06 October 2006

Space Opus

Last night we finished watching Season 2 of the shiny (or rather, rough and grimy but splendid) new Battlestar Galactica -- courtesy of R. and M.'s DVD box set, which by a strange coincidence we bought them recently as a belated / early joint birthday present.

After the very tight, very compelling Season 1 there were a couple of bits of Season 2 which were a little less satisfying. A couple of episodes (and at least one major plot point) did seem to be resolved by authorial fiat rather than narrative logic, and there was a standout (and actually quite unnecessary) manifestation of "magic" which deserved, if not explanation, then at least for the characters to speculate about the possibility of one[1].

On the whole, though, I remain resolutely impressed. The final two-parter, in particular, was enormously ambitious (its events could have provided the material for an entire season without much difficulty) and shakes up the status quo like no episode of series television I've seen before. I'm not completely convinced that every aspect of it worked dramatically -- in particular, I think we needed longer to get used to the episode's interim status quo before that, too, was thrown up in the air[2] -- but with this kind of ambition on display I can readily forgive that.

One thing which confused me at first was the appearance of previously-unseen clips during the last few episodes' "Previously" montages. At first I thought they were just being sloppy and not paying attention to what they'd cut, but this happened so often that I'm convinced it was a deliberate dramatic device designed to fill us in on things which had happened offscreen during past episodes. It's a rather clever use of the medium, which after my initial confusion worked rather well.

Unlike the old series of Battlestar Galactica -- which there's a strong consensus was a load of old pants, probably gold lamé ones -- the new series is one which seems to divide S.F. viewers. I've read opinions saying that it's dull or one-note, with inconsistent characterisation.

I only wish I had the time to compose a reasoned and impassioned defence of it like Simon Forward's, but I don't. I can only say that on the whole I think it's great, enjoyed it enormously, and am frustrated to be waiting until -- apparently -- January for the next installment.

Here's hoping Torchwood's good enough to tide me over.

Footnotes contain SPOILERS. Highlight the whitespace to read:

[1] The plot point is, of course, Roslin's cancer, which has been integral to her character and function since the original miniseries, and is brushed aside with some terrible technobollocks about a Cylon donor having an enhanced immune system.

The "magic" scene is the characters' full-immersion consensual VR experience in Athena's Tomb. In fact, since it's fairly clear that there are eventually going to be some major revelations about the nature of the Lords of Kobol -- who will, I suspect, either be the Cylons from a previous historical "cycle" or your standard godlike aliens -- we can presumably put this down to Clarke's (third) Law. But it's so far beyond what we've seen of either Colonial or Cylon technology that it should have shaken the characters' worldview considerably more than it seems to have.

[2] Specifically, we should have seen more of the colonists' harsh but peaceful life on New Caprica before the arrival of the Cylons shook everything up again. Even a full episode would have worked better.

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