Wednesday, June 13, 2007

FBW's Battlestar Galactica Season 3 Roundup

Ok, now it’s just getting ridiculous. It’s been 2 ½ months since Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica wrapped up but we’ve been too wrapped up ourselves with travel and the day job and eating and sleeping and such to sit down at the keyboard and post our take on Galactica’s most recent season—until now.

As we’ve noted, seeing our old friend Jenn The Drama Goddess last month during our New York City business trip and finding out she’s a Galactica fan inspired us to get off the stick and commence with our BSG post-mortem.

Yes, given the events of the thermonuclear bombshells dropped at the end of Season 3, we needed some time to digest all of the implications of recently revealed Cylons in Galactica’s midst.

But as we digested, talk has already begun about the fourth and—now it’s official—the final season of Battlestar Galactica starting in January 2008. While the news was by no means unexpected, BSG producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick recently put out the word in a statement.

"This show was always meant to have a beginning, a middle, and, finally, an end. Over the course of the last year, the story and the characters have been moving strongly toward that end, and we've decided to listen to those internal voices and conclude the show on our own terms. And while we know our fans will be saddened to know the end is coming, they should brace themselves for a wild ride getting there: We're going out with a bang."

We will definitely be sad to see this show end, but we'll have twenty-two new episodes to watch before that time comes.

Upon reflection, it’s better do get it out now and remove the uncertainty over the show’s fate. We know that Season 4 is to be the final act and frankly it’s better to have four superior seasons than to keep going just for the sake of keeping it going.

Production on the final 22 hours of season 4 is currently underway, while an extended two-hour episode, "Razor," will premiere in November, setting the stage for the rest of the season to commence in 2008.

Meanwhile, as FanBoyWonder looks back on BSG Season 3, we can say without a doubt that this was where the series that was “re-imagined” from a 1970s Star Wars and Star Trek hybrid clone came into its own.

In a word, Season 3 was “dark”—like total eclipse dark. It started with (most of) the fleet under Cylon occupation on New Caprica with collaborators, suicide bombings, secret star chamber-like trials and summary executions and got decidedly darker from there.

All but forgotten now are the 10 “webisodes”—Battlestar Galactica: The Resistance—that “aired” over the Internet in 2-5 minute bites during the month of September in advance of the BSG season premiere in October.

Viewed as a whole, The Resistance featured two very ancillary characters—Duck (Christian Tessier) and Jammer (Dominic Zamprogna) as they followed very different but ultimately destructive paths.

Duck, grieving of the loss of his wife to Cylon occupiers, joins the resistance to eventually become a suicide bomber, while Jammer is in equal measure frightened, cajoled and persuaded into joining the New Caprica Police and thereby becoming a Cylon collaborator.

The Resistance was a nice preview for Galactica hungry fans between seasons but it was not vital viewing if you missed it. Yet the webisodes added so much context to scenes during Season 3—especially Jammer’s “trial” following the fleet’s Second Exodus from New Caprica and his execution (right out an airlock) in “Collaborators.”

During the last episode of Season 2, the BSG writers had jumped the series ahead in time by one year—a device that not only spared viewers watching the mundane tasks that would come with the fleet settling on New Caprica but the narrative fast forward forced the viewer to reorient to the new character dynamics as things occurred during the missing year.

Example: Starbuck (Katie Sackhoff) and Apollo (Jamie Bamber) were now both estranged from each other and also married to other people, while Starbuck and Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan), who once not-so-cordially detested each other, were now seen embracing like family.

Dramatically, Galactica was at its most powerful during the first half of Season 3 in dealing with the Cylon occupation of New Caprica, the Resistance, the escape and the aftermath—all of which consisted of the first quarter of the episodes this season.

With the destruction of the Battlestar Pegasus (taking three Cylon baseships with it) during Exodus Part 2, BSG had been returned to the show’s original status quo—a rag tag fugitive fleet and the last battlestar, Galactica looking for a mythical planet known as “Earth”—yet they were all so much worse for wear.

