Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"Daybreak, Part 1"

***1/2

Air date: 3/13/2009
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Michael Rymer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I know what you are. You're my daughter. Don't forget it."

— Adama to Kara

The byzantine complexity that is the mythos of Battlestar Galactica ultimately, in the first hour of the three-hour series finale, comes down to a grand gesture of spectacular simplicity. Adama draws a red line down the middle of the hangar deck and asks everyone to make a choice. If you choose yes, you stand on this side of the line. If you choose no, you stand on that side of the line. It could not be more simple. It also could not be more difficult.

To choose yes might very well mean to choose death. Battlestar Galactica — despite its complex mythos, its prophecy of a cyclical pattern of repetition, its characters who are pulled by the apparent hand of destiny, and the possibility of a Higher Power Orchestrating Everything — is nevertheless still a series about making choices. Everyone has to choose what they believe, and what they're willing to do in pursuit of that belief.

To review "Daybreak, Part 1" is to review the first act of a three-act play: A more inconclusive exercise may not be possible, especially when you consider that "Daybreak" was obviously designed from the outset to be viewed in a single sitting. Because it's three hours long, Sci Fi had little choice but to split it across two air dates. (And thank the Gods this series is ending before I have to start calling the network by its forthcoming moniker, "SyFy." Corporate idiots.) To rate it on the rating scale would be pointless. A reader suggested recently that I simply drop the star system. Not a bad idea, but rating scales exist for a simple reason: They're fun. I'm not going to give up the star system because, well, I don't want to.

I am, however, withholding a rating on "Daybreak" until its conclusion (*), because (1) it's my prerogative, and (2) what, honestly, is the point of rating one-third of a series finale? "Daybreak, Part 1" does not end on a question or cliffhanger; it merely stops at an act-out when time expires. The structure, which features numerous flashbacks with setup sans payoff, is in many cases inconclusive. Thus so will be this review. (Future Jammer speaking: If you're reading this review based on watching a DVD set where "Daybreak" is combined into the single finale it was intended to be, I apologize for the split review — but also pat myself on the back for being a prophet capable of predicting the future.)

"Daybreak" announces up front that This Is The End with arty opening shots of a galaxy, a planet, flowing water, a bird. The story opens on Caprica before the fall of civilization, and there are some beautiful CGI shots of Caprica City that go a long way toward selling the notion that this was a real city inhabited by millions of lives. (One also cannot escape the sense that these flashbacks also serve as an implied reminder that after BSG ends, the story's universe will be reborn here via the prequel spinoff Caprica.)

In some cases, the flashbacks inform the present characters. In others, they don't, because the full picture is not yet apparent. For example: Adama is in a meeting with a man who is trying to persuade him to do something Adama doesn't want to do. The man tells him: "It's one hour of your life. Look, sometimes there are things you just gotta do." And that's it. We don't know yet what this means. Ditto goes for flashbacks involving Kara meeting her boyfriend's brother for the first time, for dinner in Kara's apartment. Zak is the boyfriend, and Lee is the brother. Lee later ends up at home drunk, chasing a pigeon out of his house. What does it mean? Don't know.

Other flashbacks, however, are more immediately informative. Baltar has just recently started dating Caprica Six. Would-be sex in the back of a limo is interrupted when Baltar gets a phone call and must rush back to his father's house. Their relationship is ... strained. We see here that Baltar is an impossible man, but his father is even more impossible. Their histrionics here I felt were overplayed. Endless shouting works better in scenes where you know what the score is, which we don't here.

The interesting point is the way Caprica Six — who was apparently just a casual date before Baltar's battle with his dad — burrows her way into Baltar's life. He didn't necessarily care to have anything more to do with her, until she tells him that she found a solution to his father's living arrangements. It wasn't simply sex and ego-stroking that Six used to get into Baltar's world (he could find plenty of both from others); it was by solving a very specific problem in Baltar's life. Maybe if Baltar's father isn't such a pain in the ass on that particular night, Six has to find someone else to exploit in her role in the Cylon holocaust.

The most compelling, character-informing thread here is Roslin's. We see how happy she is with her two younger sisters after one's baby shower. It's a Laura we truly have not seen before. Later, there's a scene where the police inform her that her sisters and father have been killed by a drunk driver. Boom. Instantly, she's alone. Life is devastatingly changed forever. And we realize that, really, for Laura, the apocalypse happened on that day. Her life would reset a few months later (when asked to join Adar's presidential campaign), but as something else — not what she thinks of as her life, I suspect. The attack on the Colonies was a horrific day, but by then all of Laura's personal loss had already happened. Society simply caught up with her.

The effect of these flashbacks is to establish an oddly bittersweet tone as we enter the final story of the series. Sweet in the sense that lives are being lived in a world very much like ours, and that in this unique-for-BSG place (the fading past) society actually moves and breathes. Bitter in that, well, we know this is all about to come to a very abrupt end. Billions who are alive today will soon not be. Ignorance is bliss; these people have no clue what awaits them. And for that reason, no scene that takes place in the flashbacks can be seen as anything but a precursor to tragedy.

