Walk with the Prophets, Ronald D. Moore

After investing almost 4 years of my life in Battlestar Galactica, I can’t help but have high expectations for the series finale. I can say without hesitation the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica has been one of the best written, acted and produced shows in the history of TV, let alone science fiction. However, given the last 5 episodes, I’m wondering if it’s all about to come crashing down.

In order to understand what I mean, we must look at another sci-fi show – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. DS9 lasted seven seasons and was often guided by the pen of writer, Ronald D. Moore. Today, we know him as the driving force behind BSG, but back in the late 90′s Ron was the lead writer in charge of Paramount’s dark sheep.

As a fan, I consider the final 2 seasons of Deep Space Nine to be near perfect in tone, drama, character development and ultimately, resolution. Like any series, there were occasionally weak episodes, but on a whole, the final two season of DS9 were simply wonderful. Heading into the final season, Ron Moore and company knew they had to pull out all of the stops to bring the varied plot threads of the Dominion War together in a satisfying way. The final half of season 7 is a non-stop roller coaster ride that stretches from the decadent “Changing Face of Evil” to the masterful conclusion of “What You Leave Behind“. One episode flowed seamlessly into the next until you arrived at the final 2 hour finale and wondered how it had all gone by so quickly.

Heading into the final half of season 4 of BSG, I had hoped Galactica would be like the end of Deep Space Nine. Each story building on the previous one, with heightened drama, increasing tension, and my fingernails worn down to nubs. But where DS9 gave us gradual and steady resolutions by delivering one clever, action packed episode after another, Galactica has turned into a depressing string of set-up stories that haven’t delivered emotionally or viscerally.

The last truly good episode of BSG this season was “The Oath” and to a lesser degree “Blood on the Scales”. These two episodes represent the best of Galactica. All pistons are firing – characters are motivated and in the thick of things, there is gritty action skillfully woven in between clever character development. After “The Oath” I was dying for the next episode.

What followed after “Blood” were 5 episodes of dialog heavy exposition that have left me, and others disappointed. Instead of building the action to a head, Moore has stalled it and attempted to save it (hopefully) for the final two hours. The problem is that no matter what happens in the last 90 minutes of BSG, it won’t make up for the previous 6 hours of wasted screen time. Deep Space Nine spent its final six hours in the trenches with the Klingons and Federation fighting for the very survival of the Alpha Quadrant. Battlestar Galactica has spent the last 5 episodes explaining the cylon origin story and keeping the bad guy as far away from the fleet as possible.

As we move into “Daybreak Part 2″ of Battlestar Galactica, we find Adama willing to risk his life, his ship and a sizable chunk of what’s left of humanity to save, not the fleet, but a little girl. This wouldn’t be so bad if we were emotionally invested in Hera, but we’re not. We only know her from passing shots as she plays in day care or running around the Great Opera House of Roslin’s visions. Why the final mission isn’t to rescue Kara or Laura is something I don’t understand.

My only hope is that in the series finale Moore returns to those themes and techniques that made Galactica great. The show has precisely 2 hours left to pull out all the stops and prove to us the last quarter of season 4 hasn’t been for nothing. I take solace in the thought that as with so many other television shows, it’s often not so much the destination, as it is the journey. I just wish Ron had remembered to take his trip with a bit of his former DS9 self instead of the plot-heavy, slow as molasses Moore of “No Exit” and “Daybreak Part 1″.

13 Responses to “Walk with the Prophets, Ronald D. Moore”

  1. Dan:

    I think you’re on the money here. The thing is, when you have a show like BSG where you have one all-encompassing story arc, you should expect it, like a good novel or a concerto, to move to a climax before winding down into a conclusion.

    In an ideal world, the crescendo should have began with “The Oath” and continued to build to this point, and we should see an obvious headlong crash toward a climax that should peak during “Daybreak, Part II” and wind down to a pleasant dénouement by the end of it.

    I think Moore, however, is more subtle than that. If the man can take us through the the entire mutiny in two episodes (two hours), I suspect he can wrap up the rest of the series in two hours. That’s not to say I think he’ll pull it off — I have my doubts, too. But I think that he’s set the stage for something that’s either going to be incredible enough to re-watch on a regular basis, or the biggest letdown in sci-fi history.

