Category Archives: Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica – “Someone to Watch Over Me”

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“Someone to Watch Over Me”

February 27th, 2009

For an episode driven by the power of melody to transcend minds and to bring people together, there was a return to a familiar rhythm to “Someone to Watch Over Me,” a return to form for Battlestar Galactica as it heads into its final three episodes. What’s been missing in the last few episodes is the sense that this is all coming together to add up to something, that what we’ve been seeing and the answers we’ve been searching for have been worth our time. While, perhaps, the content of “No Exit” or “Deadlock” will make a difference in the end, neither episode in and of itself added up to something profound, something progressive, or something that gives us some peace of mind that the show knows where its most powerful material lies as it heads towards its finale.

But this week this all changed under the guidance of Bradley Thompson and David Weddle, delivering their last episode with a deft sense of pacing and momentum. It is an episode that leans heavily on the past to demonstrate the power that it has over us, and then allows that to play out in the present in a way that is simultaneously revelatory and, more importantly, diversionary from the laidback, almost nonchalant path the show has been on since the end of the mutiny. The result is a clear path to the future, centering its storyline on the two major unanswered questions and using both of them to drive us into something approximating a climax. More importantly, though, the actions in the episode are ones which actually have broad implications for almost everyone: while the most recent drama has remained far too isolated to one side of humans and Cylons, here we finally have something that everyone can get really frakking pissed about.

And, well – finally.

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Left on the Cutting Room Floor: “Deadlock,” Editing and Soap Operatic Indulgence

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Left on the Cutting Room Floor:

“Deadlock,” Editing and Soap Operatic Indulgence

Last weekend, still stewing in frustration over “Deadlock,” [my review] the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica, I tweeted the following to my twitter followers:

Pretty sure I could write five blog posts this week delving into points of contention on last night’s BSG. I must resist this.

As you can see, I lasted until this morning, as I have in weeks past, before needing to delve back into episodes that frustrated me, trends which concerned me, and that voice in my head that for all of my enjoyment of BSG’s four seasons is extremely cynical about the show’s direction when the show ends in three weeks. The last three episodes of the show have all felt “off” for me, and I’m at a point where I need to see something in tonight’s episode, “Someone to Watch Over Me,” that convinces me less of Katee Sackhoff’s talent or Bear McCreary’s musical genius and more of Ronald D. Moore and David Eick’s vision for completing this thing in only 4 more hours of television.

I am aware, of course, that these hours are really only 43 minutes, and that in that amount of time the show only has time to do so much. In fact, on numerous occasions this year, there have been moments where I’ve wondered what was left off the cutting room floor, and how some content seemed ill-fitting for particular scenarios. And after reconsidering “Deadlock,” and reading some of the interviews with the show’s writers regarding episodes like aforementioned Deadlock and No Exit, I’ve come to a conclusion that somewhere, in those minutes of uncut footage and those ideas not followed through on, there might have been a way to quell my cynicism.

But we got a love triangle instead.

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Battlestar Galactica – “Deadlock”

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“Deadlock”

February 20th, 2009

“Imagine, instead of 50,000 survivors, there are only five.”

The above are the words of the fifth and final Cylon, words that are in fact quite resonant: considering what we have learned of the Cylon back story in the last few episodes, the Final Five are survivors of a sort, the last of a dead race that have worked to create their own legacy. The Cylons are actually a weird race, in that there is this battle between control and destiny that defines them: if they hadn’t started to rely on pro-creation, taking the future of the race into their own hands and out of their more natural resurrection, maybe the holocaust wouldn’t have hit Earth. And if the Final Five hadn’t agreed to work with the Centurions in order to create the other 8 models, perhaps the attack on the twelve colonies wouldn’t have happened, and there could have been something approaching peace. These are just some of the points wherein questions of blame and responsibility tickle up and down the Cylon timeline, creating the backbone of what we thought would be at least half of the series’ trajectory moving into its final episodes.

