Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Battlestar Galactica And The Fatal Flaw Of The Series Finale

I know that this write up is way past the air date of the finale but due to lack of access to cable and waiting for the DVDs to move off the new release shelves to the cheaper racks helped to force the delay.  I put the blame on Blockbuster

Like I said here before, what drew me into Battlestar Galactica was that it was dark, fearless and brutal. Especially with the ever declining body count that was tallied at the start of each episode would be a stark reminder of how trigger happy the show’s producers were. But it strove to show the spirit of perseverance against an enemy who believed in the genocide of the human race.

But as Lost and Star Wars have their low points – most of season 2 and all three prequels respectively -- so did Battlestar Galactica.

The New Caprica storyline suffered a bit of a lull with the momentum of the series. Not to mention the fact that the producers were drawing obvious parallels with the War on Terror in Iraq. The humans found a habitable planet and started to establish settlements there. Roughly a year later, Cylons arrive and take over with nary a shot.

In an effort to coexist, they Cylons recruit and train a handful of humans to help police their own. The human resistance talked one man into doing a suicide run with an explosive belt (imagine the odds) to kill Cylons and humans collaborating with them.

Sometimes people can’t leave politics at the doorstep.

Getting past that, it was still an enjoyable show. I even liked the mutiny storyline by Tom Zarek and Felix Gatea. It was about time Zarek made his big power grab. Zarek knowing what needed to be done and needed his trusted acolyte to help him accomplish his means. Gatea, still suffering from having just lost his leg and a long held distrust of the Cylons in general haplessly went along with it.

What really stuck a craw in my cap was how the series was finished. Too much Deus ex machina happened. How were the final four revealed to each other? There was magic music that only the cylons could hear. Who was that piano player who helped Starbuck write the last notes to the song? He was some sort of angel who vanished. And how exactly did Starbuck end up alive and well in a brand new fighter? She’s some sort of angel who didn’t know what she was until it was time for her to disappear herself. I remember reading that Ronald Moore didn’t have a clear story arch and made it up as he went along. That was becoming increasingly clear with how often a ‘Wizard did it’ when it came to the storyline. Instead of a nice, neat puzzle there was a jumbled mess with odd pieces from other puzzles cut out to fit the one he was working on.

The last half of the finale was sub-standard compared to the rest of the series. If there was the lowest of the low, it would have to be that. It did remind me a bit of the Golgafrincham Ark Fleet Ship B in the book 'The Restaurant at the End of the Universe' with how Galactica found Earth.

The remaining humans and cylons agree to settle the planet they stumbled across. And with a stroke of absolute naivety and ignorance, decide to give up every bit of technology that they ever had in order to live and survive on that strange new world.


New planet with absolutely zero knowledge of what is and isn't poisonous to eat, they ditch the very tools that could save their lives. That's forethought. To add to this point, they could give up all their tools and technology but the very next day, when they need to plant a field or build a hut, they'll be using sticks and stone as tools to get by. And then struggle to make better tools as time goes along. So the lesson wouldn't necessarily have been learned. They gave up a hammer only to use bark and sap to fasten a rock to a stick as a crude replacement.

I’m going to do what I can to talk out of my hat with what little knowledge of history and anthropology I have to be counter balanced by having of played hours upon hours of ‘Civilization’. Terms like settlers, farms and grains are going to be used rather loosely so please bear with me.

When mankind was expanding, be it the westward expansion of the US or pretty much any other colonization that civilizations did, he needed other families and homesteads and communities to help survive, grow and prosper.

Back before the days to tractors and harvesters’ farmers used oxen, donkeys and sometime horses to pull the plow to help plant their field. Worst case scenario, one man can pull the plow for the other. In fact, the term ‘acre’ was defined as the average plot a person could plow with one ox in a day.

The average colonialist would need to know how to plant, harvest, mill and store the grain. For his house and barn he needed to have a working knowledge of carpentry. Even animal husbandry and care for his livestock. He needed to be the proverbial jack of all trades. He had to do it all because no one else was there to depend on.

With the advent of more and more people expanding into the original colonialist’s territory came more and more opportunity for a different set of trades and skills to be used. Eventually someone would be able to set up a mill to help process the grain for the farmer. Making it one less step the farmer would need to worry about. The farmer would work the fields and drop the grain off to be processed for a small fee or portion of the grain.

As more people moved into the community, the range of skills and occupations grew. A carpenter would be available to help build and repair barns and houses and stores. Bakers would make bread and biscuits for the townspeople. Blacksmiths would fashion tools, shoe horses and pull teeth.

People would developed their skills with their chosen trades. Skilled workers turned into craftsmen turned into artisans. A skilled smith could turn his attention to silver to make eating utensils, tableware and jewelery. A carpenter would be able to turn his focus into becoming a cooper and make barrels for storage.

The trades are actually the historic source for many people’s last names. Coopers, Smiths, Fletchers (someone who made arrows) and, obviously, Bakers all were derived from people’s occupations. Joe the Cooper slowly turned into Joe Cooper.

As trades grew so did their tools. Hammers went from a simple rock on a stick of yesteryear to a heat treated mallet to the various hammers that are available today. The ball-peen, the usual claw hammer, tack and even the sledge hammer are ready to be bought in any local hardware store. Homes went from huts to log cabin to steel and concrete structures that scrape the sky. Transportation transitioned from foot to hoof to to wheel to tire to wing.

How this relates to BSG and the last episode is exactly why it would never work. The crew of Galatica vowed to eschew any technology in order to ‘Break the Cycle’. They purposefully marooned themselves in the middle of the Stone Age. Except that they never broke any cycle, only delayed it in happening again. They left themselves with nowhere to go but to begin a brand new cycle of events that they ran from in the first place.

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