Blessed are the Geek

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If there was any doubt of my citizenship in the geek nation, I’m about to erase it. Yes, I am a dweller at the fringe, a fan of the science fiction. In my own defense though, I don’t care for Star Trek so much and I’ve never dressed up as Han Solo (not in public anyway). So why the admission, you ask? Because this past Friday night, my inner geek was in full bloom. The final season of Battlestar Galactica has arrived at last.

The show is a near total re-imagining of the original 80’s series in which the last remnants of the human race are on the run from the vastly superior Cylons. Their only hope of survival is escape to a mythical place called Earth, a planet that might not even exist. Amid a wasteland of horrific programming on the Sci-Fi Channel they have somehow managed to produce this one jewel. The cast is A-list, the characters are crisp, the look and feel of it is authentic and, all joking aside, there is no reason to apologize for watching a show this good.

Like all good science-fiction, its qualifier isn’t space ships, epic battles, or ray-guns (though all are present), it is the questions it asks. It establishes a compelling premise and uses it to explore all sorts of questions about politics, religion, good and evil, and the nature of man. It delights in following its suppositions to their logical conclusions and punctuating them with jaw-dropping space battles that should make George Lucas hang his head in shame. Where else can you see an intergalactic homage to the Exodus story in which “Moses” jumps a spaceship the size of a city out of lightspeed directly into a planet’s atmosphere where, caught in the gravity-well, it hurtles to the ground, guns blazing, only to jump out again at the last possible second as the human race is liberated from slavery. That episode might be one of the great moments of television history. I’ve got chill-bumps just thinking about it.

Yet, more than that, the creators have succeeded in creating an amazing ensemble of nuanced, broken, and painfully human characters (even the ones that aren’t human). Saul Tigh, the starship’s executive officer, and fighter pilot Kara Thrace are two of my favorite characters from any TV show. The magic of it is that most of the time I hate them; they are driven by such self-loathing and self-destructiveness that it’s nearly impossible to watch them fall apart without rooting for them and hoping that somehow they will find a way out of their wretched existences.

One of the reasons I generally dislike television is that most series are created to be perpetual, you know the main characters aren’t going to die, you know the primary conflicts will resolve in the last ten minutes, you know it’s just going to continue until it finally peters out and signs off with a whimper when the ratings hit the bottom. Not so with Galactica. Like Twin Peaks, Lost, and Babylon 5 the story is deliberately finite. There has been a resolution in place since the beginning and the writers have been writing their way toward it ever since. This makes for much better story-telling by far. Here people die, actions have real consequences, and the end is near.

If you haven’t been watching, I cannot stress enough how important it is that you avoid seeing anything from this season, or any other season, until you’ve started at the beginning. Trust me, there are things that you do not want to know until it’s time for you to know them.

Vis a vis some recent discussion here at the site, I feel like I should mention that the show is PG-13 for the usual reasons. The show is definitely not for the kids, nor is it for base entertainment–but if you are looking for something that will engage your ways of looking at things, I challenge you to embrace the geek within.

The days are numbered. The fate of the human race is written. Who is the final Cylon? I can’t wait until next Friday night.

Note: I’d love to discuss some plot points in the comments section if anyone is interested so I’ll put a SPOILER WARNING here. Read no further unless you want your experience ruined.

Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he's the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.


12 Comments

  1. Taran

    Pete,

    So glad to see this up in the rabbitroom. So are we supposed to root for the theists or the polytheists? Incarnation, determinisms v. free will and militarism are other strong themes in the series also.

    BSG is also highly consistent at making me uncomfortable with the ethical consequences of my views. So would I tell Helo and Sharon that their baby is dead, kick a Cylon out an airlock or engage in election skullduggery to prevent Baltar’s ascension to the presidency? In my darker moments, yeah, I’d probably do all of those things.

    (And although I don’t partake, I’m highly amused that the Doctor is a chain smoker)

  2. sevenmiles

    Pete

    Thanks for bringing up BSG in the Rabbit Room. I love this show more and more with each viewing. Last night’s ep (“Six of One”) was no exception (was Ron Moore was taking a subtle jab at Star Trek Voyager’s Seven of Nine?). They central idea is the one that blows me away every week: is simply surviving enough, or must they/we worthy of surviving?

