The problems with Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica are the same problems the show has always had. The first being that the show seems unable to decide what it really is, on more levels than just those originally presented. Remake, sequel, past, present, future, allegory, science fiction hardliner, or "serious" drama attracting non-sci-fi fans... it either won't commit or wants to be all things to all viewers, even when those things contradict each other like a gay, pro-choice Republican who voted for Buchanan. The second major problem here is timing. In many an episode Battlestar Galactica seems well paced and interesting in its timing. However, in other episodes, the show seems slower than a glacier possessed by the stuttering voice of Mel Tillis on Downers! (Folks, you have to get up pretty early in the morning to pull off an obscure reference like that one!)
|J.C. Maçek III|
The World's Greatest Critic!
In short, it's an indecisive show whose conflicts are as easy to find as nudity on the internet, and whose pacing much less suggests a guarded hand, and much more a writing staff who hasn't decided where they're going with this story yet.
Luckily, the show's problems do not include acting. In a program that takes itself as seriously as Galactica obviously does, acting can make or break any episode. Luckily Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell are steadily being kept up with by a cast that seems to keep on improving and handling some clearly skull-scraping lines like "I fell in love with a machine. It's stupid, so just call me an idiot and let's be done with it!" without ever making one laugh out loud or wonder if they're actually hearing a line from the all-girl adult film series known as "Flying Solo"! Interestingly enough, along with actors who make even forced dialogue sound reasonable, writers who keep the mythology high, and forced dialogue low and directors who bring us surreal dream sequences that keep us guessing, this season has also been joined by a make-up department specializing in deep, red facial scarring. There are more scabs on the faces of the cast than on a team of ball players after a strike has been called.
Last season we ended with a cliffhanger leaving us in much more suspense than our disbelief has been in. The dogged search for Earth has met mechanical resistance at every turn, McDonnell's President Laura Roslin has gone from reluctant leader to aspiring prophet, as the mystical historical of Kobol has revealed itself to her. Recent convert (of sorts) Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) has taken off in her stolen Cylon fighter to retrieve the "Arrow of Apollo" (instead of just sampling it in her fantasies... huzzah!), only to find Helo (Tahmoh Penikett) alive and well with Boomer (Grace Park) carrying his baby. This is all in ass-pinching-spite of the fact that Boomer is a Cylon, who is alive and well on Galactica also... and foiling a raid on a Cylon Basestar that leads her to her true selves, and leads a landing party on Kobol itself to a crash landing with the annoying Gaius Baltar (James Callis), and his Cylonic visions. (Note: The survivors should really take at least partial blame for that one. I mean, would you get on a plane with a pilot named "Crashdown" at the wheel? I wouldn't!) That's all in the meanwhile of Roslin's failed coup of Galactica against Adama (Olmos) and Tigh (Michael Hogan), with the help of Adama's own son, Lee (Apollo) (Jamie Bamber). Failed or not, Adama still gets shot and critically wounded at the hands of... you guessed it... Boomer. No wonder there are so many copies of Boomer... she's a busy lady!
We're kept guessing... because it appears that the writers are still guessing too! Episode 201, the Second Season Premiere called "Scattered", shows us just where Moore and Co. have been going with this cliffhanger... into a galaxy of more questions. If you were holding your breath at the end of last season, exhale before you turn blue, because the answers aren't coming anytime soon. Starbuck is gaining ground with Helo, and losing ground with Boomer after turning yet another copy of Tricia Helfer's Number Six into number two. The crashed campaign on Kobol is dying one at a time (and really getting their budget's worth of facial scarring). Tigh is the pained new Commander of Galactica as the fleet is lost, and Adama is hanging on by a thread. To make matters worse, he's bum-rushed by memories of his and "Bill" Adama's history together (really the only time you see "the old man" awake). The uncertainty of where the government is going with the president in jail and the desperation of losing not only the home-planet, but also the fleet and the very Commander of the eponymous battleship is enough to keep Tigh going, and the audience tuning in next week. That's especially when a small victory against Cylon computer viruses and the vastness of space lead to yet another impossible scenario with the (medium-rare animated) Cylon Centurions finally breaching the Galactica, and the yummy, fleshy Cylons proving to be more treacherous and more fertile than we'd ever imagined. The acting makes this one work, as does the action, but one can't help wonder if the real reason this is interesting is that the audience is still being led along with the promise of a resolution to last season's denouement. It's more than worth watching, but there is less actual resolution in this episode than there are laughs. YYY1/2
