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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 – “Daybreak Part One”

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“Daybreak Part One”

March 13th, 2009

Methinks that Ronald D. Moore has placed a red line right down the ranks of the Galactica faithful, which is something that he seems to revel in – it is not that the beginning of “Daybreak” is inherently a bad episode, but rather that it represents a very cautious approach that is treating this three-hour finale as an episode in and of itself as opposed to an extension of the episodes that came before it. The result is another in a long line of setup episodes, weaving in and out from his main character’s past lives in Caprica City in a way that makes thematic sense to the show as a whole, but doesn’t actually feel like it connects with the mutiny, or the rest of the fourth season thus far.

There’s something to be said for this kind of approach: with a cast this large and with a timeline this varied in terms of both action and reaction, it’s easy to see why returning to who these people were before “the Fall” would be of some value. And yet, at the same time, I left the episode not pondering how much these characters have changed but rather how much they’ve remained the same. Something about the way the episode was structured made it a bit too easy, the parallels between their former lives and their current predicament too simply stated, for us to forget some of what has happened to them, to remove the context of forward momentum and replace it with a potent nostalgia.

The result is something different, not something wrong: when Adama has his heroic speech, we are properly on the edge of our seat, properly considering the gravity of this situation, and properly realizing just how epic this is going to eventually be. But we’ve been waiting for something epic for a long time now, and by layering that suspense with the catharsis of the flashbacks we’re taken out of the season and placed into a series perspective perhaps too disconnected from the season thus far.

I’m left wondering not whether Moore is steering this ship in the right direction for the finale, which has the right kind of epic qualities as we need it to have coupled with a strong connection to these characters and their past lives, but rather whether this finale remains unchanged from the plan originally designed for when the second season was to be only 13 episodes – I have a feeling that it wouldn’t have been any different. As a result, while it feels like we’re heading in the right direction for a series finale, I don’t quite know if it feels like an ideal capoff to the season in and of itself.

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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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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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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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