The flashbacks are intercut with the drama in the present, which involves the crew moving off the ship and stripping it for parts. There's a simple moment that made me realize the power of fiction (and the medium of serial television in particular) once we've let it seep into the routine of our lives. It's a scene where Adama is packing boxes in his quarters. For this entire series we've watched scenes in Adama's quarters, and now it has no furniture. Just stacks of boxes. We've all had that last look around an empty house or apartment or dorm room before moving out for good. For Galactica, this serves as that moment. I remember several years back when the last of my grandparents died. My family had to go through the house and clean out what was left for the estate sale. Someday, all that's going to be left of any of us is a bunch of crap in a house that needs to be sorted through and discarded, hopefully by our children. The people in the fleet who want Galactica's parts may seem like vultures, but what else is there to do? Galactica is dead, and it's the only member of an organ-donor program.

Life must go on. The baseship will protect the fleet, a search for a home will continue, and the emerging government will attempt to function. Baltar wants a seat at the table on behalf of his flock of constituents. Lee initially dismisses him out of hand, but Baltar makes an eloquent, even humble, appeal to Lee on behalf of looking to the future. Lee cuts to the heart of the matter, and it's damning in its irrefutability, even by Baltar himself: The man has never done anything truly selfless in his life, so why should anyone trust him of altruism now? (Meanwhile, Head Six is sure Baltar will be key in the near future: "Humanity's final chapter is about to be written, and you are its author.")

Tyrol is in the brig, predictably hard hit by Boomer's betrayal. He's ready to write off all the Sharons and Cylons as creatures of cruel deception, "because we made them that way." I found it especially interesting that Helo is the guy trying to reach out and provide Tyrol with some perspective. After all, it's largely Tyrol's fault that Hera was taken (and now sits in the middle of the Cylon colony, where Cavil is prepared to run invasive procedures on her). Yet Helo maintains a level of understanding toward Tyrol because they both loved a version of the same woman.

The story's turning point comes with the smallest of realizations, when Adama sees Hera's picture on the memorial wall. In that moment, he realizes that he can't let it go. He must act. Much like when he faced the grim odds for the rescue at New Caprica, he realizes he must make a moral rather than practical decision. So he goes with Kara to see Anders 2.0 to find out where Hera has been taken. How Anders knows this, I have no idea. The story does not begin to explain it. (Instead, we get a flashback to Anders on the Colonies, where we see a typical athlete's interview evolve into something more substantive — a meditation on experiencing "perfection.") But this scene isn't about "plot"; it's about the character moment when Adama tells a very lost and tormented Kara that he knows what she is: She's his daughter.

So now we're at the moment with the red line on the hangar deck. Adama asks for volunteers for a mission to rescue Hera from the Cylon colony. It may very well be a suicide mission. But it's a mission he will not be denied. Anyone who wants to go, including the mutineers or any civilian, can go. All they have to do is cross the red line. Baltar gets his opportunity to cross the line. He can prove to himself and everyone else that he can make a selfless act. But he can't bring himself to it. The truth is that he is a man who, above all else, wants to live. And I understand his choice, in all its selfishness. Altruism is a great quality. But are you willing to die to harbor it?

The unforgettable image I will take from this episode, above all others, is when Roslin crosses that line. Here is a woman so ill, so frail, that she can barely walk. She shakes with every step. But she is going. Roslin's determination and courage in this moment was so moving, so emotional — such a victorious scene of triumphant will — that I just lost it. This BSG viewer wept at the screen. As a single moment of poignancy, it equals anything I can remember on this series.

"Daybreak" is clearly not afraid of grand gestures. I eagerly await the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica. Just as much as I fear the fates that may await these characters.

* Note: In the interest of completeness, I assigned a somewhat arbitrary rating of 3.5 stars, which more or less applies to both pieces of "Daybreak," when I posted the review for part two.

Previous episode: Islanded in a Stream of Stars
Next episode: Daybreak, Part 2

Season Index

56 comments on this review

Brendan - Thu, Mar 19, 2009 - 10:08pm (USA Central)
Good idea, not rating it. This really is like act 1 of a big episode more than any part 1 of anything I've ever seen. To judge it on it's own would be unfair because it most definately leaves us wanting some kind of developments. I think I regret even watching it and should have waited till right before part 2 and seen it all at once.

I was so shocked to see the first 15 minutes of the show be entirely flashbacks to years before the miniseries. I'm glad they didn't put that in the promo because it was so surprising and novel that I found myself transfixed and soaking it all in. I thought for sure with only 3 episodes left, it would all be packed with plot, but you know what, I'll take this over plot any day.
Moocey - Thu, Mar 19, 2009 - 10:37pm (USA Central)
No star rating? Weak! ;}

And is the network really going to start spelling its name SyFy? You must be in on the joke.
Ryan - Thu, Mar 19, 2009 - 11:23pm (USA Central)
Plot twist with not rating! I'm surprised and annoyed, but also quite amused. Viva la series finale!
Jammer - Thu, Mar 19, 2009 - 11:30pm (USA Central)
No joke:

http://www.tvweek.com/news/2009/03/sci_fi_channel_aims_to_shed_ge.php
Ryan - Thu, Mar 19, 2009 - 11:38pm (USA Central)
An excuse to air more wrestling under the banner of not actually being "Sci Fi," but SY-FY: the edgy new media experience network where content is not determined by logic.
Alexey Bogatiryov - Thu, Mar 19, 2009 - 11:50pm (USA Central)
Respect your wish to rate it later Jammer but this episode is a clear 4 star in the making. It is simply too character focused and so beautifully done! Roslin's act of pure will was breathtaking indeed. I will miss BSG - Caprica won't be the same.
Occuprice - Thu, Mar 19, 2009 - 11:58pm (USA Central)
Not sure I can add anything to the discussion about the episode (review says everything I could possibly say), but there is something I'd like to say about the review:

