19 January 2009

BSG: The final countdown

Though I know it's futile to get anyone I know to watch this show--for reasons I can't really explain--but the stretch run of "Battlestar Galactica" kicked off Friday night (episode available for viewing on scifi.com or Hulu.)

While I am one of those people who think the overall quality of BSG has declined somewhat from the stupendous high of the first two seasons, I'm not going to jump in the backlash pool with people claiming the writers have lost control and the show has gone careening off into the abyss. Trying to unravel the various mysteries may be a fun game for fans to play, but those plot elements have always been a distraction from the show's main project of holding up a mirror to human civilization and how people react to various shocking situations. It was a brilliant stroke for the writers to play the two most-discussed reveals ("who's the final Cylon?" and "what happens when they get to Earth?") in the span of a couple of episodes. Friday night's episode is hard, but it should be. In fact, given the predicament the characters are presently in, a feeling of the show losing its bearings is entirely appropriate.

I've made peace with the reality that the writers aren't going to tie up the myriad continuity threads in a way that will satisfy people before the show ends. Yes, they were making much of it up as they went along, and they've probably written themselves into too many corners to escape from. But that's the nature of an episodic television show. You have to keep produing adventurous, risk-taking material indefinitely, then suddenly wrap it up in a set period of time. It's nearly impossible to do this perfectly. Ron Moore could've made "Battlestar" a Star Trek-esque Wagon Train to the Stars, a long series of standalone episodes that never advances the overall situation of the characters, but that would have become very dull, very quickly. And Moore, a longtime Trek writer himself, often mentions his dogged attempts to excise all of the bad influence of that show from BSG.

So let's tip our cap to what Moore has managed to achieve here. Remake a campy artifact of the late '70s, put it on a network known for reruns and D-grade productions, and turn it into one of the most iconic shows of this decade. Whatever he does next--and while I hope it's a Star Trek reboot, I know that's not going to happen--he's going to be well-compensated for it. And it won't be on basic cable.