Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Spoiler-rrific Battlestar Galactica Review

There's much work to be done. I have two sets of notes left in my spatial theory course, one presentation, and one group project, all waiting to be done. And even after that's finished, there's my much-neglected, much underdeveloped Chevalier d'Eon paper to consider.
But before the serious work can begin, there is a demon I must exorcise, a monster in my brain that must be set free. A terrible creature is to be born.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the rant.
The BSG finale broadcast last week, and I needed some time to disseminate. Long story short: the last of the human fleet lands on a planet with humanoid pre-language inhabitants. They decide to give up all their technology, send their Cylon allies back into space, and settle into a simple hunter gatherer lifestyle. The voices in Baltar and Six's heads turn out to be angels, and the whole thing was a plan by God to get the cylon-human hybrid onto the new planet. 15000 years later, the planet they named "Earth" has turned out to be... surpise! Our planet!
Cue the montage of Japanese robots--the future to fear!

Let's put aside the minor problems here. Forget that "the descendants of Earth turn out to be the ancestors of Earth" is old hat, sci-fi speaking. (Or sy-fy, if you're detached from reality) Forget that "it was all God's plan" is much the same. Forget the incredibly circular nature of God's 'plan.' (But really--God's plan was to set up a series of visions and prophecies to lead the humans all over the universe, point them to an entirely ruined planet, give them a nonsensical vision of an opera house, when the knowledge of said vision had no bearing on the actual event it related to, THEN lead them to the right planet? God's a jerk.) Even forget the moral ambiguity of the humans deciding to mate with the prelanguage humanoids. (Gross.) The big problem for me?

This is a sci-fi series that ends with a technophobe message.

And even that would be fine with me if that was the message it was going towards. But it's a direct contradiction of everything that came before. Over and over again, the show told us that people are people--that the divisions between Cylon and human need to be broken down, that we need to come together and break the cycle of violence. And it's never been so clear as during the last season. Just as the humans were fighting each other, the Cylons fell into their own civl war--they're just like us. Adama patched up the battlestar with Cylon technology, in effect turning his ship into a Cylon. He hesitates to take this step, then finds out the Cylons have started putting pictures of their dead in human memorials. They're just like us. Hell, in the beginning of the finale, a Cylon hybrid pool is moved into the command center of the ship. And yet, in the end, the humans decide that they're going to be human, give up all technology, and send that nasty Cylon technology back into space. Space is for the machines, earth is for humans.Instead of breaking down binaries, it just locks them back into place.

I was going to say that stories don't need a moral, but... honestly, I think they always have one, whether it's intended or not. Stories are produced in a social context, and to an extent, they are always a response to their social contexts. Aside from the question on whether it's a good idea for a show on a science fiction channel to send a message like this, for it to send a contradictory message is... well, it's bad story telling.

It's been a great series. There were times I considered giving up, and I'm glad I didn't. And given my academic interests, I'm probably to going to hear--and maybe say--a lot about it in the years ahead. But it's too bad I'll never be able to say "it had a great ending."*

Later Days.

*Ok, I'll grant that the ending made more sense than the ending of the Prisoner. But really, it would hit that bar with 2 straight hours of dead air.

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