Saturday, January 31, 2009

the ideas of Galactica

Darren Barefoot asks "Is Ronald Moore Out of Ideas?".

First, here are the thoughts (comments) I left there:

I think that Moore is in a way stuck with the clock running out. It’s kind of like the X Files situation, where there’s this complicated Smoking Man story running in parallel with episodes that are just entertainment. Some fans are coming for the long story, some for the short story. As the show nears the end, the pressures of wrapping up the long story, of answering questions, can overwhelm the per-episode storytelling. And the unfortunate thing is that usually mysteries are more interesting than their solutions. That being said, I was surprised to see the storyline take a turn to Yet Another mutiny, plus Much Ado about babies.

@Darren I’m trying to track the major unresolved issues in my Zak Adama is a Cylon blog. (And the BSG wiki and other fan sites are probably doing so as well.)

As I said, I think Moore is in the same place as any successful “first big idea” show - like Lost, Heroes, X Files, and others, the explanations are a lot less entertaining than the mysteries themselves. Particularly in a highly-constrained format like BSG, where you’re basically doing a four-season long submarine drama, your only choice is to mix and match all the existing players in every different way you can think of.

I thought the miniseries and the first season were extraordinarily strong, but I don’t know if it would have been possible to sustain that level of drama, tension and mystery while also moving towards resolving the show and all of its plot points.


I think you need to consider the idea of the long story, the story arc. As I said, most of the "One Big Idea" shows have had trouble sustaining once they had to start answering mysteries:

* Lost
* Heroes
* X-Files

The only time I have seen it done really well, the entire multi-season arc of the show was planned out in advance, in Babylon 5. Since they knew from the beginning what plot points they needed to hit, they were able to do arcs that ran across years, with someone saying something that would connect to an episode that happened several years later.

You also have to recognize that most shows have some constraints of cast - if you've got half the cast who are good guys, and half who are bad, you can't lose too many from either side. This is a common situation in all drama - if you have a really compelling good guy, and a really compelling bad guy, all you can do is situations in which one or the other almost prevails... but both survive. BSG initially turns this a bit on its head as the humans are clearly the losers, but you can see in the original BSG what it could have turned into - in each episode Baltar almost gets the humans, or the humans almost get Baltar, but nothing ever actually changes.

Moore is playing out about as much of his canvas as he can, without changing the major players: BSG fleeing, then an occupation that reminded of Vichy France or Iraq, then more fleeing, then an alliance with former enemies. The only thing he has left is resolving mysteries, including some final unification.

BSG asks a couple big questions: what do you do when you lose, and what do you do when you win? These are fundamental questions of war and peace. Because of our terrorism preoccupation, we related them mostly to Iraq, but I think you'd get more out by considering the situation in Israel. When you fight each other, year after year after year, how can you ever sit with your opponents and reach a peace? What happens to all the people who dedicated their lives to fighting, when a truce is declared?

Moore's position om these issues are fairly clear - politics is painful, but it's the only way out. It's a striking repudiation of the Bush-Cheney "power comes out of the barrel of a gun" philosophy. By any conventional measure, the Cylons won a stunning "shock and awe" victory. All should be contentment for the Cylons now, right? Moore brilliantly recognizes that we're in a world of 4th Generation Warfare, where the old assumptions no longer operate - tiny bands of insurgents can make life hell for the "winners" - the war never ends, while a single member of the enemy lives. As well, he recognizes that winning, on such a scale, with such destruction, could tear a society apart as it faces the regrets and recriminations due to its actions. And so the Cylons, having achieved a great victory, find that their worst enemy is themselves.

The BSG miniseries and first season (and for that matter most first seasons of "ideas" shows) are compelling because it's all new - the world, the characters, the issues, and the mysteries. It was particularly well constructed to connect to the terrorism fears of the day. It was always going to be hard to sustain that. I think they did ok in the second season. New Caprica I hated. The endless talking at the trial I hated. Whenever they made their connections to real-world events too obvious, I disliked it. When you compare with all the time-travelling incomprehensibleness that the Lost and Heroes writers are using, Moore is actually taking us in a fairly straightforward way to the end, with some entertainment along the way.

So I don't think Moore has run out of ideas. I do think he's running low on plot points to hit as he wraps up the mysteries. Solutions to mysteries are almost always less satisfying than the mysteries themselves. And I do think it's maybe hard for Canadians to identify fully with this idea of enemies coming to a peace, but the mutiny plot actually works on many levels - whether it's the US Civil Cold War, where Obama is trying (without much obvious success) to bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans, or it's the situation in Israel, where it's clear the only solution is for two peoples who have been fighting for decades to come to a peace agreement - peace is hard and complicated and messy, and often people aren't as enthusiastic about peace as one would like.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Battlestar Galactica 4x13


Well, they certainly do still know how to do dramatic.

On the other hand, they are really seriously running out of time.
Which inclines me to think they don't have a whole lot left to reveal.

