Friday, March 20, 2009

All Good Things...

Ok, so I stole the title of this post from name of the final episode of another great science fiction show. If you are unaware, and you probably are, tonight marks the final episode of Battlestar Galactica. If you haven't been keeping up to date, Battlestar Galactica is a re-imagined retelling of the ultra campy late 70s original. But this isn't your father's Galactica. In Ron Moore and David Eick's new version, which began life as a mini-series on the Sci-Fi Network, things are much bleaker.

The mini-series begins with the planet getting nuked. Except this isn't Earth, this is Caprica, one of the 12 colonies of the tribes of Kobol, who long ago fled Kobol and set out to colonize the stars, except that one of those colonies became forgotten over time, that colony being a mythic placed named 'Earth'. The titular Battlestar Galactica is a relic of an old ship, old enough that it's now being turned into a museum of sorts, like an old aircraft carrier that they take Boy Scouts to. It's run by Capt. Adama, played by Edward James Olmos. The ship is a relic from the Cylon war, where the robots that humans had created 40 years ago rebelled against their masters, resulting in the aforementioned war. One day 40 years ago the Cylons stopped attacking and all but vanished, no one's heard of them until today, when the planet, and all the rest of the colonies gets nuked by them. Adama and his crew are the only ship that manages to escape the onslaught. This is not the cute Star Wars ripoff you remember.

What's different about the Cylons now is that they look human. They look, talk, and act just like us. The humans derisively call them 'skinjobs' (just like Blade Runner, also featuring Olmos). You see, in this reimagined series, everything is an allegory. The nuking of the planet is our 9/11, and the "evil robots who look just like us" motif is America's post-9/11 fear that the terrorists could be anyone of us, your next door neighbor, or that nice guy who runs the 7-11. Even the opening credits of every episode remind the viewer of this, with a shot of Caprica city getting nuked and Roslin taking the oath of office in an obvious nod to LBJ:

The show is a character driven drama. Yes it has action sequences, but it's much closer to something like 'The West Wing' than it is to '24'. This has allowed the show over the course of four seasons to explore all sorts of hot button issues - abortion, rape, the torture of prisoners, and, in what I think was it's best, the war in Iraq. Without trying to give too much away, let's just say that at one point the humans are captured by the Cylons, and from there the series turns all your conceptions of right and wrong on their head. The Cylons say they only want to 'bring peace' to humanity. The humans begin an insurgency, where they use improvised explosive devices to carry out suicide bombings. Sound familiar? And yes, it ends with one of the coolest rescue sequences ever that would make Capt. Kirk green with envy. The producers and the cast of the show were even recently invited to speak at the U.N.

The show has a strong spiritual element to it as well. It turns out that the humans are polytheistic, they worship multiple gods who all have Greek names (Athena, Zeus, etc.), while the Cylons have taken up their own religion - monotheism. They believe in "the one true God". God worshipping robots?? Greek god worshipping humans? Ahh, but this opens the doors to the exploration of spirituality and what it means to be human, or non-human.

So the Battlestar Galactica sets out for this fabled Earth, which for all they know is merely a legend, relentlessly pursued by the genocidal Cylons. Do they find Earth? I can't say, but they certainly question their humanity along the way. By the end we're not even sure who's more human, or if it even makes a difference. And be prepared for the end of season 4 where we're thrown the most mind-bending twist, and I'll just say it has something to do with Jimi Hendrix.

The final episode airs tonight of what multiple reviewers call "the best show on television you haven't seen". So say we all.


ninquelote said...

Don't tell me any more; I'm still working on season 3. I've never caught the show on TV so I always watch it on DVD.

This is one of my favorite shows of all time. I even liked the movie, 'Razor' (different from the mini-series for those of you who haven't been watching). I think I recommended it to someone in the comments of a previous post.

yoggoth said...

Yeah, I'm sure I would like this show. ST:TNG was my favorite show as a kid. When I got grounded from TV watching for a summer for getting a C- my mom took mercy upon me and let me watch it. I looked forward to that wonderful hour of televised bliss every Sunday night.

I, however, haven't seen any of the episodes. And I don't like to watch shows without seeing them from the beginning. It's like when you're reading a comic book series and are missing an issue. What happened in that issue?? The uncertainty gnaws at your suspended disbelief, like moss growing in the cracks of some distant stone wall at the edge of Octavian's empire, ruining the perfect whole all the more for its insignificance.

Herr Zrbo said...

Well, if you're on season 3 you're watching the best episodes of the series, enjoy.

Just get the DVDs through Netflix (figuring you have it). Be sure to start with the miniseries.

There's another miniseries like Razor that's in the works, it's supposed to show the whole story from the point of view of the Cylons. Then there's a spinoff show called 'Caprica' which goes into the origin of Cylons back on Caprica. From the previews it looks like some sort of film noire detective piece.

Peter Matthew Reed said...

I am watching BG from the beginning, having found the torrents on PirateBay. Only watched two so far, but I am frakking loving it!

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