"The most compelling, character-informing thread here is Roslin's. We see how happy she is with her two younger sisters after one's baby shower. It's a Laura we truly have not seen before. Later, there's a scene where the police inform her that her sisters and father have been killed by a drunk driver. Boom. Instantly, she's alone. Life is devastatingly changed forever. And we realize that, really, for Laura, the apocalypse happened on that day. Her life would reset a few months later (when asked to join Adar's presidential campaign), but as something else -- not what she thinks of as her life, I suspect. The attack on the Colonies was a horrific day, but by then all of Laura's personal loss had already happened. Society simply caught up with her."

Jammer, I have to say that out of all your reviews I've read (which is pretty much all but ENT), that, I think, is your best bit of insight and analysis. I really am going to miss these reviews if you take a hiatus after BSG or stop altogether.
Daniel Lebovic - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 12:01am (USA Central)
I had, from what you described, just about precisely the same response to Roslin's crossing the line as you did - and the scene was telegraphed well enough in advance. I'm going to miss this show.
Alexey Bogatiryov - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 12:15am (USA Central)
Just read the SyFy column. This is the worst idea in the history of television since the cancellation of TOS! No the new name is not catchy and trendy but retarted. How does one decipher it? And I thought that BSG would have helped them get their act together. I may not watch the channel at all and simply go 100% downloads in protest. For shame Sci-Fi, for shame...

Cataclysm - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 12:45am (USA Central)
Jammer, stop carrying Ron Moore's water. If you look around, such as the sci-fi BSG board, you'll find that fans have been very disapointed with the finale so far and 4.5 in general.

There are so many unanswered questions with so little time left, it is insulting to the audience to waste this time on flashbacks. No one cares that Roslin's relatives got killed by drunk drivers. No one cares what a drunk Lee Adama would do when attacked by a pigeon. And the arch-villian of the show, the cylons who caused the holocaust, instead of being evil robots are shown getting assisted living for Baltar's elderly father. So far, this finale is making the hated finale of 'Enterprise' look good. Voyager's maligned finale is looking like genius compared to this.

People want to know about Daniel, about Starbuck's reincarnation, about the Head People, and of course the other mysteries this show has dropped (such as Earth cylons putting out devices that cause disease among the newer cylons). Maybe the next two hours answers these questions, but there will be tons of mysteries hanging because of sloppy writing.

It is clear the finale is going to attempt to tie in to the new show of Caprica. People do not watch BSG for soap opera, they do so for military battles hence the entire premise of an aircraft carrier in space.

Ron Moore's wife has revealed that Moore has been depressed over how the fans have been disapointed. I come here and you give almost every episode of 4.5 a 'four star' rating.

I cannot consider you an honest reviewer since you have become such an outlier. Either your views are so out of sync with the viewers or you are deliberately carrying Ron Moore's water.

My questions are "Which is it?" and "Why?"
Occuprice - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 12:59am (USA Central)
Cataclysm, shut the fuck up.

If you take a look at all the other critical reviews of BSG out there, you'll see they're all positive. Jammer may be a little more enthusiastic, but as far as critics go, he's got a normal view of the show's quality. And you know what? People can have different views of the show's quality. Different fans like different types of stories being told. At this point it really is whether you like the story being told, not whether the story being told is good.

You need to realize that people CAN have different opinions, and, given how well Jammer defends his opinions in these lengthy reviews, his opinions hold water.
Ian Whitcombe - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 1:08am (USA Central)
Honestly, I don't even think Cataclysm even means what he's saying, it's just flamebait to pick a fight. He doesn't seem to be a regular viewer of the series either based on his comments about the Cylons being "evil robots", that people watch the show for "military battles", and that "no one cares" about Laura's backstory. Please.
Jammer - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 1:24am (USA Central)
@ Cataclysm:

First of all, I don't read the Sci Fi forums, so I have no idea what's been said in there, or the general reaction by the fans in that forum. And frankly I don't care. They aren't writing these reviews; I am. They can write what they want in their forum; I will do the same in mine. You are free to agree, disagree, or punch your computer screen. (I've missed saying that.) Besides, I'm a fan too. Just because I like season 4.5 and some supposed "consensus" doesn't, that means I'm carrying Ron Moore's water? Screw that.

The last 2/3 of the finale hasn't even aired yet, for chrissakes.

Regardless, I generally prefer to review what's on the screen, not what isn't on the screen. Sure, while a certain amount of the show can be judged based on what has been omitted, I think there's a tendency with many fans of mythology-based series to focus too heavily on the details of the mysteries and puzzles and how they personally feel such mysteries should've been solved. Monday morning quarterbacking, really.

