The good, the bad, the horrible

Readers of this blog won’t have to guess my disappointment with the 2nd half of the finale. And yes, I will tear apart how silly, and pointless the way Moore wanted to end it was.

But first, there were some good parts. The space battle fans were looking for. They last Betrayal by boomer and her flashback. And for one moment, I was impressed that they were able to completely surprise me by making it look like they would have a negotiated settlement with Cavil. That would have been bold TV, for it is actually how many wars end. But Tory’s secret made it not to happen, and Tyrol’s emotions once more muck everything up. They didn’t show it, but this could have been made more complex if he could have restored some memories of his happy life with Tory when they were shacked up and engaged, overwhelmed by the murder. But he is forgiven again.

I felt the Colony should have been, as Simon said, vastly superior militarily. They did much better against it than you would think, and the few nukes in that raptor should not have been able to do that much damage. However, fortunately the singularity, in spite of all our speculations, played no part in the result. Cavil’s suicide was surprising but quickly cast aside in the story. His other copies may or may not have died if the colony was truly destroyed. Since it had many base ships which could jump away, one should presume many of them survived.

The song did turn out to be coordinates for real Earth, as many expected. And of course, this is where the show hurt itself, undid so much of the good it had done to this point.

Now, of course, readers will know I am particularly bothered by it being set in the past. Moore said long ago he knew man evolved on Earth, and he kept that — sort of. But first I’ll start with the criticisms that have nothing to do with when they set the story, for literally up to the last 2 minutes they could have fixed the story so easily by zooming to a broken Statue of Liberty on the beach. And that is the great shame, for there was so little story need to ruin everything. It’s often been written by fans that they don’t care about the science, that the writers will have a story to tell, and if the science has to bend to tell a good story, they can. But they could have told 99% of the story they wanted without screwing up the science very much. The great shame is they took what could have been greatness and dashed it on the rocks for one little hook.

Leaving out the science…

I simply could never find it credible that they would fly their fleet into the sun. (Nor, for that matter, did it make sense that Sam should die to do so, because he was certainly not a lost cause at that point, and in fact one imagines the remaining 4 might have knowledge together to help him. Or the 5 if Galen had not been so rash.) A computer could easily have flown the fleet into the sun. (Though I did smile at the re-use of the original music at this point. I didn’t like a lot from the old show but I did like that theme.)

Yes, they wanted a new start, a clean slate. But throw their hospitals into the sun? Most of their planes? It boggled my mind. Those who had any health problems would not be so ready to destroy their technology. Yes, the virgin Earth is full of game and fruit, and life there could be idyllic — with medicine — but this was brushed over completely. There should have at least been factions opposed. And those factions would have won, of course, because they would soon have been militarily dominant.

Laura did see the promised land. That doesn’t bother me, the cycle was broken, at least for a while.

Minor issue — Adama says they came a million light years. There is no other galaxy a million light years from Earth. . We will presume he’s just using it as a big number, though. (In fact, on further reflection, this must be the case as they are able to jump Raptors back to collect the fleet. So they are actually quite close to the other scenes of the show.)

I was surprised to see that Baltar knew that Six had nefarious “Employers.” This makes him way more evil than he ever ways shown to be at the start. I had always presumed he was duped, just letting a hot, bright assistant get more access than she should, not assisting a known spy in exchange for sex. This somehow hurt his redemption in my eyes.

And Kara’s resolution just didn’t work for me. Fine, she’s been an angel ever since she crossed into the maelstrom. That whole plot seems to provide so little now. She had physical form, her DNA could be tested, but “poof” she disappears when she feels her task is done.

And why all the fakeouts about sadness and death? Laura dies, as everybody expected for 3 years. Sam dies, to no real purpose. Boomer dies, because Athena is vindictive and forgets she has valuable intel. Starbuck doesn’t die, not really. Tory dies — who cares? And yes, Galactica dies, but because they drive her into the Sun.

The horrible, horrible science

Now some will say, all of this can be accepted because it’s the sudden will of God. That there would be humans, DNA compatible humans from another galaxy is so impossible it could only happen by divine intervention. Which I find highly unsatisfactory in a show of this type. Once you start solving your problems with sudden divine intervention, literally God in the Machine in this case, you make your story much less meaningful. Everything is as it is not because of the characters and their strengths and their story, but because God set it up.