    SPOILERS: I love the direction they’re going with Kara. Katee Sackhoff’s really getting to show her stuff. I think Kara’s going to end up being a clone – kind of like Ripley in the 4th Aliens movie. They took her ovary in back in season 2, so that’s where they got the material. The cylons also can “transmit” the entire makeup of a person (thoughts, memories, etc). Maybe they were able to “steal” Kara’s “soul” before she blew up and then place it in the cloned body. Just totally guessing here folks.

    As far as the final cylon goes, I don’t think it’ll be anyone from Galactica the ship. If it was, wouldn’t they have heard the Hendrix song and wandered on down to meet with the other four? Besides…Tigh, Rosalyn and Adama are too easy. I think it could be someone from the past (Billy?) or someone from another part of the fleet – how about Zarek? How cool would it be if Apollo from the original series was the final cylon.

    Hope we get to share more about this great series. I would know, but I’m tired and need to go bed.

    So say we all!

    Tim

    P.S. What’s your favorite episode so far? My vote: “33” (the first regular episode after the miniseries).

  3. Seth

    I agree Pete. BSG is simply one of the best television shows ever. As a Christian, I am both entertained and challenged by it. There are just so few shows this intelligent and three dimensional. I could go on. As far as favorite episode, not sure. I have to admit I really liked Razor. Going back and telling the story of the Pegasus humanized the characters and showed how easy it is to judge when we don’t know people’s stories.

  4. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    Wow, just watched this Friday’s episode. Love the freewill angle on the centurions and the scene between Rosalynn and Adama was fantastically written.

    I think it’s clear that the whole thing leads up to the colonization of ancient earth with the characters and philosophies of the two civilizations being the source of Greek myth, but I can’t wait to see how the writers play out the whole monotheism/polytheism stuff. There are just so many angles to look at this show from that I never get tired of it.

    Favorite episode? Man, I don’t know. I’ve really been shaken up by a few of them that centered around the Boomer/Sharon character. I love Exodus, of course, and also loved the Razor movie. I’d have a hard time nailing down one favorite.

  5. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    The mini-series is where you want to start. It’s not so much a miniseries as a TV pilot, two two-hour episodes, I think. And then season one begins.

    Let me know what you think.

  6. sevenmiles

    Do any of you struggle with the some of the racier scenes. Baltar has definitely been found in some…er…akward positions. I find myself apologizing about this to whom I recommend the show.

    I understand it’s a part of what the cylons struggle is all about, but they definitely push the envelope of what I’m comfortable watching. I’m fairly certain that “sex sells” is a at least a part of what they’re going for. Star Trek had miniskirts and skin-tight jumpsuits (for former borg hotties). I guess BSG deserve cylon models who are, in fact, models.

    All that said, I’m ready for tomorrows episode!

  7. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    Sevenmiles,

    I’m right there with you. I hesitated to post Pete’s recommendation because of that very thing, and was relieved that after the first season they toned most of that junk down. Let this be a warning to you if you’re thinking about watching the series. It has its share of uncomfortable moments, so watch it with a buddy (or wife) so you’ll remember to fast-forward certain Baltar scenes. Andrew Osenga, Ben Shive, and Andrew’s brother-in-law came over for the premiere the other night (which was the most geek fun I’ve had, well, since the Christmas tour, when Osenga and I made the rest of our bus watch the Battlestar Galactica movie Razor). I was glad that we were watching it together because we were able to laugh awkwardly and avert our eyes in unison: “Scene over? On with the geekiness.”

    AP

  8. sevenmiles

    Just watched tonight’s ep, “The Ties that Bind.”

    It may be one of the more disturbing hours of tv I’ve ever watched. From the story, to the editing (amazing flashbacks) to Callie’s horrible sadness, it just washes over you wave after wave. (Andrew, I did watch it with my wife. She fell asleep just like you’ve said Jamie tends to do). I just found myself stroking her hair hoping there would be some relief. There wasn’t, and now I need to do something to take my mind off of what I just saw so I can get to sleep (I hope writing this helps).

    I guess that’s just another bizarre reason why this show is so amazing.

    tim

  9. sevenmiles

    Cool link, Pete. Now, if SciFi would just post Ron Moore’s podcasts for the first three eps of season 4, we’d really be rocking.

  10. sevenmiles

    Okay BSG fans – any thoughts on the how season 4.5 has left off? Did you predict it? What do you think of the “love story”? Have you enjoyed the season? Does this need to be a new thread? Is this too many questions? Am I a cylon?

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