Sunday, March 15, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: "Daybreak" - Part 1

In the writers’ room, we spent the first day [of breaking that episode] in a lot of difficulty, a lot of frustration. We sort of knew what the plot was, we knew the action story, we knew the plot of the finale. We spent that whole first day just struggling with the mechanics of the plot, how you got from A to B. We were spinning our wheels. I went home and I was in the shower and I had this “Duh” moment – the show was never about that. That’s not why I love the show. It’s not about the plot.

I went into the writers’ room the next day and wrote on the big dry-erase board, “It’s the characters, stupid,” and the writers laughed and we all sat back and said, “Who gives a [expletive] about the plot? Let’s just talk about these characters.”
-- Ron Moore

So, there you have it, everyone who has been wondering:

What the hell do a crotchety old man, a baby-shower, and a pigeon have to do with the survival of the human/cylon races? Anyone?
-- Hack&Slash

Of course, the problem with Ron Moore's take on things is that all the big questions most of us have are "plot" questions, not "character" questions. Most viewers think they know these characters pretty well already. What we don't know, at least I don't, is who is manipulating things behind the scenes - if anyone? What is that Opera house vision that Roslin, Athena and Caprica-6 had been sharing all about? Who or what brought Starbuck back to life? etc..

One possible meaning of focusing on the characters rather than the plot is that we may not get any explanation for many of the things we want answers too. Remember when Bill Adama told Roslin, in "Six of One," about her drug induced hallucinations giving her clues to finding Earth, "You're afraid you may not be the dying leader you thought you were. Or that your death may be as meaningless as everyone else's." Also recall the episode called "Faith."

In "Faith," Roslin was in the hospital next to another cancer patient, Emily. Emily listened to Baltar on the radio talking about life after death. Emily had some dream or visionary experience that got her believing in Baltar's afterlife. After being told about this, Roslin has her own dream, finding Emily and herself on a boat, then, looking towards shore they see their dead friends and family (where her sisters there). I pointed out in my review that how you interpreted that episode depended on how hip you were to why people had such dreams.

There is something called "Dream Incorporation" where a sound from reality is heard in our dream and incorporated in some way. If you thought about the things Roslin must have heard as she dreamed then you had some huge clues. When she woke up, Baltar was still preaching about the river and the afterlife, so she was hearing that while dreaming. And Emily was gone when she woke and that meant Roslin must have heard of her death while asleep.

You have to wonder why the writers would include these skeptic's clues that point to the dream as being an induced wish-fulfillment fantasy. Why do that when Roslin lives in a world where she also has had seemigly paranormal shared dreams with Caprica-6 and Athena in the Opera house? And she found Earth too.

Maybe Roslin's Opera house visions are just another side of her escape from meaninglessness and Ron Moore is an existentialist. But, but... how could her crazy visions be shared with Athena and Caprica-6? How could she really find Earth?

I don't know. But is that the real test of a vision, that you can't figure out where some bit of correct information slipped in? Or figure out why others share your vision? Maybe the Opera house vision is ultimately meaningless? Maybe it is essentially a delusion shared with some Cylons because Roslin got a dose of Athena's and Hera's Cylon blood that allowed her to plug into the projection psychology of those Cylons.

I bring this up because I don't see how that Opera house vision can mean much now as the final hours approach. They certainly can't get Roslin, Caprica-6 and Athena back to the actual Opera house. So, maybe the Opera house is a Cylon projection they'll share or something purely symbolic? Maybe Roslin really will see Baltar and a 6 taking Hera off just before she and Athena die? Maybe that's all it means? A fuzzy, symbolic glimpse of the future.

That I could live with and even enjoy, but worse, maybe we won't get an answer for how it is Starbuck got resurrected in a new body and viper because some writer thinks that sometimes incredible things happen for no good reason. (That omission I won't forgive them for. How Starbuck came back demands an explanation.)


If you think about it, the flashback scenes early in this episode were some nice little micro-stories all by themselves. Except for maybe Bill Adama being asked to do something he didn't want to do. So, what was it? Was he being sent to that remote space station that was built so that cylons and humans could meet and maintain diplomatic relations? Every year, according to the old miniseries intro, the humans sent an officer, but the Cylons sent no one for over forty years... that is until the day of the attack. What would it add if Adama had sat there waiting? Was the intro to the miniseries a lie and they sent a cylon to meet Adama, but Adama never said anything?

Every other flashback may have been nothing more than a little self-contained micro-story not really meant to plug into the big picture. Yet, I can't help trying to do just that. I will be disappointed if those flashbacks are just pointless little micro-stories. For example, Roslin gave her sister a baby shower and then woke up to some police knocking at her door. They had come to tell her that her father and sisters were killed by a drunk driver. It was a touching and effective scene, you could feel the gut punch that caused Roslin to get a little crazy and walk out into a fountain and just stand there. But what did I really learn about Roslin, after three seasons of watching her, that I didn't already know? Will her sisters show up in some later vision? Was that story meant just to underline the fact that other events in Roslin's life were drawing her to the edge of insanity?