God also had to do something rather un-godlike. If the colonials are the same species as our ancestors, then the diseases of Earth would have wiped out the colonials pretty quickly, and the diseases of the colonials would have done serious horror to the Africans too. The colonials came with dogs, cats and other animals, and God must have made them be exactly the same as the dogs and cats of Earth, who of course have been here for many millions of years. And their diseases too. God has to do a lot to make this story work. And God can indeed do anything. But I’ve already read that book, and didn’t much care for it.

Strangely, though it is 150,000 years ago, Adama plans to spread people all over the place. This actually makes little sense, and doesn’t match the pattern of human migration. Humans spread out from Africa in several waves, but only the last one (about 80,000 years ago) stuck. The expeditions Adama sent died off, leaving nothing. No faction decided to build cities or technology. In fact, all the people pretty quickly collapsed to primitive states, without technology and without writing, which didn’t come to us until quite recently.

It would have made more sense if they had timed this to the “Great leap forward” when human culture suddenly accelerated, which was 50,000 years ago. Once you accept God doing all this magic stuff to make this plot work, at least that could have had some consistency with history. But instead, the colonials quickly came to the life of our ancestors, nasty, brutish and short, with a lifespan of 30. No happy ending there.

New York

All of this plot could have been saved if in a final pan, they had come to a modern ruined artifact, changing the date — and of course removing that final scene of the Angels in New York. Of course a Statue of Liberty would have been very cute, but anything would have done.

Suddenly all of it can make sense. No need for god to be creating DNA miracles — of course they are the same species. They are just the remnants of humanity on a war-destroyed planet, reduced to primitive life. Perhaps even by choice, just like the colonials. Write that story and you could have told this very same episode without bogus science. You just could not have put the Angels in New York to make a few snide comments and melodramatic warnings about the dangers of robots.

Was that short scene worth it? Not at all. Because the truth is, a logically consistent, realistic ending would have done far more for the show’s message. Made it far more respected and remembered. By doing it well, the whole show’s overall message about the dangers of robotics would have been far stronger, far more lasting. It would have been saying, “We just told you a story of how misuse of AI did bring this world to ruin” rather than “This story of danger comes from a distant and fantastical past which makes no sense, and is not really our past.”

What a great waste. While I do crave more realism and less mumbo-jumbo, even those who don’t have that taste can realize that the fault here is not simply a lack of attention to science. It’s a lack of attention to meaning. What could have been one of the greatest SF shows of all time, with a lasting message, cuts off its own legs in the last 3 minutes for highly unimportant reasons. I suspect that for years to come, people will say BSG was “Great, except for the stupid ending.”

And if Starbuck was going to be an angel who can just vanish, could they not have let her have a scene in New York with Baltar and Six? Yes, the Ron Moore cameo was cute. The mitochondrial Eve story, which is where they got the 150,000 years from, is widely misunderstood. This woman is not “Eve” like in the Bible, she is just the most recent of a million common ancestors we all have. They mucked it up just for that?

Loose ends

  • Baltar’s women and their weapons
  • The reason for Starbuck’s long strange fate and journey, if she’s really a non-corporeal being of sorts.
  • Just who is this God and why does he work in these strange and mysterious ways? Why does he not like being called God by his minions? Who are they anyway, and where did they come from? Is this just some strange new theology thrown in at end without explanation, to roughly parallel our notions of angels?
  • Why did the 12 tribes take their flags from the sky of the 13th colony?
  • Why did D’Anna say “You were right” to Baltar?
  • What was the Ionian nebula about? Why the strange power shutdown? Why did Roslin faint? How were the Cylons waiting?
  • Who wrote All along the Watchtower? (Looks like it’s God.)

Broken promises

No time travel? That opera house scene was indeed a vision of the future, very concrete. It goes beyond simply being made to happen by the beings who planted it, or so it seems. Ditto some other prophecies like that of the First Hybrid.

