TV Flashback: Watching ‘Battlestar Galactica’ For the First Time

Posted: April 2, 2013 in Jeff Holland, reviews, Threat Quality
Tags: , , ,

Considering how ultimately dour the mood of the show is – I mean, it is about the genocide Imageof the human race and all so I don’t blame it, anyway – what nobody really mentions about Battlestar Galactica is how compulsively watchable it is in the early going.

That was a pleasant surprise for me, considering that I found the initial miniseries to be kind of a slog.

But then, the miniseries has a lot to set up, whereas the series can content itself to tell a number of “done-in-one” style stories that are entertaining and move at a pretty good clip. BSG, in the early going, is rarely boring or slow. 

One caveat to that: Between BSG, Lost and Stargate Universe, I have had my fill of “Oh no we need to find a water source” stories. I get that it feels more “realistic” to address this basic concern, but I feel like it’s a plot point that’s been sufficiently tackled.

That said, BSG’s idea to tie that not-so-interesting story into a more entertaining prison riot story? I’ll take it.

It’s important that these early stories be as light on their feet as possible, because character and long-term plotting are already kind of a struggle.

Image

Pictured: The Only Person On This Show Who Ever Smiles

Do you know why Kara Thrace stands out as a fan-favorite character? Because she is one of only two in the entire series who exhibits more traits than “Grimly determined” and “stressed.” I mean, she’s both those things, but it’s amazing what a breath of fresh air it is simply to add “cocky” into the mix.

In much the same way, despite my repeated mental shouting “There is no way anyone would put this guy in charge of anything – LOOK at him,” I light up whenever Baltar’s on screen because hey, at least he’s jittery and cracked in an entertaining way.

Which brings me to the robots.

I am so confused about these robots, you guys.

Now, the show shot itself in the foot pretty much the moment it decided to write “They have a plan” at the start of every episode, because the way I see it, Phase One of the plan – “Kill all humans”? Overwhelmingly successful.

So successful, in fact, that Phase Two of the plan shouldn’t really be anything more complicated than “Kill the rest of the humans.”

I get that that’s a little harder when they’re flying around in space, but again, chucking a few giant bombs at the big, slow-moving spaceships probably isn’t that hard.

Of course, that means there’s also no TV show. So yes, it makes more sense narratively to suggest that the reason these robots who are practically unstoppable and undetectable haven’t finished off the human race yet is that They Have Reasons.

It’s just that these reasons – even BEFORE they get interminably convoluted and made-up in the middle of season 3 – are kind of overly elaborate.

Boomer ALONE is a dumb idea. “We’ll have one copy on the ship, and one copy wandering around on the burned Earth with her co-pilot, trying to get him to fall in love with her.”

Why?

“We don’t – OH! So they’ll bang, and produce a human-cylon offspring. Hah.”

But…but Baltar and Six were having regular sex for YEARS. Was he not genetically a good match? Why? He is a handsome well-built genius with amazing hair. What the hell else do you need? HEIGHT?

Is it just that the Six model only comes in “Infertile,” so they had to go back to the factory to create Boomer, “Now With Fully-Functioning Womb” feature?

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“EXECUTE PROMPT: COMMENCE THE HU-MAN SEXING.”

“It’s part of our plan.”

Well, okay, but wouldn’t it be a lot simpler to have a non-Boomer Cylon in Boomer’s position, to avoid a needless screw-up?

“You don’t know the extent of our plan, or you wouldn’t ask us that.”

Okay, then, what part of the plan requires multiple copies of the same people? Like that suicide bomber guy, you couldn’t have at least slapped a mustache on him for a disguise?

“NO BECAUSE OUR PLAN IS SEKRIT AND LONG-RANGING AND IT’LL BLOW YOUR PANTS OFF WHEN YOU HEAR IT.”

Well…that seems like an awful high bar to set for yourself.

“WE ARE SEKRIT PLANNING ROBOTS. WHO BELIEVE IN ROBOT JESUS.”

…Yeah, what is up with the religion angle? Other than “Making it a holy war makes the whole thing seem deeper than it is”? You’re motherfucking religious zealot robots?

“Yes, Robot God told us to kill you.”

But don’t you already have plenty of good reasons to kill all humans? Hell, I am a human and I can come up with plenty of good kill-all-humans reasons.

“When you hear about our robot god sekrit plan you will get it all.”

Okay, so tell me, so this is clearer.

“SEKRIT robot plan. Here, if we just cram Tricia Helford into the tightest dress the distant past future has to offer will you just shut your hu-man breathing holes for a couple seasons?”

…You have a deal. FOR NOW.

Right, so where was I? OK, yes. Other than a potential overdose on Olmosian Grim Determination and the nagging sense that if the Cylons had just watched The Terminator they might have been a little more inspired to crush some human skulls, I am quite surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed season one of Battlestar Galactica.

In fact, the only things I’m having a problem with are the forced insertion of religious themes, bullshit prophecy foreshadowing, and mysterious, purposely vague “master plans” that can’t possibly make any sense once revealed.

But I’m sure that won’t be a problem moving forward, right?

Next: SEASON 2!

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Comments
  1. Moff says:

    Ugh, thank you. Thank you for articulating the other thing that rendered BSG absolutely unwatchable for me. (I don’t care if you enjoyed it; I still refuse to. Also, I actually thought the initial miniseries was way better than what it spawned. But that’s just me.)

    Everybody seems to think the way to do an epic science-fiction show is: (1) Come up with a bunch of crazy-awesome shit! (2) Try to wedge all that stuff into a wider story line that makes sense. They have it backwards.

  2. braak says:

    SyFy should make a 10-hour miniseries of Deathstalker.

  3. Moff says:

    I mean, I will take “They believed in their powers from the Madness Maze SO HARD” over “And there is a master plan that is just too complex and subtle to ever explain, no really there is” any day as a device.

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    An addendum to the “No more stories about finding water” note: I would have watched HOURS of “having to dig a trench”-style stories if it only led to an exchange like:

    ADAMA (slams down phone): DAMMIT.
    TIGH: What is it now?
    ADAMA: The shitter. The shitter is busted.

  5. braak says:

    Remember how there is a maze on a planet somewhere that will give you random psychic powers? And how it’s guarded by a giant Wolfman, and then Admiral Silence blows the maze up with the lasers from his spaceship? Also there is a baby in the middle of the maze with the power to extinguish stars.

    Also the ghosts from all of the people who died when the baby destroyed all those stars also live in a virtual reality environment where they try to destroy humanity by pretending to be Cthulhu-monsters.

    Hahahah, man, those books were BANANAS..

  6. Moff says:

    Do they live in a virtual reality environment? I get a little fuzzy on what happened toward the end of the first series.

  7. braak says:

    I don’t know, man. I know they keep showing up in the VR world, and I think at some point the espers connect humanity’s collective unconscious to the VR world so that Owen Deathstalker can go in there and see what’s going on, and that’s where he sees those guys?

    Maybe. Honestly, I have no idea what the fuck was going on in this books.

    “Are there killer robots?”

    “Do you mean, regular killer robots, or killer robot cyborgs? It doesn’t matter. We’ve got both!”

  8. jge says:

    I liked BSG immensly in spite of the obvious holes in the long term plotting — you mentioned some. Who tells Adama that there are 12 cylon models? And what for?
    If you like Kara you’ll hate the development in season 3 and 4. Just wenn I thought the show couldn’t get more mystical / religious it did.

  9. […] Anyway, remember during my write-up of season 1, where I made fun of your sekrit plan being “Get Boomer knocked […]

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