  2. [...] Galactica and are interested to know why I’m worried, then head on over to my post – “Walk with the Prophets, Ronald D. Moore” at The Sci-Fi Cast and check it [...]

  3. Dave:

    Nice post, Ged. You know that I’ve felt the last couple of episodes have been a bit slow, especially with the pending finale. It looks like the final movie will be an all-in battle, which I’m looking forward to.

    However, our opinions differ on Daybreak Pt. 1. Here was a heartfelt look at many of the characters we’ve grown to love (and despise).

    Roslin shares a tender moment with her sisters after a baby shower. There’s no CIC, no Colonial One, no slow death in the sick bay.

    She looks pretty, not terminally ill. She has friends and enjoys a plate of sushi in her beautiful home. She’s involved in politics, of course, but chooses to remain on the periphery. It was a fitting tribute to Laura.

    Likewise, we saw a young Bill Adama, forever the military man, arguing with his superior. Even then, his life was dedicated to service.

    The most touching part for me was the scenes between Kara and Zack. We hadn’t seen Zack since season one. After four years, it’s easy to forget about that relationship.

    Here’s a Kara that we haven’t seen. She’s preparing a small dinner party for her fiancee and soon-to-be brother-in-law. There’s flowers and music, and everyone is happy. Again, these characters are presented as real human beings with hearts, souls and, most importantly, real lives outside the Galactica. Lives that were interrupted by this horrible war.

    This is who these people really are. Laura isn’t the President of the Colonies, dying of cancer alone in space. She’s a minor politician who enjoys her family, good food, a bit of dating and a comfortable life.

    Kara isn’t an angel. She’s a young Viper pilot who’s found true love. She’s got her whole life ahead of her and is eager for it to start.

    Bill isn’t a broken drunk with nothing left to lose. He’s a proud man, dedicated to his principles with all he has. He’s honorable and strong.

    Also, Giaus isn’t a semi-divine prophet or would-be politician. He’s a womanizing sleezeball who cares for no one but himself. Speaking of Giaus, did you catch Six’s turn in this episode? At first, she was more than happy to hop on top of Giaus at a moment’s notice. Later, she was so appalled at the way he treated his father … could that have been the moment she decided, “Frak humankind.” Perhaps she were sent as a scout to infiltrate human society for a while. Unfortunately for us all, she ran into Giaus Baltar.

    It makes us sad and thoughtful to see the lives they should be leading. Finally, as a fan of foreshadowing, I believe we just received a listing of who’s going to die.

    There were also nice references to the rest of the series. There was an Eye of Jupiter painting hanging in Kara’s apartment. The same one in which Leoben held her prisoner.

    When Adama was packing his stuff, we saw the photo of himself standing with a young Lee and Zack; the same photo he was presented with by his crew just prior to the Galactica’s dedication as a museum.

    A fun tongue-in-cheek moment was Sam doing an interview from the rehabilitation hot tub, which was a cute parallel to the hybrid tank.

    As for Bill’s motivation, I’ve got that figured out. He’s not doing it for Hera, really. Nor is he doing it for Sharon. It’s displacement.

    You’ll remember he put his faith in her when her true identity was discovered. She was the 1st skin job to be revealed. Time and time again, she proved her worth. Remember when she nearly succumbed to radiation sickness? Just one of the sacrifices she made for Bill and the fleet at large. If there’s one thing Bill loves, it’s his “men.”

    Sharon has earned his respect, admiration and love. He can’t save the Galactica. He can’t save Laura. He can’t save the fleet. But dammit, he can save that child and hand her back to Sharon. And that’s exactly what he’s going to do.

  4. Ged:

    At the risk of ruining the discussion for episode 25, I’ll just say that I didn’t think Daybreak Pt 1 was a bad episode, it was just yet another setup for the final 2 hours. That’s all we’ve had for the last 4 weeks is setup for the finale so this last bit really had better be good.

    I’m just kinda upset that the last half of season 4 hasn’t been as memorable as much of the rest of the series. Unlike DS9 which got stronger and stronger as it went, it seems like BSG has been getting weaker overall. Finding Earth was a turning point that really took the steam out I think.

    I’ll save final judgements until after Daybreak Pt. 2, but I think Dan has it right in his comment here. We’ll see.

