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'BSG:' In the light of day

Posted by Joanna Weiss  March 21, 2009 08:31 PM

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First off, thanks to the many people who joined our post-"Battlestar Galactica" finale chat last night. (And please come back Tuesday at 1 p.m. to chat with "BSG" writer Jane Espenson!) The lines of the night were:

"The show sent a clear message to me...I'm hugging my Roomba right now." - Dave
"The Sixes went off and populated what we now know as Sweden." - Kate

If you don't know what they were talking about, go back and watch the finale (and the series, please, if you haven't.) If you do, go past the jump for more thoughts, now that I've had a chance to sleep on the episode...

1) So I went to bed last night mulling over the concept of Hera as Mitochondrial Eve. She is the most recent common ancestor of all humans on the matrilineal side - not the only woman alive at her time. but the only woman whose bloodline survived. There was some speculation in the chat about how long the 38,000 humans survived, and on the blog ALOTT5MA, one poster theorized that the Colonists and the natives might well have wiped each other out with disease - the same thing that nearly happened to British colonists and Native Americans. But I think it's more likely that the humans survived, planted the seeds of culture (did Tyrol invent golf?), and simply interbred. As one chatter pointed out,

"Hera is not the missing link. She happens to be the oldest half breed. We don't think the 38,000 people died. It's just that they and their descendants eventually bred with everyone else. Hera just happened to be the oldest being with mixed cylon/human DNA."

Someone with a better handle on genetics should step up and correct me if necessary, but this sounds reasonable to me. The point is that we all have a little Cylon in us, which is probably why we're so good at Wii.

2) Which brings us to Kara Thrace's role in bringing humanity "to its end." If we discount the disease-theory, the end could mean the end of its journey - a final destination. Or, possibly, the end of the cycle of violence, which was still left open-ended, given the dancing-robot montage in the end. As for her being a "harbinger of death," perhaps it was the death of pure Cylon society, as one of the chatters pointed out...

3) One of the chatters referenced an old post --linked to a blog by the Boston-writer-slash-political-communications-guy Seth Gitell --about a theory of the Final Five that was supposedly relayed to a serious fan by a drunken Ron Moore at a bar. I looked back and found it. Needless to say, it's wrong.

4) A lot of chatters demanded to know the story of Daniel, the missing Cylon, and the definitive answer to whether he's Starbuck's father. I was all for that theory until I saw that Alan Sepinwall, the TV critic at the Star-Ledger, posted the transcript of an interview with Ron Moore, in which Moore stated that he'd never intended Daniel to be Starbuck's daddy, and was surprised to see that viewers were tossing that theory around. I believe him, but I find it odd that the writers would toss out a concept as cataclysmic-sounding as a missing Cylon model and not expect viewers to consider that significant.

5) We didn't get a chance to chat much about the amazing CGI effects in the first-half of the finale, or the beautiful shots of Galactica buckling and breaking after her final jump. Or the fact that Michael Hogan finally got to do some acting with two eyes again. Or the poignancy of Boomer's last stand. There was a lot to love about this finale, especially before it turned into a National Geographic special. My biggest quibble -- and a lot of other peoples', I suspect -- was that religion seemed to be used as a crutch, a way to explain every plot point that seemed hard to reconcile. (In the same way, I thought Anders, in his bathtub state, represented a similar easy way out. Any logistical difficulty with the rescue plan could be taken care of if Sam just talked to the hybrids, whatever that meant.)

Still, this was two hours of television that focused on the characters we've come to love, and in that sense, "Battlestar Galactica" was quite true to itself. Flaws and all, I'm truly going to miss this show.

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22 comments so far...
  1. One point you did not mention is exactly what happened to Kara after her viper blew up. In another place, someone suggested that she was an "angel" exactly like those who Balthar and Caprica could see. I thought something similar, granting that Balthar and Caprica's visions might be a real sense of some aspect of human/cylon Destiny, with the further thought that perhaps Kara was some kind of super representative of Destiny who everyone could see, but who had not yet fully come to terms with recognizing in herself.

    I realize that you might not have much patience for this speculation, given its all too resort to a religious cop out. I don't necessarily believe the writers were pegging to any particular religious theology, just the idea that a higher Destiny might be, in a truly non-rational way, at work in both human and cylon development. However, I've heard no other "sensible" explanation for Kara's otherwise inexplicable return, then disappearance at the end. Even her returning viper had seemed impossibly "new" and unblemished to the crew of Galactica.

