"Battlestar Galactica" climbing stairway to heaven?



I stayed up past my bedtime last night getting caught up on “Battlestar Galactica” episodes on Hulu. “BSG” isn’t as easy to watch on-line as, say “Lost,” which has the full library of its episodes available on demand on the ABC website, with the new ones going up the day after broadcast. Hulu posts the new “BSGs” eight days after air date, and takes them down about three weeks later, so if you snooze, you lose.

“Battlestar Galactica” recently aired its “mid-season” finale for its fourth and final season. The terminology’s a little confusing, but what happened was, the show produced 10 fourth season episodes before the writer’s strike, and just finished broadcasting them. The remaining 10 episodes have apparently been filmed, but Sci Fi may not complete the show’s run until 2009.

The last episode ended with the kind of jaw-dropping, how-will-they-deal-with-THAT twist that’s the show’s speciality, but overall the fourth season has been a head-scratcher. The most critically respected of any space opera TV series, the reboot of the 1970s Star Wars knock-off won over skeptics with its fusion of sci-fi conventions (space ships, killer robots) and sociopolitical themes drawn right from the post-9/11 zeitgeist (abuse of authority, torture, terrorism, paranoia, etc.) A certain amount of spirituality also informed the show, driving the human characters’ quixotic search for the mythic planet “Earth." The fourth season's promotional cast photo, shown above, even riffs on "The Last Supper," and this year the mystical mumbo-jumbo has superceded the political allegories.

Some of the spiritual content perfectly fits the characters' development, like the way President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) has been wrestling with terminal cancer, or (less obviously) the way Lt. Kara Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) experiences inexplicable visions that point the way to Earth. In one of the weirdest, most contrived plot points, though, the conniving Gaius Baltar (James Callis) has become the devout leader of a cult-like religious sect populated almost entirely with comely women. In an intriguing wrinkle, Baltar prosthelytizes for the God of the monotheistic Cylons, who resembles the deity of the Christian faith. Still, we've bought Baltar as humanity’s traitor, a Quisling, puppet president and war criminal, but making him Jim Jones in space is like one twist too many.

The whole season has been marked by series regulars behaving either out of character or having their identities changed. The romance between Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) and Roslin has been one of the show's warmest touches, but the relationship chipped away at Adama's impeccable military professionalism in ways that are hard to accept. This season has been dealing with last year's big surprise that four regulars are in fact robotic Cylons, a detail unknown not only to themselves, but the other Cylons as well. The secret of the "Final Five" Cylons has fired lots of on-line speculation and fueled some juicy subplots (particularly the ones involving Michael Hogan's crusty Col. Tigh and Rekha Sharma as the show's latest femme fatale). But the revelations seem to have painted the show into a corner.

One can only hope that the endgame, no matter how far off it'll be, will provide satisfying answers. Fortunately, "BSG" creator Ron Moore and the rest of the show's brain trust generally seem more sure-footed at setting up and resolving long arcs than the creators of "Lost" have been. And "Battlestar Galactica" has been and will doubtlessly continue to be exciting and eminently watchable. It wouldn't keep me up nights if it wasn't.

(Image courtesy of Sci Fi/Universal)

Add a comment