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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

‘Battlestar Galactica’ kaput: Season 4 will be the last

You’ve probably already heard, but here is the bittersweet news: Battlestar Galactica will end after Season 4, which will air in early 2008.

I call it bittersweet not just cuz I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the show for a while (though it was back to love by the Season 3 finale a few months ago) but because as much I hate to see a show I enjoy end, this is the way to do it. BSG has not been cancelled by the Sci Fi Channel — the producers realized the show was approaching its final act and knew it was time to wrap things up. That is far, far preferrable to watching a beloved series wallow in years of decline long after everyone involved stopped caring, and long after the natural course of the story had reached an organic conclusion.
Lots of folks are upset, which is perfectly understandable. But for me, far worse than seeing a show end is seeing a show lose all the originality and cleverness that made it special in the first place. Now we know that that won’t happen with BSG… or at least we can be pretty sure of that.

On Friday, I participated in a hastily convened phone press conference with BSG producers Ron Moore and David Eick. (“Kristin” at E! Online says she’s offering you “the full exchange that just went down between reporters and” Moore and Eick, but she isn’t. There was lots more. But a lot of it had to do with icky, boring geopolitics and stuff. Ewww.) They didn’t have a lot to say that was terribly surprising, but here are some highlights:

• According to Ron Moore, before Season 4 starts we’ll be treated to two one-hour episodes not connected to the cliffhanger at end of Season 3. It will go back in time to Season 2 to tell a story revolving around the Battlestar Pegasus that will connect in some way to events that will transpire in Season 4. It will air in the autumn on Sci Fi, before the early-2008 debut of Season 4, and then appear almost immediately on DVD.

• The Sci Fi Channel has not settled on a definitive schedule yet for Season 4, so it remains unknown whether we’ll get 22 episodes in a row with no reruns, or whether there will be a break between blocks of episodes, or what. But, Moore insists, “Sci Fi has been good about not letting the show fall into the hiatus trap of losing viewers like Lost and Jericho.” (Eick, by the way, jokingly said, “We often refer to them as thieves,” they meaning the producers of ‘Lost’.)

• The producers were under pressure to “drag out” the show, because it’s so highly rated, but, said Moore, “the storyline is compelling us toward a conclusion,” and Sci Fi was “sensitive” to what they wanted to do with the show. Why the announcement about the series’ end now? “It was time to be definitive about” ending the show, said Moore.

• Is there any chance for more BSG beyond the end of Season 4? “The plan is to end the show, to bring us to a definitive conclusion,” according to Moore. But they’ll “never say never.” And what’s more, said Moore, “I don’t know if we’ll resolve every single thing about every single relationship. It would be tantalyzing to leaving some things open to the imagination.”

• Moore has known since the middle of Season 2 where he wanted the show to end; the “algae planet” episode of Season 3 “triggered the realization that we were starting to wrap things up.” Moore assures us that “we have enough time” to get to that finale and that “the endpoint of the series has not really changed all that much since I first started thinking about it.” Will we see the Earth of the BSG universe? “To end the series without getting to Earth — or someone at least saying ‘Earth’ — would be unsatisfying.” (Which sounds to me rather noncommittal, or that Moore might be setting up an ending we don’t see coming.) Will there be any flying motorcycles? “We’ve been doing a lot of R&D on that,” Moore joked. The overall intention for Season 4? “We’d like to bring the mythology all together and find out what it really means.”

• How is the cast reacting? Moore said: “There’s a sense of everyone sinking their teeth into it and making the most of it.” Eick likened the atmosphere on the set — Season 4 is now shooting in Vancouver — to “senior year,” with everyone realizing that this was the last time they’d all be together as a team.

• Eick deems his cast “the greatest collections of actors I’ve ever worked with.” Katie “Starbuck” Sakoff may appear in the new Bionic Woman series Eick created for NBC.

• What’s up with Caprica, the proposed spinoff series BSG fans have been buzzing about? “It’s a tremendously arresting idea,” said Eick, and they’re “looking for any opportunity to pursue it.”

