There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. – William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I Scene V
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. – Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of The Future
The best TV show I have ever seen is over. I am a little bummed, but a story is not a story until it ends, and on Friday Battlestar Galactica came to a grand ending. However, a quick search through my Facebook friends reveals that not everyone agrees with me. The word “cop-out” comes up a lot. There is this insistence that the writers chose to chalk up all of the unanswered questions to “God did it.” Accusations of lazy writing have been made. I would counter that with an accusation of lazy viewing.
The technical details of, say, Starbuck’s resurrection are not what the show is about. If made-up tech-speak floats your boat then go watch one of the shittier Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. On the flip side of that coin, I would argue that BSG made a specific effort to avoid any sort of definitive “God did it” answer to everything. The only thing the show would admit is that there is something going on that is beyond our current capabilities to comprehend. But BSG did not argue that we should stop learning, stop exploring, stop seeking the truth. Quite the contrary.
From the beginning, Battlestar Galactica has been populated by characters who held strict and unchanging views. Sometimes those views were religious. Sometimes it involved a faith in military discipline. Sometimes it involved assumptions about human nature. Much of the conflict in the show arose when one character would insist, perhaps even force, his views on others. But at the resolution of the series, the survivors had reached a place where they could accept the fact that they did not have all the answers. A pivotal moment in the final episode is a speech made by Gaius Baltar. I will admit that on the first viewing the speech rubbed me the wrong way, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that Baltar was not arguing for God. He was trying to get everyone to admit that their lives were influenced by forces at work in the universe that they do not yet understand. I will concede that it the dialogue is couched in some religious-sounding overtones, but the important part is that he is not arguing for, say, the Cylon God over the fleet’s pantheon deities. He is arguing against the idea that any of the characters have a claim to the One Right Answer.
Some might argue that the fleet’s decision to give up their ships and technology was an advocation of Luddism, but I think it was more an acknowledgment that what they had been doing wasn’t working, and it was time to try something else. The whole series wrapped around the line, “All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.” Our heroes won, in a way, because they managed to put off a repetition of the cycle for at least 150,000 years.
There were some things that I would have changed. The discovery that the Earth they’d found burnt to a crisp halfway through the final season was not in fact the real Earth was a bit of a fake-out, and there was probably a better way to do it. Whether it was planned in advance or not, it felt a little convenient. However, I loved the idea that the “Earth” they had searched for was not a real place but a Utopian ideal, and that the fleet would have to create it for themselves.
And the robot montage at the end was not great. I got the joke with the first glimpse of Asimo on the TV screen. I didn’t need to be beaten over the head with it.
All that aside, I was very satisfied with the resolutions of most of the characters’ stories. In particular, Baltar stating that he knew about farming was heartbreaking. And the end of Boomer’s story was certainly appropriate. And I particularly enjoyed the moment when Tyrol, linked to the rest of the Final Five, discovered what Tory did to Cally – and then all hell broke loose. It was almost a scene out of a Quentin Tarantino movie. Really, the whole first hour of the finale was non-stop action and nerd awesomeness. The second hour was more somber, but in a good way. It was like the Grey Havens at the end of Lord of the Rings. A lot of goodbyes to be said.
I’m gonna miss this show. I wonder if Caprica will even come close to the quality of writing, acting and technical achievement reached by Battlestar Galactica. They’ve set a very, very high bar.