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Endings Matter (Part 3 of 2)

April 14, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Earlier, in one of my previous posts (rants) about endings and why they sometimes fail and sometimes succeed, I deliberately avoided the Battlestar Galactica series finale, since that has been debated and dissected and analyzed all over the place.

But over at Tor.com right now, Robert Bland just posted a nice argument (rant) about the Battlestar finale. My thoughts on his thoughts follow below the cut.

I lost interest in Battlestar Galactica around the middle of season 3, not long after the colonists were rescued from New Caprica. From that point on, it felt like the show was vamping like crazy to fill out another season and a half. The pacing became painfully languid. The show committed -- on a regular basis -- the cardinal sin of television: it bored me. It made me yawn and look at my watch.

They really didn't have enough story to fill out 4 seasons. (Or, if they did, they sure didn't seem to put it up on screen.) Personally, and in view of where the story ended up, I think they would have been better off with 3 seasons. At most.

But anyway. I've long suspected that the pacing problems came about because the show started veering in directions that violated its own spirit. The premise of BSG necessitates a gritty, character-driven war story. Because, you know, the show is about soldiers and refugees running for their lives. Plus the fact that the show is named after what is basically a space-bourne aircraft carrier. A warship, in other words. Finding new and interesting directions to take that premise is good writing; forgetting what the story is about (and therefore, not incidentally, what the viewers care about) is not good writing.

Bland's essay at Tor.com articulates the point more specifically. He argues that the series fails in the final hour, and that the failure comes from trying to turn a character story into an idea story. I think he's on to something there. I don't agree that the failure happened in the finale; I would argue that the transition from character-driven to idea-driven story happened earlier, and that's when the show jumped the shark. For me, anyway. But I do think he's hit the nail on the head in terms of how the show violated its own premise and internal logic.

Either way, Richard Mueller really nailed it when he pointed out in the comments to this post that the BSG finale comes straight out of the Douglas Adams novel The Restaurant and the End of the Universe.

Comments

S.C. Butler April 17, 2009 at 12:21 pm
It also doesn't help when you don't have any fresh ideas for your idea story. And did they ever try to justify the anachronistic Bob Dylan music?
Bob Pogainis April 22, 2009 at 6:11 am
I don't know anything about BSG, but thank you for adding "jumped the shark" to my vocabulary (its actually got a decent wiki page). Now I'm going to try to use it in daily conversation (just like 'cantilevered', which you casually included in Wild Cards - Inside Straight). :-)
Melinda April 29, 2009 at 6:18 pm
Yeah, I wanted a war story to the end. I wanted the Galactica folks to battle the cylons to the bitter end, and win. I didn't want everybody sitting around a fire toasting marshmellows and singing kumbaya. The Cylons killed billions of people. I wanted to see the 50,000 humans take them down. I wanted England versus the Luftwaffa still standing at the end of the Battle of Britain. Instead I got "god fixed it."
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