Monday, 26 July 2010

Battlestar Galactitits

Thanks to Jamie, I had the opportunity to sit down and watch BSG: The Plan over the weekend. Spoilers below.




In brief: it is almost impossible to describe how wrong-headed the whole venture seems. Quite aside from it all feeling distinctly cheap - I'm willing to give plenty of credit for the designs of the Picon port and a new class of battlestar, but the CGI looks at least a generation behind that used by the series itself - it manages to do exactly the opposite of what it was intended to (and exactly what I was worried it would do) and actually do damage to the show it intends to be a coda for.

There is no clearer evidence of this than the fact that the scene from "Lay Down Your Burdens Pt. II" upon which this entire film is based, the conversation between the Colonials and the two Cavils in Galactica's brig, is re-edited to gloss over the fact that in the context of the show's final season and particularly The Plan itself said conversation makes no sense in the slightest. When the Cavil who accompanied Anders' resistance force on Caprica - who in truth is one of the best parts of the film - acknowledges to Adama and Roslin that occupying the colonies was a mistake, the Galactica based Cavil originally agrees. But now that we're told Galactica Cavil, who it's implied is the same One who talks to Ellen following her resurrection in the shows final episodes, is a frothing psychopath determined to destroy the fleet at all costs, that line has to go. This is the problem with the whole series in a nutshell, we're being asked to simultaneously remember scenes the writers can build on but forget the exact events that took place in them. It's certainly a problem in the context of The Plan. What good is presenting something as a companion piece to the first two seasons of the show if it requires you to rewrite those two seasons?

This strange paradox keeps springing up in smaller ways. We are reminded of the scene in the miniseries where Adama receives a note telling him "There are only twelve Cylon models", but we still don't get an explanation as to its intent or provenance. It's implied by the cut that Baltar is the writer (already the most logical candidate since he alone amongst humanity was aware of that particular fact), but we're still no closer to knowing whether that's the case, and why he (or whomever it was) chose to share the information. In other words, it recalls a mystery that's bugged people for years (and yes, I realise it isn't a major concern, but it's still a loose end) and doesn't deal with it in a remotely satisfactory way. The Plan reminds us that when Baltar is framed for murder in "Six Degrees of Separation" it was done so sloppily as to imply it was deliberate. The implication at the time (courtesy of Baltar's hypothesising and HeadSix's hints) is that the Cylons wanted to strengthen his position and ensure anyone who actually did know about his involvement in the holocaust would be dismissed as a Cylon agent. This time around, it's implied that the relevant Six did it because she has feelings for Baltar, despite there being no evidence that she'd ever even met him previous to arriving on Galactica's bridge armed with the tapes in question.

In fairness, whilst it's sloppily done in its particulars, Shelley Godfrey's tale does weave itself into the larger narrative that the Cylons were constantly undoing their own plans by falling into obsessive love with various humans. Perhaps that was the point; The Plan is not about what the plan really was, so much as how it began to unravel. When Galactica Cavil is raging at his brother inside the airlock, promising to box him over his human-tolerating heresy, there is no doubt that he's already lost. Caprica Cavil is the future.

If that's true, though, why call it The Plan? Why specifically reference the one thing the show promised for years and never followed through on, and then not follow through on it? Hell, the one part of the Cylon agenda we thought we knew about - their hideous "farming" of humans in an attempt to procreate in accordance with God's law - is now revealed to be simply a pet project of the scientific, clinical Fours. You actually come out of this feeling like you know less, and that's unforgivable considering the way the film was packaged. Actually, Razor suffered from a similar syndrome - a pointless retread of events we were already dimly aware of taking place off-camera - but at least that had a strong B-plot, and at least its failings weren't directly counter to its intent.

There are other small things to complain about: the Hybrid is even more annoying this time, her descriptions of the Twelve Colonies make them sound like they suffer from Lucas One World Climate Syndrome, Lucy Lawless is conspicuous in her absence (and again, this means rewriting what actually took place in the series), and the insistence that the Ones were the evil supervillains the whole time has rather reduced the Fives to bumbling henchmen, which is far inferior to the cold purveyors of quiet menace they were throughout the series (the line about burgandy jackets is a classic example of a RTD-style funny joke that also manages to undermine characterisation). There are also things to appreciate. Rick Worthy finally gets something to do as Four, which is nice to see. Even that, though, causes problems. Why did the Four on the fleet and the one on Caprica both choose the name "Simon"? Was it given to them by Ellen Tigh? And if so, why is Cavil prepared to use the name to refer to them? Again, I realise that this is a minor point, but it would really have been nice if the scriptwriters (and this applies to the series too) could have come up with a consistent method of naming the Cylons. The constant interchangeability of "One" and "Cavil" really got annoying after a while, and swapping around "Simon" and "Four", sometimes by the same character, is equally strange.

All told, it's really kind of a mess. Still, it's better than "Daybreak", so I guess there's something to be said for ending the story here. Just please, please, end it here.

Oh, and also, there's quite a lot of tits.


Jamie said...

I've just looked at Werthead's review of this from a while ago, by way of contrast, and I thought that you might like to know that the lady who played Simon's wife (Lymari Nadal) is actually Edward James Olmos' real-life spouse. Somewhat explains why she was cast, anyway...

SpaceSquid said...

I noticed that when looking at the Wikipedia article, actually. I'm still sticking with my original explanation: she's really hot and willing to take her clothes off.

Gooder said...

So it's as pointless as Razor then?

SpaceSquid said...

Actually I'd say one of the few things The Plan accomplishes is to make Razor seem much more interesting in comparison. At least that had original Cylons and a cool space battle. And I know you don't like Stephanie Jacobsen, but she's a damn sight better than Lymari Nadal.