Galactica: It Is Accomplished

Battlestar Galactica’s finale has aired. It didn’t answer every question we had, but it resolved most of them. Perhaps more importantly, it gave us closure for the characters we’ve come to care about over the past five or so years.

Plenty o’ spoilers after the break.

I am pleased with how they wrapped up most of the character arcs. Initially I assumed they’d kill off one or more main characters (Apollo seemed a likely candidate), but I guess Ron Moore and company preferred the soppy goodbyes.

Accepting the show’s answers to several of its bigger mysteries requires buying into some pseudo-religious hand waving, and I suppose I did that. The conclusion of Starbuck’s arc was fine with me (sent back from the dead to lead her people to a new Earth, and after saying goodbye to Lee she just disappears), although I guess we’ll never be sure where she got that new viper. We are left to assume that the “in the head” versions of Six and Baltar were angels of a sort, ensuring that divine will be carried out.

To me the real brilliance of the episode was tying the Cylon colony into the vision of the opera house. That was really well done and felt very satisfying. And I was fine with the discovery of a replacement Earth that turned out to be the planet we inhabit, although I thought it was a bit of a stretch that two planets would have the same continental configuration.

Though there is still one more dose of BSG in our future (“The Plan,” a TV movie which delves into the Cylon’s much-alluded to scheme), the show is over. I can’t help but think about how it will stack up against what I consider the landmark of episodic science fiction: Babylon 5.

While B5 made some course corrections along the way (due mostly to cast changes and the uncertainty of whether it would be able to air a fifth season), it fulfilled the promise of playing out a complete storyline that was envisioned in advance. Its special effects are painfully dated and some of the acting is stiffer than cardboard, but the story arc told by the show was spectacular and the writing was often pure poetry.

In contrast, BSG had superb acting and astonishingly good special effects which I believe will hold up well for many years to come, but its writing and charaterization were spotty and it clearly wasn’t plotted out from the beginning. In the recent SyFy (/giggle) special on the show, Ron Moore even admitted they didn’t know who the final five were until the team sat down to write the episode that revealed them. As one of those guys who wants to believe, that kind of thing disappoints me.

But here’s my ultimate test. When the final episode of B5 aired, I wept like a baby as a show I loved came to its conclusion and I said goodbye to some beloved characters. When the finale of BSG was done there were no tears; I was satisfied and almost relieved that the show ended without screwing anything up.

So when all is said and done, BSG will be a show that I greatly enjoyed but wasn’t as satisfying as it could have been. I could have lived with lower production values and a weaker cast if the show had carried through a consistent story and vision. BSG was great television, but there’s plenty of room for episodic genre fiction that reaches even greater heights.

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

13 thoughts on “Galactica: It Is Accomplished”

  1. I agree with you saying that it wasn’t as satisfying as you thought it could have been.

    At first I thought it was a little cliche finding our earth and effectively becoming our ancestors. That story has been done a few times. Then I remembered that Chariot of the Gods theme was the premise in the opening credits of the original BSG series. So perhaps it wasn’t so cliche after all.

    I would have liked to know more about Starbuck’s story. Again I was wondering if the super-species that turned their uniforms all white in the original series was going to make an appearance. It’s certainly possible that these were the higher powers behind the religious feel, the prophecy and angels, of the series. Even the appearance of Starbuck’s father (was it?) a few episodes back lends credence to the angels.

    I know alot of people feel the last couple of seasons were weaker, but one of the things they did exceptionally well IMO was the use of music. Starbuck’s song was, to me, more than a little spine-tingling.

    I think I’ll miss the series, even though most of it was bought on DVD and watched after the season — to escape the infernal schedule changes and advertising cuts — the final scenes (-150K) did touch the emotions a bit.

  2. I enjoyed this series very much. It is the only sci-fi show that my wife would actually watch with me and there were times when she was heavily into it. This is one of those shows where the characters appealed to me enough to actually have an emotional investment in them. Dee’s departure left me with my jaw on the floor.

    I think the series ended well, however while i was watching it, I got the feeling that the last third of the episode was basically a “wrap-up”. While watching the last 40 minutes or so, I got the feeling that the writers were winding down. It felt like they were trying to make letting go of the characters and ending the show as painless as possible.

    I enjoyed the shows run very much. I think that it was one of the shining spots on television the last several years.

  3. I became a huge fan of BSG in the first season and absolutely fell in love with it all throughout season 2. It wasn’t until episode 309: the infamous Boxing episode, when the show began to fall apart and boy did it fall hard.

    I won’t delve into all the problems refocusing the show from a conflict between humans and cylons into Jesus-baltar philosophical / religious mumbo jumbo which followed it through to the very end. Instead I’ll focus on the show’s worst decision: the final five.

    Most of my favorite moments in seasons 1 – 3 were shattered like glass when they reveal the final five. So many powerful moments become little bits of tissue paper when you say to yourself things like “Tigh killed his wife but Tigh was a cylon and so was his wife and she came back to life so its not a big deal” or “Starbuck went back to Caprica to save her sweetheart but she’s an angel with a destiny and he’s a cylon so it was destined to happen” or “Tigh went to war against the cylons and lost his eye to them but he’s really a cylon too so its more like in-fighting than war” or “the Chief married Calli and had a baby but the Chief is really a cylon and Calli really slept with Hotdog so who cares? Clearly not the Chief who abandons the baby immediately after finding out”.

    It was absolutely clear to me when they revealed the final five that the writers had no idea what to do with the show anymore. They painted themselves into a corner where they had to reveal five more cylons and make it a bigger deal than Boomer. What they came up with was simply a mess.