• I asked about how contemporary global politics impacts the show, and whether Moore and Eick are ever frustrated by how fans interpret the show politically. Eick responded that “the politics of the world around us continue to inform the discussion in the writers’ room,” and that they’ve always taken “a certain satisifaction in how some viewers see a liberal bias, and some viewers see it as pro-military.” (I’m not sure that the two are mutually exclusive, but Eick’s point is taken.) They also like that often, as Eick said, “the audience is asking themselves if they’re rooting for the right side.” (One of the things I’ve appreciated the most about BSG is that it challenges us to look at our usually political biases as they are reflected through alien situations.)

• Any regrets about things they haven’t been able to do with the show? Eick joked, “We never got Starbuck and No. 6 together.” But more seriously, when it comes to gender issues, Eick revealed that the writers have been spectacularly unconcerned with conforming to gender stereotypes. He revealed that more than once, the writers have conceived a character as one gender but then changed that gender later without changing anything else. (I’m not at all surprised, but I am seriously delighted.) “You write a great character,” Eick said, “and let the best actor win the job” regardless of what kind of sexual organs he or she has between the legs.

• What’s up while we wait for 2008? Moore will try to do some podcasts this summer. “It’ll be a while before we’re back on the air, so it’d be nice to kinda fill that time.”

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  • Good stuff, MaryAnn.

    The #1 question on my mind is: When they reach Earth, will it be Earth of the past, in which case the ragtag fleet are our progenitors? Will it be Earth of the present, in which case there’s a contemporary civilization there, roughly comparable to the Twelve Colonies?

    Or (most intriguingly, in my opinion), will it be Earth of the future, in which case the Earth is either abandoned (the humans having long ago left Earth for the stars) or possessing a godlike advanced civilization that can just smack the Cylons around? It could even be possible that Earth is inhabited by advanced AI (a la the movie AI), more similar to Cylon than human, who tell the humans that their time has come and gone and that artificial life is the future. (A good parallel on this is the second Blade Runner novelization sequel, Replicant Night, where it’s shown that humans can’t survive well among the stars, but replicants can due to their artificiality.)

    I will be sad to see the series end, but I agree that it needs to come to a good end. We don’t need another repeat of The X-Files, where the show just went on and on and finally died a confusing, unsatisfying death.

  • MaryAnn

    That is the most intriguing question for me: *What* Earth will Starbuck, Apollo, et al arrive at? Perhaps it will be the Earth of 8,000 years ago, and they’ll bring religion and pyramids and stuff to the ancient Egyptians…

  • David C

    I think I actually would have been more upset to see an announcement like “There will be a Season Five, and as many more as Sci-Fi wants.”

    The events of Season Three’s finale I think pretty much mandate wrapping things up definitively, and sooner rather than later. You just can’t have a lot of meandering about aimlessly after that.

  • Katie

    Great wrap up and wonderful question. One of the many reasons I love BSG is because it makes me question and wonderful and forces me to actively think about what’s happening (should Apollo wear a shirt in that scene or not…just asking). I think the moment that struck me the most was the suicide bombing storyline on New Caprica this season. That was incredibly powerful and played on all the current political assumptions we have about people who are suicide bombers. Any show that can make you step back and say ‘wait a minute, am I really rooting for someone to go blow themselves up?’ is doing a great job.

    I’m also really relieved that the show is ending on it’s own terms. Too many shows have been dragged on and on and on just because it’s popular. The sad thing is these show always suffer because of that and it would be a shame to see such a great show like BSG wither and deteriorate and just become a bad show.

    Again, great wrap up MaryAnn. Thanks for it.

  • The major problem I have with the “Earth of the past” scenario is that it completely ignores the fact that we pretty much know that humans evolved here on Earth. One loophole that would allow it is if there was a progenitor race (Forerunners) who seeded planets across the galaxy with human life… but then why would the Twelve Colonies even know about Earth, and why would there be evidence to suggest a “13th tribe” went to Earth? (Not to mention, how would the Twelve Colonies know it was called Earth, unless someone from Earth came back and told them about it? Or did the 13th tribe name their new home before they even left their old home?) And let’s not forget that having it be “Earth of the past” makes Our Heroes into the Golgafrinchans of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe… strangers who just happen to land on a planet whose biosphere is totally compatible with them, down to the mitochondrial and DNA level.

