TV Time: “BSG” – Put On A Happy Face

You will be incredibly spoiled if you haven’t watched yet…

Each time Battlestar Galactica starts a new season, or half-season, or mini-season, or webiseason (you get the idea), I tune in and try to fall in love with the show.  I try.  I really, really try.  But it never happens.  Maybe it’s because Sci-Fi Channel has no idea how to properly market their top-rated program, thus stringing out a single season over the course of a year and a half, and therefore never holding my interest.  Maybe it’s because I don’t connect with the main characters.  Maybe it’s because the few characters I do take interest in are either killed off or marginalized.  Maybe it’s the directors’ belief that extremes in volume reflect extremes in emotion.  Maybe it’s the actors’ gullibility in following that instruction, and thus turning in performances that are either completely unintelligible or embarrassingly over-the-top.  Maybe it’s the wildly uneven writing, which is so prone to desperately making a case for science fiction as social commentary that a number of past episodes have come off like after-school specials.  Maybe it’s the creator/executive producer/head writer Ronald Moore’s repeated admission that he’s not always entirely sure where the story is going, despite the show’s impending cancellation.  Whatever the reason, I just don’t buy into it; and this is coming from a big science fiction fan.

Nevertheless, I tried again last night when BSG returned with “Sometimes A Great Notion”; and once again, I couldn’t really care.  When we last left BSG, the human Colonials and their rebel Cylon allies had found Earth…except that Earth was an uninhabited, radioactive wasteland.  Needless to say, this isn’t good news.  Order aboard Galactica starts to fall apart; Roslin can’t face the people and starts skipping cancer treatments; and Dualla has a friendly drink with Lee, brushes her teeth before bed, and then blows her face off.  Adama then throws himself whole-heartedly into messy, drunken mourning over the death of his ex-daughter-in-law and his failure to bring the human race to salvation.  He then has a nasty confrontation with Tigh, trying to goad his old buddy into killing him.

Petticoat Junction, it ain’t.

I didn’t mind the tone of the episode.  I am a self-professed character masochist.  I squirm in my seat with delight when characters I love have their worlds turned upside down.  Unfortunately, I don’t love any of the characters on BSG.

The Hoarse Whisperer
The Hoarse Whisperer

Look, there was some good stuff here.  Kandyse McClure was great as Dualla.  Too bad she’s dead now.  Mary McDonnell delivered all her lines so quietly she could have been reciting nursery rhymes for all I know.  I wanted to like the Adama/Tigh scene.  This was a nice bit of role reversal–drunk Bill and even-keeled Saul–but the scene was ruined by the aforementioned volume/emotion theory of acting.  Edward James Olmos found the line between character and caricature and gleefully lept right over it.

One of my beefs with BSG is that the villains are infinitely more interesting, appealing, and relatable than the heroes.  That held true with last night’s episode, as we learned some interesting if incredibly confusing things about the Cylons.  Apparently, the humanoid Cylons aren’t as new and as special as they thought they were.  In fact, Batlar theorizes that the legendary 13th Tribe that lived on Earth weren’t humans at all, but skinjob Cylons.  Also, Tigh, Tyrol, Anders, and Tory began to realize that they were on Earth when it was destroyed 2,000 years ago.  Finally, after wading waist deep into the gray, lifeless sea, Tigh had a revelation.  He now knows the identity of the final Cylon: his wife, Ellen…who has been dead for a season and a half.  Okay.  Hey, if Tigh himself was previously dead for two millenia, what’s thirteen or so episodes to Ellen, right?

Speaking of people who should or may be dead, more ground got laid in explaining Starbuck’s miraculous return.  First, some perspective: Starbuck is, for me, the least relatable character on the show.  She’s a graceless, thankless, blowhard who alternately fashions herself a godsend or charity case depending on which act will suit her needs best, and Katee Sackhoff’s bipolar acting talents do nothing to make this increasingly central character more appealing.  Fortunately, her pendulum was swinging in the right direction for this episode.  I was glad that when Starbuck discovered her own charred, decomposing corpse in the woods that she simply shut down, rather than rolling on the floor and kicking and screaming like she did for most of the first half of the season.

So, if Starbuck really did die at the end of Season Three, who or what is the Starbuck walking around now?  The question seems especially important since we now know Final Fifth Ellen is somewhere out there, presumably.  My guess?  In the BSG mythos, there were 13 ancient tribes of people.  12 were always known, 1 was always a mystery.  Curious that the number of known tribes is the same as the number of known Cylons.  Is Starbuck the heretofore unknown magical 13th Cylon?

Someone will have to tell me if I’m right, because I don’t expect to be devoting much more attention to BSG until its finale, which I predict will be a “fuck you” on the scale of The Sopranos‘ finale.

~ T

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