    Anyway, it was seeing Balthar's and Caprica's continued presence 150,000 years into the future that sparked the idea for me. I also got ther sense that Kara, as an embodied vision, represented the key to humanity's spiritual future, just as Hera represented its bodily future.

    Another way of viewing the entire cycle is as similar to the cycles in the fossil record, where species over time replaced each other in both form and function (pleisiosaurs and icthyosaurs changed places), reinforcing the theme that the same idea under similar circumstances might have to be continually tried out until something finally "worked." The underlying pattern behind this recycling of an idea might be thought of as akin to Destiny.

    Posted by Daniel J. Rose March 22, 09 12:21 AM
  1. here's a subject of BSG I haven't seen anywhere; why throw in the Gold centurion (in the Ellen comeback episode opening montage) if it's just going to be a nod to fans, and not the higher level centurion that struck the deal with the final five?

    Posted by JSJ March 22, 09 02:11 AM
  1. Actually the "Eve" is a common ancestor to all people living outside of Africa. Non-native Africans all have the same mitochondrial strain. While people living in Africa have a variety of mitochondrial strains.

    So Hera is most likely the woman who left Africa to spawn the rest of the world's population... the common ancestor "Eve" we read about in National Geographic.

    Posted by Fivestarmichael March 22, 09 03:21 AM
  1. Comment 3 -- Mitochondrial Eve is the ancestor of ALL humans, not just those who left Africa.

    Point 4 - People who still believe Daniel was/should have been Kara's father need to ponder that a bit more: this would mean Starbuck was a half-human/half-Cylon person, too, thus completely undercutting the importance of Hera.

    Point 5 - "Religion as a crutch"? Are you claiming 'deus ex machina' on this? Considering that the "head characters" (angels) have been with the show since the beginning, and Head Six said she was a messenger of God, you can't really claim deus ex machina on this one. If there had been no clues as to their nature before the final episodes, you'd have a case, but they were talking about God and such in season 1. (BTW, I'm an atheist. Within a fictionalized universe, I don't have a problem with it since it's all part of the story.)

    Posted by ety3 March 22, 09 07:33 AM
  1. Regardless of how I would have ended this (and it was Ron Moore's gift to us, and his to end), I was very disappointed in the "out with a whimper" leavetakings between all these characters we loved so much because they loved each other so much. "It's the characters, stupid" was Moore's final edict to his staff - what happened? No adequate final scene between Adama and Tigh; everyone splits up across Earth; worst of all, Laura dies IN A SHIP while Adama isn't even looking at her, vs. dying on the earth at last, locked in his eyes and arms after he tells her "NO, I didn't love the ship more than I LOVE YOU!" (He could have said it once!)

    Posted by Rebecca Leeb March 22, 09 08:55 AM
  1. I like your arguments, Daniel and ety. I'm still not wholly satisfied with the religion explanation, but if we're going with a Biblical template, then Kara as a Gabriel figure does make sense, as does the concept of Baltar and Caprica Six as prophets. And I do like the idea of Angels Baltar and Six still roaming around 150,000 years later, making wry commentary. What to make of the idea that God "doesn't like that name"? What name might he prefer?

    Oh, one other quibble I forgot: would there really be no archaeological remains of the original Colonials' technology? What of Adama's raptor? The duffel bags? Wouldn't someone eventually find 150,000-year-old Admirals' pins? Or has that discovery just not taken place yet...?

    Posted by Joanna March 22, 09 09:09 AM
  1. Let's see the key elements of the grand finale: "god's plan", angels, and a species of humanoids with same DNA "created" million of light years away against astronomical odds to prepare the ground for the mitochondrial Eve. It all started with the war between the monotheistic Cylons and polytheistic humanity, and the ONE god of the Cylons had the last laugh. Does it remind you of anything? I am not simply unimpressed with the dull ending, I find it offensive.

    Posted by ttg March 22, 09 10:47 AM
  1. I loved the irony of it all and how it all came to be modern earth. The mixture of techology and religion, and the fact that it was cylons who brought the belief of one true god.

    To me looking back through Humans own variations of religion, that is filled with confusion and mistrust, plays right into everything BSG ended with.

    and ttg if you found that offensive, then Ha Ha Ha Ha ha.... I like it even more now

    Posted by DP March 22, 09 12:11 PM
  1. About Hera:
    "She is the most recent common matrilineal ancestor of all humans - not the only woman alive at her time, but the only woman whose bloodline survived. "

    Not true. All Mitochondrial Eve (M-Eve) means is that on the female side she is the last common ancestor. It does not in any way mean that other women who lived with her do not have descendants alive today. If a woman living with M-Eve had 12 sons but no daughters her mitochondrial line would have ended, but not her "bloodline". There is also a "Y-chromosomal Adam" too for male lineages. Neither M-Eve or Y-C- Adam lived together, or even close temporally. Neither is a static individual either. In the future they will be different individuals.

