Monday, April 13, 2009

Belated thoughts on the BSG finale

The Cosmology of Ron Moore

The music of the spheres is the whiny, nasal, drone of Bob Dylan. 

This one is a ghost, a resurrected Jesus-figure, the one who will lead the Israelites Colonials to the promised land. She was never really there, except in spirit. And now, her mighty task done, she is free to move on to... whatever Ron Moore believes is on the other side. Presumably Starbuck and brain-damaged Anders are now kicking back with a god who cares so much about his people that he let 60 billion or so get nuked before he started to intervene. He's probably got a wicked sense of humour, that one.

Meanwhile, this pair below are angels. Angels, the emissaries of god. The messengers who've been helping to guide the fleet with visions. And their chosen prophets? One is a sex-mad egomaniacal atheist scientist, prone to creating harems at every opportunity, craven and easily manipulated, and almost as bad a political leader as Roslin and Adama (the Dick Cheney of Space). The other is a genocidal baby-killing fembot who, if you think about it for five minutes, really belongs in an Austin Powers movie more than in a serious SF drama. She's a religious fanatic who showed her remorse for her baby-killing ways by putting humans into concentration camps, because that was much more humane. Naturally, both are well qualified to be prophets of this brave new age.

And what will take place in this brave new age? Well, everyone has turned their back on all their sins and glories, all their technology, all their knowledge, all their accumulated written, artistic and manufactured culture, and they've decided to spend the rest of their lives dying of childbirth, animal attacks, malaria and chronic malnutrition. Yay!

Asking the Wrong Questions has put this better than I could when she called the ending cowardly and questioned whether you can, in any sense, call it a science fiction show. SF is supposed to look forward and suggest the way things might happen, whether as prediction or allegory. Battlestar turned its back on that and suggested that what everyone really needs to do is to wipe the slate completely clean every few thousand years and start over again, banging bits of chert into hand axes. At least you know that a stone axe isn't going to suddenly ask you tough questions about the role of government, the nature of humanity, or the proper atonement for past sins.

It's hard to either offer review or criticism of a television show in the way that it can be offered for a book or a movie. Both reviews (is this any good?) and criticism (what does this mean?) require seeing the whole text spread out before you. Yet television is reviewed on the basis of one to four episodes, in most cases. So an acclaimed series, like BSG, is acclaimed long before we know where it's going to end. Ultimately, our critical machinery for reviewing serialized drama is weak. 

If we could go back now and offer all of BSG to some past reviewer, to pick over, they'd probably say the mini-series and season one were pretty good, there were some real high points in season two, and it was downhill from there. Some aspects worked much better than others. It did space battles and action very well, not something to sneeze at. The dialogue and characterization was usually quite good. When it came to politics, it often fell flat on its face. It relied on mysticism and visions far too much. It confused pride with dignity, and it shamelessly took sides, elevating some characters (Adama, Roslin, Lee) and denigrating others (Baltar, Gaeta, Zarek) when in truth their actions were not that different. 

As my girlfriend, she who is both wise and beautiful, put it, the best thing about the finale was the cute dancing robots.

No comments: