starbuck_disappear

By now I hope most BSG fans have seen the series finale and I don’t have to warn about spoilers. I’ve waited until now to post about the finale because I wanted to ponder it for a few days first. Ultimately, I found the finale simultaneously very powerful and somewhat disappointing.

Commenter “mrd” over at Brad Templeton’s Battlestar Blog made a point that helped me articulate what’s at the heart of my confliction:

…the show was structured with hints and clues, it gives the idea that the show is a puzzle that is meant to be solved, not a mystery to be revealed.

Science fiction, by its very nature of being based on scientific extrapolation, is presented as a puzzle to the reader or audience. In other words, Science Fiction is expected to be analyzed and dissected as opposed to presenting a revelatory story, where information is revealed because there is no analytical through-line. To pose it another way: Religion is revelatory and Science is a puzzle. In religion, God reveals knowledge to us, but in Science we discover it on our own.

A TV show set in space, airing on the “SciFi Channel,” and being shot with a realistic “hand held” style are three giant indicators that “This is Science Fiction.” But Battlestar Galactica is not Science Fiction. It’s a revelatory mystery story with SFnal elements. In hindsight, I see that Moore and the writers made this case, but they made it too subtly. If your plan is to set a mystery tale in space and air it on the “SciFi Channel,” then you need to make that very, very clear. Several big hints were “You will know the truth” promo and the fact that Cylons were “revealed,” not to mention Katie Sackhoff flat out saying the show wasn’t Science Fiction but a “drama in space.” When fans, myself included, brushed that off as Moore and the network simply trying to garner a wider audience — SciFi network reps said repeatedly that this was their goal — Moore needed to say: “No, REALLY people. I’m not writing SF.” Loudly and waving his hands would have helped, because we’re really hungry for true Science Fiction on TV and in movies.

This is why the solution put forward in the finale that a higher power made all the loose ends fit together is unsatisfactory to those who thought they were watching Science Fiction. Since the show made it a point to examine religion, and it did so in a highly sophisticated way, my preference was an ambiguous treatment to the “God factor.” This was an element I always appreciated in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine because the nature of the Bajoran “wormhole aliens” was left open-ended. This, I’ve always thought, is a middle way approach that can appeal to those expecting a puzzle as well as those expecting a mystery. Moore did leave a window open at the end to the “God made it happen” solution though, but again he did it subtly, so it’s difficult to tell what the message is supposed to be:

Head Six: Let a complex system repeat itself long enough and eventually something surprising might occur. That too is in God’s Plan.

Head Baltar (whispering/growling): You know it doesn’t like that name!

Since we don’t have a definitive explanation as to the nature of “God” in this series, or even the head characters and Starbuck, this is a bit more open ended than I thought upon first watching. I’ve theorized from the beginning that the Beings of Light would show up in some fashion in the re-imagined series and that’s essentially what was written. Not having all of the details sort of suits beings like that. But who knows if I’m interpreting this bit they way it was intended?

Despite some disappointment, I still found enjoyment in the ending overall. In particular, I liked that the Galactica was the Opera House. I did not see that possibility and was pleasantly surprised by the development. I almost sobbed myself at Baltar’s line “You know, I know about farming.” Also, I’m really happy Helo survived. The Agathons deserve a happy ending.

I’m not sure how I feel about Tyrol killing someone and getting away with it. After all, Tory didn’t get away with murder, why should Tryol? He committed vengeance not justice. Starbuck’s “end” just makes me sad, but I see that it works. I really do not think we needed to see Tigh and Adama in a strip club. That flashback could have achieved the same goal by being set in a regular old bar. If a sexy venue was somehow required, more in keeping with the feminist nature of the show would have been a strip club with dancers of both genders.

I understand that the letting go of technology was an act of eschewing that which separates us from nature, but Cylons are not natural. The show made the point that even a toaster has worth, has feelings, and is equal to a biological human. Saying that their technology is “evil” because it’s what got them into this trouble in the first place — it started the cycle over — basically negates the headway that was made in achieving a blended human-cylon community. I would have rather seen a new civilization built on those principles of cooperation and intentional use of technology. Instead I’m sad to think that Helo will probably die of an infection in that injured leg without antibiotics.

So, overall: I can live with this ending and there were a few emotional high points. They found our Earth, which is something I predicted when they found the 13th Colony/”Earth.” Moore did not make the nature of the story clear and foiled expectations because of it. I would have enjoyed it more for if I’d understood the show’s goal of being a revelatory story over a Science Fiction one.



30 Responses to “BSG: Puzzle or Mystery?”

  1. I too got a sense of emotional fulfillment from the finale, tempered by my annoyance at the bad science and lack of resolution for some plot points (e.g., why the Tomb of Athena stars match those at our Earth). I loved the Opera House resolution (though it wasn’t as deep as I had hoped it would be) and the ending for Starbuck (though I am still not entirely sure why she had to die – in terms of her specific story and not a more archetypal one – to accomplish what she did).

    I like your characterization of religion as revelatory versus a more puzzle-based view of science and science fiction, but I think the intent here may not have been as revelatory as it became. In an interview, Kevin Grazier, the science advisor, mentioned some points that I think support a puzzle-based viewpoint. He said that when the writers came to him to find out what they could use as astronomical clues to the location of Galactica and Earth, he told them about constellations, how stars don’t always make the best waypoints, how it would be possible to only see some of the constellations visible at Earth from other nearby points in space, etc. He also said that he regrets the whole Tomb of Athena thing, essentially because it makes little sense now that we know that no one on Kobol came from or knew about our Earth (though I would keep in mind Michael Hall’s observation that the stars in the Tomb don’t match those visible on out planet).

    So, we can see that Roslin’s criticism of Starbucks guncam pictures as only showing four of the constellations, Gaeta’s line “the visible constellations are a match,” and possibly even the use of Earthly constellations throughout season 4 (and the pseudo-Earthly ones in the Tomb of Athena) might all have been intended as clues that their Earth was not our Earth, but that ours was still out there somewhere. The problems came in the execution.

