Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Frak'n End!

DAYBREAK - Parts 1,2 & 3



So last Friday (or tonight at 9pm on Sky 1 in the UK and Ireland) Battlestar Galactica aired its series finale, the last episode ever. After a five year run the epic journey of survival came to an end. All those dangling plot threads were tied up and the show was given a definitive end. There will be no more. However, while critics adored it and showered the finale “Daybreak” with praise, the way in which it was handled has split the fan base down the middle, those who love it and those who hate it. I am in the later camp.

First of all I must take my hat off to Universal for putting up the money and allowing the show runners to finish out the series on their terms, which in television is quite rare. Instead of wrapping everything up in a one hour episode Ron Moore penned a script that ran over three hours. The studio agreed to let it go ahead and not only did they not say “this needs to be cut” or “loose that, it costs too much” they stepped up to the plate and budgeted the finale as though it was four episodes long and not three. The money that was invested can clearly be seen throughout the episode and gives it a movie quality feel.

So what happened? Adama mounted a volunteer only rescue mission for the child Hera who was being held by Cavil or Number One on the Cylon colony. Of course most of the characters go and an all out battle takes place in what is probably one of the best hours of action television I have ever seen. Without spoiling the action scene I will just say that they win and Starbuck jumps the ship, but the Galactica went through so much that when she arrives to wherever Starbuck took them she ruptures and “breaks her back”. She won’t be going anywhere ever again. But where did they jump to? We zoom out to see a very familiar looking moon and as we pan up, yep, we see the Galactica cruising towards Earth, our Earth. So what was that planet they found back in “Revelations”? Apparently that was the real earth and our earth is really Earth Two, named so because Earth was always a dream and nameless planet deserved to be named in homage to the dream that gave the crew and people hope for so many years.

They arrive at our planet and land in Africa at a time where humans are only starting to band together in tribes, they can’t speak and have rudimentary instruments as tools. Now, here is where it all goes downhill. Instead of building a city they decide to disband to different parts of the planet, abandon technology and have their fleet of ships autopilot into the sun. They give the Basestar to the last remaining Cylon centurions who jump away. The humanoid Cylons stay with the humans to procreate. It is a touching idea and a heartfelt one but there is no way 38,000 people would all agree to leaving technology behind and live their lives with only the clothes on their backs. Although the issue was addressed it stretches plausibility to its limits in fact I would go one step further and say it was “jump the shark” material.

Next up is the resolution to Starbuck, you know the one who died and came back to life. We were told she was the “Harbinger of Death” and had a divine destiny. However, when push came to shove for her to have some resolution, it merely came down to her and Lee in a field, only for him to turn around and “poof” she was gone, vanished!. This worked for me, it was left rather ambiguous, she was the Holy Ghost as it were seeing as Harbinger of Death can be interpreted many ways, such as the angel of life, especially in paganism whereby death is a sign of hope. This resolution didn’t irk me as much as it has others. We had been told all along what she was, it was stated by both Leoban and Baltar as to what she was – an Angel of God, who unlike the Head characters was actually corporeal and could be seen by everyone. My annoyance with the story was that if that’s all she was and her destiny was to realise All Along The Watchtower held within it musical notes, the co-ordinates to earth, and all she had to do was punch them into a computer, why then was such a BIG deal made over her? Especially when the conclusion to her story arc was something minor.

The main problem with Battlestar over the years was probably that it got too convoluted and complex for its own good. It’s not a show like LOST where such mysteries are its driving force, they are the plot. Because of this we had many things that were difficult to put a cap on and were in due course left dangling. Battlestar has always had a very strong religious element to its story telling, with Head Six and Head Baltar taking on the guise of Guardian Angels. So ultimately all these things that one could surmise as coincidences were resolved by saying that it was in God’s plan which unfortunately has all the credibility of “A wizard did it!”

But that’s not all, we flash forward 150,000 years to modern day New York and Head Six and Head Baltar are walking through Times Square discussing the legacy of humanity and how all human beings are related to Mitochondrial Eve, a woman who shares the same DNA with all of human kind, this woman is Hera. As they walk through the streets of downtown Vancouver er… I mean New York, they discuss the plot of the show “All this has happened before and all of it will happen again”. Six says that this time she thinks no because it’s in God’s plan that something interesting will inevitably happen if a complex system repeats itself. We of course get a sly reply from Baltar who says “you know he doesn’t like that name”, they then continue their stroll and All along the Watchtower begins playing.

The shows fades out over a montage of shots about the advances in robotics. A not so subtle hint that screams “be kind to Artificial Intelligence or it will slaughter you!” which in reality makes you think that they didn’t break the cycle but merely stalled the inevitable, it will all happen again or maybe we are to be consoled by Six’s throwaway reassurances at the end.

Although many characters ends were touching and sad, such as Roslin’s death and Adama’s farewell sitting on a cliff top staring out over the plains of Africa, it was a pity to end Battlestar on a divine, almost metaphysical note rather than serving up a clear and concrete conclusion.

The whole point of Battlestar and what made it so good in terms of its storytelling was its disassociation to our universe in anyway shape or form save the name Earth and the issues it addressed. I felt that that last scene mired the entire show but I must say that I can also see the merit in it; it is a nice gesture or point to make about the endless cycle etc but a futile one at the same time.

While I hate to love the ending I also love to hate it for it reminded me too much of the Matrix. Every “ending” was a good idea but they were too disjointed and out of place to all serve the same story so when you string them together we get a forced resolution that becomes a major let down, which is a shame given the extremely high standard Battlestar set over the years, not just in Sci-Fi but for serialised drama.

All in all most things were left rather ambiguous. The audience is mired in a grey area, it's up to us to decide what may happen in terms of the cycle and basically dwell on our own thoughts or interpretations rather than getting handed a definitive "this is what happens" conclusion.

Who knows, maybe this is another Soprano’s type ending whereby it will grow on you over time, so far I have grown to like it a little more but only time will tell.

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