Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Another Note On Galactica

(Beware of spoilers, bitches)

When I was fourteen, I hated my English teacher. Partially, I'm sure, this was just the hormones surging round my body, making me furious that anyone could expect me to read Far From The Madding Crowd (a book I will despise until my dying day) when there were women about (well, whining children who thought they were women, but then hindsight is 20/20). Mainly, though, it was the argument over whether or not "horrid" is a word. Mrs B was quite convinced I had made the word up, secure in the belief many teachers seem to cultivate that if they don't recognise something immediately, then it must have been invented wholesale (quite a statement concerning a language with over half a million words), and the fact that I was basing my certainty of the etymological legitimacy of the word entirely upon Threepio in Return of the Jedi in no way dampened my enthusiasm for its defence.

A lot of teachers hated me in school.

One thing Mrs B can be credited with, though, is teaching me the specifics of pace change. The language used to describe a man watching a sunset should not be the same as the language used to describe him run down by bandits. Every time I sit down to write what might loosely be described as an "action scene" (nine times out of ten it'll be a man fighting a giant sentient aquatic centipede from another planet, but that's not particularly relevant right now) I always remember her slapping me around (metaphorically) for not shifting gears enough.

I mention all this by way of explaining what my advice would be to Ronald D Moore right now, should I happen to bump into him: remember how to shift gears.

I've been thinking for a while that the reason why Season 4 of Galactica really isn't grabbing me is because nothing really seems to be happening. Sure, Baltar's religious conversion is interesting (though not nearly so interesting as the writers seem to think), and Cally's death (and the Chief's subsequent nice tall glass of crazy) was well-handled (Tory is so much more fun as a scheming Cylon mecha-bitch), but there was a distinct sense of just setting up the board for the second half of the season. This was a bad idea before the writers' strike, er, struck, but afterwards it seems totally ludicrous. All filler, no killer.

After watching The Hub last night, though, which seemed to deliver around half (give or take, and I can't be totally sure until I've seen next week's episode) of what had been set up; Baltar's confession, Laura's confession (and the best line Adama has had all season, although he's only been on-screen for about ten minutes in as many episodes; only Dee has been sidelined more disgracefully); the Hub exploding; and the return of the Threes (well, a Three), I'm no longer sure. I don't think the problem is that nothing is happening, it's that when something does happen, it doesn't actually particularly register. Jamie elsewhere described the space battle as all style, no substance, which I can sympathise with, but my own take on it is that it didn't feel like watching a battle, but rather watching a person's dream of a battle. This woozy, morose and, as Jamie says, stylised approach seems to permeate the season. The continued fascination for dreams and visions (which now apparently hit Roslyn every time a Basestar jumps, which may or may not make any sense later on) simply feeds into the fact that as the fleet gets closer and closer to its goal, it feels like its been drifting further and further away from us, from reality. Dream logic is everywhere. We can see a cat even though its already died. Caprica 6 is apparently pregnant with Saul's baby (after a vision in which he thought she was his dead wife, natch); even though we only saw them share a kiss, and even though Tigh at least knows that such a thing should technically be impossible (I say should, obviously the whole Cylon breeding issue is still very much a muddle), he accepts it without question. Characters we've known for years start to become distorted, not totally so, but step by step, they become harder to read. Even that trippy version of The Joker and the Thief adds to the sensation we're asleep with its twanging sitars. Gaeta spends an entire episode high and singing, for God's sake. The lines between reality and our dreams are being blurred, probably intentionally, and have been ever since the fleet entered the nebula, and Starbuck miraculously returned from the dead.

So that's my case. The first three seasons we watched what writers had committed to paper and had filmed. This year, it's impossible to escape the feeling that we're watching the original shifting patterns and sounds from within the writers' heads just being beamed straight through our TV screens.

Maybe the show will pull itself out of this (although I very much doubt it can), but if not, well, next week's trailer suggests that, at the very least, we'll shift from dream to nightmare, and those are always a lot of fun...


Jamie said...

I know exactly what you mean about pacing. The problem seems to me that they spent too many episodes on (admittedly interesting, well-written, and brilliantly acted) character development, and now when plot developments are coming thick and fast they don't register properly, as they haven't been dealt with in as much detail and cohesion as would be ideal.

Did I describe the battle as style but no substance? If so, that's not really my beef with it; there wasn't really much style to it, or substance, it seemed just flat, confusing, uninvolving, and nothing really stood out until the final explosion. I think that this was at least partially because there was so little screentime for the Viper pilots, whereas usually we have cockpit views (hee hee) and loads of radio chatter. I just didn't feel involved; and overall the battle just felt, well, perfunctory. It was something that had be carried out for the plot to move along, and to that end at least faintly ridiculous plot devices had to be put into play (Boomer and One waking the Three? Why?? Well, from a plot POV, so that Helo can find her a lot more easily on the Hub, but I see no compelling motivation otherwise).

I wouldn't say the battle was any more stylised than usual, but I agree, the show as a whole is becoming ever more so (although it's not exactly an aspect that has sudden materialised, dreams and visions have been present to a greater or lesser extent pretty much from day one). They may be pushing it a bit too hard.

The revelation regarding Caprica Six's impregnation was fine for me though; it had been established in a couple of episodes (apart from the one with their first kiss) that he had visited the cell numerous times, and was stopping any security recording from taking place when he did.

I do love The Joker and the Thief theme though (not Gambler [/pedantry]); in fact the score is rapidly becoming one of my favourite aspects of the show. Bear McCreary's blogs on the score for each episode are very interesting reading, and I really want to get my hands on the soundtracks at some point.

I try not to watch trailers of new episodes, but I do look forward to Revelations; just so long as it lives up to its title...

SpaceSquid said...

Oops! Joker, you're right. Where did I get Gambler from? I shall change it forthwith.

I'm really looking forward to Revelations, but then I was really looking forward to The Hub, and look what that got me.

jamie said...

I was actually really looking forward to Revelations more than The Hub (yeah, I look at episode titles and some non-spoiler info on the Battlestar wiki), as I suspected in advance some of the latter would go tits-up.