We saw Gaius Baltar living a life of limos and pretty women, drinking with Caprica-6 and about ready to get it on when Baltar gets a phone call. Turns out that Baltar's dad has stabbed his nurse in the hand with a table knife. Baltar calls off the sex to deal with the crisis. He yells at his dad and we learn this is the third nurse his dad has scarred off. So, Baltar is selfish and belittling towards his dad? Is this really a new side of Baltar? Did we need to see that for some reason? Then we learn that Caprica-6 had helped out Baltar's dad. Baltar would have forgotten her if she hadn't done something like that.

How are any of those stories going to be relevant to the ending? I can't tell you, but I hope they have some relevance beyond being nice little micro-stories stuck in for no other reason.


After the flashbacks there was a bit more coherence as far as putting together the end-game, or "plot," of this final 3 hours. It is still character-centric rather than plot-centric though. For example, Lee Adama posed a great character question for Baltar. Apollo asked Baltar if he had ever done anything selfless. Baltar stared at him a moment and then said, "I wouldn't trust me either." Yet Baltar has done some selfless stuff, minor as it was. Remember that old lady back on Caprica in the very first shows? Boomer and Helo had to raffle off seats on the Raptor that would get people off the bombed planet, Caprica. An old lady asked Baltar to read her number. Baltar could have switched tickets. Baltar could have easily stolen a seat on that raptor. He would have been stuck on Caprica had not Helo executed a greater act of selflessness by giving his seat to Baltar.

What Baltar can't do, I think, is brag about such a little thing or even personally align with Apollo's philosophy that selflessness is this great thing by which to determine who is the best leader. And yet by answering that question honestly rather than just lying to Apollo, as Apollo almost begged him too, he was being selfless and trustworthy. Nice paradox. In spite of all Baltar's selfishness, there are limits to it.

The question gets asked again of Baltar when Bill Adama asks everyone to decide to go or not go on a suicide mission by asking them to step to one side of a tape line. Of course, Baltar stays on the side of the tape for those who want to stay behind, but there is a part of him that seems to want to go. He keeps looking over at Caprica-6 during Adama's speech and then as others start deciding which side of the line they want to be on he looks like he wants to go, but can't.


Something I may have been wrong about is Sam Anders doing another exposition dump. They snuck their way around his exposition dump by having him reveal whatever he revealed off screen to Starbuck and Bill Adama alone. I almost wish for the exposition dump instead. We're going to have to either get an exposition dump or very few questions answered. There's no time left for the characters to play detective and figure things out slowly.

Again, the choices here are character-centric, Adama's decision to talk to Anders starts with a conversation between Adama and Hot Dog near the memorial wall. Hot Dog dropped some pictures he had taken off the wall and he tells Adama that the only pictures left are people who no longer have anyone to care about them. Looking at the wall of fallen shipmates, Adama sees a picture of Athena and Hera, he takes the picture and heads right over to Anders' goo-tub where he finds Starbuck.

Adama and Starbuck come out of the goo-tub room with knowledge of where Hera is, which is where the Cylon colony is. A Raptor is sent ahead to explore the area and they find a black hole guarding the colony with only one safe point to jump in. Thus the plot actually does move forward.

A lot of side-shows they seemed to have set up now look like they won't happen. For example, it now seems the long-term effects of giving Baltar's balcubines those big guns isn't going to be a fight with the "sons of Aries," but to fight Cylons.


I don't see how they can wrap it all up in the last two hours, especially if those last two hours are mostly a big action packed space battle. I don't think, like a lot of others, that we will get answers to every single lingering question. But, in the final analysis, my speculations on where they are going have not been good. Nor has anyone else's that I've been reading.

The choices they've made in this last episode were really baffling. That is good thing, though. It means I could be really surprised when this ends.


spurge said...

I thought that the episode was horrible.

The only plot point that really moved forward was the fact that they were going to get Hera. We all knew that was going to happen going in.

The flashbacks seem to be a total waste of time. I really do not care about any of the characters anymore. This last half season cured me of that.

I thought the acting in this episode was just bad but I put most of the blame on the writing.

Assuming we get more flashbacks plus a space battle I just can not see how this can be anything but a huge disappointment.

BSG has turned into a boring soap opera.

spurge said...

I guess we all know how they wrap up all the loose ends now.

God did it.

normdoering said...

spurge wrote:
"I guess we all know how they wrap up all the loose ends now.

God did it."

Yea, and I'm not happy with that part. There will be a long post from me on it eventually, but right now I've got other things needing my attention.

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