What fascinated me about “Deadlock” is that instead of focusing on these types of questions, it removes us from the show itself and places us into the minds of the writers, as they move the characters around like they’re playing checkers on a chess board (Yes, that was a “The Wire” burn). While it was understandable early in the show’s run to have blatant transition episodes like this one, where people start taking on new roles and where old trajectories are shifted into new directions, both this episode and “No Exit” are so blatantly the result of setup that one can’t fully engross themselves in this world. We are coming to the point in the show’s run where the audience is more engrossed in the fate of these characters than ever, and I find myself consistently being drawn out of that element of the series in favour of pondering just how blithely they are willing to state the obvious, linger on that which needs not lingering, and delve into the absolute wrong kind of opera at this late stage of the game.

And if they seriously couldn’t plan out even half a season well enough to avoid episodes that read like this, then forgive me if I don’t join those who are concerned about how this is all coming to come together in a month’s time.

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Cold Water Commentaries: Ronald D. Moore and the End of Speculation

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Cold Water Commentaries:

Ronald D. Moore and the End of Speculation

If you remember last week’s episode of Battlestar Galactica, with the exposition-packed “No Exit” providing an enormous amount of detail about the Cylon origins, you likely also remember asking yourself a very important question: who, or what, is Daniel, the 7th Cylon model? We learned some of the details of his existence, however brief, during the episode itself, but there were a lot of outstanding questions about how it could relate to Starbuck, or how it could relate to any of the other Cylons, and how it fit into these questions of identity that have long driven the series forward. It is impossible that any fan left that episode without a fundamental question about this Cylon’s whereabouts.

And then Ronald D. Moore’s Podcast Commentary was released, and he shrugged it off: oh, sorry everyone, Daniel’s gone, it’s not a big deal, just go about your business.

Effectively, Moore has thrown cold water on the theorists, the prognosticators, the obsessed Battlestar fans who spend more time trying to figure out where the show is going than they do considering where the show has been. And while I wouldn’t put myself within the group who is solely concerned about the series’ forward momentum, I am someone who likes to have a complex framework for heading into upcoming episodes, and to be honest I feel as if Moore has somewhat betrayed that principle.

While it is well within Moore’s right to decide what speculation he will quash and those elements of an episode that he will leave open for interpretation, there is also a point where fans of a complex science fiction series could probably handle the open thread of a corrupted Cylon while still being focused on the drama at hand. Part of me understands Moore’s decision, as it is in line with some of the other choices that he has made going into the latter half of the season, but I feel as if one of my few caveats for enjoying “No Exit,” its myriad of unanswered questions that promise a highly complex future, has been eliminated.

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Battlestar Galactica – “No Exit”

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“No Exit”

February 13th, 2009

You know, sometimes you speak too soon.

When I posted that extended rant this morning, I knew that it was very likely that tonight’s episode, “No Exit,” would actually do much of what I wanted to have done:  a greater glimpse into the Cylon side of this fleet, a return to questions of human/Cylon connectivity, and more of an investigation into the central issues that I felt drove the mutiny in the first place. As a fan of the first two issues in any episodes where they enter into the show’s narrative, then, this one is a doozy: it answers questions about the Cylon creation process that we never even bothered to ask, filling in gaps of logic, philosophy and science in the history of these people like a Cylon bioorganism would fill in the holes within Galactica’s hull.

There’s a whole lot to discuss on that front, so I’m going to get this out of the way before we even get below the fold. To be honest, I still stand by my earlier thoughts about the mutiny arc, and actually felt this episode confirmed much of it. While there is some strong Cylon material here, there is still a disconnect between human and Cylon that feels odd when you are discussing the combining of these two forces at almost every turn. This episode raises some amazing questions of Human/Cylon identity, do not get me wrong, but because those questions appear as highly philosophical conversations on one side and as much less in-depth decisions on the other, there is still that sense of imbalance that struck me with the mutiny arc as well. We’ve switched to the opposite problems: the Cylons have apparently spent 18 months having these fascinating conversations, and yet the humans haven’t been afforded the same luxury quite yet.

