This Is a Blog: My BSG Addiction: Starbuck

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My BSG Addiction: Starbuck

In order to get over my addiction to "Battlestar Galactica," I'm going to talk the show to death until it's out of my system. What originally started as a one-off essay is too big for just one post. This is Part 6.

Deus Ex Starbuck (God As Starbuck)

In the earliest days of Greek drama, playwrights would often end plays by simply having the gods sweep in and make everything ok. Maybe I'm being pretentious just by bringing that up, but I feel like in the last few thousand years, we've found better ways to tie stories up. Maybe this stems from me not being a very spiritual person, but I find the amount the story's success rests on wholly unexplained aspects of Starbuck that it feels a lot like God just swooping in and making everything okey-dokey.

Just to lay out exactly what I'm talking about, let's track this through. Beginning of season 3, Number Two tells Starbuck she has a destiny. Middle of season 3, they find in a mysterious temple a symbol Helo recognizes as something Starbuck has been drawing since she was a little girl. Starbuck has a vision of a Cylon raider and blows up in a gas cloud. End of season 3, Starbuck shows up in a brand new viper, saying she found Earth. Starbuck follows her visions and paintings, finds a Two floating in a Cylon raider, saves him, joins up with the rebel Cylon base-ship, unboxes the Three who knows the identity of the Final Five, destroys the resurrection hub, and uses the Final Five and her magic new viper to find Earth. On Earth, she and Two find Starbuck's blowed up viper with Starbuck charred and dead inside. Totally unsure of what the fuck she is, Starbuck reconnects with the ghost of her daddy, who coincidentally played "All Along the Watchtower" for her when she was a girl. Hera draws some dots which turn out to be the notes in said song, and also randomly align with the exact jump coordinates to some brand new planet that, after years of searching, just happens to be the paradise they've been looking for. Oh also, throughout all this, everyone with prophetic abilities call Starbuck the harbinger of death.
A friend of mine laid out an explanation that both cleanly explains away all of this, and totally undercuts Starbuck as a character. He says Starbucks father should have been the 13th Cylon that One destroyed before the start of the show. He just sort of missed the recall and lived on as a human. That would make Starbuck half Cylon. That would mean she died and was resurrected. That would mean "All Along the Watchtower" is stuck in her subconscious too. That would mean her superb flying ability is not a function of her being a high functioning human, rather a pretty obvious Cylon. With all the clear signs she was a Cylon, having her actually be one would be kind of cheap, and I think it would make her entire character really shitty.

So here we have a trade-off. If Starbuck's arc was discovering she was actually a hybrid, it would cheapen her character. The show saves her by making her something else entirely, but in doing so, they cheapen the whole journey of the series.

When the fleet first finds Old Earth as a result of Starbuck's supernatural abilities, I think it was nothing short of perfect that the planet be a barren wasteland. They didn't earn this discovery, Starbuck's magic just led them there. That should have been a major thematic element, that the fleet won't find paradise until they earn it. On sort of a small scale, they do kind of earn it in the end. Galactica goes on a suicide mission to save Hera and destroy the nest of those pesky evil Cylons (not to be confused with the good Cylons who also helped destroy humanity, but that was four whole years ago). From a character perspective, these people do by the finale deserve to find paradise.

That's not what happens, though. Starbuck just types her magic numbers, provided by magic dots, into the FTL computer, and BAM, Earth. Yay. Since when is the FTL drive as simple to operate as punching in some numbers? I thought a jump required complex calculations that only Lt. Gaeta could do. Gaeta's dead, so apparently now they just hit some numbers. The major point of tension in the entire series is based on the idea that every jump requires meticulous work to get right. That's why they don't just jump away when danger comes. They have to earn every jump. And they do earn every, single jump. That's right, except for the magic number jump that takes them to paradise.

Starbuck is a pivotal character, and the show does not do nearly enough to make her fit properly into the ultimate resolution. She's a cheat. She's a Deus Ex Machina. Maybe making her a hybrid would have been too easy, but what they did was much, much worse by simply not doing anything else instead.

Continue to Part 7

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