Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Farewell

In the course of writing the previous post I discovered that Battlestar Blog signed off in mid-August.

Too bad, I really liked that blog.

I admit, most of the stuff on it was the type of general fan concerns that I'm not usually so interested in - convention dates, interviews with the actors, collectibles, etc. However, the author did a great job writing analyses of individual episodes, and I was a frequent commenter (under the name of "Adric") on those posts.

The atmosphere wasn't quite as involved as I'd have liked. As I mentioned in the previous post, I get really in to the TV shows I like, and I enjoy discussing plot and character themes with other fans. Battlestar did a particularly good job with characterization, at least for its first season and a half. Unfortunately, the one other person I knew who watched it wasn't half as in to it as I was. He grew up watching the original Battlestar and was one of those who couldn't let it go. (Actually, that's not really fair. The two shows are so different that it's hardly worth naming them the same thing. My friend is more into adventure/hero themes - he's a big anime fan - so the old Battlestar is appropriate for him. I think the old show is campy and silly, and he thinks the new show is boring and preachy. In any case, I totally get that he resents what Ron Moore's "re-imagining" did to one of his childhood favs. It's not that he can't "let it go," it's that he has a legitimate complaint that the "new version" isn't actually "Battlestar" as he knew it at all.) To the extent that he was interested in the new show (which didn't last very long, actually, not even in to the second season), his commentary mostly centered on cosmetic problems with it - that is was "too military" and that the concept of a "Colonial Warrior" had been discarded. So I really had no one to discuss the show with, and the Battlestar Blog filled that role as best it could.

As I said, the atmosphere wasn't quite as serious as I would have liked. The person who runs the blog set it up mostly as a sounding board for praise of the show - something I didn't think it deserved at all by the end of the second season. Most of the commenters seemed to share his views. Discussion was involved to the extent that a given episode was good, but once they started going bad, commentary got shallower as people avoided admitting that the show had probably jumped the shark.

I personally think Battlestar "jumped" - with no warning, really - following Resurrection Ship pt. 2. (Specifically, I would trace it to the revelation that Sharon's baby's blood contains a miracle cure for President Roslin's cancer in Epiphanies. What a cheap, easy, convenient and horrible plot "twist" that was!) I realize (because I read the entry on Ron Moore's blog just after he posted it) that the official version is that the second half of Season II (for anyone who doesn't follow this show, Battlestar took a random two-month hiatus halfway through its second season. The episodes after the break up to the end were of noticeably lower quality than those up to that point.) - particularly Black Market, which was truly terrible - are acknowledged as sub-par by Moore and that the reason for the long break between seasons two and three is to allow the writers to work out the kinks. So I guess it would be fairer to wait to say whether Battlestar really has "jumped" or not.

I'm pessimistic, though, for several reasons. First, I noticed the steam running out of Season II even before the break a bit with Final Cut. I'm not saying it was a bad episode. It was a good episode, in fact. But there was something faintly annoying about it that hinted at the coming collapse. If I had to put my finger on it (and fortunately, I don't), I'd say it was the quick revelation that D'Anna Biers was a Cylon. There's something cheap about introducing us to a character we've never seen only to immediately reveal she's "one of them." I admit, the final scene of with the Cylons watching the video works better if we know - I'm just saying that some forward planning (showing us D'Anna in previous eps, perhaps) could have helped here. It was the first real hint we had that the show wasn't as well-planned as it seemed. Second, while the Resurrection Ship two-parter that followed Final Cut seemed mostly back on track, the War on Terror themes were a bit heavy for my taste. I appreciate not only that Ron Moore is dealing with these thems, but also that Battlestar as a concept is perfect for handling them. However, any treatment of a political theme in a television series has to be careful not to get carried away - which I think the Resurrection Ship arc did a bit. Third, lots of the events in the horrible second half of the season were damaging to the show's overall setup and will have to be explained. In particular, they threw away all credibility on the Starbuck/Apollo relationship, and on Apollo as a character in general, actually.

Fourth and by far most importantly, the season finale puts the writers in a bind that I don't think they're going to be able to break out of. The season finale was a real shocker. Not a mere cliffhanger - but a real, full-on, truly disturbing shocker. It goes quite a bit further than most shows are willing to go in terms of the serious consequences the events shown have for the plot arc and the characters. On the one hand, I understand the necessity for such a device. The second half of season two is best buried, but the nature of the show means the writers don't get an easy clean slate. What they need is something to really shake things up so that they can pick back up on the good threads where they left off (e.g. the dormant sexual tension between Apollo and Starbuck) and jettison the bad and inconsistent ones (e.g. the now confused roles of Tigh and Apollo, our disappointing look at Cylon society, etc). Still, things go a bit too far - by which I mean further than warranted by the setup. It's transparent, in other words, that Moore took the show in the direction he took it not because there were thematic or character pressures to do so, but solely for the purpose of shocking, of appearing "raw," or perhaps to give the writers an out. In any case, it comes off contrived, which robs it of the tension it should naturally have built. The writers are now in a bind. Any kind of "return to normal" will be worse than anti-climatic - it would be unrealistic. On the other hand, failing to return to normal in some way is to give up on fixing the continuity problems in Season II, and therefore to give up on the impressively subtle character and thematic continuity they had been building. In short, to give up on everything that made the "re-imagined" Battlestar the truly great show it once was, or at the very least to cut the links to the events that made the show I loved (episodes like 33 are some of the best television ever filmed). I don't see a way out of it - but I do hope they prove me wrong.

Battlestar won't be back on till October, so there is time for me to watch over everything again. Another thing I will need to do is find a new blog where I can discuss the new episodes online. It's too bad battlestarblog.com had to go.

Great job while it lasted, Trapper! Thanks for everything.

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