Let’s Talk About BSG

I have a confession to make: My geek creds were/are slightly lacking. Up until last week, I had never seen the new Battlestar Galactica. I know, you’re shocked right?

So I’m trying to right the wrong. But as Chuck and I finished watching season one last night, I’m not sure I like the show. (bad geek! bad, bad geek!)

I really liked the intro mini-series, but once we got into the actual episodes it felt “off”. Some examples:

1. There seems to be issues of continuity. In one episode it only takes five minutes for Gaius to test Boomer’s blood to see if she’s a cylon. In the next episode it takes 11 hours per sample, and they can only be done one at a time! What the heck?

2. Speaking of continuity, when the heck did Starbuck decide to sleep with Gaius?! That came from left field and the explanation was so weak that it felt like the writers did it for the sole purpose of causing conflict between Starbuck and Lee.

3. I get that we’re not supposed to like Gaius. But, I don’t not like him because he’s a creep, I don’t like him because I don’t get his motivation or his purpose (and I get the feeling that the writers don’t either?) He’s not coming off so much as “bad guy”, instead he’s coming off as “annoying and irritating.”

4. The cylon who keeps appearing to Gaius as a hallucination is also annoying. Blah, blah, blah, God and destiny, blah, blah. I’ve actually started to tune out when she waxes on and on.

5. If the goal of the cylons is to mate with humans to start a new species (which seems to be the point of the vision Gaius has of a cradle on Kobol), why did the cylons have to obliterate all of the humans? Why not just infiltrate human colonies, get pregnant and leave? Or in classic sci-fi, why not just abduct humans and conduct experiments on them to harvest their reproductive stuff?

Overall, I think it just feels inconsistent. And I’m not sure if that is the point of the first season, or do the writers not have a clue what they’re doing? Have I been too spoiled by writers like Whedon and Straczynski, who plan out arcs and backstories and are deliberate with their storytelling?

Should I continue watching BSG? Did you like the show? Does it get better?

  • pltk

    Well, I liked it and thought it worth watching, although I would agree on some of the annoyances. Admittedly, I think anything scifi is generally worth watching (something I often hide from other people as this is considered very weird if you are a woman). And no, I don’t really think it gets that much better.

  • Elizabeth D.

    Hmm. As I said when we were chatting about this the other evening, it may be that what you’re looking for in a show is not what BSG does well. I tend to handwave plot stuff all over the place, and I don’t think I ever noticed any plot inconsistencies that early in the show (by mid-season 3 it becomes ridiculous, and they’re ret-conning left and right, and even I, Ms. “Plot? Eh, whatever, as long as the character development is crunchy,” got seriously annoyed. But stuff like the Cylon detector timelines and all that–whatever. So my BSG love is coming from that place. (This also makes me sad that you might not like Farscape, because it really requires prodigious handwaving-the-plot skills, but I think the payoff is very well worth it because it’s the most amazing show of all time, etc.)

    The stuff that had hooked me by the end of season 1 was the politics and religion, and the power struggles between Roslin’s political agenda and Adama’s military one. Is it possible to have freedom and democracy in a situation like that? What rights do people have? Do the Cylons have any rights? Etc. Frankly, Laura Roslin, with her utilitarian way of trying to save humanity by the skin of her teeth, with her faith struggle (does she really believe she’s a prophet, or is she just using it for political heft?), with her odd combination of naivete and kick-a**-ness, is probably my favorite television character of all time. And having this character and plotline that I adored helped to make up for the fact that I find Baltar insufferable and could take or leave Kara and Lee, etc. And I’m a total sucker for the post-apocalyptic scenario where all the choices are untenable, but people still have to do something. Messy, un-heroic people (because I don’t know that I really *like* any of the characters; even Roslin, whom I adore, is not someone I particularly admire, but I love the messy angles of her character).

    Anyway, those are my buttons–politics and religion, big messy questions of moral ambiguity, mature female characters with scary-awesome brains–and before it all nose-dived, BSG did all of that spectacularly well. But if you’re kind of take-it-or-leave-it on all that stuff and haven’t found anything else to sink your teeth into at this point in the show, then it probably isn’t really for you. Because, as I said, the plot really does unravel spectacularly by the end.