I think BSG is a terrific work of fiction. Season 4.5 disappointing? Not at all. The only problem I've had with 4.5 is the slight glossing over of the aftereffects of the mutiny, and most of "Deadlock."

If not every question ever raised in the 70-some episodes of the series gets answered before the season ends, well, so what? Personally, I watch this series for the characters. Space battles and complicated plots and mythology are great, but I see them as a means to an end. I think most of the major questions of this series were wrapped up in "No Exit," and many of the rest I suspect will be in "Daybreak, Part 2."

But it's still FAR to early to be judging this finale. There are still TWO HOURS left. That's a lot of time, and I for one am interested in seeing how it gets used before I render a verdict.
Jammer - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 1:31am (USA Central)
Occuprice, no need to flame the guy. As you yourself say, we're all entitled to our opinions, even if those like Cataclysm's are wrong. :)

He's expressing an opinion, and he's allowed to do so without being cussed at. Civil tone, please.
Ryan - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 2:12am (USA Central)
By the way, Jammer, I found the scenes with Baltar's father highly revealing of Baltar; they generated some sympathy for him, even. Here's a man whose path is so dissonant with everything his father's was that he never had a home, he never had a world; he only had himself.

This not only draws a sharp contrast between Baltar and Laura (whose world is destroyed in the very next flashback scene when she learns about her family's death), but explains a lot about Baltar. He may have ended up a bastard in many respects, but I have to feel some sympathy for a person who had to live with such enmity and dissonance at home. Your home is a sanctuary and a refuge. For your co-habitants to be your enemies and your tormentors is a terrible and psychologically destructive thing. This scene clearly paints a picture of the toll it took on the formation of an adult Gaius Baltar.

@Cataclysm: the Sy-Fy forum is a wretched hive of scum and villainy filled to the brim with people watching this show for the shallowest, most "plot" reasons. That's fine. These people also enjoy CSI. That is also fine.

The people on this board tend to watch TV for other things; the more important things that good storytelling accomplishes. While Moore certainly has a lot to answer, the fact that he hasn't yet is no reason to discount good storytelling about sympathetic characters whose lives give us valuable insight into the real world. Let the Sy Fy fans bitch about Daniel, Hera, Starbuck, Head-Six and the rest. I'll be happy with my pretty, witty stories.
Josh - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 4:09am (USA Central)
The Cylon disease wasn't just dropped. It was accepted to be a mutated bug from the exodus of the thirteenth tribe, a rather smart foreshadowing of the true nature of said tribe. There was no hint that it had something do with something greater. Sure some fans maybe expected it, but that doesn't reflect badly on the series that their supposition was wrong. I expect Philip Bauer to return in 24 day 7, but I won't mark down the series if he doesn't.

All we know about Daniel is that he was boxed and destroyed. Only supposition from fans insists there must be more. Maybe there isn't.

The Starbuck issue does need some answering though. As to the angels, well I'm not sure they can be answered.
UKbsgFan - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 6:51am (USA Central)
Jammer, I've been reading your reviews for a long time and I've never responded. I do so today only because this 1st act brought up so many emotions that, like you've mentioned, come from the depth these characters have been given over the past 6 years.

There were two in particular that you didnt mention in your review (because there was no real reason truthfully) but stood out powerfully to me.

The first was Doc Cottle's move to cross the line. Clearly, Roslin's moment was the core of the scene, but Cottle has been in many ways the heart of the Galactica (or one of them). A bit old, a bit used up, and a bit crusty but still dependable, honorable, and moral. Its small moments like those that will make me miss this program.

Second was Athena's response to the planned mission. She will likely come around tonight and play a key role but in some ways I hope she doesnt. Not because I dont like her, I do very much, but because her reaction to losing her daughter to the very real prospect of a madman who intends to dissect her may well be the most honest and accurate response of anyone in the episode. Helo showed us both his humanity (in reaching out to Tyrol) and his unending optimism (in his bittersweet excitment at the chance to rescue Hera). But Athena's insight that her daughter is likely chopped up, or soon to be chopped up might actually be the most logical despite the pain, horror, outrage, and cynicism brought on by Hera's loss.

BSG once again proves it has an understanding of humanity, its motives, and its responses that cuts deep to the core of who we are.

@Ryan - well done mate, it hadnt even occurred to me that Baltar's narcissism could be brought on by his more or less "isolation" from his world. It was not initially how I read that scence but your comment was truly thought provoking.
Matthew - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 7:07am (USA Central)
Internet people are insane. You know, one of my other favourite shows is The Simpsons, and there are actually people who will go on the internet to point LOGICAL flaws in that show. It seems some people will do anything for an argument.

Anyway, I believe it was me suggested dropping the star ratings system, and I fully understand why people want and like them, hell I consult them myself a lot of the time. I am glad you dropped it for this episode though, I actually thought you were going to delay your review until all three 'hours' had aired, but thats nearly as good.

I also couldn't agree more with this sentiment:
"If not every question ever raised in the 70-some episodes of the series gets answered before the season ends, well, so what? Personally, I watch this series for the characters. Space battles and complicated plots and mythology are great, but I see them as a means to an end."

