1968: april 3
return of the quakes

battlestar galactica (spoiler-free)

The final season starts tomorrow. We're going to watch online via the Sci-Fi Channel website at 9:00 in the morning, since I'll be at the Bruce concert in Sacramento tomorrow night.

This will be brief (whenever I say that, I go on forever). One problem with writing about series television is that as the seasons progress, you run out of things to say, even if the series is just as good as ever. You see a movie, you write a few words, maybe think about it and write a few more words, and that's that. Today I watched Cronenberg's The Fly ... I could offer my take (bodies decompose, blah blah blah, what I like about the movie is the love story between Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis), but I wouldn't still feel the need to talk about it next month.

I've written several gazillion words about Battlestar Galactica on these pages, and had an essay on the show published in an anthology. What's left to say? I'm not going to convince anyone who isn't watching that they should begin now. I don't want to get specific about plot developments, because some readers are still getting through last season's episodes.

Still, I'll reiterate the main points, and then shut up until tomorrow at least. Battlestar Galactica is one of the most ambitious shows ever. Any of its major themes would be enough in itself to carry a series: politics, government and the military, identity, religion, love, the meaning of life. Yet, for the most part (I hesitate to say "always" with this show, which can be erratic), it is ambitious but not overblown. Its ambitions are understated, if that's possible, kinda like Edward James Olmos' acting. With a lot of actors, they don't do much and they don't over-emote, and eventually you realize there's no there there. Olmos underplays so severely, he could play a scene talking to a wall and you might not notice what had transpired, yet he exudes depth and intelligence. (It doesn't hurt that occasionally he is required to do more than underplay, and he does that expertly, as well.)

For me, this ambitious nature is exemplified by something I can't talk about, regarding the end of the previous season. I'm not talking about any big reveals, FWIW ... I'm talking about a minor contribution to the events, one which is so off-the-wall you just know Ron Moore was cackling to himself as he came up with the idea, knowing that lots of people would think he was crazy while others, like me, would watch, mouth wide open, with delight.

One last thing: I'm aware that many sci-fi fans think of the genre itself as containing the kinds of ambitions I talk about here. I've never been a Star Trek fan, for instance, but I get the feeling The Next Generation had special resonance for its fans. I can't speak to that, since I didn't watch the show. If nothing else, though, BSG demonstrates the ways television has gotten better the last couple of decades. Standalone episodes rarely occur ... the big picture which the show carries thematically is reflected in the way each episode is always a part of that big picture, whereas in earlier times, even series with a Big Picture schematic usually only drank from that well on occasion. (I didn't watch X Files, but people always talked about the difference between standard episodes and the episodes that carried the mythology. BSG mostly avoids the former in favor of the latter, and I think that makes for better television.)


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