Kudos to BSG’s visual effects department for the kick arse battle scenes—Galactica jumping into the planet’s atmosphere to launch vipers was the coolest thing we’ve ever seen in sci-fi—as well as for the battle-damaged look of Galactica following so much cumulative pounding by Cylon weapons.

BSG developer and show runner Ron Moore had once blasted Star Trek Voyager as clearly unreal for being alone in their part of the universe and constantly under attack yet consistently portrayed clean, well-lit starship.

There is asking the viewers to suspend their disbelief and then there is phoning it in. Moore has learned the lessons of what NOT to do from his time on Star Trek and BSG has profited handsomely from his experience. But we digress.

As good as Season 3 was, BSG clearly strained in its effort to produce a 20 episode season—helped not at all by the Sci-Fi channel’s programming decisions to pit BSG directly against all of the Network shows, and then to move Galactica mid-season to the Sunday at 10 p.m. time slot.

On the other hand, if Mary McDonnell gets an Emmy Award nomination out of the deal for her always exceptional portrayal of President Laura Roslin, then it will have been worth FanBoyWonder losing his Sunday-evening beauty sleep.

Speaking of Emmy, Michael Hogan who plays Col. Tigh should is absolutely deserving of not just a nomination but the gold statute itself for his performance in Exodus Part 2.

In the episode, Tigh is forced to deal with the fact that his wife Ellen (Kate Vernon) betrayed the resistance to the Cylons—to save her husband she says but the fact is her action got people killed. Tigh had been the hard charger of the resistance, sending in suicide bombers and showing his enemy no quarter—and he couldn’t let this slide. So the Tighs’ most tender moment on screen became their last as Saul poisoned Ellen. As Tigh cried over his dead wife, it brought a tear to our eye as well.

One of clear stumbles in Season 3 was Hero which introduced Bulldog (Carl Lumbly) a pre-war Colonia pilot held prisoner all these years by the Cylons. His convenient existence and more convenient escape forced Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) to “realize” that it was HE who was responsible for provoking the Cylons into launching the genocidal thermonuclear sneak attack on the 12 colonies.

As an episode, Hero was a not ready for primetime and an idea that was too clever for its own good. The Eye of Jupiter two-part mid-season cliffhanger fizzled, as well. Another mistake was the soap opera love rectangle between Starbuck and Apollo and their hapless spouses Dualla (Kandyse McClure) and Samuel T. Anders (Michael Trucco).

The character of Starbuck suffered the most during all of Season 3. From her imprisonment and psychological torture on New Caprica and the aftermath following the Second Exodus, the Kara Thrace we all knew and loved was M.I.A. this season and replaced by a drunk, a malcontent, an adulterer and in the end, someone so toxic it was impossible to like or even feel sorry for her.

That is until the episode Maelstrom near the end of the season. This was the payoff where the viewer got to get into Kara Thrace’s head, watch why she is the way she is (it’s ALWAYS something to do with the mother), see her embrace her “special destiny” and her “death.”

That one episode and her appearance in the last 30 seconds of Crossroads Part 2 completely redeemed the abuse that Starbuck (and the audience) had endured by the writers.

Season 3 also allowed viewers to get up close and personal with the Cylons aboard one their baseships—from the point of view of former President Gaius Baltar (James Callis).

Watching Baltar being tortured by the Cylon D’Anna (Lucy Lawless) watching her fall for his “undying love” for her and the subsequent scene of Baltar, D’Anna and Caprica Six (Tricia Helfer) all sharing a bed together is—in a nutshell—what makes Gaius Baltar one of the best antagonist or anti-villain character EVER.

The second half of the season did suffer from the extended absence of the Cylon and their impending threat following the Eye of Jupiter but it was necessary as it helped re-establish the “phantom menace” mystery quality of the Cylon that only a long disappearance could achieve.