    There were other points that were not addressed in a satisfying way, but I think that the astronomical questions are the biggest ones. What the head characters are, how they (and Shelley Godfrey, Kara Thrace, Not Leoben, et al) appeared and disappeared, etc, are things that can conceivably be reconciled as internally consistent, if one posits a kind of Clarkeian “advanced technology.” I wish we knew more about Kara’s travel from the Maelstrom to the 13th Colony, why her father knew The Music… but things like the mechanics of what exactly she was, I feel, are not needed. This is not so with the astronomical concerns. Even the anthropological problems created by their arrival 150 kya in our past are acknowledged, if only to be handwaved away. With more care, the astronomical problems would not have ever appeared, and the show could have been just that little bit “harder,” in sci-fi terms.

    Of course, we are left with other problems like the ones I mentioned above, as well as others like why did The Music awaken the Final Five, when it was really a map to Earth (which they had nothing to do with)? Those kinds of questions being left open can hurt the narrative, especially if everything else appears to be working under a set of consistent rules.

    I got a little off topic, but the point is, I agree almost completely, except to say that it’s possible some of the plot holes generated by science problems and our in-depth analysis of them may not actually be intentional and are rather the result of poor attention to those details.

  2. I definitely liked the revelatory approach — if only because it’s rarely tried. We all want neatly arranged pieces of the puzzle, but I’m glad Moore found value in leaving the “Divine” mysterious. A personal preference, to be sure, on my part.

    I didn’t find it surprising either. I think it was after “Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part 2” (season one), when Baltar had his vision of the Opera House, that I realized there was something “higher” going on here. It drove the point home for me in “Home, Part 2” (season two), when Head-Six told Baltar, “I’m an angel of God sent to protect you.” I thought to myself, she’s not a chip in his head, he’s not crazy. So, yeah, she’s an angel. Okay, I’ll go with that. And I just did — I went with it. So the finale really didn’t bother me in that respect, although I can understand why it might bother some, given the usual audience of a science fiction series.

    Saying that their technology is “evil” because it’s what got them into this trouble in the first place — it started the cycle over — basically negates the headway that was made in achieving a blended human-cylon community.

    Personally, I didn’t get that from the finale at all. Like Lee said, when he was speaking with his father, our technology tends to outpace our social maturity — which is dangerous and self-destructive. The message there is not that technology in itself is evil, but that technological development for its own sake — and at the expense of our social development and wisdom — is what feeds into the endless cycle of violence and self-annihilation.

    In any case, great post. It’s been fun following your theories and ideas and musings on BSG.

    Sincerely,
    John-Mark

  3. Lisa,

    Seconding what John-Mark said. I’m sorry I discovered your blog so late in the game, as it’s a phenomenal venue for discussing this most awesome series in depth.

    Regarding the whole purpose of Nuked-Earth (or Earth-1, as I call it) and the Final Five, they were meant to help both humanity and the Cylons understand the full breadth of their tragic cycle of destruction. In order to really purge itself of its collective impulse towards destruction, humanity had to be broken down as far as it could–and that meant showing them the fate of Earth-1. To do that, they needed the Final Five, working in conjunction with the resurrected Starbuck, which is why her new Viper didn’t start displaying the coordinates until the F5 were there.

    The purpose of the F5 was to explain the true history of the 13th Tribe, why Kobol was abandoned, and why man and machine were at war. They were warned by the Angels in the last cycle to stop the descent into annihilation, but they didn’t heed the warnings. This time, the Angels picked new vessels, in Baltar, Caprica-Six, and Kara, to play out a new cycle.

    That’s why the F5 were actually not a big deal once they were revealed–they didn’t play an especially integral part in the brief human/Cylon truce, and indeed, Tyrol killing Tory broke the truce. The F5 were remnants of the previous cycle, and their part had already largely been played, once everyone knew the truth about Earth.

    I go into this in more depth at my blog (plug plug): http://boztopia.com/?p=520

  4. Thanks guys! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the analysis here. Your comments have pushed me to articulate my ideas to a level of detail I might other not have undertaken. I like to think that analyzing others’ work helps me to be a better writer. I do plan to continue when Caprica and The Plan are released, so please keep me in your RSS feeds.

    The interview with Kevin Grazier where he talks about the Tomb of Athena constellations can be found here. It’s unfortunate that some of the clues left for us were in fact errors in execution. SF TV producers have to know by now that SF fans love to dissect and should consider including their science advisers in a fundamental way when writing since they don’t have the option to revise like novel writers do. I enjoy both puzzle and revelatory stories, but I like to know what I’m getting into at the beginning so I set my expectations accordingly.

    @Cecil: Regarding the head characters, the more I ponder the finale, the more I like the ambiguity. It occurred to me that the Watchtower song may be some kind of genetic memory that may have been used before unsuccessfully. This genetic memory could account for all sorts of correlations with the different generations as well. We don’t know how long the cycle has been repeating. From our own perspective, life evolved on our Earth (now we know with some help). How do we know the 12 Tribes and the Kobolians weren’t under a similar assumption with Kobol? The Kobolians must be that “generation’s” Final Five, but in that cycle they set themselves up as gods, something the Five refused to do.

    In this scenario, the Lords of Kobol were the remnants of the previous cycle. They found a planet with primitive hominids (who did not have blood Type O), bred with them or augmented them or both, and lived in peace for a long time until that peace was broken by the creation of the 13th Tribe/ Cylons. The head characters could easily be messengers from a yet further previous generation’s “Five.” The “chosen” in each generation fulfill an archetypal role akin to an AI version of a “mahatma,” “saint,” or some other kind of ascended entity except that they are neither good nor evil, but a “force of nature.” I’m reminded here of other similar SF beings like ST:TNG’s Q, ST:DS9’s wormhole aliens, and Stargate’s Ancients. The Watchtower song may have been trying to point each cycle to our Earth, but they never managed to find it.

    @John-Mark: I agree with your observation as to what clued us into the show being about a higher power. I expected that higher power to be some sort of uber-AI. Moore left it ambiguous enough that the possibility is left up to interpretation, but at first brush this may not seem so obvious.

    Like Lee said, when he was speaking with his father, our technology tends to outpace our social maturity — which is dangerous and self-destructive. The message there is not that technology in itself is evil, but that technological development for its own sake — and at the expense of our social development and wisdom — is what feeds into the endless cycle of violence and self-annihilation.

    Good point, but I think this is an area where Moore should have written it with less ambiguity. At the heart of Lee’s point about “social maturity” is one of the main themes of the show: That a haphazard use of technology leads to destruction. The opposite of that is not to eschew all technology, which is impossible. The primitive humans on Earth are already using tools, so where do they draw the line? Do they make it taboo to create the wheel? What about fire? Antibiotics? Dentistry? (One cavity can turn into blood poisoning.) It will be a long time before they will actually have cultivated seeds to farm, although I imagine free range anything would be preferable to algae. So, in my mind, the lesson is to use technology deliberately, maturely, under a few guiding principles. They have arrived at the perfect moment to enact those principles because they have the technological knowledge as well as the perspective on how it can destroy civilizations.

    @Martin: I like you’re idea for why Starbuck’s Viper delayed broadcasting its signal. It does seem that the “chosen” of the previous generation are a morality play of sorts to give the next generation some perspective.

  5. I’ll second John-Mark as well and note my enjoyment that the supernatural had a role to play in the finale. Obviously, I’ve got a horse in that race, but it was still refreshing, principally because it felt more real to me than some of the other approaches. I still think Deep Space Nine’s “via media” resolution of the Prophets was superior writing, but this ending was more faithful to the human experience of the divine in general — it is mysterious, it is at times inexplicable, and it does not always make “sense” in a human-understandable way.

    Divinity in BSG, whatever its ultimate nature, was not dispensed with as some ultimately artificial contrivance (a common trope in much sci-fi, including Star Trek), nor was it presented in a way that explained-it-but-didn’t. Instead, it was presented with the same sense of mystery that washed over thousands of people in a real-world event seen in and around the Cova da Iria fields in 1917.

    BSG introduced God as a character pretty early on, even before Shelley Godfrey walked into CIC. From then on, it really only had two choices — pull the curtain back on Him, or don’t. Moore opted for the latter, whereas much of sci-fi has in the past opted for the former. I don’t know if that takes BSG wholly and completely out of the realm of science fiction. In my review of the episode, I note that the episode “Faith” perfectly set us up for this ending and its inclusion of the supernatural. And there were many indications which went before that point — we (the audience) simply failed to take Leoben, Head Six, and all the rest at their plain meaning.

    The renunciation of technology aspect of the show did strike me as odd, at first, but it also made sense. My wife would certainly have voted in favour of Lee’s proposal (she’s fond of saying that the invention of the plow was the worst thing that ever happened to to the world), and I would have found it difficult to vote against the plan. Over at Galactica Sitrep, there’s an article that presents a quite well-reasoned analysis of why the notion of a “tabula rasa” might just have caught on with the Colonial survivors…it’s actually not so far-fetched to think that the people as a whole would have been amenable to the idea of putting ashore (so to speak) with naught but the clothes on their backs.

    The strip club was superfluous, I will grant (although Michael Hogan cracked me up in those scenes, for whatever reason…), and seemed to me to be, more than anything, an attempt to borrow a visual cue from CSI: Miami. Be that as it may…given the depictions of nudity and sexuality that we’ve come to expect in BSG overall, the strip club sequences were pretty tame.

  6. @Ken: I’ve likewise enjoyed reading your analysis of the show. With your engineering and theology background you have a very interesting point of view. I definitely agree that DS9’s resolution was phenomenal. I should revisit it now for comparison. Absolutely, BSG introduced the God concept early on, but I think the mixed response to the finale is primarily due to audience misinterpretation of intent, based on what is the usual for much of SF. I keep meaning to read Sharon Shinn’s Angel series and now wonder if it might make for interesting comparison as well.

    I can definitely see there being among the Colonials a faction who would want to totally renounce technology, but I don’t see all 39,000 people agreeing on that. I also don’t think many of them would understand the full impact of that decision. To use the Helo example again, even if he survived that leg wound, without modern medicine he might not be able to be much of a hunter afterward.

    Hogan indeed was great in that strip club scene. I’m so going to miss his superb acting skills. What bugged me about that venue was not so much the level of nudity, it was the one-sidedness of it that seems inconsistent with what we know of Colonial society. The level of gender blindness Colonial society possesses has been lost to us.

    Another inconsistency in the finale is that we know how the names of the Greek and Roman gods evolved and what words they evolved from. It’s highly unlikely those names were lost and then evolved again from other words. It just doesn’t quite fit, but that’s a detail I can let slide.

    I liked how Baltar’s first, real altruistic decision played out. It made sense that he would wait until the last minute, but by waiting that long it meant the decision affected only him. There was no time for Paulla or any of his cult to follow in his footsteps. I also like how his ending with Caprica tied up his flashbacks nicely.

  7. I’ve really enjoyed these exchanges, and the insights you’ve brought to light, Lisa. I was honestly a bit upset that your theories about limnality weren’t explored in the finale, especially given all the excellent groundwork that had (whether inadvertently or not) been set in place for just such a turn.

    I definitely agree that DS9’s resolution was phenomenal. I should revisit it now for comparison.

    If you have the means, I would suggest revisiting not only DS9’s finale, but also TNG’s finale, and then comparing both of those to BSG’s finale. I’d do it myself if I thought I had the time, but…well…babies will be babies, and babies will be time-consuming!

    I can definitely see there being among the Colonials a faction who would want to totally renounce technology, but I don’t see all 39,000 people agreeing on that. I also don’t think many of them would understand the full impact of that decision.

    I think the second sentence here might give us additional insight into the question you pose in the first. People don’t understand all the implications, but that’s not what they’re thinking of anyhow: the lure of the clean slate is a siren call, especially when it comes during the euphoria of finding a new home in which a new start can be had. Again, this turn of events is not without many historical parallels, and I don’t find it that hard to buy. Besides, what would the alternative be, given that the ships were all slaved to Anders’ control and bound for the Sun anyhow?

    To use the Helo example again, even if he survived that leg wound, without modern medicine he might not be able to be much of a hunter afterward.

    Possibly. There’s some indication that basic supplies were taken, things like medications and whatnot. A full recovery might have been possible. Failing that, Helo and Athena could have opted for a bit of a role-reversal, with Helo taking on more agricultural responsibilities while Athena took on the role of the hunter. One notes that Plato equated Athena with Neith, the Libyan goddess of the hunt (and of war).

    What bugged me about that venue was not so much the level of nudity, it was the one-sidedness of it that seems inconsistent with what we know of Colonial society. The level of gender blindness Colonial society possesses has been lost to us.

    I actually never felt that Colonial society was 100% gender-blind, myself, so I can’t say that I felt that sort of let-down at the strip club scenes. We’d already been presented with the reality of prostitution in the Colonies, so it didn’t seem (to me, at any rate) surprising that other forms of sexually charged “entertainment” also existed.

    Let’s not forget that this is Ron Moore, the man who showed us that the utopian Federation of Star Trek could be as duplicitous and backstabbing as the rest of the galaxy’s governments; we’d be fools, I think, to expect him to hand us an ideal society in BSG’s narrative.

    Another inconsistency in the finale is that we know how the names of the Greek and Roman gods evolved and what words they evolved from. It’s highly unlikely those names were lost and then evolved again from other words. It just doesn’t quite fit, but that’s a detail I can let slide.

    I’ll have more to say on this in a later article.

    I liked how Baltar’s first, real altruistic decision played out. It made sense that he would wait until the last minute, but by waiting that long it meant the decision affected only him. There was no time for Paulla or any of his cult to follow in his footsteps.

    That was good; I loved his dismissal of the cult: “I don’t belong to you. I never did.” Tone perfect.

    I also like how his ending with Caprica tied up his flashbacks nicely.

    Agreed.

  8. I was honestly a bit upset that your theories about limnality weren’t explored in the finale, especially given all the excellent groundwork that had (whether inadvertently or not) been set in place for just such a turn.

    Yep, me too. It’s quite a powerful motif. I wish they’d take advantage of it more.

    If you have the means, I would suggest revisiting not only DS9’s finale, but also TNG’s finale, and then comparing both of those to BSG’s finale. I’d do it myself if I thought I had the time, but…well…babies will be babies, and babies will be time-consuming!

    Don’t I know it too! I remember feeling awestruck by All Good Things. I’d love to watch it again.

    I think the second sentence here might give us additional insight into the question you pose in the first. People don’t understand all the implications, but that’s not what they’re thinking of anyhow…

    True, but it’s depressing if you stop to think of the consequences.

    Failing that, Helo and Athena could have opted for a bit of a role-reversal, with Helo taking on more agricultural responsibilities while Athena took on the role of the hunter.

    Considering the topics I write about on this blog, I have considered that and you can bet I’d find that interesting.

    I actually never felt that Colonial society was 100% gender-blind, myself, so I can’t say that I felt that sort of let-down at the strip club scenes.

    No, not 100% gender blind, but close. The primary evidence of this is that Starbuck, a woman, is the best pilot in the fleet. No one ever questions her performance based on her gender. Men and women share living and latrine quarters. We’re no where near that level of equality.

    I’m working on another post that deals with Moore’s usage of the “collective unconscious” idea to explain so many things. It will also address the linguistics example.

  9. True, but it’s depressing if you stop to think of the consequences.

    Somewhat. On the other hand, it really depends which historical example you care to point to.

    Now, let’s be fair: BSG itself tells us that most of the human “colonies” established on Earth didn’t thrive, at least not to an extent sufficient to allow the matrilineal ancestry of modern humans to be traced back to them. Only Hera’s line thrived.

    No, not 100% gender blind, but close. The primary evidence of this is that Starbuck, a woman, is the best pilot in the fleet. No one ever questions her performance based on her gender. Men and women share living and latrine quarters. We’re no where near that level of equality.

    We’re not, granted…but this in turn makes me wonder. BSG has given us ample evidence of the fact that while men and women may be far more “equal” according to certain metrics which you point to, they are still men and women. With specific regard to sexuality, there’s still a very present and powerful sexual element present in the human condition in BSG.

    And what I wonder is if perhaps the fact that men and women are substantially more equal in these various ways (some of which — like shared bathrooms (and showers?) — have an associated degree of intimacy) does not also contribute, at a societal level, to the existence of things like the strip club as pictured.

    We know the sexual element is present. We know that the sexual element is, to a degree, augmented and challenged by the different practices surrounding e.g. shower and bathroom facilities. Could it be that Colonial society augments the challenges associated with such integration with a few carefully chosen outlets?

    Keep in mind that this is not the same thing as arguing that it is right to build, operate, and/or attend a strip club. It isn’t. But just as the original series had “socialators” (that is: an entire social class of, effectively, courtesan prostitutes), could the Colonies of this re-imagined BSG not have certain socially ordained/mandated means of sexual outlet?

  10. Now, let’s be fair: BSG itself tells us that most of the human “colonies” established on Earth didn’t thrive, at least not to an extent sufficient to allow the matrilineal ancestry of modern humans to be traced back to them. Only Hera’s line thrived.

    I read that Brian Sykes book that I thought the TIME article was based on. The mtDNA Eve has seven daughters who passed on their genes.

    We’re not, granted…but this in turn makes me wonder. BSG has given us ample evidence of the fact that while men and women may be far more “equal” according to certain metrics which you point to, they are still men and women. With specific regard to sexuality, there’s still a very present and powerful sexual element present in the human condition in BSG.

    Absolutely. I’m not seeking some sort of gender blind utopia, such as in TNG ep The Outcast.

    We know the sexual element is present. We know that the sexual element is, to a degree, augmented and challenged by the different practices surrounding e.g. shower and bathroom facilities. Could it be that Colonial society augments the challenges associated with such integration with a few carefully chosen outlets?

    Possibly. The venue seemed gratuitous regardless. The story could have been told just as well in a different venue.

    But just as the original series had “socialators” (that is: an entire social class of, effectively, courtesan prostitutes)…

    The socialators of TOS were as much a product of the gender tensions of the 1970s. I think you have to consider Cassiopeia’s role in conjunction with the other gender conflicts in TOS, such as the disconnect between it being perfectly acceptable for Sheba to be not only a Viper pilot on the Pegasus but also a squadron leader — Apollo’s equal — and yet the notion of female pilots on the Galactica was a big deal and happened only because they ran out of male pilots.

  11. I wanted to reiterate what you guys were saying earlier regarding the finales of TNG and DS9. “All Good Things…” and “What You Leave Behind” were incredible pieces of writing.

    I also see that you’re discussing the presence of the strip club in BSG finale, and how that is somewhat inconsistent with BSG’s theme of gender neutrality. It should be noted that on the podcast for “Daybreak” Ron Moore mentioned that the strip club was originally intended to feature both male and female strippers, but the male strippers were cut because of directorial decision, I think.

    Sincerely,
    John-Mark

  12. Thanks for this, John-Mark. Wow. It never ceases to amaze me how comfortable we are watching women in that kind of role, but not men. At all. What a double-standard.

  13. The venue seemed gratuitous regardless. The story could have been told just as well in a different venue.

    I agree here.

    Actually, here’s something that just struck me. Given the relationship between Tigh and Adama, it would have made more sense, just in general, for the two of them to be drinking in a quieter venue, something with the intimacy of a “ye olde”-type pub. That sort of quieter, more contemplative setting just seems to be more in the style of “Adama and Tigh,” the old friends.

    I wonder if what we shouldn’t take away from the strip club venue is the pernicious influence of pre-total-recall Ellen?

    I think you have to consider Cassiopeia’s role in conjunction with the other gender conflicts in TOS, such as the disconnect between it being perfectly acceptable for Sheba to be not only a Viper pilot on the Pegasus but also a squadron leader — Apollo’s equal — and yet the notion of female pilots on the Galactica was a big deal and happened only because they ran out of male pilots.

    That distinction always did bug me. On original Pegasus, there was something akin to the gender-neutral service life of the re-imagined Galactica, while on original Galactica there was no similar concept. Did ship commanders’ own personal biases exert THAT MUCH control over the shape of the military aboard their respective ships.

    If so: no wonder the Colonials got their asses kicked!

    But here’s something else to consider. Leaving aside the female commander — Cain was, I thought, portrayed as being very masculine anyhow — how were women on Pegasus portrayed? Gina, obviously, was just brutalized. The woman from Razor — I forget her name, but she had the Aussie accent — was also pretty masculine in her characterization.

    BSWiki had this to note, in the episode summary for Pegasus:

    In contrast to Galactica’s nearly evenly gender-divided crew, the crew of the Pegasus seems predominantly male to a very high degree. Admiral Cain is the only female aboard Pegasus with a speaking role, with only a couple other females visible in the hallways or in the Pegasus ready room. This stands in notable contrast to Ron Moore’s egalitarian vision of gender issues in the military, and might have been an intentional decision made during production. In addition, the dialogue of the drunken Pegasus crewmen suggests they have perhaps forgotten how to act around women— they either ignore or fail to understand Cally’s and the other female crew members’ disgust with their talk about gang-raping Gina. This may be a contributing factor to the behavior of the Pegasus crew, and the resulting sexual frustration could have led to the overly regimented, authoritarian, and brutal culture the crew developed, culminating in the senseless, repeated gang rape of the Cylon prisoner Gina.

    With one caveat:

    However, it should be noted that “Razor” later shows many women among the crew in various roles.

    I have to admit, though, that I have sparse recollection of female officers in Razor, apart from Aussie-lady (whose name I could look up, but am instead determined to eventually remember and shout out in frustration on the bus ride home).

    Wait…KENDRA SHAW! Anyhow, she and Cain both have fairly masculine characterizations, I thought. Pegasus, the ship, seems mostly devoid of any real femininity, and presents no real evidence of gender equality. Indeed, the attitude of many of its crew members suggests that equality between the sexes is…er…not the first thing on their minds.

    A curious reversal when compared against TOS, no?

  14. …Ron Moore mentioned that the strip club was originally intended to feature both male and female strippers, but the male strippers were cut because of directorial decision, I think.

    It never ceases to amaze me how comfortable we are watching women in that kind of role, but not men. At all. What a double-standard.

    Indeed.

    Perhaps I will out myself as a puritan by wondering this, but these sorts of considerations inevitably lead me to ask: why do we even portray such things, you know? I can understand that such things as strip clubs exist, and so can be said to be a part of the cultural landscape that a show like BSG — being, in part, an analysis of culture — might depict because of that.

    But what narrative purpose is really served by several non-plot-critical shots of gyrating, semi/nearly-nude bodies, male or female? How was it significant to the plot of “Daybreak” to frame the Tigh/Ellen/Adama flashbacks in the context of a nudey bar?

  15. It never ceases to amaze me how comfortable we are watching women in that kind of role, but not men. At all. What a double-standard.

    Precisely. I think the decision to cut the male strippers was a mistake. It was an opportunity missed to have the very discussion that would arise out of your quite true observation about how people are comfortable watching women in those roles but not men. When I heard that on the podcast, I it was too bad Moore missed that chance. Oh well.

    Sincerely,
    John-Mark

  16. That last sentence should read: “When I heard that on the podcast, I thought it was too bad Moore missed that chance.”

  17. Actually, here’s something that just struck me. Given the relationship between Tigh and Adama, it would have made more sense, just in general, for the two of them to be drinking in a quieter venue, something with the intimacy of a “ye olde”-type pub.

    Yep. I would have been happy with that.

    I wonder if what we shouldn’t take away from the strip club venue is the pernicious influence of pre-total-recall Ellen?

    Hey now, don’t start blaming the loose woman. Tigh seemed perfectly happy to ogle the wares in that club. She didn’t chain him to the chair or anything.

    Did ship commanders’ own personal biases exert THAT MUCH control over the shape of the military aboard their respective ships…If so: no wonder the Colonials got their asses kicked!

    Yep!

    But here’s something else to consider. Leaving aside the female commander — Cain was, I thought, portrayed as being very masculine anyhow — how were women on Pegasus portrayed? Gina, obviously, was just brutalized. The woman from Razor — I forget her name, but she had the Aussie accent — was also pretty masculine in her characterization.

