Sunday, October 29, 2006

Battlestar Galactica: 'Collaborators' (3x05)

After last week's episode, I said:

"I feel like this episode marks the end of a fantastic run for the series, and, sadly, a return to the status quo. They seem to fluctuate between messing with the formula and returning to the basic everyone on the ship structure. Here we've got the ultimate return, and I'm just not sure that there's that many interesting stories to tell in that environment."

And while I'm not happy about, I was proven right, in an episode that's all about bringing people the show back to its early days, something that starts right from the opening credits, and continue through the "forget the past, let's get back to what we were doing" finale. That's not to say that there aren't lingering issues from the experience on New Caprica, but the bold new direction the series went in is pretty much gone and we're back to a generally underwhelming status quo.

I still think it was a massive mistake to spend so little time on New Caprica. Every one of those episodes was a masterpiece, one of the best things I've ever seen on TV, and a privelege to watch every week. The other era of the show that I felt that way about was the miniseries. After the miniseries, the show coasted on the concepts created there, eventually burning out in late season two. I assumed that the show's bold reinvention occurred because they'd recognized that doing a show about the goings on Galactica had run its course and there just weren't there stories left to tell. I thought that New Caprica was the new status quo, instead it's used as a stopover, to recharge the series and give it enough conflict to get going for a few more years.

Watching the New Caprica episodes brought back the feeling in the miniseries that this was a universe in total chaos, where everyone was expendable and people were forced to make awful choices. It was alive with chaos and slivers of humanity shining through the darkness. Because things were so bad, each small victory was a major emotional moment.

However, New Caprica never ended up going that far. We lost one semi-major character, Ellen, but most of the major changes introduced at the end of season two are already being revised, and I'm sure we'll soon have single, tough Kara in a rivalry with fit Lee for control of the vipers any episode now. Yes, Kara does have some underlying emotional damage, and her outburst to Gaeta was a great moment, but it was undermined by the fact that her cry for reckless vengeance ended up being what saved him. Jammer's death was a bit surprising, but I never really thought Gaeta was going to die, just because the show hasn't given evidence that it's willing to kill main characters. I can think of only two semi-regulars, Billy and Ellen, who died, and that drains the tension out of storylines. You have to believe that these characters are in real danger to make their world real.

There were some good episodes between the miniseries and New Caprica, but most of the time it wasn't about the gang on the ship, it was about the cylons, or the stuff on Caprica, and I think it's a mistake to return to this setting as a permanent status quo.

That said, I did really enjoy the Baltar stuff. I loved the weird design of the room he was in, though that centurion looked a bit artificial. In general, the effects suffered this week, I would assume because so much time was spent on last week's shots. The Baltar thread is what I'm most interested looking forward. However, I am curious to see how they establish the new direction of the fleet. Are the cylons still coming after them? Will they find Earth?

This episode was a necessity, to deal with the fallout of New Caprica, but it felt sort of perfunctory. I'm more curious to see what we get next week, when we'll presumably get a hint of the series' new focus.


crossoverman said...

I think you're judging the series too harshly too quickly. This episode was directly related to the bold new direction the show took. Just because we're no longer on New Caprica, doesn't mean we're back to the old status quo. There will be division in the fleet for a long time to come. Roslin's pardoning everyone at the end will no resolve all the problems, there will still be a divide between those who fought, those who collaborated... and even those who remained in the fleet and never lived on New Caprica.

I was a bit surprised New Caprica was done with so quickly, but apparently that was to do with budget restraints. TV looking that good comes with a giant price tag.

Not that BSG hasn't made missteps before - and I'm of the opinion that they haven't again since those terrible eps in late season two.

Also, just because a series doesn't kill off main characters regularly, shouldn't be a criticism of it. I feel that tension has been created without randomly killing off main characters. The only time I object is when they constantly put characters in jeopardy and there's never lasting effect.

Patrick said...

I'd agree with the idea that you don't need to kill people to make things feel tense. I think what you need is the sense that the stuff that happens has lingering consequences on the characters. Like in Buffy, very rarely did people die, but everything that happened stuck with the people. And I'm just worried that this episode was designed to give the characters 'closure' for the New Caprica business.

And part of the disappointment comes from the fact that I loved the New Caprica stuff so much, any change is going to be a bit of a letdown. Ultimately, it's the next couple of episodes that will determine where things go, to see if they slide back into the old patterns or continue to grow.

Sojourner said...

I wish they'd spent more time showing the colonization of New Caprica