God, I'm going to miss this show big time. Someone else said it better in a previous review thread, but whilst I consider The Wire the 'best' show on TV, Galactica is by far my favourite. It's ending will be a gaping hole in the schedules. I only hope Caprica can carry the ball. By the way, the nice little piece of music that was playing during the first establishing shot of Caprica is, I believe, the new Caprica series theme tune.
Matthew - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 7:11am (USA Central)
PS. I love that Baltars dad was "Irish"
Daniel - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 7:39am (USA Central)
Excellent review as usual Jammer.

At this point, so close to the end of what has been a remarkable series, you can't help but think what could possibly top this in the future.

If you could get all these actors, directors and writers etc. together again on a new show it’s almost certain that it could not rival this show in terms of quality and gravitas.

We've all got high hopes for Caprica, but they have set themselves an almost impossible task of trying to equal this near perfection.
Franckness - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 7:54am (USA Central)
The moment Roslin crossed the red line (way beyond the red line, anyone) is one of BSG's finest. Brought me to tears. The other point not yet mentioned is Adama's moment of decision before going back for the photo of Hera and Athena; Olmos does so much good acting with 5 seconds and his back - one of many reasons I'll miss this show.
UKbsgFan - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 8:32am (USA Central)
One more thing too add building on some earlier points. Who cares if all our questions are not answered. Life is a series of mostly unanswered questions so why do we always assume that our television programs need spoon-feed us every bit. Yes, it's true that we dont watch TV to be kept guessing without a payoff but in the BSG context it works.

It is a very real possibility that Kara might never know who if her dad is/was the mystery Daniel. So what? It would work better for the story that the question went unanswered than to cram it into a sequence with only 2 hours left to go. If she never learns the truth, it works for the show, and it works for us because we can relate.

I just used the Kara/Danial as one example to illustrate my ultimate point which I'll get to shortly. When Ellen was revealed as the fifth cylon, people were disappointed and others were complacent. I thought, okay now we can move on. In all honesty, would anyone have felt better about the show if a principal character or an unknown was outed? Would anyone have felt worse? I doubt it. Does having an answer to these questions deepen our appreciation of battlestar galactica? No, I dont think it does.

Ultimately, thats the point. Galactica has become so rich with character, plot, mythology, and universe that at the end of the day, being given answers to every plot thread doesnt change the way we think about the show. If this were a poorer program, it might very well be the case. But the fact that the show is so strong on its own merits means that it can be excused for excluding information from both its characters and its audience without our appreciation diminishing in the slightest.
Jason K - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 9:03am (USA Central)
"No one cares that Roslin's relatives got killed by drunk drivers. No one cares what a drunk Lee Adama would do when attacked by a pigeon...."

Any chance a drunk Lee killed Roslin's relatives?? That would certainly add a dynamic to their relationship. They did say they had the driver in custody, but we don't ever see where Lee came from that night. We assume he came from the party, but perhaps he was let off the hook because of who daddy is....or grandpa for that matter.

I dunno...I'm intrigued anyway.
Jason K - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 9:27am (USA Central)
Upon further reflection, that would also give a whole new meaning to what Roslin told Lee in the miniseries: "I know who you are, Captain."

ZOMG, too much confusion.
papa - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 9:59am (USA Central)
I was fascinated that the "inhuman" Caprica Six showed such deep human insight into both Baltar and his father in taking charge and solving a problem the human Baltar lacked the insight to solve. I was afraid she was going to solve the problem of Old Pop the same way she "solved" the market baby's problem in the miniseries. *snap*
Chris - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 10:15am (USA Central)
I think avoiding a rating is the smart thing to do. That said, I am on the fence regarding season 4.5 as a whole. The sci-fi-fan in me practically begs for mindless exposition to solve the oh-so-important rational questions (and rousing space battle, naturally), while the normal me enjoys the drama and just doesn't want the show to end yet.

Unrelated note: The rebranding to "SyFy" is like the ultimate belittlement of this traditional art form and beyond pathetic.
Aaron - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 11:23am (USA Central)
I've been thinking about Cataclysm's comments, along with others that I have read recently. Earlier today in my effort to find more material to whet my appetite for tomorrow's (Australian time) final episode I had the unpleasent experience of reading some user reviews over at IMDB.com. Cataclysm says that "people do not watch BSG for soap opera, they do so for military battles hence the entire premise of an aircraft carrier in space." On IMDB there were many complaints of "It's Sci Fi. They should be spending more time on the technical details and plot explanations." "Characters are boring." "The show is slow." "The show takes itself too seriously." "Who cares about politics?" Not to mention many pointless comparisons to the original BSG which I have not seen and does not enter into my thought process.

When I read these comments earlier today my first thought was "How can people possibly think these things about this wonderful, poetic show. My favourite show on television." But I've been thinking about it a lot today.

