Saturday, May 24, 2008

Writing about Battlestar

At Alexis' request, I recently have the opportunity to rewatch Ron Moore's "reimagined" Battlestar Galactica, and I'm really kind of excited about it. I was a big fan of the first season and a half, and I even blogged about it a bit. I thought this would be a good chance to revisit some of those essays.

I was never really a fan of the old show, though I did enjoy it as a guilty pleasure from time to time. My thoughts on it were exactly Ron Moore's - that it was a great idea (very) poorly executed. If any show in TV SciFi history deserved a second chance, it was Battlestar. That said, I was highly skeptical of Moore's remake when it aired as a miniseries in 2003 - not because I'd heard Starbuck was gonna be a woman or anything like that, but because I still hadn't forgiven SciFi for Dune. I assumed that anything they touched would turn to shit. Boy am I glad to have been wrong!

At the urging of a friend, I watched the miniseries and found myself not just pleasantly surprised but awed. That miniseries, and the first episode of season one, rank as four of the greatest hours of television ever aired in my book. I could go on all night detailing all the improvements that Moore's version brought to the original concept - but let's just leave it at "job well done." I was hooked.

From there, though, it was steadily downhill. But the slow decline didn't keep Battlestar from being the best show on television in my mind - at least through season two's midseason hiatus. I positively adored it; watching was the highlight of my week.

About that...

I just don't know what happened. Hindsight's 20-20, and looking back I think I saw cracks showing in Final Cut. I wasn't a terribly big fan of Flight of the Phoenix either, but Pegasus was good, and so I went into season 2.5 convinced everything was in order.

Boy was I wrong. Somewhere during the Resurrection Ship two-parter things went south and never came back. Epiphanies was terrible, and Black Market was just shockingly, shockingly bad. Lots of people thought the show rebounded with Scar, but I strongly beg to differ. It was better than either "Epiphanies" or "Black Market," but that's really not saying much. I didn't see any kind of improvement until Downloaded, and by "improvement" I don't mean "Downloaded" was good, just that it was mildly interesting. Lay Down Your Burdens, however, was quite good - if not exactly a full return to form. Unfortunately, as I would later argue, I think too much damage was already done by that point. I followed the show to about midway through season three, and then I gave up on it completely. It just wasn't the same brilliant show it had been any more.

However, now that I'm rewatching the first season and a half at least, it's probably worth suffering through seasons 2.5 and 3 again and getting caught back up. I occasionally stumble on mentions of it on the internet, and the vibe I get is that a lot of fans think it eventually regained its former glory. The proof is in the pudding, of course, but seasons 1 and 2.0 were just so damn good that I'm willing to give the rest of it a second chance (even if it means sitting through the wretched season 2.5 again). With that in mind, I post here links to the reviews I wrote of several season three episodes the day after they aired:

Farewell to the Battlestar Blog - Not an episode review, but a hat tip to a blog I had enjoyed posting on (as "Adric"). It stopped just as season three was getting started and is still available to read here.

7 October 2006 - "Occupation/Precipice": Season three starts, and I express profound doubts that the writers are going to be able to dig their way out of the mess of season 2.5.

23 October 2006 - "Exodus, pt. II": I acknowledge that the show is getting better, but lament that the Cylon occupation plot arc was exposed as a sham "band aid" device. Missed opportunities and plotholes abound.

28 October 2006 - "Collaborators": In retrospect, this one was just wishful thinking on my part. It should've been obvious to me that I was going to stop watching the show, but I was holding out hope. Despite some good moments, all the symptoms that the show wasn't recovering were there.

4 November 2006 - "Torn": Things genuinely seemed to be getting better. But it was a mirage - it wouldn't be much longer before I gave up.

11 November 2006 - "A Measure of Salvation": Here I give up on the show in spirit. It's broken and can't be fixed.

18 November 2006 - "Hero": Nothing but contempt left at this point. "Hero" was a horrible episode, and so I decide the show is no longer worth my time. This is the last entry I would write on it.

Of course, it turns out that I'm forever the stupid optimist! Rewatching season one now, I remember how great the show was when it started. It's rekindled some of my enthusiasm - just enough, in fact, that I'm open again to all the praise I hear for it on the internet. We'll give it a second go. I guess I can't promise that I will actually manage to sit through seasons 2.5 and the first part of 3 again, but I'll give it a try. And certainly I'll watch the bits of season three I skipped last year! Here's hoping against hope (again)...