With no outside threat, the surviving members of the human race had time to turn on each other again. It was a mixed bag as Taking a Break From All Your Worries and The Woman King both fell flat while a Day in the Life and Dirty Hands clearly worked.

The latter two episodes both featured Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) and he’s a big reason why the episodes worked. In Dirty Hands especially, viewers got to see how the other half lives as workers toiled to refine fuel and an unofficial but very real caste system has developed within the fleet.

Tyrol’s rise to preeminence as a labor leader was welcome and it was great to see near the end of the episode Tyrol being placed on equal footing in a scene with Mary McDonnell’s President Roslin.

The Trial of Gaius Baltar was in interesting diversion but we’re glad that the writers treated it for the sideshow that it was. Nonetheless, Lee Adama’s impassioned monologue during Crossroads Part 2 perfectly summed up the entire series up to this point.

Baltar, Lee argues, is little different than everyone else who went along with the Cylons rather than face summary execution by their occupiers on New Caprica. Lee further notes that following the second exodus from New Caprica, President Roslin issued blanket amnesty/forgiveness to all suspected Cylon collaborators.

Furthermore, then Commander Adama had once initiated a military coup against President Roslin and he was “forgiven.” Chief Tyrol and Helo (Tahmoh Penikett) murdered an officer on the Battlestar Pegasus (who was attempting to rape Sharon/Athena)—forgiven. Col. Tigh expended dozens of lives using suicide bombers on against the Cylons on New Caprica—forgiven.

We’re not a civilization anymore, we’re a gang,” Lee says, as much to himself to the court. The 40-something thousand survivors of the human race are making up the rules as they go along all the while running for their lives everyday.

With a Not Guilty verdict, Baltar is a free but still despised man yet someone with a Christ-like religious following now. We look forward to seeing how this plays out next season.

Yet the money shot comes in two equally stunning reveals. First that Tigh, Tyrol Anders and President Roslin’s aide Tory Foster (Rekah Sharma) are four of the final five Cylon models.

After all this time, the switch goes off just like that,” notes Tyrol.

This is indeed a shocker and it raises more questions than answers. The irony of this scene is that at the end of Season 2, Tyrol nearly had a break down fearing that he might be a Cylon and not know it—he was counseled by Brother Cavil (Dean Stockwell) who turned out to be a Cylon.

So this foursome is part of the final five Cylons—which means there is still one more “skinjob” unaccounted for.

We love the delicious irony that Tigh—the most rabid of Cylon-haters—is now a self-hating Cylon. But we strenuously disagree with the writer’s choice of Tyrol as a Cylon.

As one of the “knuckle-draggers,” Tyrol represents the everyman of the fleet and having just seen his aforementioned rise as labor leader, we feel cheated by this. Say it ain’t so Ron Moore.

Yet it all comes together in the last 90 seconds as Starbuck appears in a Viper next to Apollo. Seemingly back from the dead [We FRAKING KNEW that she wasn’t really dead!!!!!] a more contented Starbuck tells Apollo that “It’s going to be Okay.” She’s been to Earth. She knows where it is and she will take the fleet there. Holy Frak!!

The episode ends with the view of God point of view that starts with the two vipers and pulls back beyond the fleet to a quick zoom across the universe to the planet Earth.

Ron Moore has all but just promised us that the Children of Kobol will find the lost colony of Earth by journey’s end—but when? Will it be present day Earth, or Earth of the distant past or Earth much like what Charlton Heston finds at the end of Planet of the Apes (i.e. a primitive wasteland with a half-buried Statue of Liberty)???

Our comparison of BSG and Planet of the Apes is not idle. Apes came out two years before FanBoyWonder’s arrival on this earth yet nearly 40 years later we still talk about it because it’s become an icon.

We dare say that BSG will has the potential not only to stand up years from now (unlike say the aforementioned Star Trek Voyager which is unwatchable now) but it currently stands at the threshold of lasting greatness.

So really, no pressure going into Season 4 fellas. “So say we all!”


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