  5. Ged, I can’t tell you how hard I’ve looked for a review of this show that confirms my very thoughts. Bingo.

    Some of my friends are so invested in the show, it doesn’t matter how exposition-heavy or slow it is, they’re in complete denial. After all, we have invested years of our lives into these characters. We WANT it to be good. But, sometimes it’s just not as good as we want (or easily could be).

    “It’s setup, it’s setup, it’s setup.” Okay, for what? The finale? If a show slows to a crawl and bores me to death, I won’t even care about the finale, no matter how good it is. And let’s remember that some shows actually manage to keep us constantly invested all during the setup. Dexter comes to mind.

    At any rate, great post. Here’s hoping the finale doesn’t leave us disappointed. Though Ron Moore was quoted as saying: “Who gives a [expletive] about the plot? Let’s just talk about these characters.” Ouch.

  6. I know not everyone has said this, but if you’ve invested so much time into the show, and love the characters so much, how on Earth has any of this “bored you to death”?

    I have been a tremendous fan of this show since day one, and I am tuning in each week just as excited and bittersweet as the previous. Sure it isn’t guns blazing and non-stop action, but I care about the characters more than any of that, so I enjoy the exposition.

    I feel like these last episodes have been real character pieces that try and give the _minds_ of the characters closure, as opposed to the characters and story themselves.

    That’s not to say that I don’t want closure to the story, I certainly do. But I think it’ll all be answered. I personally don’t want it to be answered in two hours, I wish we’d get another season. But alas, the end is near.

    But, as they say, all of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again. :-)

  7. Ged:

    “That’s not to say that I don’t want closure to the story, I certainly do. But I think it’ll all be answered. I personally don’t want it to be answered in two hours, I wish we’d get another season. But alas, the end is near.”

    You just made my point for me Matthew. The story deserves more than 2 hours for closure. We’ve been getting character development for 4 years its time to serve the story instead.

  8. Rock:

    Hey Ged et al., I know I made a brief comment on Twitter, and really, it’s the summary of all I had in mind after reading the post. Repeated here for the uninitiated:

    “@gedeon Liked the post? Yes. Agreed with it? Not so much. ;-) I hope you don’t let your expectations get so high they can’t possibly be met.”

    This is why I like Twitter so much. Years ago, I might have sat down at the keyboard, and composed an equally long blog post picking apart bits line by line, but really, that’s the 140-character gist of it. I’m glad you liked DS9, but I think your perspective on that show is threatening to prevent any true enjoyment of THIS show’s run (or at least it’s ending) just because of this last part, and that’d be a shame, I think.

    Maybe I’ve become more realist the longer I catch good shows gone bad (Heroes), or bad shows turned good (Buffy and ST:TNG – I hated the first seasons of each), that not every show can get that formula right and stick with it throughout, and you just hope they get the chance to turn the lights off themselves rather than a studio exec forcing a run too long for anyone’s good. Maybe the arrival to Earth would have been the best ending, heart-wrenching cliffhanger and all, but that’s not how it turned out.

    Ron Moore is capable of DS9 and Battlestar, but he’s apparently equally capable of Bionic Woman. So I’l be happy with what we’ve gotten (as long as the whole thing doesn’t turn out to be a dream). ;-)

  9. I really agree with everyone’s opinions, honestly. I can never get enough of the characters, and I can never get enough of the story. At this point, I’ve been enjoying every episode regardless of its formula, so I have a feeling I won’t be let down.

    I completely understand how some people could want more out of what we’re getting, but I think that’s just our nature. People feel this way about everything. We compare everything we’re getting to everything we’ve already got, and it’ll continue to make impossible standards.

    But once again, I completely understand and agree with all the opinions being made. I personally feel I’ll enjoy it any way it ends, and hopefully everyone else can too.

  10. Rock:

    Okay, I’ll make one addendum to my wish list for the last two hours:

    Can we PLEASE have Apollo and Starbuck flying Vipers in a dogfight with Cylon Raiders? Pretty please…?

  11. Dave:

    Rock: HELL YES!

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  13. [...] my geeky heart for many reasons, some of which I’ve written about before both here and at the Sci-Fi Cast. Putting aside the top notch acting from Avery Brooks, Andrew Robinson, Nana Visitor, Rene [...]

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