My thoughts keep coming back to a show that still holds a place in my heart: Star Trek: Voyager. Let it be known for the record that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is my favourite Star Trek series, and Jammer I have greatly enjoyed reading your reviews of all things Star Trek. That said, as I look back, I don't think it was always this way... I'm currently 25 years old. I started watching Star Trek when I was around about 7 or 8. TNG was in it's prime, and as a small child, I *loved* it! I didn't really understand all of what was going on, but it was fascinating. Deep Space Nine would have premiered in Australia when I was about 10 or 11. I was intrigued, but frankly, wasn't a huge fan. I was a kid, and it was slow and *boring*. Nowhere near as nifty as TNG. Voyager started when I was a teenager and again, I was enthralled. The action, the plot, the special effects, the way the bridge darkened when the ship was on red alert. It hooked me and I loved it. But over the course of the seven years of Voyager, something changed. If nothing else, I think I simply grew up. I became an adult. I was slowly finding Voyager more boring, more predictable. I still watched it every week until the end, but I was much less satisfied than I was at the start. I went back and re-examined DS9. It was almost like I was watching it for the first time. A new appreciation for the smaller, 'quieter' details. Character. Politics. Nuance. Continuing story lines. It became my favourite Star Trek, with TNG as a close second, and most of Voyager (and Seasons 1-3 of Enterprise) trailing far behind.

If you've bothered to read this far (thank you), you might be wondering what it all has to do with BSG and Cataclysm's comments. I can't help but think, that if I had watched Battlestar 10-15 years ago, I probably wouldn't have liked it as much as I do now. At that time, I *was* looking for plot and action rather than characters and poetry. My tastes in fiction have changed and - I believe - matured, over the years.

I absolutely don't want to disparage anyone looking for more action and less character. Hell, I enjoyed the "Storming New Caprica" scene in "Exodus, Part 2" as much as the next person! Just a thought that sometimes, for a show to click for us, both we and the show need to be in the right place at the right time.

As has been said, to each their own opinion. Everyone is looking for something different out of their entertainment. I for one am counting the 26 or so hours until I get to see the final episode. One thing I can be sure of: It's going to be bittersweet. If all of this has happened before and all of this will happen again, then I look forward to the next cycle, and the next work of fiction that will hopefully stretch my mind to new ideas.

--As an irrelevent side note, correct me if I'm wrong, (I don't speak American English,) but aren't SciFi and SyFy pronounced the same way?? I don't see how the Network will be able to fulfill their dreams of larger and broader audiences (if indeed anyone is gullible to believe that a name change can accomplish this) if they keep the same name with a different spelling.
alex99 - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 1:08pm (USA Central)
Aaron,

They are pronounced the same, but "SyFy" is spelled in such a way that the identifier can be trademarked. It's a marketing thing, not unlike the made-up words used as car model names. It makes no sense to us normal human beings, but there you go.
other Josh - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 2:30pm (USA Central)
@Aaron, this is my first post here, and I'm writing to say I had nearly the same experience with Star Trek as you described. I recently had to twist the arm of a friend to sit down and watch DS9 with me, but now that we're into season 7 we're already wondering what to watch next. Doing Voyager from the start wouldn't be worth it in retrospect.

The logical answer is BSG again from the start (I crammed all of it into 2 weeks or so around Christmas, mostly because I couldn't stop watching it). Ronald D. Moore is simply the master, no question.

I'm truly glad I got caught up with BSG and I'm watching this all real time. DS9 rented from Netflix was nice, and waiting week after week for these last few episodes has been painful, but somehow I doubt I'd bother with reading so much about these episodes if I knew I could just watch the next one.

Jammer, thanks for creating a place for us to meet up. Here's to hoping something worth talking about shows up soon.
Robo - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 3:03pm (USA Central)
Great review, Jammer. Also, a clever way to compromise between reviewing the episode, and holding back on a final opinion. Perhaps, if the two episodes are merged together on the DVD, you'll merge these two reviews together into an extended cut? I kid, I think.

In any case, this show is awesome, and I am sad to see it go. All good things must end, however, and it is up to us to remember and enjoy them for what they were. This show has a heart, and is at once timeless and grounded. Pretty amazing.

Another tidbit of info (not a spoiler, but if you believe that it is, please erase): In an interview with Moore I read a few days ago, he said that Rolsin's family tragedy with her sisters was written into the show bible all those years ago. The writers were saving that little piece of character insight until later, I think. Roslin is a very private character, so any insight does help a lot in better understanding her as a character. Cool.

This site is the best, so see you on the other side of the finale! Also, I was reading your Voyager finale review the other day, and it's hilarious. Good times.
Josh - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 3:14pm (USA Central)
Aaron, I'm in the exact same position as you. As a ten year old, Voyager was awesome. But now, my tastes are also more matured so I'm less favourable. I also have the knowledge to see where they do stupid things, which doesn't serve the purpose of maintaining rosy nostalgia.

Sometimes RDM and co can lay it on too thick with the soap opera stuff, but I the series works because of the depth of characterisation. It's a bit mellowdramatic at times, but then their entire civilisation has just been wiped out. I still maintain the best episode is 'Maelstrom'. That's all character and all mythology.

A couple of years ago, before finding BSG, I started losing affection for Stargate. While the creatures at SG1archive were easily amused by any cool shot of the Daedalus, I felt the series was getting too interested in cheap thrills and not interested enough in a good story with good performances.

BSG is a series that does chose story over style. That's why I think it's great. It's also why I'm going against the grain and hoping that the finale isn't just filled with battle porn.

