Series finale: Battlestar Galactica

Another apocalypse

The finale of Battlestar Galactica

Oh my gods, it’s over. That’s it. The end of Battlestar Galactica. No more episodes. No more Adama, Tigh, Apollo, Starbuck or Cyclons. The journey’s over.

Has it been worth the great trek through the stars and what kind of ending did we get?

The BSG journey has been rocky. There were times when it just trod water, with episodes that essentially did nothing and said nothing about the characters. There have been times when it got weighed down by its own mythology, and spent too long dwelling on Cylons and their belief systems. Some of the characters descended to cliché and stereotype at times, and there was a good deal of pretension as well.

All that can be forgiven though, because counter-pointing that have been some of the most dramatic, dark and stunning moments in TV. You want space battles that actually felt like battles rather than CGI exercises? BSG had that in spades. You want people that feel like real people rather than sci-fi charicatures? That was BSG for you. You want believability in sci-fi? Here comes BSG. You want political sub-text? Well, West Wing was probably better, but BSG dealt with harder issues, such as suicide bombings, holy wars and human rights, than West Wing ever did and explored them in more depth and from different angles.

Season five (or 4.5 if you prefer) has been mostly excellent, albeit occasionally blighted by a Jane Espenson episode. Starting off bleak, it went bleaker and bleaker, before the upswing of the finale.

Two not-so-easy pieces
The finale was essentially of two halves: one exciting and well paced, the other not well paced but interesting. We have the slightly odd start with the Galactica and its crew deciding to sacrifice pretty much everything to save little girl Hera from the clutches of the Cylons. Okay, you can see why they’d do it, but it’s an odd choice of plot for the finale – you expect something more than a suicide mission that turns out to be an accidental moment of salvation thanks to the intervention of an angel who doesn’t realise she’s an angel.

However, despite not quite having enough money to do the effects completely convincingly, this was about as exciting a battle as you can hope to get, continuing the nautical parallels of the show with essentially a sea battle against a coastal emplacement. Riveting stuff, and I’m glad they didn’t “break the cycle” with an uncharacteristic truce between the two players.

It’s when the crew get to Earth 2 that it all goes a bit pear-shaped. Here we see the fates of all the characters as they realise they’ve got to go back to basics. I did sit there thinking

a) why are they giving up so easily and turning into hermits?
b) would 35,000 people, used to modern comfort, all agree simultaneously to give up civilisation in favour of running around with some non-speaking hunter gatherers?

I decided they wouldn’t. It was also very slow.

Now, you could pretty much see what was going to happen from the beginning of the show, particularly if you knew the original series of BSG was based on the Book of Mormon. The hints were all there: you just needed to follow them. All the same, the big revelation that the Colonials laid the seeds for Earth as we know it did feel more than a little silly, particularly with Head Six and Head Baltar have even sillier discussions about ‘God’ in present day New York while looking over Ronald D Moore’s shoulder. But it’s hard to see what other ending they could have gone with that would have made sense out of everything that had gone before, other than an “everybody gets killed and there was no plan” ending (which, actually, I’d have preferred, even if it explained nothing).

There were, of course, no happy endings for the characters – indeed no real endings for the survivors, only inevitable death without their hoped-for partners, with a couple of exceptions. No hard-earned rewards for all their endeavours, no glory in a new New Caprica: just the promise of an uneventful life – hardly seems fair does it?

So intellectually satisfying, if not emotionally satisfying, with more than a few issues. But a fitting ending all the same for a show that’s redefined what television science-fiction should be like and has influenced numerous other shows to embrace shaky cam, plausible characterisation and darker, harder storylines.

How about you? Disappointed? Satisfied? Loved every minute?