All in all, “No Exit” draws itself further into philosophical and expositional territory than any other episode in this half-season, resulting in a slower but deliberate pace that offers more than enough food for thought – let’s focus on that, and maybe I’ll rant a bit more at the end.

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Mutiny Revisited: Rewatching “A Disquiet…” / “The Oath” / “Blood on the Scales”

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Mutiny Revisited

February 13th, 2009

With the end of Battlestar Galactica only a few months away, it has come to the point where we are beginning to place into context just what we’re watching. When I wrote a lengthy and esoteric review of “The Oath” in the hours after its airing, I was emotionally exhausted, having been taken to the brink by the pure adrenaline that the series was using to drive its characters to new levels. I wasn’t thinking in that moment about what kind of introduction it was to this conflict, how it picked up on the episode before it, or how it fit into any broader tradition. Instead, it was a hearkening back to episodes of the past, “Pegasus” most directly, and a sign that the show still had the ability to tell these kinds of stories.

And in the process of writing so much, I think I created for “Blood on the Scales” a set of expectations: I expected it would resolve the mutiny but leave the underlying problems quite emphatically clear, and I expected it would give us more of the Cylon side of this story. And as I wrote in my original review of the episode, posted late on Monday morning after a weekend debating tournament kept me incapacitated and unable to blog the episode, I didn’t feel like it met those expectations. There was something about it that felt off to me, and I’ll be the first to admit that in that post I don’t clearly argue for my disapproval. However, in responding to some thoughtful comments, I began to piece together at least some of what was bothering me.

Much of that, ultimately, was confirmed by Tuesday evening’s rewatch of the two episodes that join together to make a most intriguing chararacter study, even if I will argue that they are telling two different stories (especially when you consider them in context with “A Disquiet Follows My Soul,” which we’ll get to later in the post). They are episodes that are filled with amazing moments, but I feel as if “The Oath” is about showing the power of the mutiny over these characters, whereas “Blood on the Scales” is the characters showing their power over the mutiny. I find the latter to be, for all intents and purposes, more problematic, a far more expedient and much less rich way of letting this storyline unfold. I’m not suggesting that the episode was poor, or that its multitude of moments were any less powerful than those in the preceding episode, but rather I believe that the show’s transfer of agency is too easy and that, while the ramifications will continue to be felt for quite some time, not enough was done in the episode to demonstrate that this mutiny was about more than personal retribution and identity.

So what I want to do now is revisit these episodes to create another set of expectations: the things that felt like they should have been given more time here that, ultimately, are going to have to wait to live another day in the remaining six episodes, starting with tonight’s “No Exit.”

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Battlestar Galactica – “Blood on the Scales”

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“Blood on the Scales”

February 6th, 2009

For the second time this season, I found myself in a situation wherein being able to watch Battlestar Galactica wasn’t in the cards. I am not a fan of this particular development, as it is inherently frustrating, especially when the episode was actually spoiled for a couple of people I was with for the weekend. BSG’s friday night time slot seems great in theory sometimes, but when you actually have an event going on it’s kind of tough to find the time to slot it in.

And by the time I did sit down late Saturday night to watch “Blood on the Scales,” I have to say that I didn’t find it quite as exciting as some others did. Perhaps it was the scenario in which I watched it, but there is something about this episode that felt like it was the simplest of solutions. There wasn’t anything surprising in the episode, outside of a couple of loose ends that never really played a role in the episode. This isn’t to say that the episode lacked excitement, or that its darkest moments had no impact on me, but rather that for all the escalation and all the entertaining turnarounds it ended up exactly where we knew it would end up.

So this isn’t likely going to be incredibly lengthy, primarily because I wrote so much about “The Oath” that saying too much more here is probably going to get redundant.

