I'm going to miss BSG
(Geek Mode ON) I’m trusting that many of you who read this watch the BSG series, so I won’t even begin to try to explain the back story to you.
I’m going to miss Battlestar Galactica. The last episode of the updated 2004 series airs this Friday. I am, in actuality, not a big television watcher. Yes, there are shows that I watch other than BSG, but BSG is the only show that I will watch by myself from start to finish. I am, otherwise, a fidgety television viewer.
I’ve had to explain to a few people why I enjoy the show—many of you bloggers are dialed in, but there are a number of people who just don’t get my passion for the series. I try to explain to non-watchers that it’s basically like The West Wing, except in space. I’ve never watched an episode of The West Wing, but such a pronouncement by me seems to create the intended effect. They get it once I pair BSG with something in the “real” world. My own parents can’t stand fantasy or science fiction. “Your mom and I don’t like fictions” is something I’ve often heard from my father when I’ve suggested we go see a popcorn sc-fi flick at the movie theater.
I understand why my parents are apprehensive about engaging sci-fi/fantasy narratives. Science Fiction, at its worst, is pop-philosophy that’s conflated with exotic words and ridiculous problems that are solved by science-lite solutions. The goal of the writers of bad science fiction is, ultimately, to impress with the creation of new worlds without firmly maintaining feet on the ground in this world. Sci-fi, though, at its highest form is brilliant allegory. BSG, is pretty brilliant.
The engineered “villains” of BSG, the Cylons are complicated “antagonists.” I’m putting the terms in quotes because lately in the show, they’ve become more humane than the humans who have created them. Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which was adapted to become Blade Runner, had similar concerns with its Cylon-like antagonists, the Replicants. Both Cylons and Replicants lash out against their creators. Both Cylon and Replicants seek to master a very human narrative theme—they are questing for a way to cheat death.
Additionally, so often science fiction is about mastering one of two other narratives—the idea of a utopia or the aftermath of a dystopia. Human societies (in most cases, human) are always flawed—the narrative eventually reveals how the utopia is actually dystopia or how the dystopia is created by humanity in the first place. Such a narrative, post 9/11, is compelling, blunt, and necessary. There’s an excellent article about BSG in Rolling Stone citing season 2 as the high-water mark of the show. The New Caprica shows place the members of the colonial fleet as members of an insurgency. In a memorable season 2 scene, a human colonial suicide bomber takes out humans and Cylons alike. Admiral Adama, played quite excellently by Eduard James Olmos, asks whether humans “. . . are worth saving. . . .“ My response, of course, is yes, but the value of BSG as a cultural force is that it beckons complication.
Here’s where I speculate about the upcoming ending:
Gaius Baltar is one of the most intriguing characters in the series for me. He’s a wonderful reimagining of Count Baltar from the original 1978 series. At first, I saw him as pure villain, but now I’m seeing him as something further. Could he be the holder of the master narrative of humanity?
His career in the show is interesting. First, of course, as scientist, he creates the downfall of human civilization. Later, he becomes a politician. Then, he becomes a religious figure. His career changes are so profound to me that it’s hard for me to take him as anything other than a symbolic character. Further, Baltar’s subconscious apparition—Caprica 6. Could she be like the muses from old? Here, I invoke Homer: “Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus/and its devastation . . . “
Will Baltar become the poet/historian for what’s left of humanity? What I know from President Rosalin’s dreams is that Baltar and Caprica are last seen in the vision of the opera house, carrying Hera. Could Baltar, the destroyer of humanity, also be the instrument of its rebirth?
I've got more speculation about the final episode cooking in my brain, but I'm finding it hard to articulate. Overall, though, I'm just saying BSG is and was a damn good show. I reluctantly watched it at first, having been a fan of the previous incarnation, but this new version is in many ways superior.
I'm sad it's ending, but I'm also glad that there's going to be some sort of conclusion to the series . . . that the acting can and will remain superb and that the writing will not find itself, like so many shows that last too long, tired and out of spark.