irrational, bringing every single person in the fleet in danger. And really, it is a simple writing tool to ensure there is enough drama to propel the season and/or series. A weak tool, if this was the writers’ intent.

    For the reasons stated above, I have decided to stop purchasing the DVDs, I really cannot stomach the poor acting and poor writing any longer. I really do not know how the critics above even made it through to the fifth season!

    I would much rather invest my time into a series with more thought and character.

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