Plus which in fairness, if you're wrapping up a series, you want to give the actors one last chance to show their chops.

Kara shooting the guys was surprising but in her defence, she's quite right that as soon as they mutiny, they are the enemy. Perhaps not the most astute move politically in terms of future reconciliation, but the correct from a ground-level military perspective.


1) There's a single phone line to the CIC? Err, single point of failure, anyone?
2) If they can block Baltar's wireless at the flick of a switch, why didn't they do that months ago?
3) Admiral staying with the ship is a valid justification. Admiral staying in tiny undefensible room after transport has already left, not so much.
4) They're in a tiny, crowded fleet, on a military ship which is usually on a submarine model, which is to say, every inch of space used AND monitored. I don't get this "forgotten areas of the ship" thing with Baltar's compartment and Secondary Storage.
5) There is a big, big outstanding issue: where is the Cylon infrastructure? There was Cylon space on the other side of the treaty line, one would expect that, if not Cylon planet(s), it at least contained Cylon ship-yards and Cylon people-yards (where the mechanical and humanoid Cylons are built/grown). Six says something like "they are going to kill us because reproduction is the future of the Cylons", but surely they can just make more Sixes? Where is the Six factory?


A bit of a risky prediction, but Adama and Tigh both dead, and resurrected in The Place of Resurrection, wherever that may be.

Otherwise, it will be kind of weak drama - a grenade in a small enclosed space and they survive? I don't think so. If they come out bandaged, I will consider it pretty lame.

Also I do have to wonder about the cavalier way in which people run around spaceships with machine guns. Err, there are critical systems in the walls, and oh, the vacuum of space right outside. They do the same thing on Stargate where they machinegun the hell out of the replicators on their ships, while apparently never damaging the ship itself.

The Art of Misdirection

When a magician wants to move a playing card into a particular position, she doesn't make it obvious, she makes it look like she's doing something else very important and entertaining, while accomplishing her goal.

Ron Moore and his team have the same challenge, they have to get everything "positioned for the reveal", leading to surprising answers about the long-term mysteries, while appearing to be running another storyline. There are challenges that BSG faces in trying to tell both the short story (each episode has to be entertaining even for casual fans) and the long story (surprising long-term dedicated fans while answering mysteries).

So Tyrol's baby had to be human so that he could run around doing stuff during the mutiny (with apparently very little concern for the baby). Otherwise he would have been either in the brig, or spending all his time baby-rescuing and escaping.

So it looks to me like they are positioning people for near-Earth resurrection.
It's not clear how far they've gone from Earth, but the implications are that it's not very far.

* Tyllium ship disappears - this means the fleet goes nowhere
* FTL drive upgrades - this means the fleet goes nowhere while they wait for all the upgrades

If we continue with my assumption that anyone who dies on or near Earth gets resurrected (as implied by Ellen Tigh's statement and the fact that Kara is resurrected) - then that means everyone who just died in the firefight on the ship is resurrected, as well as the Admiral and the XO.

Then I think they may discover that you can use the resurrection technology, once it's reconfigured, not just to resurrect people who die near Earth but people who die anywhere.

So I think the show will go something like
4x13 - mutiny
4x14 - continuation of mutiny, with Revelation of Resurrection of Admiral & XO at the very end
4x15 - more about Resurrection and maybe we meet Earth Cylons (who are behind everything)
4x16 - more about Resurrection and possible return of Zak Adama
4x17 - battle with Cavil
4x18 - more battle with Cavil
4x19 - wrap up
4x20 - more wrap up

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

the children of gods and men

So a few things going on:

1. Baltar cursing God. Is he still seeing Six? Because if there was one constant with Imaginary Six, it's that she wanted Baltar to believe in God, and follow His teachings. I can't see her being very happy about him cursing God. Is she gone, is that what has him angry? Or is he angry that his vision of himself and Six and Hera going off into some glowing future on Earth has failed?

2. Which leads us to: the children.
Remember that there are prophetic visions involving a Six, Hera, and possibly Baltar.

So it seems the most likely scenario is that only Hera is viable
* Earth-Cylon + human = dying baby (Callie & Galen's son) ??
* Earth-Cylon + Colonies Cylon = unviable baby (Tigh & Six) ??
* so then probably Six ?kidnaps? the only viable human-Cylon baby left, Hera,
the only option left for a sustainable future

That's the best I can make of the signs in 4x12, along with previous prophetic visions.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Battlestar Galactica 4x12


There's not a lot to say about this episode, it's mostly setting up for forthcoming ones.

I wasn't really clear what the big deal was about the ex-Chief's non-baby.

We've got Hera who is (as far as we know) Colonies-Cylon + human,
whatshisname who is (apparently) human + human,
and Six baby who is Earth-Cylon + Colonies-Cylon.

It's not entirely clear what the big deal is,
other than these are maybe the three potential paths for the future (of which only one will succeed?),
or perhaps these represent the three forces that must unite in peace.

