This Is a Blog: My BSG Addiction: Time Jump

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My BSG Addiction: Time Jump

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 4.

The New Caprica Time Jump

I want to try to balance criticism with praise. My overall point here is that this show is good not great. It has some very great moments, but overall, it falls sort of short for me. Maybe I'd feel different if I watched it when it originally aired. Let's take a break from the picking and delve into something awesome.

The moment that absolutely sold the show for me came in the middle of the season 2 finale. Baltar wins the election by promising to colonize the newly found planet they name New Caprica. The higher ups know life there is unsustainable, but he plays dirty politics and wins with some bullshit. Given the shit that's about to come, putting Baltar in charge is fucking brilliant. The show calls it out later that had Roslin been in charge, things could have gone much worse. At the very least, the Cylons would have killed her and replaced her with someone more agreeable, depriving the rest of the series of her influence.
So the luxury liner Cloud Nine gets blowed up by the Six who was brutalized on the Pegasus, who by the way got the bomb from now President Baltar. Realizing he convinced everyone to colonize an awful planet and was an accomplice to an explosion killing at least 10 thousand people, Baltar slams his head on his desk, and when he arises, it's one year later. That is fucking ballsy. Someone even calls out that the entire show up to this point, from beginning of the mini-series to this point, was only about 9 months, and in an instant the show jumps forward a whole year.

When I say the show jumps a year, I mean every little detail about everyone and everything jumps a year. Suddenly several main characters are married, and we didn't have to sit through annoying courtships. The people have formed a little society with tents and everything. Galactica and Pegasus are down to skeleton crews, and we didn't have to sit through that whole process. In later flashbacks, we get some very important character beats in the Adama/Roslin relationship and the Lee/Starbuck relationship, but for now, we just know the characters have done over two seasons of growing in an instant.

The drawback of a serialized show is how little characters are allowed to grow. Entire seasons can take place over the course of months, not years. Between seasons one and two of "24" everyone wondered if the next season would take place the next day. Can you imagine if they had gone that direction? Eight years would have passed in our lives, but only 8 days in the show. "24" solved this by jumping a few years in between seasons, but they never did it mid-episode, and they always waited for a story to be completely resolved before the jump.

After jumping the characters ahead, the show finally gives us our end-of-season cliffhanger when the Cylons show up. Galactica and Pegasus jump away, Baltar surrenders, and we're out. When we return in season 3, the show has jumped again another four months. Watching the show back-to-back, that means in just a few minutes of show time, the whole thing jumps ahead 16 months in the middle of some major action.

I've seen other space adventure shows do the trapped on a planet episode, but never with this much ambition. Usually, they get off the ship and are back in an episode or two, with maybe a week or two having passed. By the time everyone's back in space, everything about everyone has changed. When we met the Pegasus mid-season 2, the characters split between loyalty to the Pegasus and Galactica, but now we also have a rift between the crew who stayed on the ships and people who had to fight against the Cylons on the planet. Even amongst the people on the planet, there's a rift among those who fought the Cylons, those who helped the Cylons, and those who stood back and did nothing. Tigh lost his eye and his wife, and now hates Cylons more than ever. Starbuck was emotionally fucked by a Two, and returns severely damaged. The version of Sharon we met on the destroyed Caprica has gone through the entire process of earning Adama's trust and respect (in case you're wondering, no, this isn't enough redemption to counter Caprica 6's lack thereof). The list goes on and on.

Half way through the run of the series, the show does an amazing job of organically changing the entire landscape of its world. The very feel of the show is totally different. The whole event is done so efficiently, that momentum carried me all the way to the end of the series. I trusted any writing team that could pull that off could wrap the whole thing up in a satisfying manner. Despite all my criticisms, they really did.

Continue to Part 5

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