Monday, April 09, 2007

Battlestar Galactica jumped the shark

Warning: Recent posts have been a bit too heavy so I've decided to turn fanboy mode on. Major spoilers ahead.

An odd title, if there ever was one, but if you follow TV nowadays, you know what I mean. "Jumping the shark" is another way of saying "the show, once great, now sucks." And yes, you heard me right, "Battlestar Galactica" just sucks right now.

The first season of BSG didn't quite grab me the way it did my other friends, but I got hooked somewhere in the second season. Then I started looking forward to every new episode as it came out. Like many, I was blown away by the second-season cliffhanger.

And now the third season has just come to a close, I should be all amped up. Instead, I'm just bored. And that leads me to ask: when did BSG become so sucky?

By all rights, the third season ender revelations OUGHT to be exciting: Starbuck dying; Starbuck coming back from the dead; gasp! Starbuck a cylon?! Earth, their destination, finally within reach! The Final Five cylons revealed...and two of them are Tigh and Tirol!

Ho-hum.

If you're a die-hard BSG fan, I'm sorry. It's just the way I feel. Just because BSG started out as a great series doesn't mean I have to continue liking it. In fact, the reason I stuck with it for so long was because it had a great start. I felt obligated, dammit!

Then, somewhere in between episodes 15 and 17, I realized that BSG had jumped the shark.

So when did this happen? Was it the "The Woman King" episode, which dealt with the racist doctor murdering patients? Was it "Dirty Hands" which dealt with labor disputes within the fleet? These were pretty weak episodes. They did little for character development, they didn't really move the story arc forward.

In a pinch, I would say that my troubles with BSG started with "A Measure of Salvation," when Helo actively sabotages the plan to eliminate the Cylons. Like, huh? Dude, it's the future of the human race that's at stake! Why are you balking?!

But the more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to say that the downward spiral began as far back as the "Occupation" arc. Oh, sure, Adama's daring rescue was so thrillingly kick-ass. But that was the high point, the exception in an otherwise dark and dismal story.

"Occupation" played out as an allegory of the present Iraqi situation. Suddenly our heroes were thrust into the roles of terrorists and suicide bombers. Shocking? Absolutely! And that was why it made for compelling viewing...at first.

Then, when the shock effect wore off, I realized that, well, I had been played. No one likes the feeling.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter where I stand on Iraq. The writers used their program as a vehicle for their political views. Fine, that's their prerogative. What matters is if they did it well. And in my opinion, they didn't.

At the end of the "Occupation" arc, we're essentially back to where we started: with the ragtag human fleet on the run from the Cylons. Oh, there were some small changes: the Pegasus disintegrated in a blaze of glory, Starbuck in shock, Tigh more ornery than ever, and kangaroo courts all around -- which is simply more fodder for liberal political theory. Did it move the story forward? Very little.

Just about the only interesting twist was the Cylons getting Baltar. That could have been done in any number of alternative ways. That at least led to the marginally promising "Eye of Jupiter" arc.

But even "Eye of Jupiter", which moved to the story forward, muddled things up again. We get caught up in Cylon theology, which is just about the most confusing incarnation of New Age mumbo jumbo in recent memory. So by the time we get to The Final Five, I'm already saying, "Big deal."

"They have a plan...." is BSG's ominous warning, referring to the Cylons. But just what IS the plan now? After three seasons, I still don't know and I'm even more confused. Do the Cylons even know what they're doing?

Really, the main driver in BSG's storyline is the Cylon plot. That's how we started the story. The plot should have been simple: annihilation of the human race. And in the face of overwhelming odds, the humans react desperately, always clinging to one more hope, whether through their prophecies or through military ingenuity.

It's when BSG follows this philosophy that it works; and when it deviates, it simply falls flat. And this third season, it really, really fell flat.

What a terrible waste!