Battlestar Sharklactica

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Culture, Personal, Politics

Has Battlestar Galactica jumped the shark?

That’s a question a lot of people have been asking since the season premiere aired on Friday. I haven’t decided just yet how I feel about it. Even though Battlestar Galactica is one of my favorite shows, and is definitely one of the better shows on television, I’ve been a bit disappointed with it for some time now. Many people’s feelings towards the Season 3 opener, to me, are just symptoms of the disease.

Spoilers below…

Here’s a post over at Protein Wisdom on “Battlestar Mohammed” — That is to say, the immediate and obvious parallels that the writers of the show have made between real-life events and the events of the Battlestar universe. Everyone I’ve spoken to on this is pretty much in agreement that the episode was heavy-handed in its political implications. By having the Cylons engage in an occupation and presenting the Humans as justified in conducting suicide bombings the show seems to endorse the idea that the Cylons are roughly parallel to Americans in Iraq, and the Battlestar Humans are parallel to jihadis.

Of course, things are a bit fuzzy around the edges: Roslin, being one of the stronger voices of reason on the show, objects to suicide bombing. However, her objections are flaccid. Suicidal attacks are part of war, and are nothing worth objecting to. Suicide bombings in the real world are objectionable because they are intended to cause noncombatant casualties. However, the Humans in the Battlestar universe weren’t engaging in attacks against the civilian population, they were engaging in attacks against uniformed Cylon forces and Cylon political leaders. The characters did not react to the events of their fictional world in a convincing way — Instead, they reacted in a way that makes it clear the writers were thinking of the entire scenario as a thinly-veiled alternate reality.

The big problem here is the first part of that: The characters did not react in a convincing way. The first season of this show was, in my opinion, beyond reproach. But the second season seemed decidedly rushed. In the second season Roslin’s cancer was cured in the final ten minutes of one episode. Talk about a sudden change. In the second season, Billy, Roslin’s aide, was killed for no real reason whatsoever. The entire plotline of his interaction with Dee was discarded and forgotten. Simultaneously, a new plotline was introduced involving Lee and Dee’s romantic relationship. Within the course of about three episodes they go from exchanging glances to getting married. Furthermore, there’s the example of Lee’s entirely out-of-the-blue existential crisis and the revelation that he had apparently been visiting a prostitute for months on end.

The dramatic pacing on these things was very off. Roslin’s reversal of fortunes was far too sudden and dramatic. Billy’s death was narratively unimportant and seemed to only happen in order to allow Lee and Dee to get together. Lee’s existential crisis was presumably over his guilt about his girlfriend/wife who died on Caprica, but it stretches credibility to think that he’d been wracked with guilt the entire season 1 and season 2 and been visiting this prostitute to alleviate his guilt without it ever once being shown on screen beforehand.

Then we have Caprica-6 and Sleeper-Sharon’s sudden reversals of allegiances, becoming leaders of the Cylons, and immediately calling off the plan to exterminate the humans. Extremely sudden and ridiculous. It is problematic because it shows that whatever reason the Cylons may have had for exterminating all of the humans was so superficial that a pair of two could convince the rest that they were wrong within a period of hours… That tells me the writers didn’t have a strong rationale for the Cylon’s behavior in the first place.

Furthermore, as I explained in the comments on Protein Wisdom: If the intent of the Cylons was, as Caprica 6 and Sleeper Sharon insisted, to forge a new, peaceful relationship with humans, then the whole situation we are presented with at the end of Season 2, with the Cylons arriving with an armada of battleships and legions of killbots, makes no sense at all. Doing so is just such an obvious and epically stupid blunder that it’s not credible for the Cylons to be acting that way.

The real question here is whether Ronald D. Moore is going to take some time to address the gaping holes that have been introduced into the plot. Why did the Cylons originally attack the humans? If there is not a reason, then I’m through with this show. How were Caprica-6 and Sleeper-Sharon able to convince the Cylons to change their plan so easily?, and Why did the Cylons come to New Caprica and immediately start killing and imprisoning the humans? These are questions that demand answers above all. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are answers. If season 3 proceeds with new plots without answering these extremely important answers then I’ll probably give up on the show. Right now, we are kept entirely in the dark, and that’s just not plausible for a show like this. We need to understand why the fictional world is the way it is before new stories can be told in that world.

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