    I do think the rules of conduct for basic respect of humans in general broke down on the Pegasus. Women are often the first to be victimized in that kind of situation and this is what led to the horrible treatment of Gina and others. I’m not a proponent of the feminist idea that women are somehow superior to men — that there would be no wars if women were in charge, for instance. Women are human and make mistakes just as men do, so I’m glad BSG depicted a female commander who wasn’t perfect. No one was perfect on this show.

    I actually think the actress who played Kendra Shaw is quite striking and feminine, but you don’t have to look much further than Starbuck to find a more androgynous character. She showed on more than one occasion that she can do the feminine thing quite well, but chose not to. Many male viewers found Starbuck to be quite butch.

    The flip side to this is the continuum of masculinity that is Baltar-Apollo-Helo. On one end of the spectrum is Baltar, who is sexy but in a Lord Byron kind of way and is quite promiscuous. At the other end of the spectrum is Helo, the classic square-jawed, monogomous (unless tricked by his wife’s doppelganger), hetero hero. The show played with all sorts of stereotypes for both genders. IO9 had a great response to that “BSG is not so frakking feminist” Slate article. In it Annalee Newitz said:

    “Feminism, as BSG makes clear, won’t turn us all into saints. It will just make us all capable of achieving the same levels of social power, as well as the same nadirs of social humiliation and defeat.”

  18. Perhaps I will out myself as a puritan by wondering this, but these sorts of considerations inevitably lead me to ask: why do we even portray such things, you know? …what narrative purpose is really served by several non-plot-critical shots of gyrating, semi/nearly-nude bodies, male or female? How was it significant to the plot of “Daybreak” to frame the Tigh/Ellen/Adama flashbacks in the context of a nudey bar?

    It’s not, I totally agree and I’m not puritanical at all (OK, maybe a little bit). Have you seen the trailer for Caprica where Zoe (at least I think it’s Zoe) takes her father on a tour of the virt environments? She shows him all sorts of sordid “rooms.” At least this serves as an illustration of where Caprican society is headed. It has a purpose in the plot. Tigh and Adama in a nudey bar is just not required to tell the story of that scene.

  19. Precisely. I think the decision to cut the male strippers was a mistake. It was an opportunity missed to have the very discussion that would arise out of your quite true observation about how people are comfortable watching women in those roles but not men. When I heard that on the podcast, I thought it was too bad Moore missed that chance. Oh well.

    It is too bad, but I’m sure glad you were able to bring up that part of the podcast here. Thanks!

  20. Well, I’m happy they found earth. I’m sorry that the characters’ (not real but nonetheless a part of my life for 4 years) fate is left up to our imagination. Did Adama meet anyone else? Why did he leave his son? Did Helo live very long? Were Baltar and Cap 6 able to have kids? Did Apollo walk all the way to Greece? 😉
    My heart hurts a little to not know.

    As far as the double standard thing about guys vs. girls goes, I think it’s high time we see guys.
    But we won’t, until someone stands up in a standards and practices meeting and says “No, I’m not cutting this out. And I’m actually going to break your neck and throw you down the frakking stairs if you try to change my story, you uptight little prick”.

    Sorry, I digress. But I have this terrible feeling that the ending was not all Moore’s doing. It looks like he was hurried by someone.

    Ah well, all of this has happened before. And it will happen again. When my little girl’s in her 30s, maybe we’ll see a new reimagining. It’s a story I’ll never tire of.

    Thanks for the all the illumination, Lisa.

  21. Hi Scott! I’m so glad you stopped by. 🙂

    I’m sorry that the characters’ (not real but nonetheless a part of my life for 4 years) fate is left up to our imagination. Did Adama meet anyone else? Why did he leave his son? Did Helo live very long? Were Baltar and Cap 6 able to have kids? Did Apollo walk all the way to Greece? 😉
    My heart hurts a little to not know.

    I would have preferred a less ambiguous ending, at least for some of the elements in the story. The idea of spreading out across the planet I understand in a poetic way, but not in an intellectual way. It makes no logical sense and actually lessens their ability to survive, but I suppose it makes a kind of poetic sense. They could have achieved both by setting up four 10,000-person settlements in strategic areas around the globe. Regarding Adama, I’m so sad to think that he and Lee won’t be having any kind of father-son relationship. Moore has made a big deal about the show being “about the characters, stupid,” so I should think that in this delicate time father and son would grow closer than ever.

    Baltar and Six may have had children, but none of their progeny contributed to our mtDNA. Which is sad.

    As far as the double standard thing about guys vs. girls goes, I think it’s high time we see guys…But we won’t, until someone stands up in a standards and practices meeting and says “No, I’m not cutting this out. And I’m actually going to break your neck and throw you down the frakking stairs if you try to change my story, you uptight little prick”.

    I haven’t had time to listen to the podcast, so I’m still pleasantly surprised that I picked up on this element, but it speaks to one of the main reasons I write this blog. If we can’t rise above showing nudey bars in TV shows (and I wish we could), then at least we can exploit both genders equally.

    Sorry, I digress. But I have this terrible feeling that the ending was not all Moore’s doing. It looks like he was hurried by someone.

    I don’t understand why Moore wanted to finish the series in four years instead of five, especially since the pacing in this back half of season four has seemed uneven. I like that they wanted a definite end point, but a longer series arc could have enabled them to include something like “The Plan” instead of making it a separate entity.

    Ah well, all of this has happened before. And it will happen again. When my little girl’s in her 30s, maybe we’ll see a new reimagining. It’s a story I’ll never tire of.

    I do indeed hope that when our girls are all grown up this will be a far, far better world.

    Thanks for the all the illumination, Lisa.

    Thanks! I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ll be piping up again when Caprica and The Plan come out. I’m also considering what show to move onto next. Dollhouse maybe? I figure by the time Dollhouse is done Virtuality will be out so I just go back and forth between analyzing Ron Moore and Joss Whedon shows. Maybe Jane Espenson or Marti Noxon will get their own shows by then.

  22. I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ll be piping up again when Caprica and The Plan come out. I’m also considering what show to move onto next. Dollhouse maybe? I figure by the time Dollhouse is done Virtuality will be out so I just go back and forth between analyzing Ron Moore and Joss Whedon shows. Maybe Jane Espenson or Marti Noxon will get their own shows by then.