That said, I think season 4.5 will be defined by this upcoming episode because it has been a little inconsistent. Maybe we've just been spoilt by season 4.0, which was such a juggernaut of storytelling that we were carried away to awe-ville.
Samuel Walters - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 3:18pm (USA Central)
I agree that BSG likes to concentrate on character moments, but from my perspective it seems that all too often character actions are shoehorned into the needs of the plot, rather than letting the characters "grow" the plot through their natural and consistent choices.

Which makes me wonder: Why do those of you who claim to look for stories about "character" enjoy BSG so much when (at least in my opinion) the characters themselves are inconsistently portrayed?

Do those of you who continue to laud the series not see any inconsistencies? If not, how do you explain the wild range of melodramatic actions from these characters? If you do see inconsistencies, do they fit into some "acceptable range" of inconsistency (if so, where would you draw the line at character inconsistency -- for instance, what *couldn't* Admiral Adama do, given what we know of his character)? Or do you simply ignore the previous episodes, and focus solely on the one at hand? Is there some other rationale I haven't thought of?

I ask because I really do want to know. I've been following this series from the beginning, loved the mini-series and much of seasons 1 & 2, but found season 3 & 4 severely lacking -- mainly because of character. So I am genuinely intrigued by those who tout "character" as a BSG strength when I see it as such a glaring weakness.
Nolan - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 4:04pm (USA Central)
Samuel Walters,

Perhaps what you see as inconsistancy, others see as character growth. It's very possible that after four years of constant strife, the characters are willing to go with a decision now that they may not have gone with earlier. They are trying to be portrayed as real people, and real people's outlooks and opinions on things can change as they grow and encounter more as they go through life.

That would be my guess as to why there may be inconsistancies, but if you disagree and find that answer inadequate, that is completely your right.

Nolan
Mack the Knife - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 4:12pm (USA Central)
Jason K

Your blowin my mind man. I never put those two events together. But I don't think they would start something like that this late in the game would they?
Matthew - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 6:40pm (USA Central)
@Samuel Walters

I've never seen any inconsistencies in characterisation myself. At least nothing glaring. In fact the only thing I can really remember annoying me is Lee's characterisation in Black Market, the only episode I would ever suggest to anyone to skip when watching this show.
Mehman - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 7:52pm (USA Central)
My problem with the red line bit was this:

I can understand why the Final Five would cross trhe line. I can certainly understand why Roslin would cross the line. I can even (sort of) understand why Adama might cross the line.

What I don't understand is why anybody else would cross the line for an almost assured suicide mission. What does Hera mean to the rank and file Colonials? Has there ever been a scene that establishes this?

All we ever see among the rank and file is intolerance towards the Cylons (and I might add, not without reason, seeing as how they were responsible for the death of probably nearly every one these Colonials ever knew). I would imagine that, among the typical Colonials, Hera would be viewed as a freak of nature....as an abomination.....not as the savior of the species or whatever.

Am I missing something or has it ever been established what Hera means to everyone else?

As to the SyFy issue: What an idiotic idea! Why can't channels be happy with the niche that they have? Why does the "History" Channel have to be about UFO trackers? Honestly. You have your niche audience. Now cater to it!
Alexey Bogatiryov - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 8:12pm (USA Central)
Hey, did you guys know that the cast and writers of BSG got invited over to the Un today to talk about issues of torture, war crimes, suicide bombings, etc.
http://popwatch.ew.com/popwatch/2009/03/galactica-un.html

That's one thing that I will remeber this show for. For addressing the pressing issues of the day (especially in Season 3 by putting our heroes in a situation similar to Iraqi insurgents - the bombing of the police academy graduation was so similar to the Al-Queda in Iraq blowing up a graduation ceremeony of the Iraqi police in 2005). This show definitely had guts and the courage to explore these issues without providing us with simple solutions. BSG truly embraced the world as it is, with all of its flaws. By contrast to star trek - which gave us an idealized vision of the future, BSg tends to suggest that human problems of hate (Gaeta), ignorance (all of the colonists), lust (Baltar), envy (Tyrol, Lee), alcoholism (Tigh), cowardice (Baltar), abandonement of responsobility (Roslin, Adama), fear of death (Starbuck especially) and a general lack of objectivity (strong prevelance of religion) will never really go away. While the series has been depressing at times, Ron Moore has proven himself to not only be a brilliant storyteller but has earned the right to join Gene Rodenberry as a prominent social commentator.
James - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 10:03pm (USA Central)
So... after that, it might be time to break out the Fifth Star.
Jason - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 10:29pm (USA Central)
Part 2 was so beautiful, it drew tears. Not everything was 'answered' and a lot should not have been. Daniel is obviously from the Caprica series, but otherwise, phew.
Alexey Bogatiryov - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 10:37pm (USA Central)
I DVR-ed it. Please don't spoil Part 2 here! Will watch it in 1 hour!
Jason - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 11:09pm (USA Central)
Ron Moore apparently was upset by the scifi.com forum reactions to 4.5, which is kinda sad.

To me, he made it up, and I wish I could thank him personally for making such a wonderful series that is, possibly, a once or twice in a lifetime experience when it comes to TV shows.

4.5 was sort of lingering to me, there were a lot of dead zones. However, the entire arc of the story is near perfection.

