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SIMPLY THE BEST

There have been a number of very good science fiction television programs in the history of television. TWILIGHT ZONE. Seasons 3-6 of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. Seasons 4-7 of STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE 9. Seasons 1-5 of X-FILES. QUANTUM LEAP. The two V miniseries. BUFFY and ANGEL. FUTURAMA. LOST. Each is flush with moments of great writing and acting that elevate the genre. But each has its inconsistencies as well, moments or entire seasons that drag it down a bit. But one show, as it approaches the finish line, has stood above the rest, avoiding those problems, and that show is Ron Moore and David Eick’s re-imagined BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. The best science fiction program in television history.

Its strengths are numerous. Powerful writing and acting. The darkest, grimmest outlook on humanity’s future ever seen on TV. Allegories for 9/11 and the war on terror. A razor-sharp outlook on the conflict between religions. And a consistent fealty to the characters and their growth instead of the plot. Plus, one huge gift to the fans and the show itself: an early end date.

Too many shows don’t know when to quit, but BSG is heading off the stage while the audience is still standing and cheering.

As the final ten episodes have been playing out, we’ve seen the show embrace those strengths above all else, foregoing allegiance to the plot for the most part. The most action-packed episodes, involving a mutiny takeover of the ship, were based out of the continued character growth of Felix Gaeta and the torments he had suffered over seasons three and four. The mutiny had to happen, because the characters had been pushed to that point. It wasn’t artificial for the sake of drama. Adama’s decision in part one of “Daybreak” (the series finale) to try and rescue the child Hera from the clutches of the Cylons isn’t just a plot movement to set up a fight. Instead, it calls back to the end of the original miniseries when he watched Dualla and Billy flirting and realized that Laura Roslin was right and keeping every human alive was more important than facing down the Cylons to try and take revenge for the genocide. It gave the ship purpose in its flight… just as flying it into the mouth of hell to save Hera will give purpose to its death.

Moore has said that the finale isn’t about the plot, but about where the characters end up as people when its over. I’ve seen some grumbling about the last few episodes from people who thing they’re slow and boring, but I think those pundits are way off-base. If you’re looking purely at plot movement, sure- the episodes have been slow. But character-wise, we’re getting our last few chances to see these people (likely before many die) and experience them. I care much more about seeing Adama and Roslin’s beautiful (but doomed by her cancer) romance than I do about the machinations of the final five and Brother Cavil. That’s always where the show’s heart has been.

Think back to “Pegasus” and “Resurrection Ship” for a moment. “Resurrection Ship” had one of the best space battles the show has ever produced, a glorious special effects extravaganza. But at the heart of those episodes were two character stories pounding away at your heart. One was Adama and Roslin’s declarations to their officers to kill the other commander after the mission, and the debate about whether or not such an action would prove the Cylons right- that humanity was unfit to survive. The other was about the treatment of prisoners, as Pegasus officers were raping and torturing the female Cylon models. The show was never about the explosions- it was always about the other stuff.

And that’s what these final ten episodes have been doing as well. The heart of the mutiny episodes was really Laura Roslin coming off of her deathbed to take on Tom Zarek one last time, with her lover’s life at stake. And it was about Bill Adama staying behind to face certain death in order to make sure that Laura got away from the conspirators.

So have the final episodes been plot-light? Sure. But have they been boring? Only if you haven’t been paying attention.

I‘ll miss the greatness of BATTLESTAR but ultimately, I won’t be sad to see it go. I want to remember it just as it is. In 80 episodes, I’d call maybe two complete duds. The percentage of winners has been quite extraordinary, far above anyone else’s. And when a “Complete BATTLESTAR GALACTICA” hits DVD shelves, you can bet I’ll own it, so I can enjoy it forever. So thanks, Ron Moore and company, for your efforts. You achieved something exceptional, a truly pinnacle program, a once-in-a-lifetime effort.

So say we all!

Marc Mason  

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