    So, could it be “Earth of the present”? Possibly. Again, this would raise the question of “How did the Twelve Colonies come to be?” Even more interesting, though, is this scenario: The Galactica finds Earth and finds that there are about 6 billion humans living there, way more than ever lived in the Twelve Colonies… and then they realize that they’ve condemned the humans of Earth to destruction at the hands of the Cylons, but only if they lead the Cylons to Earth. At that point, they have to ask themselves: Should we lead the Cylons off into uncharted space, away from Earth, even though it will cost us all of our lives?

    The “Earth of the future” scenario makes the most sense to me, but I think it has the least difficult questions associated with it. If they go with this scenario, it would free them up to answer other questions, like what is the real importance of Hera (the human/Cylon hybrid) and how in the world did Starbuck survive, much less make it to Earth and back to the Fleet.

    In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out. BSG is definitely this decade’s equivalent of Babylon 5 (which had a great conclusion but ended badly because of how the networks jacked it around, causing JMS to have to “end” the story before he really wanted to).

  • MaryAnn

    completely ignores the fact that we pretty much know that humans evolved here on Earth.

    That’s my major problem with the whole show. But I’ve learned to suspend my disbelief. :->

  • Which, as we’ve already pointed out, is harder to do the more you know about how things really work.

    For those of you who don’t know, the original series was loosely based on the Mormon migration to Utah… Mormons consider themselves the “13th tribe”, and series creator Glen Larson is himself a Mormon. The Fleet = Mormons, the Cylons = evil Christian oppressors who drove them from the East through Nauvoo to Utah, Earth = Mormon paradise (aka Utah).

    The original story was conceived back in the 1970s, when people talked really seriously about Chariots of the Gods and the Nazca lines being runways for spaceships and the pyramids being built by extraterrestrials. Between that and the fanboyish nature of the show (“hard” science was never really the original show’s strong suit), it’s not too surprising that Larson and his cohorts would have ignored or simply been completely unaware of the fact that so much of what they were saying was at odds with reality. (Panspermia as a theory only really works if the extraterrestrial life arrived here on Earth a very, very long time ago. The idea that humans were deposited here more or less as we are now fails Occam’s Razor.)

    Nowadays our SF is more sophisticated, so hopefully Moore and Eick will come up with an explanation for Earth (and whether humanity is from there originally) that makes sense.

  • MaryAnn

    The original story was conceived back in the 1970s, when people talked really seriously about Chariots of the Gods and the Nazca lines being runways for spaceships and the pyramids being built by extraterrestrials.

    This is why I loved the original series: I was mad for Von Daniken and the like.

    Of course, I was 10 years old, and I credit all the paranormal crap I read as a kid, ironically, with helping me develop my skeptical eye. Yup, even as a 10-year-old, I was a skeptic.

  • Kathy A

    I’m another one who went through a Van Daniken phase in her pre-pubescence.

    Now, I’m so cynical about stuff like that that I even dislike the fact that History Channel insists on showing “biographies” of various Biblical figures using only the Bible and various biblical scholars as primary evidence for the facts that they’re portraying. Sorry, but historical evidence means you have to have more than one source that is iffy in its historical veracity–when it’s written several years after the fact by people who weren’t there, it’s not history.

  • Fuggle

    On the one hand … yes, it’s sad to see BSG go. On the other hand, at least it’ll get an actual end, with time to build to it and plot it, instead of being either rushed, or (worse) cut off. So we get closure.

    And while I’ll miss the show – it’s still good to see a show telling a story actually end when it should, instead of being dragged on, and on, and on far past when it shoulda been put out to pasture.

    Also, reading one of your links, I saw you dig the Dresden Files. Have you read the novels that it’s based on? (yeah, everyone says, about just about everything, “the books are better”, but really – they are).

  • MaryAnn

    I haven’t read the Dresden books, so I can’t comment on them. And I was getting real frustrated with the show after the first few episodes, too…

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