    I’ll definitely look forward to more of your analysis of different shows. You’ve got a good eye and great insight.

    Regarding when Jane Espenson will get her own show, I think that would be Caprica: It was reported that Ron Moore will stay on as showrunner only temporarily, then “at some point” he would “hand over showrunner duties” to Espenson, who will be executive producer midway through the first season.

    Sincerely,
    John-Mark

  23. Hey now, don’t start blaming the loose woman. Tigh seemed perfectly happy to ogle the wares in that club. She didn’t chain him to the chair or anything.

    Perhaps my wording was a bit careless; my intent was to note that Ellen certainly had a very participative role in the flashback. That is not to say that Tigh wasn’t going along, as you note…but something just seemed off about the whole thing. Adama seemed like he didn’t want to be at the club, to me…so I’m speculating as to the reasons why the group of them ended up there.

    It’s my understanding that most women don’t like strip clubs. Having said as much, I’ve actually known a couple of ladies — via various friends and contacts I’ve made over the years — who actually do regard such clubs as perfectly acceptable venues. Perhaps not surprisingly, their personality types have been within the gravity well of the Ellen Tigh model. And I’ve been party to conversations in which both of these women I’ve known have egged their guys on and/or flat-out encouraged them to partake of the…ahem…wares at one strip club or another.

    In other words: I’m speaking from experience. Most women do find strip clubs distasteful — that’s an empirically testable fact. But “most” is not “all,” and I wonder if perhaps Ellen didn’t have a hand in the decision, or some manner of influence. Understand that I’m not laying sole blame at Ellen’s feet; Saul certainly was getting into the “swing” of things at the club, and Adama had to have agreed to the venue as well. But I do note that the Tigh/Adama dynamic has been shown to shift dramatically when Ellen enters the frame.

    do think the rules of conduct for basic respect of humans in general broke down on the Pegasus. Women are often the first to be victimized in that kind of situation and this is what led to the horrible treatment of Gina and others. I’m not a proponent of the feminist idea that women are somehow superior to men — that there would be no wars if women were in charge, for instance. Women are human and make mistakes just as men do, so I’m glad BSG depicted a female commander who wasn’t perfect. No one was perfect on this show.

    That was always one of its strong points, wasn’t it?

    I’ve never bought in to the myth that if women were rulers, wars wouldn’t happen…mostly because I’ve taken a casual glance at history. Names like Elizabeth, Catherine, and Margaret come quickly to mind as examples of female rulers who didn’t hesitate to rain down fire and steel on the enemies of their respective states.

    I actually think the actress who played Kendra Shaw is quite striking and feminine, but you don’t have to look much further than Starbuck to find a more androgynous character. She showed on more than one occasion that she can do the feminine thing quite well, but chose not to. Many male viewers found Starbuck to be quite butch.

    Starbuck reminded me of a couple different girls I knew growing up, who could transition almost seamlessly between being masculine and being feminine. She didn’t strike me as butch; she reminded me of e.g. a friend’s ex-girlfriend.

    What WAS interesting, to me, was to note — in the wake of “Daybreak I” — how many bloggers and blog commenters were moaning about Starbuck’s “Martha Stewart” turn, just because she was briefly shown to be fretting over a few pots and pans steaming merrily on a stove.

    As in: what…the cigar-smoking, card-playing, XO-punching Viper jock can’t be seen working a pot and pan? C’mon.

    The flip side to this is the continuum of masculinity that is Baltar-Apollo-Helo. On one end of the spectrum is Baltar, who is sexy but in a Lord Byron kind of way and is quite promiscuous. At the other end of the spectrum is Helo, the classic square-jawed, monogomous (unless tricked by his wife’s doppelganger), hetero hero. The show played with all sorts of stereotypes for both genders.

    It did, and usually very well. Usually.

  24. It’s not, I totally agree and I’m not puritanical at all (OK, maybe a little bit). Have you seen the trailer for Caprica where Zoe (at least I think it’s Zoe) takes her father on a tour of the virt environments? She shows him all sorts of sordid “rooms.” At least this serves as an illustration of where Caprican society is headed. It has a purpose in the plot.

    No, I haven’t seen that, but that’s interesting. I like the idea of stark commentary on the ruinous decadence that infests societies.

    Tigh and Adama in a nudey bar is just not required to tell the story of that scene.

    Not at all, any more than the endless barrage of gyrating strippers and bikini-clad beach bunnies is required to tell the various stories of CSI: Miami. And yet, and then more so than in BSG, there it all is.

    Speaking as a new parent, I’m honestly beginning to wonder whether Grace and I should even bother paying for cable once Ella is old enough to watch TV; can we get by on DVDs and/or Apple TV?

  25. I’ll definitely look forward to more of your analysis of different shows. You’ve got a good eye and great insight.

    Thanks! What shows are you into these days? If I can find the time, I’d like to compare BSG’s finale to those of Star Trek: TNG and DS9. I remember liking both of those and they all dealt with “God” elements.

    Regarding when Jane Espenson will get her own show, I think that would be Caprica: It was reported that Ron Moore will stay on as showrunner only temporarily, then “at some point” he would “hand over showrunner duties” to Espenson, who will be executive producer midway through the first season.

    Oh, awesome. I knew she was working on Caprica, but I didn’t realize Moore was turning over the reigns to her. You go girl!

  26. Perhaps my wording was a bit careless; my intent was to note that Ellen certainly had a very participative role in the flashback. That is not to say that Tigh wasn’t going along, as you note…but something just seemed off about the whole thing…It’s my understanding that most women don’t like strip clubs.

    I agree and perhaps what was “off” was that it wasn’t intended to just be a girly bar. The scene would have had a different impact if it’d taken place in the originally intended setting.

    I’ve never bought in to the myth that if women were rulers, wars wouldn’t happen…mostly because I’ve taken a casual glance at history. Names like Elizabeth, Catherine, and Margaret…

    Yes, exactly. Interestingly, if I remember correctly about Elizabeth, she “married” herself to Britain, something that echoes the penchant for Celtic kings to “marry” the “Lady Sovereignty.” She totally flipped that custom around to suit her needs.

