20060309

Blogging Vacation

I'm sorry, I can't keep up with this. I'm going on a blogging vacation until my hunts for a new apartment and a new job are over. When everything is more settled, I aim to return. In the meantime, check out the blogs listed over there in the sidebar - they often say what I mean to say better than I can, anyway!

20060226

Battlestar Galactica: Downloaded

Gee, the fates don't seem to look kindly upon my TV-critic ambitions. Between work, life, and other must-do projects, I've barely had time to jot down my notes for this week. And no, the hours I spent trying to get out from behind a locked non-locking door this weekend did not help.

In any case, I realize, looking back at last week's post, that my thoughts about this show really do much better in bulleted form than essay form because, well, they tend to be all over the place rather than focused on a single point. So I'm sticking with bullets for now.

To begin with, the subplot

Well, not a subplot. A not-at-the-moment-related secondary plot. Is that better?
  • Okay, the baby is finally going to be born. Does that mean that we'll finally be free of that horrid animation? And ooh, is Sharon going to die giving birth?
  • I really, really, really don't buy the "it's dead, let's cremate it" ruse. This baby is an essentially unknown half-human, half-cylon life-form. It's got to be worth studying in order to learn more about the Cylons and what they're trying to accomplish. And if that weren't sufficient reason, don't you think they'd at least try to figure out how to produce more of that cure-for-cancer Cylon Baby Blood, or maybe try to determine why it works so well?
  • Besides, when has anyone been cremated on this show? I thought the military dead were ejected out the airlock. Why would you do anything else for a dead cylon baby?
  • I wonder whether the baby gets tallied on Roslyn's whiteboard. She seems very attached to it.
  • I thought for a while that they might give the baby to the Cylon reporter (DeBeers, was it?). Well, there's no telling that this new woman isn't a Cylon, but maybe they'll let the baby be safe for a while. After all, there's very little she can do for the time being except be bait for an overblown MacGuffin hunt or two. Maybe once she's old enough to walk and talk she'll be worth watching.
  • Sharon's anger/grief is absolutely understandable, but I'm surprised she escaped that doctor-strangling episode unscathed.
  • Ouch, that's cruel. Baltar is already grieving over the baby's death, and you pile guilt on top of that. Now perhaps that's some of his misplaced guilt for betraying the Colonies, but still, that's some pretty intense emotional turmoil, there. I was about to be surprised that he didn't crack, but then I realized that he already had, a long time ago.
  • Still, I know he's going to turn up next episode a composed as ever, and there won't be any repercussions.
  • Why has the political power struggle suddenly become covert rather than overt again? Just a little bit of an allusion to it would really really go a long way continuity-wise.

OK, on to our Cylon friends on Caprica.

  • Ooh, I like that the re-awakenings are so traumatic. The last thing that each of these Cylons remembers is a traumatic death. Excellent.
  • Oh, more of them have numbers, now? Sharon's an Eight?
  • I find it fascinating to me was that each Cylon doesn't necessarily identify more closely with cylons of his/her (well, her -- we didn't really see much of the male cylons) own model than with others. Yes, Six and Sharon are unique, apparently, but whasser-face doesn't seem to be particularly interested in hanging out with other whasser-faces.
  • On which note, since different Cylons of the same model can evidently have different personalities based on their experience, that promises less unity among the Cylons than we might have thought.
  • Hey, it was the toasters that originally rebelled against the colonies, 50 years ago, right? So unless there's some human who took their side, the toaster must have created the humanoids, right? I wonder whether there's any resentment about being evidently second-class citizens (yes, of course, it's related to CGI budget, but really, did you see any chrome in that cafe?)
  • On which note, yes, I find the cafe scene creepy. Straight-up classic sci-fi image: a cafe where everyone looks alike.
  • And why have the humanoids be reborn but not the toasters? WOuldn't it be useful for your infantry to learn from experience as much as your fighter planes? And if that's such a central part of their religious belief system, does that mean the religion postdates the toasters? And if so, where do the toasters fit into all this, anyway?
  • If a Cylon's memories can only be accessed after she dies and uploads, how'd they manage to get Galactica-Sharon's memories into Caprica-Sharon? Er, when they were in the opposite places, that is. Dagnabbit. OK, they're now Helo's Sharon and Tyrol's Sharon. Kapiche?
  • Six hallucinates Baltar the way Baltar hallucinates Six. Clever. Maybe too clever, but I like it. Angels and demons on one another's shoulders. I also love the irony of Blatar serving as anyone's conscience. And that they are both pulling one another away from their own factions and into the others. If there can be peace between the two groups (unlikely, I know, and definitely not happening before the nd of the show's run), these are the two who could pull it off -- which seems a bit strange.
  • So does Six really feign her fear, or is it real, caused by her experience of death amid broken glass?
  • This is the first blatant continuity error I've seen: Sharon says her mom gave her the elephants before she joined the fleet. But in the mini, Sharon told Boxey that her parents died when she was a child. She had no reason to lie to Boxey, so.... Yup, someone didn't do their homework. And yes, I'm sure there have been other continuity errors, but presumably rather more subtle ones.
  • Cold Storage. Death. So there are two ways for Cylons to die permanently -- one is to be somewhere where they can't uplaod. The other is cold storage. Somehow it seems like they're more afraid of cold storage than the other death. Is that because there's shame associated with it? I'm curious.
  • Is death, or even murder, a big deal in a society where death isn't permanent? Yes, there's the trauma of re-awakening after the death (and Sharon points out in Scar that it's traumatic), but it can't hold the same weight as when death is truly permanent, can it?
  • OK, killing someone who can report it is sort of a stupid thing to do, unless the murder part isn't what's going to get you in trouble. I do have to wonder whether there will be more trouble about Anders escaping, or about whasser-face's murder?
  • Will anyone actually listen to these two "heroes of the Cylons"? If they have 36 hours to spread their message across at least a whoel planet? Is there any chance that they will not be, um, cold-storaged when the truth comes out? Will they end up running off and joining the human resistance? Is that the main reason they were stuck in a collapsed basement with Anders?
  • OK, a building is blown up and collapses, and hundreds die and are crushed by concrete, but the guy who set up the bomb is protected from it by a car, despite being only 20 feet away? And emerges essentially unscathed?
  • Oh, how sweet, a power-of-love theme. Barf.
  • And the big unanswered question, ever-so-closely related to the really big unanswered question is: Why was it so important to the Cylons, in the first place, to either wipe the humans off the face of the universe or take the Colonies from them, or whatever the heck it is they wanted?
This week we got to look at what's really going on with the Cylons -- a bit of their internal politics, a bit of what they're doing with Caprica, a bit of how they see themselves.