    I found the whole *Hera as M-Eve* plot-line terribly disappointing for the very fact that she was touted as such an important character to only have her become a statistical footnote.

    Even more disturbing is the colonists abandonment of all technology (which must include writing since nothing survived of their culture). Not only was it stupid of them, since it wasn't technology that got them into trouble but their understanding of it, but it wasn't believable in the least that ALL of them would do so. The way the show was ended, every last trace of who they were- who they loved, what they believed in, what the learned along the way- was obliterated in an act of cultural suicide. In essence they finished the job the Cylons started during the mini-series. All that survived was the most trivial aspect of who they were, their genes.

    Kara Thrace, when asked during a flashback what she wanted out of life, said she wanted to be remembered. She wasn't, as all memory of Caprica and the colonies died out over 150,000 years. If I had known that would be their fate when I first started following this otherwise amazing show, I may not have continued knowing that it would end on such a pessimistic note.

    They should have landed the colonists on an uninhabited, bountiful planet with no connections to our own Earth.

    Posted by Rob March 22, 09 12:30 PM
  1. Thanks, Rob, for clarifying the differences between a bloodline and a mitochondrial line - I've tried to correct in the post. (At least "BSG" is giving me a decent lesson in genetics. Who said TV can't make you smarter?) It seems to me that the writers' goal, in making Hera into Mitochondrial Eve, was to establish the fact that all of us have some Cylon blood in us. Through Hera's mother's side, of course.

    Perhaps that's why they set the start date of 150,000 years ago, which does lead right into the disturbing conclusions you draw about the humans' abandonment of their culture. To play devil's advocate, again, I think the writers were probably suggesting that the humans' culture did live on, and colored what became our own, from the mythology (since the Ancient Greeks shared their pantheon of gods) to the language. If you think about it too hard, it falls apart, and I wonder if that 150,000-year issue is the problem. What if the Colonials arrived, say, 5,000 years ago, when Earth-human society was more advanced? And then started planting the seeds of their culture? It still might not work if you think too much...and then we wouldn't have that issue of our Cylon roots. So on this front, I think I'm willing to apply the same suspension of disbelief that allows me to accept a fleet of extraterrestrials who all speak English, and occasionally say things like "yada yada yada."

    Posted by Joanna March 22, 09 03:05 PM
  1. The cylon and colonial humans were integrated. Race was not an issue, what planet you lived on was. If we have a genetic contribution through Hera, How did separate phenotypes (races) develop on modern Earth?

    Posted by Cheri416 March 22, 09 03:59 PM
  1. To answer the question about race: there is only one human race; skin color differences are meaningless to anything but blocking sunlight or letting it through (dark pigment prevents vitamin B loss, lightly pigmented skin readily produces vitamin D - adaptations selected for the varying amount of solar radiation that comes through at different latitudes). The colonists near the equator would have been selected, over thousands of years, to gain dark pigment, while those living farther away would be selected toward lighter skin regardless of their initial skin color - latitudes near the equator favor dark skin, away from the equator, light skin.
    I like the comment by Joanna that we see parts of their culture in the various human cultures around the world. At the same time, I disagree that they could “sow the seeds” of their culture 150 000 years ago – no culture survives that long, especially since they, for some odd reason, committed cultural suicide.
    I was disappointed, as other writers have commented, that they gave up all their technology, didn’t seem to want to preserve anything, and went their own ways. It seemed out of character for everyone to abandon their friends, people who’ve they’ve fought side by side with for the past 5 years. Why would a father never want to see his child again? Or, his best friend? Why would the final 5 cylons not want to take a ship back to the 12 colonies, cannibalize the technology there and re-build a resurrection ship? Why wouldn’t the group try to rebuild their society using scavenged technology when they tried so hard to recreate it during their voyage?
    It felt to me that the writers wanted a certain ending, and wrote toward that ending without being totally rational to humanity.

    Posted by Anthropologist March 22, 09 05:56 PM
  1. This finale will echo with it's fans long enough for it to become something important in their lives and was the enduring culmination of a story that refused to play by the rules. It was Battlestar Galactica.

    Posted by Tony March 22, 09 06:44 PM
  1. LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this finale - a class act! Will truly miss watching these beloved characters, flaws and all.

