Something I’ve been wondering lately: exactly how much does an ending affect the overall quality of a story? Does the conclusion ultimately decide whether the rest of it was worth going through? Or does the journey count for enough?
Put in more concrete terms: does the fact that “Battlestar: Galactica’s” ultimate ending is among the stupidest I’ve ever heard in my life – and by stupidest, I mean both “wildly illogical” and “antithetical to the themes the show had previously set up” – mean I shouldn’t bother watching the series?
My noble intention in avoiding “BSG” while it aired was to sit and experience the story – long hyped as Teh Greatest Evah! – as a whole when it was over, because I was under the impression that it was telling a finite story. (That this finite story was stretched out unnecessarily by about two years is more the fault of SciFi’s – wait, are we calling it SyFy yet? – diabolical scheduling concept of “split seasons.”)
It was a story that sounded unrelentingly dark, with some real “Holy Shit!” moments, and a willingness to take its characters into unexpected territory. A story I figured I could get on board with, even though I wasn’t terribly impressed by the initial miniseries.
But then I was informed of the recent finale’s ending (Warren Ellis’s succinct version at right), which sounded for all the world like the end of Douglas Adams’ “Restaurant at the End of the Universe,” where hapless hero Arthur Dent learns his distant evolutionary ancestors weren’t cavemen, but rather the space-faring ninnies who crashed on prehistoric Earth.
Except Adams’ version was supposed to be ridiculous and funny, and BSG’s was apparently meant to signify a thought-provoking reminder of how technology corrupts humanity in cyclical ways, and…come on, I’m supposed to buy this as anything other than retarded? These fully-evolved humans decided to abandon all technology? Including medicine? And TOOLS? We’re to take it these guys just hopped out of a spaceship and started living like prehistoric hunter-gatherers of their own volition?
I just got back from a weekend of camping. So I can tell you pretty confidently that without the aid of a car full of camping equipment and a friend who’s an Eagle Scout, I probably could’ve gotten myself killed pretty easily. Killed in 24 hours. Killed in 24 hours, even though I was only about a half-hour drive from my house. That is how much I would have died. Which is exactly how much the survivors of the Galactica will be dying. Smart move, gang.
Anyway. Any sci-fi show is going to have its fair share of hardcore fans, who will defend a creative decision no matter how wrong-headed it might seem to an outsider. So I don’t know for sure how this bold, dumb-sounding ending was really, honestly received by its core audiences – as a poor return on years of investment, or as a logical-in-its-way conclusion.
Thinking back to my own experiences with serialized genre shows, I know of some that ended a little too early, but had bombastic and thematically resonant conclusions (“Angel”), some that went on too long and lost some focus but still pulled it together in the end (“Buffy,”), and some whose steady decline in quality meant it didn’t matter how good or bad the finale was (“Alias,” “X-Files”).
So is a serialized show’s ending really the final word on a show’s ultimate quality? Or is the journey actually more important than the destination – even if you know where the destination ends, and it’s not someplace you really want to go?
And for any actual “BSG” fans out there…what do you think? I’ve got a whole summer with limited TV to watch, should I toss it on my Netflix queue?