I thought that this week's episode was pretty solid and very interesting. I was a bit disappointed that it didn't really follow through on any of the interesting threads introduced last week, but at least we had another forward-looking episode. Let's hope that this one gets some follow-through. Stop playing catch up. Stop rushing through the important parts because you just wasted three episodes on throwaways.

This show really needs some more thought put into the long-term story and character arcs, rather than hastily thrown-together plot points. The beginning and end of Season 1, plus the beginning of Season 2 were so promising in this respect that it's extremely disappointing to see everything falling apart because it's been so hastily thrown together. They seem to have so many ideas that they're excited about exploring, but why not slow down and explore each one in a bit more depth?

20060223

Battlestar Galactica: The Captain's Hand (for real this time)

I really did mean to get this done earlier. Cross my heart. I won't bore you with the details but, as you know, sometimes real life intervenes.

I had a list of almost 40 points I wanted to cover in this review (in contrast, I had 7 or 8 for Sacrifice). I don't think I have energy to cover them all in any sort of detail. But here are some things to think about:
  • I didn't see the previews, but the start-of-the-episode spoiler scenes didn't actually give anything away, for once. Is it too much to hope that they're learning? And I could swear that some of those "previously on BSG" moments hadn't aired at all until just now. It works.
  • Lee and Dee work a bit better together in this scene than in some of their previous ones, although I still don't really see a spark.
  • Whoa, were those ab muscles I see? And have they decided that their audience is more female than they originally believed? Season 1 was all half-naked women. I don't think we've had an episode in Season 2 where we haven't seen Lee without his shirt.
  • Gee, they managed to almost make us forget the Pegasus existed during the last 3 episodes. Was that really intentional?
  • The idea of nicknames for the ships is great, and is such a natural thing to do, even if the introduction of it right her eis a bit forced. People are always nicknaming things -- heck, isn't that part of what all those pilots' call signs are about? I wish they'd do more of that.
  • OK, that was a sudden promotion to Major. For what, getting shot not in the line of duty?
  • Yeah, Kara' still getting in trouble....
  • OK, the watch.... What's up with the watch? Is it supposed to symbolize something? Time running out for this guy? Does the watch hand have to do with the title? And who's the captain, anyway? The commander (ship's captain)? Kara (the only officer we currently know of with "captain" rank)?
  • Politics. What is it about threats to survival that makes "conservative" stances seem less radical? I find it very interesting that they're here presenting the sinister political players as associated with science and the less sinister ones as associated with religion.
  • I like that they put Laura Roslyn between a rock and a hard place. Frankly, it's a much more compelling story than threatening to kill her, partly because you don't immediately know which way she'll choose (we knew she wouldn't die: she's signed on for Season 3!) and partly because giving a character a tough choice is much more interesting than just threatening to kill them off.
  • Yes, it is indeed a Cylon trap. Big suprise there.
  • Oh, look, Gaeta does indeed still exist!
  • So.... is Starbuck upside down because they ran out of bluescreen budget and needed a shot of her that was disorienting enough that we wouldn't notice that it wasn't a real action shot?
  • This Commander is clearly a doer, not a leader (when Lee says at the end that he worked with machines, not people, he only gets the personality type half-right, even if he's 90% right about the implications for leadership), I completely recognize a certain technical "If you want it done right, do it yourself" type in him (because I'm that way too). He should never have been put in a leadership position. Not because he thought people should work like machines, but because he couldn't trust anyone to do things as well as he thought he could. In the end he dies nobly to save the ship, with a wrench in his hand, which seems fitting for the character type, even if we haven't known the character long enough to know if it's fitting for himi in particular (by the way, when will they ever learn to at least mention the existance of some of these one-episode characters an episode or two in advance?)
  • So.... there is really such a leadership vacuum and a lack of veterans that this guy is the most senior, most capable guy the Pegasus has left, and Lee is the next in line (even accepting that there are plenty of reasons to keep Tigh on the Galactica)? Enough of a vacuum that Lee's promoted straight past the Colonel rank (days after going from Captain to Major for no apparent reason other than a general lack of senior-ish officers on the Galactica) and made the commander of a ship despite the limit of his experience being leading a viper squadron and hanging out now and then in Galactica's CIC during strategy sessions?