    I’m guessing that some changes happened when the money people started coming in. With budgets slashed, the space battles had to go away and instead they decided to pull a Matrix Reloaded / Revolutions and just fill our heads with mumbo-jumbo in a hope that we’ll buy into it because it sounds smarter than us. Well, it didn’t.

    The end of the series didn’t help. We have Baltar waxing religious nonsense to Cavel whose holding a gun to Hera’s head in a last attempt at drama. And then the Baltar / Caprica Six scenes: all I could think about was how she snapped a baby’s neck just to see what would happen and didn’t care because the nukes were coming anyway. How are we supposed to forget about that?

    Even the opera scene, the Big Reveal, was a let down. So the whole Opera scene was really about Baltar and Six and Roslyn chasing Hera through the ship? Doesn’t sound that big a deal to me.

    Oh yeah, and then the whole “we should give up science. Science is bad. Let’s go die of dyssentary and small pox instead.” What sort of message is that?

    One of the only redeeming parts is the idea that “god” might be some super-cylon computer that is able to project “angels” in order to shove humanity along once in a while.

    I really loved this show and I really wanted to love it but it became very clear to me after the boxing episode that it was in a downward spiral from which it could never and did never pull out.

  4. The air is certainly thinner for me now. I’m not a huge broadcast TV viewer, preferring movies or books. BSG going off the air leaves a huge void. I was satisfied with the conclusion even when I felt the religious tone was a little heavy handed, like the final scene 150,000 years in the future. Still I was pleased and relieved that they didn’t botch it all up as some landmark shows have done in the past. The only thing that really bothered me was all the flashback work. I felt at times that we should have known these things already. After a while it felt like what it was, them trying to wrap things up. Much of that background shouldn’t have played out so late in the game. Regardless, it’s over and I will miss it very much.

  5. I have to say that for the most part I agree. I felt that most of the story wrap up was fine. The thing that irks me the most is the Starbuck plot. Too much was left up in the air in my eyes. Who was her father? How did he know the song that turns on the final five? How did she know it? How did Hera know it? Finally, the whole “she just went away” was a little silly to me.

    I also wish the 150,000 years later part would have been left off. I get the point but really it just didn’t fit well with the show to me. Finding earth and living happily ever after would have been enough.

    When it comes to Babylon 5 though I feel the same way. The first four seasons were a sci-fi masterpiece. The last season was alright but they never thought they’d get it.

    I think it would be great if “SyFy” picked that up!

  6. You pretty much summed up my feelings, Moorgard. I wasn’t totally satisfied by the Starbuck “just going away” thing, but the rest were pretty good endings. I was just thinking yesterday though that as much as I loved BSG, it was nowhere near the show Babylon 5 was. I don’t know how many times I’ve wished that Sci Fi would remake that one. Of course, now they are SyFy, so the probably want to disassociate themselves with real science fiction…

  7. although I thought it was a bit of a stretch that two planets would have the same continental configuration.

    Well, they never really showed the continental configuration on the 13th Colony’s Earth that they found and landed on. They kind of went out of their way to avoid showing anything that clearly identified it as our planet. While they did zoom in on “our” Earth at the end of Season 3, they didn’t actually SAY that this was the same planet as the devastated world they found later.

    That’s kind of why I guessed that the season would end up with them finding “our” Earth and that the Earth they discovered wasn’t the real one, because they never showed the continents of the 13th Colony’s Earth clearly.

  8. The final conversation between Baltar and Six concluded the series for me. The message was: given the choice, Man would make the same mistakes all over again. I think that’s how most people feel about their decisions. What happened will happen again.

    Oh, Baltar is “God” apparently. Six mentioned “God” and Baltar winked, “You know he doesn’t like that name.” ;)

  9. That shot was from Crossroads Part II, and like I said, they never establish that the planet they zoom in on was the same planet they discover as the “Earth” (and home of the 13th Colony) in Revelations.

    During Revelations and Sometimes A Great Notion, they NEVER show the planet clearly from orbit, and when they show the Galactica crew landing, they obscure any landmarks with excessive cloud cover.

    I’m not the only one to observe this. From the wiki (
    “Throughout this episode, Earth when seen from orbit is largely obscured by cloud masses and shadows. Unlike the view of the North American continent presented at the end of “Crossroads, Part II”, none of the landmasses in view can be easily identified. ([1]) ”

    That’s because they aren’t on the same planet zoomed in on at the end of Crossroads. That planet was the planet (our Earth) they find in the finale.

  10. I had mixed feelings about the final episode of BSG, I thought the first half was really good, but was less than satisfied by the second half.

    A couple of things I was wondering about was what happened to all the other cylon baseships? In the episode where they attacked New Caprica there was at least 18 baseships that showed up on the draedis (how ever you spell it) a few have been destroyed since then, but there still should be at least a dozen out there. Are they just going to give up on finding the humans especially after they destroyed the cylon colony?

    Plus just abandoning their ships and technology and trying to settle down on earth would not end well. In reality most of them would be dead in less than a year. Baltar said he wanted to start farming, farming with what? If you don’t have the seeds or the equipement how are you going to start growing crops? If they did some how start primative settlements they would have totally altered the time line of advancement in earth. Unless I am wrong the ending said “150,000 years later.” Well farming and permanent settlements happened much more recent than that.

    I guess had I been satisified with the ending I could have overlooked some of these flaws, but since it didn’t that is all I was thinking about afterward.

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