For those not ‘in the know’ that’s Battlestar Galactica, and it’s the 2004 reboot of the series, one of the few competitors of the Wire for best TV series of the last decade (and beyond). I’m being serious there. I do think BSG stands up to that kind of praise. It had some of the bravest, darkest and most challenging scenes I’ve ever seen televised.
But of course, most people don’t care, or think they shouldn’t, because it’s SciFi, and therefore unworthy of comment.
If that’s you. Fuck off and watch BSG. At least the miniseries, and preferably the first two seasons too. If you still think that Science fiction isn’t incredibly well placed to talk about the huge, unspeakable topics of the modern era, then you weren’t paying attention. Watch it again.
I think actually, SF’s reputation as something kitsch and trashy allows it to get away with things impossible for a more mainstream show. Once you add the distance of an alien civilisation and it’s humanoid robot creations fighting in spaceships you can start dealing with issues that would otherwise be too close to home.
Like Prisoners of War, and the dehumanisation and rape thereof. Like corrupt political systems, terrorist attacks, suicide bombers, racism and prejudice.
And the ways they all intersect.
More importantly than any single issue addressed (mostly war and politics and religion) is the way that both sides are presented. Grey areas and all. Both sides of the story. The humans swap places with the Cylons in a number of different ways throughout the series. You really get to empathise with both sides of each debate.
Perhaps the most brutal example of this is when the human ‘heroes’ become those oppressed by occupation, and become the terrorists. Proudly and ‘rightly’.
There is no simple morality in this series.
Which is incredible.
So, what was wrong with Season 4?
First off all, I think it was better than Season 3, which lost focus by dropping the ongoing plot in favour of self contained stories. This led to feeling more like your average SF show, which isn’t a compliment, even for a proponent of the genre like myself.
Season 4, however, bought God to the fore.
And, as a final season, it had to answer questions.
Endings are difficult in writing. You can no longer use suspense and mystery to keep people involved, you have to wrap things up.
I suspect, for me and the questioner, the problem comes from not believing in God (caveat emptor, sorta). SF has the ability to ‘make God real’. This was something I feared throughout the shows run. And towards the end, this became more and more the overwhelming theme of the show.
I suspect the trouble comes from the UK’s more secular outlook. The US has these things more firmly driven into the psyche. They accept things we don’t.
I thought the ending was brilliant. Something special. But it wasn’t the ‘answer’ I would’ve asked for.
Sometimes that’s the answer that gets you thinking.
Illustration by Erin (special guest).