  • Lee's had issues with taking on responsibility in the past, and he looked scared as hell in this ep taking on responsibility for the CIC. So, he's now going to do this day in and day out? And calmly enough that his crew will trust him?
  • On which note, Tigh expressed concern about the Pegasus having problems after losing two COs in quick succession. Is losing a third going to make things easier? And with the insular us-against-them attitude of the crew, how is Lee going to accomplish anything? Well, at least it's a setup for plenty of conflict.
  • By the way, does the Pegasus have an XO?
  • Puting Lee in charge of the Peg really puts the writers in a straightjacket with regard to both Lee and the ship. First off, if he's on the ship, the ship has to survive, unless he's leaving the show. A captain goes down with his ship, and I don't think this is a character who would save his own life by fleeing the ship when it's in trouble.
  • On the other hand, they could theoretically split the fleet and have the two battlestars run off in opposite directions. In fact... now that I think about it, that sounds like Kara's best chance to get back to Caprica. I'm not sure how I'd feel about another split-fleet story arc, but if they handle it well, it does open up options.
  • Lee and Kara have the best scenes. I don't know if it's the writing or the way the actors gel, or what, but their two one-on-one scenes here remind me of the second reunion in the miniseries and the "stims" scene in 33. When they put these characters together, there's always so much going on that's unsaid. The way he immediately regrets yelling at her about being shot, the way that his explanation later is an apology and her sarcastic response says "apology accepted", and in particular, the way a friendly insult is exaclty the right way to indicate that things are OK between them, because it's how they normall interact, and because it's his way of avoiding actually saying what he's feeling. And then the way they shake hands and then don't let go. This promotion looks like it's going to open up a gulf between them, even if they're not angry at each other for now. No, I don't want to see a romance between these two. I think their friendship is one of the most interesting relationships I've seen portrayed on TV.
  • Back to the politics. Roslyn makes a deal with the devil, partly based on the advice of her new all-politics-no-ethics advisor (who came out of nowhere. Who is she? Is she a Cylon? How long has she been with Roslyn, and does Roslyn trust her?) and partly on the advice of Admiral Adama (Nice foreshadowing shot of the white board, by the way). Sure, they need to repopulate the fleet, but is coercion and unwanted babies really the way to do it? Might as well also outlaw condoms while you're at it, or mandate artificial insemination (no, I'm not equating those with abortion, I'm just saying, if you're going to go in that direction because you need people to reproduce, why not go all the way?). Looks like women's rights are going to be a big issue when women are needed for breeding stock. Ugh. At the very least, I sure hope Roslyn's little blank mandate makes exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and endangering the life/health of the mother. Or does repopulation take precedence over that? Oh, and the fleet's limited resources are evidently no longer a concern. They must have found a solution to their severe food shortage, or we'd have heard of 90% of the population starving to death 4 months ago (well, I take that back. With this writing crew, you never know - we might not have heard. )
  • If Baltar were to win the election..... what do you think would happen?
So... what did I think of this episode? It was solid. Despite some flaws, it was better than most of the episodes we've seen so far this half-season. Why? Because it looked forward rather than backward. Because it asked a lot more questions than it answered. Because it stood on its own, but was not self-contained.

Although the writers have moved themselves into a corner in some respects (Lee in charge of the Pegasus limits a lot of things you can do with either the man or the ship), they've completely changed the dynamic of the show and the relative positions of some of the characters by doing this. And the political landscape is suddenly afire again, too, with Baltar coming out against Roslyn -- for perhaps much higher stakes than any of the mess on the military side.

Whereas the previous three episodes were essentially filler, this episode was like a transition into a new stage of growth for the show, and I hope tomorrow's episode shows some of the same strength and promise. I'm looking forward to the rest of this season with a bit more hope than I did after last week's ep.

20060218

BSG: The Captain's Hand (second impressions)

Having watched this a second (much more sober) time, I still think this is one of the better episodes we've seen from this show in its first two seasons. In short, it was seriously fracking good. And it's sufficiently complex that I'm very seriously considering purchasing this episode from iTunes so that I can have a reference available while I review it. At the very least, I'm going to put off the full review again, until I'm more rested, in order to do it justice and not forget two thirds of what I wanted to say.

And if you haven't seen the episode, watch it before you read my review.

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