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The Morning After “The Oath”: BSG Links

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The Morning after “The Oath”

Reviews and Analysis

Since some of you have probably already read last night’s BSG review [which you can read here], figured I’d highlight some links in a separate post instead.

  • Mo Ryan has some of her own thoughts up, but she precedes them with an interview with Mark Verheiden, the writer of the episode.
  • Alan Sepinwall has his review, and there is no greater spot for indepth episode discussion with a legion of loyal commenters; I think he’s a bit too harsh on Baltar, but I think that I know where he’s coming from.
  • Todd VanDerWerff at The House Next Door mediates between his eight-year-old self and his critical side when analyzing the episode, successfully marrying the two (as I think most critics have had to do).
  • Bear McCreary has his blog post about the episode up, where he even insinuates that next week required MORE action cues, which implies it could be even more epic in scale. That’s just plain intense.

So…is it next Friday yet? “Blood on the Scales” can’t come soon enough.

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Battlestar Galactica – “The Oath”

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“The Oath”

January 30th, 2009

“Every revolution begins with one small act”

This was what Tom Zarek told Felix Gaeta when they made their uneasy alliance at the end of “A Disquiet Follows My Soul,” and the events of “The Oath” are in many ways the result of this particular theory, if not quite in the way that Zarek meant these words.

Fundamentally, yes, the act of mutiny that begins at 0630 hours was in fact one small act that would spiral into something much large, but at this point it is impossible to consider any action or any event as anything but a culmination of past tensions. The entire episode is spent taking a trip down memory lane: to Anders’ days back on Caprica surviving the Cylon attack, to the fight of the resistance on New Caprica, to the treasonous activities during the reunion of Galactica and Pegasus, they all played a role in who these people are and how they came to be there. They all took an oath, every single one of them, and although that Oath has been tested it is in this moment that they will make a decision.

The result is quite literally a showdown between the present and the past, one that each character on an individual level is forced to reconcile. Despite being the most action-packed episode perhaps of the entire season thus far, and featuring in my mind the most tense and human-driven action we’ve seen since “Pegasus,” this was much less about the action than it was about what it meant to the people involved. From grunt marines to basic civilians to the former political and military leaders of these people, humanity is indeed at a crossroads, and this is as much an inner revolution of their minds as it is an attempt to take over control of Galactica.

Every revolution may begin with a small act, but “The Oath” was anything but small, and certainly represents a return to seat of your pants, edge of your seat engagement without sacrificing the psychological investigation of characters that truly sets the show apart.

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Battlestar Galactica – “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”

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“A Disquiet Follows My Soul”

January 23rd, 2009

After last week solved what we would consider to be the series’ biggest unsolved mystery, the identity of the final Cylon model, this week is suddenly faced with a very different question: if the identity of the final Cylon isn’t going to be the lynchpin of the second half of the show’s fourth and final season, then what is it going to be?

It’s more or less the same question that the show’s characters are trying to deal with: if, in fact, the supposed path is now entirely out the window, what should they be doing and how should they be achieving it? The problem they face is that, while Team Adama is ostensibly right about their plan to move forward, it is a plan more progressive than some people in the fleet can handle. The episode brings to light that dichotomy that we are always forgetful of: while we might see the logic to Adama’s plan based on our experience with these Cylon models, the rest of the fleet hasn’t had that opportunity, and spurned on by a political force like Tom Zarek they are potentially in a position of something approaching a revolution.

But “A Disquiet Follows My Soul” is in itself an exercise of omission, grounding us very strongly in the experience of William Adama as he faces a true test of his health and determination. With a euphoric Laura Roslin risking her own death in favour of living in the moment staring him in the face, Adama has to ask himself that question: does he believe enough in his own vision to be able to push forward his own agenda, or is the sheer uncertainty of it all a justifiable reason to sit back and find solace in the present?

The episode never particularly answers this question, but the very posing of it serves as a launching point into the rest of the season.

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