    • http://cdntheologianscholar.wordpress.com Amanda

      Elizabeth,
      Maybe I wouldn’t find the plot inconsistencies so glaring if I wasn’t watching the episodes back to back.

      I do agree that the character development has a lot of potential. I do like the conflict between Co. Adama and the President. I also like both incarnations of Boomer as she struggles with being a cylon. I also like the minor characters, like the whole pit crew team of engineers under the Chief.

      And having watched season 1, I now know why Katee Sackhoff appearing to Howard on Big Bang Theory was a big deal, but I don’t really see why she’s “hot stuff” (maybe the guys could chime in on this, is she hot because she smokes cigars? is it a phallic symbol thing?)

      I do like the idea of each ship being very different. So, for example, the luxury liner has a garden and almost real sunshine. What would be interesting to see is if there ends up being discussion of “who gets to live on what ship and what is the criteria?” Or do people basically just stay on the ships that they arrived on? Does there become a class warfare system between the ‘rich’ people live comfortably on the luxury liner and those ‘unfortunate’ people who have to live in the cargo hold of the president’s ship?

      Of course, the final episode ended on a cliff-hanger so now I probably have to watch season two just to see what happens to Adama and Boomer.

    • http://www.briercrest.ca/faculty/profile.aspx?id=49 Charles

      Elizabeth, could you tell us a bit more about Farscape? I only saw a couple of episodes and don’t remember anything other than my “Hey, it’s Jim Henson’s creature crew doing a sci fi show” reaction.

  • Elizabeth D.

    Farscape!!!!! First of all, you’re very welcome to borrow; I do have all of this one on DVD. Second, this is a really fantastic primer/skip-it-or-watch-it guide: http://liztellsfrank.com/2012/04/03/farscape-the-complete-skip-itwatch-it-guide/ (‘ware some foul language in the guide).

    Disclaimers to Farscape: the first season is very iffy, especially the first 2/3. And there continue to be some lousy eps throughout (mostly with the exception of season 3, which is probably the most exceptional arc of television I’ve ever seen–though some of the wow factor works best in retrospect), because Farscape lives by the motto “go big or go home.” So sometimes it fails spectacularly, but when everything goes right, it’s phenomenal. It’s also very quirky in some respects. Some of this is the Henson Co., and some of it is Australia (with the exception of the actor playing the protagonist and some of the writers/producers, the whole cast and crew is Australian, which brings a really unique–at least to a North American perspective–slant on a lot of the visuals and the humor). But it’s the kind of show that has more than one episode in which vomit is a plot point, and quite a lot of the show feels a bit like an acid trip. Very much The Odyssey meets Alice in Wonderland in space. And if that sounds more off-putting than intriguing, then this will never be your show.

    But if you’re intrigued, then I’ll continue my plug. :) It is, fundamentally, a space opera retelling of The Odyssey (with some twists): it’s all about journeys and home and family and love, and somehow it manages to be really sincere about these giant and potentially tired themes without being melodramatic or trite. It earns the emotion, and there’s no reset button: everything has a cost. It also knows not to take itself too seriously (one big failing of BSG, in my book, is its inability to laugh at itself), but it knows that the ability to laugh at itself is also serious business. It takes the all-American hero and puts him in a situation where none of that means anything, which is a really fascinating study in taking a normally privileged character and trying pretty deliberately to take that privilege away (though admittedly it’s not always as successful with this as it could be). And Aeryn!!! Oh, I’d need another comment for how much I love Aeryn Sun, who flies better than Starbuck, has no need for the bluster of Starbuck, and has one of the most amazing emotional arcs in television (especially through season 3; season 4 gets a bit iffy again, especially if Aeryn is your main pov character, as she is mine–but it’s still worth watching, for sure). And I defy anyone not to cry over the puppets. (I, incidentally, do not tend to be very weepy over my entertainment, but Farscape regularly reduces me to all-out sobs. It’s a very emotionally-oriented show, as opposed to, say, an intellectually-oriented one. That’s not to say that it isn’t smart, because it is, but rather than trot out all the complexities of life, it aims at many of those deepest-held human values and explores them with a great deal of gusto. Of the other shows in my repertoire, it perhaps reminds me most of Babylon 5, in terms of scope and narrative values, though I think B5 does plot better and Farscape does character better. And has more bodily fluids of all sorts.)