Saturday, May 12, 2007

Why I Am Somewhat Disappointed With How BSG Is Turning Out

One of the things I really liked about BSG for the first season, and the second season, is that it was relatively straightforward for a contemporary serialized show...there were mysteries and recurring plot points, but they were pretty straight-up. For example, we new Boomer was a Cylon in season one, it was just a matter of time before that played itself out, creating anticipation and suspense. Anyway, there didn't seem to be a whole lot of trickery or slippery mysteries going on, a la Lost/Twin Peaks/X-Files/Carnivale etc. Questions, sure, but not a bunch of unexplained shit going on that seemed that it would receive a completely left-field answer two seasons later.

As of late, though, it seems that the show has abandoned any kind of forward movement or eventual suspense. Ironically, Lost--to which BSG has been often held up as a superior example in genre fiction--has actually seen much more forward movement and streamlining in its story lately. Meanwhile, BSG seems to have ramped up the tricky WTF mysteries in place of building a real sense of suspense.


Sinker said...

Here's the thing Janice and I were talking about on the ride up to Milwaukee today: BSG started losing momentum when the cylons basically disappeared post "new caprica" in season 3. Near the end of the season, what was constantly brought up? "It's been XX weeks since we last encountered a cylon." Well WTF kind of decision was that on the part of the writers? It created any number of problems:

1) You have to build tension somehow, so you've got to throw in things like the, holy shit, Starbuck/Apollo boxing episode or figure out the 65th way Apollo can screw his pops, or bring in a cockney lawyer to defend Baltar, etc... All that stuff was pretty forced in terms of storytelling.

2) It makes you forget that the cylons were a threat. In S1 and S2 there was ALWAYS the possibility that the cylons were going to show up and knock the fleet out of the sky. And that made for a constantly-tense show. But as the cylons started to disappear or, even worse, get caught up in fucking baby swaps and stuff, then they're no longer a threat so even the big reveal at the end of S3--holy shit, that's a lot of cylons after that jump--doesn't really feel all that scary anymore.

3) Holy gods who would have traded a couple ships full of cylons running rampant through Galactica for the NEVER ENDING Balthar trial??

Max said...

Narrative tension 101:
1) Hero discovers bomb with ticking clock.
2) Nothing can stop bomb, not even hero.
3) Run, hero, run.

Now let me totally geek out for a moment and do the dreaded Borg vs. Cylon debate.

Borg: uncompromising
Cylons: at first uncompromising, recently exceedingly malleable.
Borg: atheist nihilists
Cylons: theist zealots
Borg: homogenous and deadly in their anonymity
Cylons: 11 kinds of heterogenous and growing more so daily.
Borg: analogs to cold war Communism
Cylons: analogs to present day religious fundamentalists
Borg: anti-pursuasion, pro-assimilation
Cylons: originally anti-pursuation, pro-genocide, recently have become pro-pursuasion, anti-genocide.

Feel free to add more to this list, but it seems like the New Cylons have been gutted of their deadliness. The great power of the Borg is that they never changed - they were the enemy that could not be defeated, reasoned with, altered in their objective, or thwarted. And they were the only thing that scared the living shit out of their normally unshakable Captain. Compare that with Admiral Adama who has a soft spot for a cancer patient, hires and fires his son with the frequency of a third shift fast food restaurant manager, and an inability to chuck his enemies out the nearest airlock.

Dr. Anne Elizabeth Moore said...

hey, no shit people: whatever did happen to the old standby threat, "ready the airlock!"

Sinker said...

You know, I was SIX YEARS into my Battlestar commission before I actually learned that airlocks are totally useful for, like, coupling ships together and stuff. I always figured they built 'em to toss people out of.

Max said...

They're also incredibly handy submarine analogs. I think it was in season two they actually had Chief deliver the Requisite Subarmine Crisis, that is to say:

"Seal the area!"
"But sir, there's crew in that area!"
"If you don't seal that area, WE ALL DIE!"

And the popular:

"Section/area/region X is leaking. We need someone to go down there and shut off the valve/vent/gasket."
"Sir, it's too narrow. No one can fit down there."
"What about Rabbit/Lucky/Badger? He's small enough to fit through the pipes/spaces/cracks."
"Sir, Rabbit/Lucky/Badger will only have enough air to last as few minutes at best."
"I'll go."
"Thanks, Rabbit/Lucky/Badger. We're depending on you."
"I won't let you down, sir."

Of course, Rabbit/Lucky/Badger dies.

Max said...

News flash: Rabbit the Lucky Badger was found under my apartment building, having crawled under and died. It's a shame he didn't make it but the lingering smell is a lesson to reinforce the anti-pest grating in all of your residences.