Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Farewell, Galactica

And so, after a mini-series, 73 episodes, two TV movies* and two sets of webisodes, one of the finest sci-fi series ever comes to an end. A bold statement, you may think, but it's one I'll stand by. I've watched a lot of films and TV and read a lot of books and comics and, after a while, you just become harder to surprise - once you've taken in hundreds and hundreds of different plots, you begin to see where most are going to go. Battlestar Galactica was one of those series that consistently pulled the rug out out from under my feet and left me thinking, "Well, where the bloody hell is it going to go now?". Pretty hard to acheive these days.

It's also extremely unusual for a sci-fi based series in that it gives prominence to two subjects normally ignored or dealt with only superficially in the genre:- religion and politics. Given that science fiction is traditionally a reflection and extrapolation of current ideas and society, it seems odd that it's taken so long for a show to deal with two of the fundamental issues of society in a mature way. Maybe not, I guess, when visual sci-fi and fantasy (TV and film) has typically been a lot more simplistic than literary sci-fi and fantasy**.

I'm not saying, however, that this series has been perfect - far from it. As a series, it has definitely suffered from pacing issues and has often resorted to what feels like filler material at times. It sometimes also seems to make occasional leaps in storytelling logic, in which characters come to a conclusion without seeming to have based that on anything in particular or make decisions that everyone suddenly seem to go along with. The last two episodes have a couple of moments like this - I'm placing my comments on those in a footnote for anyone who's not yet seen it ands wishes to do so unspoiled***

When it is good, though, it's one of the best drama series out there - that's right, not just sci-fi but drama in general. It's not afraid to take the unexpected paths and put the characters that they've been carefully building up through the wringer. Being a war-based series, too, it throws in some fantastic action sequences - all the more impressive on the small screen. Overall, it strives to do something different and daring and take a chance rather than keep returning to the status quo - it's definitely a serial rather than a series. Not the sort of show you can dip in and out of. Plus no-one quite does cliffhangers like these guys - there have been plenty of jaw-dropping moments along the way, not least because you get the feeling that no one character is sacred...

I also have to say that I think the producers of the show absolutely made the right decision in bringing the show to a close with its fourth season. While it's fairly clear that they didn't have an ending in mind from Day One (and have, in fact, crowbarred stuff in this season to make it all fit together), the ending they came up with was extremely fitting and representative of the show - it had moments that were bleak and moments that were full of hope; it didn't give any easy answers; it had some things which didn't quite make sense but also manged to tie up a lot of ongoing questions; and it left you thinking. All in all, what more can you ask for?

So, if you haven't seen it, would I recommend it to you? Absolutely. You might not take to it - I lent it to a sci-fi watching friend who just couldn't get into it - but I recommend giving it a try. Don't let thoughts of the original crappy series put you off (yeah, I was never much of a fan of the original) or, if you're someone who generally doesn't watch sci-fi, don't be put off by that, either. At it's core, it's a series about people struggling to survive and live their lives against nearly insurmountable odds - a fairly universal theme. (Sorry, that came out as a bit of a bad pun at the end there - not what I had in mind when I wrote it down.)

Farewell, Battlestar Galactica. It was quite a ride.

* OK, one of those hasn't transmitted yet but, as it's a flashback, it's pretty much just filler at this point.

** I'm generalising, of course, and there are naturally exceptions to this but, for the most part, this is the case.

*** Well, for starters, why is Hera the final hope for humanity and Cylons? How have we come to that decision? Also, it seems a little bit of a leap that all 39,000 or so remaining humans would give up technology to go and live like the Amish.


Brandy Rose said...

I was never really a big fan of it. Never could get into it.

Kurt said...

I have only really liked a few episodes this last season, because they didn't really have the texture and the flair of the earlier episodes and got bogged down in pseudo-religious hocus pocus (but in a bad way) All-in-all though, I agree whole heartedly about the quality of the show. I will miss it.

That Baldy Fella said...

Brandy - It took me a couple of attempts to get through the pilot but I'm glad I stuck with it. But, yeah, it's not to everyone's tastes.

Kurt - Yeah, I agree. Jesus Baltar dragged on too much and the pacing was all over the place too. But still well worth the watch overall.