    Starbuck reminded me of a couple different girls I knew growing up, who could transition almost seamlessly between being masculine and being feminine. She didn’t strike me as butch…

    Personally, I agree with you, but I’ve seen a few comments to the contrary.

    What WAS interesting, to me, was to note — in the wake of “Daybreak I” — how many bloggers and blog commenters were moaning about Starbuck’s “Martha Stewart” turn, just because she was briefly shown to be fretting over a few pots and pans steaming merrily on a stove.

    Yes, and that bugs me. We’re still associating cooking with “women’s work,” which limits both women and men.

    As in: what…the cigar-smoking, card-playing, XO-punching Viper jock can’t be seen working a pot and pan? C’mon.

    Sigh. I’m so going to miss Starbuck.

    No, I haven’t seen that, but that’s interesting. I like the idea of stark commentary on the ruinous decadence that infests societies.

    Which brings me back to my main criticism of the finale and that I have perhaps misunderstood the main theme of the show– technology in and of itself is not “evil,” but how we use it can be. We should be judiciously embracing technology all the while examining the repercussions. Instead of, yanno, summarily dismissing tech and jettisoning it all into the sun. But I digress.

    I don’t watch CSI: Miami and it doesn’t look like I’ll start either.

    Speaking as a new parent, I’m honestly beginning to wonder whether Grace and I should even bother paying for cable once Ella is old enough to watch TV; can we get by on DVDs and/or Apple TV?

    Well, Noggin is pretty great, in particular Dora and Franklin. We’re kind of past Noggin now, though, and I don’t feel that NickJr. quite measures up with shows like SpongeBob SquarePants.

  27. I agree with you, and I think it pretty much went down the way we were speculating over on Boztopia’s blog. The problem is that a puzzle story requires complex planning, and RDM from the get go has very much been a fly by the seat of the pants make up stuff as he goes along type of writer.

    While I loved the show, one of things that does infuriate me is that all of our speculation is ultimately rendered moot, because the details he puts in the show do not have any special significance at the time that he writes them. It is only later, when he decides to retroactively fit a piece in, that they gain value. For example, Daniel as a throw-away. Nick not being Tyrol’s real son. Even the Final Five themselves were shoehorned in long after those ideas were presented so that even if the religion angle were removed, we still would not have a puzzle.

    This is literally the Wizard of Oz… if you look behind the curtain you see it is all smoke and mirrors. This is writing by serendipity.

  28. Thanks! What shows are you into these days?

    Well, now that BSG is over, my favorite currently running show is Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The writing is simply brilliant, in my opinion. I hate to think that it will probably get canceled once the current season ends.

    I used to enjoy Heroes, but I don’t know what to make of it now. I guess I keep watching out of some hope that it will return to what it once was. There are a few good moments, but I’ll be damned if I can make out any logical character motivations.

    I’ve been thinking about giving Dollhouse a shot, but it’s hard to find the time to try out these new shows.

    Sincerely,
    John-Mark

  29. John-Mark,

    While I am still watching Heroes, so much of it is recycled, almost completely, from the far superior 4400.

    The first 5 episodes of Dollhouse are kind of a bore, but it seems to have found its groove in this last one.

  30. I agree and perhaps what was “off” was that it wasn’t intended to just be a girly bar. The scene would have had a different impact if it’d taken place in the originally intended setting.

    That scene might have made more sense overall if it had taken place in the originally intended setting. 😉

    Yes, exactly. Interestingly, if I remember correctly about Elizabeth, she “married” herself to Britain, something that echoes the penchant for Celtic kings to “marry” the “Lady Sovereignty.” She totally flipped that custom around to suit her needs.

    Elizabeth had a few notable moves like that; one recalls her storming out of church services after the readings in protest over the practice of holding the host aloft.

    And then there was Thatcher. Whether you liked her politics or not, you had to agree that she was the proverbial tough cookie, and sharp as a tack as well.

    We’re still associating cooking with “women’s work,” which limits both women and men.

    You’ll forgive me if I can’t relate so much to this particular social bias; my daughter is descended from two families in which the men, as much as the women, are very active and accomplished cooks.

    But then, I suppose that’s why it’s always so jarring to me to see people remarking on it. Why is it so hard for people to accept that Starbuck might just be as good with a spatula as she is with a Viper?

    Which brings me back to my main criticism of the finale and that I have perhaps misunderstood the main theme of the show– technology in and of itself is not “evil,” but how we use it can be. We should be judiciously embracing technology all the while examining the repercussions. Instead of, yanno, summarily dismissing tech and jettisoning it all into the sun. But I digress.

    I had meant to get ’round to commenting on this by now, but circumstances prevented it (not that I’m complaining: my wife and daughter come first, far ahead of blogging). I don’t actually completely disagree with the turn in and of itself, and I don’t think that the show meant to strike a “technology = evil” tone…although how the Colonials did resolve things was, in its own way, jarring.

    I don’t watch CSI: Miami and it doesn’t look like I’ll start either.

    My wife really likes it, mostly for Horatio Caine. I find I enjoy CSI: NY the most out of all the three, although in truth I rarely find time to watch any of them. CSI: Miami appeals to the photographer in me for its intense colours and high dynamic range camerawork…but that’s mere style. The substance of the series is sometimes an excellent example of storytelling, but usually with a lot of gratuitous “extra stuff” thrown in amidst the flashy camera cuts.

    Well, Noggin is pretty great, in particular Dora and Franklin. We’re kind of past Noggin now, though, and I don’t feel that NickJr. quite measures up with shows like SpongeBob SquarePants.

    Heh…I love SpongeBob. He’s just so…he’s always trying to do the right thing. 🙂

    I’ve never looked at Noggin, although Dora and Franklin are okay IIRC.

    Ella’s only 20 weeks old, so she’s not really at the TV stage yet (and we don’t intend to let her become too familiar with the glowing box to begin with). I guess I just lament the demise of the stuff I grew up on — the Muppet Show (not Muppets Tonight), Sesame Street (not “Sesame Park,” which has been turned into All Elmo, all the Time), Fraggle Rock, and so forth.

    Or, basically: anything Henson produced in the 80s. Plus the odd cartoon series here and there.

    Which brings us back to DVDs.

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