    Posted by Joan March 22, 09 07:44 PM
  1. Well done Ron....enough said

    Posted by Chris March 22, 09 11:04 PM
  1. I think we may be moving a bit too far in forgetting the original series. There was a part of the original series where Starbuck and Apollo were picked up by high tech angels. For whatever reason, they had to dress it up so you would wonder if angels were just a very advanced race helping the humans along. Why can't Ron give a nod to that?

    Ron has shown sheer genius in taking the elements of the original show and improving upon them (i.e. the Pegasus). If he had been given another season to work with, I imagine he would have worked in Terra and the Eastern Alliance. Which would have been so cool. If he wants, he can toss in the angel idea.

    The best episode of the old series is the one where Starbuck gets stuck on a dead
    planet, and he gets lonely and puts a Cylon together out of used parts..

    Posted by Chris March 22, 09 11:28 PM
  1. The final episode sucked, IMO. Could barely stop ranting and shaking my head enough to finish watching. What a disappointment. Acting good, special effects decent, writing gets a D- grade. I have heard the creators say that the characters were what mattered and the plot didn't matter. Well, it showed!

    Posted by Meg F March 23, 09 08:15 AM
  1. Joanna - Out of all the amazing CGI work, I think the post-jump convulsions of Galactica were the best. In blogs I've read, that's been overlooked in comparison to the great battle scenes from the Colony. I assumed the ship would be able to jump away from the battle but the way the ship was buckling after the jump, I thought it might literally come apart with everyone on it. It might be one of the most dramatic moments of the entire series, which is saying a lot.

    I know Meg F (#17) said the special effects were "decent". I'd love an example of better special effects on TV ever. I think it might give movies a run for their money, too.

    I think the most somber moment was the final scene with Sam/Kara. It had a religiousish aspect to it, which you commented on. But, he used his last words to express his devotion to her. Touching.

    Posted by MG March 23, 09 11:02 AM
  1. Hi Joanna, and thank you for hosting the live chat Friday night.

    I too wondered why Adama would not want to see his son again, but the thought occured to me that he wanted to end his life with loneliness, like a form of suicide.

    Posted by reindeergirl March 23, 09 05:03 PM
  1. @Rob. You put it really well, I think I'm gonna keep that 'cultural suicide' phrase to describe what all the characters did.

    This might be the most passive ending to characters I've ever seen. No one died except Cavil and Boomer, everyone just slipped away like Anders and Roselin.

    Everything happened to happen and just about everyone really important just happened to be around when important things went down. There was just no tension at all. The drama was supposed to come from Hera's 'big' rescue, which ended up being just Boomer walking over and Hera running from everyone just to cause trouble. Then you had one of the stupidest standoffs I have ever seen. He didn't even pick her up.

    I'll always like the series and I can stand watching everything except the last hour of the show I think. I mean as far as emotional investment in the characters go, the last hour was gorgeous. You got to fully enjoy all of them and it really put a final note on most of them. It's just not something you can go into analytically or all that much rationally. You gotta sacrifice a good amount of yourself to accept all of it, or just watch it as blind entertainment with characters you know messing with your emotions.

    How much Battlestar taught me to be insightful, analytical and very respectful of characters and character arcs in sci-fi, they just managed to prepare a good amount of us to be disappointed by a finale that was some parts Battlestar gold and the rest regular old sci-fi junk. If the ending didn't drag ass as much, I think people would've been fine with most of it, but it did and the patient ones had to choke down their excitement with just getting something that made some kinda sense.

    But those other people are pretty bad too. The ones who would strike down Battlestar and scream "goddamnit this show's been goin' down since season 3." You're just serial complainers. Nothing's ever good enough if it doesn't fit every criteria you had planned for it and you especially hate when things end. You're the ones who like maybe 1 in 10 or 20 movie endings, because the writer got lucky enough to do what you wanted him to do. The End.

    Posted by Paterick March 24, 09 01:21 PM
  1. Did anyone else notice at the end that the newscaster (with six's voice) talking about Hera refers to the remains as the body of a YOUNG woman? I wonder how long she lived. Obviously long enough to pass on her DNA, but probably not more than 30, which would seem to fit with the probable life-span of a person living in Tanzania 150,000 years ago.

    Posted by Kitty March 26, 09 01:31 PM
  1. Where did Kara go ?
    Why didn't Lee ask her to stay ?
    Why didn't Ty and the old man say goodbye ?
    Why didn't Lee stay with his dad ?
    MOST OF ALL Why would they ever get rid of their technology ? !! ?

    Posted by Calvin_H March 27, 09 04:25 PM

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