Other than that, this whole "dissent in the fleet" thing seems like All This Has Happened Before, All This Will Happen Again.

The scene with Tyrol and "their... our technology is better than... ours" was good.

It seems to me they could be doing more to find out what the deal is with the Five, they don't seem to be even trying to find out any more about the fragments of history that were revealed in the Earth flashbacks.

Monday, January 19, 2009

what Dee found

I had speculated that Dee found the locket on Earth, but upon reviewing it, that doesn't appear to be the case.

It looks more like she found a watch and a set of jacks (including a rather improbably preserved 2000-year-old ball) and this added to her planetary depression, and that she looked at a locket with pictures of her ?parents? at the end.

Unless there is a major continuity issue, the watch she finds at the beginning is clearly much bigger than the locket at the end.



jacks with ball (ball highlighted with red box)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Battlestar Galactica 4x11


Prophecy is tricky.

So far I'm doing ok.

one guesses that something like most of the humans left to form the 12 colonies, and most of the Kobol Cylons left to form the 13th colony (Earth)

the Cylords of Kobol? - December 23, 2008

Prophecy... correct.

So we have to wonder, is resurrection possible beyond the ships?
Is resurrection possible for everyone?

There's this problem of Kara.
Her ship clearly exploded.

Was she resurrected on Earth, or in some other Earth-built resurrection centre?

resurrection beyond the resurrection ships? - January 6, 2009

Prophecy... correct.

The Final Five, including Zak Adama, await on Earth

who is the puppet master? - April 28, 2008

Prophecy... wait a second, Ellen Tigh is a Cylon? What the frak?

UPDATE: You can now get your very own Ellen Tigh tshirt. A tigh-in, if you like. ENDUPDATE

Ok, so new mystery: Dee's suicide.
It looked like she found a locket on the beach (along with some jacks), and that made her go crazy. Either
1) The prospect of endless death destroyed her
2) The people in the locket were her ?parents? ?grandparents? and she thought she was the 5th Cylon

Which brings us to the key question: We know the resurrection technology worked for Ellen, and for Kara, and presumably for Chief Tyrol, Colonel Tigh, and Sam Anders.

So either it was just 5 of them who build a sekrit resurrection machine that now resurrects anyone in range (which, you will note, means Dualla will be resurrected),
or it may be broader than that. There were probably billions of Cylons on Earth 2000 years ago when it was destroyed by nukes. Were... ALL of them resurrected? Does their technology resurrect anyone, who dies anywhere? IS ZAK ADAMA RESURRECTED?

Just to recap:
* Baltar's visions: status unknown
* Caprica Six's pregnancy: apparently everyone has forgotten about it
* Kara: definitely resurrected
* Dualla: maybe resurrected
* Zak Adama: maybe resurrected?
* Final Cylon: Ellen Tigh (WTF?) - and maybe resurrected
* puppet masters: status unknown
* Earth nukers: status unknown

So we need to find out:
* what happened to Earth (presumably endless Final Five Flashbacks are Forthcoming)
* what the 5 have been doing for the last 2000 years
* who "uplifted" the 12 Colonies Cylons to have humanoid bodies and a belief in One God (unless they uplifted themselves)
- there is clearly SOME connection to the 5, what with Deanna's vision and the fighters recognizing Sam Anders - did the Five do the uplift? Are there Others?
* what is the extent and nature of the remaining resurrection technology
- clearly someone or something not only resurrected Kara, but also gave her a new and identical ship... some kind of robotic resurrection along with biological?
* Does Cavil know more about the Final Five and the history of the new Cylons than he's letting on? He is model #1, after all.

I still prophecy we will end up with a mix of "all this has happened before, all this will happen again" and Grand Cylon-Human Unification Theory. The Five, trying to break the cycle of war, trying to build a sustainable peace for humanoid Cylons, robotic Cylons, and humans.

And I still want to see Zak Adama.

Webisodes - The Face of the Enemy

Interesting revelation about Gaeta and an 8, also starts the Gaeta - Mr. Hoshi storyline.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

resurrection beyond the resurrection ships?

So someone built all this resurrection ship technology.
Presumably the Kobol-Earth Cylons.

So we have to wonder, is resurrection possible beyond the ships?
Is resurrection possible for everyone?

There's this problem of Kara.
Her ship clearly exploded.

Was she resurrected on Earth, or in some other Earth-built resurrection centre?
When Zak died, did he wake up in the same place?

Can only new Cylons be resurrected?
Or Kobol-Earth Cylons (the final five) as well?
Or half-Cylons (Hera, maybe Kara) as well?

Or... and this would be interesting... can ALL humans be resurrected?
Maybe the billions from the 12 Colonies are not so dead after all, just awaiting a Cylon-Human reconcilation? (This latter scenario seems unlikely, as the signs seem to point to an "End of Humanity" future of Cylon-Humans like Hera.)