Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The mutineers were right

Robert Farley lays out the pro-mutiny case for Battlestar Galactica. I will admit the mutiny episodes were better than most of post-New Caprica BSG, though that's not exactly a high standard. Ultimately, though, introducing this three episode arc right after the first episode back introduced so many revelations--the Cylons are ancient and predate what the humans built, for example--was pretty dumb: these new threads were basically shelved so that we could have some coup episodes that weren't ultimately important to the arc of the show. Narrative discipline used to be a strength of BSG, but for some time now it's been clear that the showrunners are making things up as they go, and their instincts in following the most interesting parts of their stories have long since been dulled.

What separates the (superior) first two seasons of BSG from the clunky latter two? Simple: danger. The first two seasons had it in spades: we had Galactica being chased by bloodthirsty, unreasoning robots with a smattering of human-looking models. Humans were nearly annhilated and could only manage to stay one step ahead of the Cylons. Since New Caprica that hasn't been true, and aside from a handful of S3 episodes the Galactica has not been in any danger at all. The show then played on largely uninteresting narrative threads (e.g. Who are the final cylons?) before wrapping them up in an unsatisfying way (i.e. it doesn't matter, as there is no difference between humans and cylons). Minus the danger, the show's momentum has been slack for some time. The fourth season has been a little better, but the show's obsession with making things "dark" and treating everything from cylon standoffs to quorum meetings with the same level of hyperactive, nervous energy is nothing short of tiring, and while the general level of quality has improved it is nowhere near the rapturous highs of early BSG. Add this to the show's perverse embrace of hopelessness (an early episode like "The Hand of God" which ended happily is inconceivable these days) and you have something that simply isn't all that much fun for anyone anymore, which is probably why the ratings have been going down since Season 3. At this point, BSG is still watchable but it has been some time since it's been "the best show on television". It's not even the best science fiction show anymore, as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has come a long way and is, so far as I can tell, the best written and best acted show on television, and one that actually has some new and interesting ideas to convey.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.