The Truth of the Opera House

Posts on episode-day usually get quickly overtaken by the new episode, so I am holding off some general articles I have for post-show. But with 3 hours to go, I thought I would open up speculation on two topics I haven’t gotten a large read on. These are the Opera House and All along the Watchtower. I’ve read much speculation about both.

Update: Well, the real truth about the Opera House turned out to be quite disappointing. Just a background to use in a vision of an ordained event having nothing to do with Kobol or the Opera House. This was different from a flash-forward or foreshadowing, as it was an actual god-inspired-vision, but what did it mean? “In the future, the final 5 will be on a balcony and look down at Six and Baltar carrying Hera, after Roslin and Athena chased and lost her.” It was just an event, really, with very little meaning. What happened after (Cavil is on the bridge, and he grabs her and there is a peace deal) had meaning, but not the vision itself.

The ancient Kobol opera house, now in ruins, was never occupied by the Final Five, except perhaps on their brief stop at Kobol on their way to the colonies, well after it had been ruined. But it has been their home in visions. They appear on its stage on 5 of 6 drapes in the vision of their faces given to D’Anna. They appear on the balcony as five glowing figures — at least we’re pretty sure it’s them — in the vision shared by Roslin, Six, Athena, Hera and sometimes Baltar of Hera’s chase. Its stage was also the setting for the vision of Hera in her crib before she was born. Only Baltar, Six and Hera go through the doors at the end, into the light. The Five watch and Athena and Roslin can’t get there.

So what is “the truth” of this vision? Roslin we have all been confident does not make it to the promised land. Hera has visions of Six. Baltar’s head six insisted for the first season that Hera was the child of Baltar and Head Six, but real Caprica Six also experiences this vision. Helo’s out of the picture.

Now my prediction has been that we’ll see death for the Final Five, Roslin, Helo and Athena. And while Baltar would normally get a redemption-by-death, we keep getting prophecies of him being father to Hera, so his continued life, and Six’s make sense. Is this all that it shows?

And what does it mean that Head Six is the one who constantly declares that she is to be Hera’s mother, along with Baltar? Head Six is not Caprica Six. She just looks like her. Caprica Six may not even be aware that Head Six exists. In the vision on Kobol, it is Head Six and Baltar that are holding the newborn. But Caprica Six experiences the vision. Are the two characters more connected than I suspect?

The Opera House also ties into a few references we’ve seen to the stage as a metaphor for life. In a podcast commentary about a deleted scene, Moore talked about life on ancient Kobol in terms of the 4th wall. That the Gods observed the humans like players, and that by creating their own Cylon artificial life, the humans broke the 4th wall.

As for Watchtower, I’ve read many theories on the lyrics. A lot of them point to the fact that the song is often interpreted as being in reverse; that to understand its story you must read the stanzas in reverse order. It begins with the princes on the watchtower seeing the figures approaching, and ends with the Joker and Thief having their conversation. We’ve seen many interpretations for which characters might represent the Joker, the Thief or other figures. I must admit that none of these interpretations has shouted out to me as obviously right. A few are clever, but none have the big resonance of truth. While AATW is a favourite song of Moore’s, he didn’t write the story to match the song. At most he may have tweaked it so that it fits with the song. Or the lyrics may not have much close association at all.

AATW was a rather unusual song to use in a drama like this. The characters make many Earth culture references over the course of the show, quoting Shakespeare, using common Earth idioms, taking lines from Earth nursery rhymes etc. This is normal in any literature. The key is that for all of these other references, the author is either lost in time or dead. AATW is unusual in that it’s a famous song by a living author. In the podcast, Moore says that in this universe, Anders is the author of the song, but our string puller has taken it as his or her own, and used it to not just turn on the Final Five, but also injected it into Hera and Starbuck’s father. (Or rather, McCreary’s bass/sitar opening that he added to the song.)

There will be lots of analysis after the show ends this weekend, though after that I will be visiting Israel and not commenting so much. I expect to be right about a few things, wrong about a bunch more. My formerly most confident prediction (This is in the far future of real Earth) now has had to drop many levels of confidence, and few of the predictions are at a high confidence level. I will try to be honest and post a scorecard after the show is done.