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Review: Battlestar Galactica – “The Plan”

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“The Plan”

October 27th, 2009

There has been an odd lack of excitement surrounding “The Plan,” which isn’t exactly surprising. On the one hand, the show’s finale proved somewhat divisive, which could have turned some fans away from revisiting the series. On the other, there is more long term interest in a project like Caprica which could run for multiple seasons than a one-off movie, which might have fans focusing more on its impending premiere. However, I really shouldn’t fit into either of these camps, as I’ve yet to get truly excited about Caprica (although I am certainly intrigued) and I quite loved the finale. And yet, nonetheless, the DVD release of The Plan (in stores today, October 27th) snuck up on me in a way I had not anticipated, and its release seems to lack the fanfare one would expect for what will be our last time spent with this universe (or this time period in this universe).

Perhaps it is best that one goes into this one with low expectations, however. As someone who loves this show, having written an undergraduate thesis about it and spending four hours writing about the series finale into the middle of the night with no regard for my personal health, the purpose of this film should excite me. Promising to explain the Cylon plan to destroy humanity, and to detail how the individual Cylon models came to play their roles in the first two seasons of the series, one feels as if there is some really compelling material to be had here, the kind of stuff that would have me wishing I could go back and rewrite my chapter on the Cylon/Human binary all over again.

And yet, “The Plan” is a qualified failure, raising some intriguing issues but in an indulgent fashion that in its relentless need to fill in the gaps of where this is happening relative to the show’s narrative proves more distracting than informative, more confusing than enlightening. I feel as if there is an intriguing narrative waiting to be found somewhere in this mess of a two-hour television movie, but that narrative is lost when it is so clearly segmented to fit into the series’ existing structure. While we’re busy playing the game of “spot which footage was from the show and which was shot new for the movie,” there’s something interesting going on here that’s just not coming through as clearly as it needed to.

In individual moments, this feels like Battlestar Galactica – as a whole, it feels like a DVD extra where you can click a button and see what the Cylons are busy plotting at that particular time, something which would be more interesting if they hadn’t tried to turn it into a motion picture event.

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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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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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