Now, wait just a Centon! After the hurry-up-and-wait pregnant pause of "Scattered", Battlestar Galactica slowly moves on with Episode 202: "Valley of Darkness". The drama continues to be first-rate and the cast, more than up to the challenge, as Cylon Centurions (post-Jenny Craig) advance within the ship against an isolated cadre of barely-armed Colonials, led by Apollo and Roslin in their dry, space borne version of Die Hard. And while still basically devoid of humor, the always watchable Helo, now paired not with Boomer, but with Starbuck, is given some much needed character development. So is Starbuck... right before they both give us the biggest what-the-hell moment of the whole series (so far). They drive off into the Caprican Sunset... in... a... Hummer. An actual American Hum-Vee... a real, deal Holyfield High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle! And I'm pretty damned sure I saw a California license plate on the damned thing! That, coupled with the reference to the bullet that shot Adama as a Nine Millimeter, simultaneously reinforces every fan's claim of realism and makes the questioning mind say... what? So, not only do the Colonials use the Metric System (which didn't originate here until late 18th century France), but they also use the exact bullet designation we do here on old Terra Firma? Not only are their Guns the same, but their vehicles too? This raises all too many of the questions that shouldn't ever, really, be asked about a Science Fiction show that can't decide whether it's more Science or more Fiction. But, hell, they'll fit right in if they ever find Earth, I'll tell you that. Anyway, I digress like Dennis Miller in a political debate with Bill Maher. Though they've found the fleet, the presence of the Cylon battalion in the landing bay of Galactica, not to mention the computer virus that knocks out the lights, keeps the Doctor away from Adama for even longer (cliffhanger, stay hung), and the combination of dreamy sequences of Baltar and Six and the harsh "reality" of Starbuck, Caprica-Boomer and Helo suggest that there might just be at least two Cylon-Human hybrids floating around out there. And that's not even counting Karl Rove! YYY1/2
An Episode without Helo is a Wasted Episode! By now, you're used to waiting, no? I am, and I have to admit that while there is room for improvement here, I'm still enjoying the show. Even though Episode 203 ("Fragged") goes from compelling to questionable to ludicrous. The Cylons on Galactica have finally been beheaded in a series of fun explosions, and at long last the Edison Intergalactic hard-hat guys have the power back on! Therefore our chain-smoking Doctor Cottle (Donnelly Rhodes) is finally able to stabilize Adama (and flick ashes on him). That's the good news. The bad news is that Tigh is drinking like W.C. Fields on an ocean of Scotch, Vice President Gaius Baltar is crazier (and more annoying) than ever, and President Roslin is Detoxing from her Heart Medication and turning out to seem just as crazy (but far less annoying) than Dr. Baltar. To make matters worse, the Quorum of Twelve (including the biggest gamble I've seen work in this show... Richard Hatch) demand to see the lady, delusions and all. To recap, comatose Commander, drunk X-O, President pulling a Sybill, and Vice President losing his head on Kobol. At that point, true believers, the show gets as bad as its situations. The Kobol Cylon Centurions have built a nasty anti-aircraft weapon to wipe out Colonial rescuers, but the crash survivors make some of the stupidest and lest necessary decisions seen on T.V. since I Love Lucy went off the air. And the craziest ones aren't even made by Baltar, man! At times I wondered if Ron Moore had finally found the voice for humor in this show, but hell no. I'm just glad Tom Zarek wasn't in the crash, because I've had all I can take of Survivors named Richard Hatch. On the fifth hand Zarek has, at long last, morphed completely into another bland character on the show! Roslin's now-dosed mythological beliefs not only don't collapse the government as a whole, but actually win over the whole Quorum of Twelve as they collectively fall to their knees in a big, fat, "Hail Dorothy, the Wicked Witch is Dead!" Man, oh, man! It's true that the clash of these two Religions, that of Roslin's Lords of Kobol versus Six's "One True Cylon God", is going to make for some exciting television, so far it feels like a heap more of stalling. It's well done stalling. Well directed, well acted and semi-original stalling, but it's stalling nonetheless. All that and there isn't a single trace (or "Thrace") of Helo and Starbuck in this one. I'm wondering if they didn't buy the whole Hum-Vee angle either and took the week off in protest. YY1/2
Why nitpick this show? Can't it go at its own pace? Yep, and on most considerations, I'm happy that it is. Most shows waste potential by showing too much, too soon. Not this show. But it's the way the pacing doesn't add up to what it could and should that shows more flaws than Crashdown's post-crashdown face. Individually each episode feels like it's headed to a great whole... but watched three in a row, one gets the feeling that the bated breath is almost wasted breath as plots fizzle and waits feel like procrastination. When the series hits DVD (which won't be long) you'll see what I mean.
Why nitpick this show? Why can't they have Hummers and Millimeters? As the remake of a show that worked so hard on its own measurements and language, one must wonder what the Frack these dudes are thinkin'! On this very show they've made up their own words (like "frack"), and have worked so hard to be taken seriously even with a Religion for Robots and any number of other mythological medicines, such nods to same-ness glare out at the viewer like profanity in a third grade school play!
But before you pull a Billy Shatner and yell "It's just a T.V. Show", the answer is, Duh. Fairly, though, one can't look too closely at a quality show without seeing its flaws, and even with them the first three episodes earn a collective Three and one half stars out of Five (more like 3.1666666666666666666666666666667, making it about three and a quarter, if you want to nitpick measurements as I have). Sure, it can be stuffy and humorless, and while it still can't decide exactly what it is, and takes more time to decide than I do in the Cost Plus Imports beer aisle! It also can't be called "Campy", it can't be called "Cheesy", and it sure as hell isn't lacking in the acting category. I'll stay tuned to see where it's going... I just hope Moore and the Clan actually know where it's going. So, until the time that Edward James Olmos pops out of that coma and reveals that he actually is (and was all along) one of those Four-Eyed-Monsters from the old show, I'll see you in the next reel. Man, I'm burned out on that expression.