The only problem with the end is that it may remind some old timer nerds of Hitchiker's Guide ending. These days though, I doubt anyone will notice.
Aaron - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 11:09pm (USA Central)
@Josh

Stargate was something I could never get into. The movie wasn't bad. After endless encouragement I watched about the first 5 episodes of the first season. I kept falling asleep! People say it gets better... maybe one day.

Still up to 12 hours before I can get part 2. It's going to be excruciating.
Mehman - Fri, Mar 20, 2009 - 11:15pm (USA Central)
Maybe Jammer could set up a "dummy" review for part 2 (without any text while he is writing it up), just so we can talk about it rather than posting anything in the part 1 review. Just a suggestion.
Brendan - Sat, Mar 21, 2009 - 12:08am (USA Central)
Seems unlike RDM to be upset by fan opinions. Early on he thrived on that and made decisions knowing that would piss fans off. That's what I like about him so much.
Jammer - Sat, Mar 21, 2009 - 1:03am (USA Central)
All: I've opened up commenting for "Daybreak, Part 2." See the note on that page. DO NOT post spoilers of "Daybreak, Part 2" on this thread. Do it over there.

Have fun discussing. I'll join you after my review is posted.
Taylor - Mon, Mar 23, 2009 - 3:38pm (USA Central)
These comments are ONLY about Part 1. What I loved about the episode is that it relied on the true strength of BSG. We love the action, we love the sci fi, but to me it's the "character moments" that are the best part of the show.
harrisandreson - Fri, Apr 9, 2010 - 5:14am (USA Central)
wow that's more i like it What I loved about the episode is(itil certification) that it relied on the true strength of BSG. We love the action, we love the sci fi, but to me it's the "character moments" that are the best part of the show.
Jeff - Tue, Nov 23, 2010 - 1:04pm (USA Central)
"No one should feel obligated to join this mission in any way. This is a decision I have made for myself. If it turns out that there are not enough personnel to crew Galactica, I will lead a Raptor assault with anyone who is willing to join me. Let there be no illusions; this is likely to be a one-way trip! So don't volunteer out of sentiment or emotion. There is a line running down this deck. Volunteers, move to the starboard side; everyone else, to the port.

Make your choice!"

epic Adama bad-assness!
Michael - Sat, Dec 3, 2011 - 2:13pm (USA Central)
Well, boys and girls, THIS is a 4-star show!!!

After a long, long time, here's an episode where I couldn't find anything that was annoying, extraneous, or unworkable. I loved every minute of it.

If the two parts that follow are anything like it, B.S.G. will go out with a fantastic bang.
Michael - Sat, Dec 3, 2011 - 2:20pm (USA Central)
Oh yeah, I forgot: One thing that would REALLY have made me love this show would have been if Baltar had crossed the line. That would have redeemed his character for all past misdeeds.

Perhaps he will...
Tim S. - Wed, Jan 25, 2012 - 10:28pm (USA Central)
Two episodes left (watching on Netfix). How will it end? Looking forward to it!
Ryan - Sun, Apr 1, 2012 - 3:23am (USA Central)
There was one question on my mind during this entire episode: "do we really have time for all this shit?"

Less boring backstory, more tying up of loose ends, please.

Of course, it doesn't help that, by this point, the character assassination of all the best players is thoroughly complete; Adama's a whiny, drunk, pill-popping tyrant, and Roslin's an ugly old bimbo who long ago lost track of the only thing I liked about her, her moral compass. Starbuck's lost in her nonsensical mysticisms. Baltar's gone from being a potential embodiment of tragic redemption to being the constant butt of a bad joke.

The writers of this show really did themselves a disservice when they began mishandling these characters because, frankly, the story angle went down the crapper long ago.
Jason K - Thu, Oct 18, 2012 - 7:30am (USA Central)
Just finished my annual BSG marathon. Every time I watch Daybreak I get choked up. It ages well. The entire series ages well.
Nebula Nox - Tue, Jun 11, 2013 - 12:19pm (USA Central)
Watching Laura Roslin totter across the screen really tears my heart.
Clint - Thu, Jul 11, 2013 - 9:08am (USA Central)
This seemed really late in the game to be introducing still more flashbacks. I hate flashback episodes, do for me this wasn't a good sign. I agree that I could have cared less about drunk Lee versus the pigeon. Or Roslin's family, who would all have been killed later regardless. Just seemed like an epic waste of time.

I did like the Baltar scenes though. So I guess there was something for everybody.
Tloser - Sat, Nov 9, 2013 - 2:53am (USA Central)
I completely agree with the poster who said the issue of "inconsistent" characters could be viewed instead as character growth or development. This fact is one major reason why BSG endears. There are mostly no cheap resets in BSG because actions have consequences. I think Gaeta is probably the perfect example. Gaeta's idealism (e.g. vote rigging) was changed through the New Caprica experience that ultimately drove him to the path of mutiny, albeit differing from Zerek's means.

Another related point is that just because some characteristics of a person is revealed via a few episodes, that doesn't mean that their future decisions should automatically be clear to us. Human beings are highly unpredictable, unlike machines. One main theme in BSG is free will, so I don't expect the show's characters to run counter to that. Plus it makes for good drama, since we don't know how the characters will act. And the choices faced are many times very difficult choices where there are good arguments to both sides. To me Helo was probably the most predictable, but even he surprised me when he mutinied vs. Starbuck.

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