A friend and I have been watching Battlestar Galactica for years now, a few episodes every few weeks or months, and it’s finally built up and I need to vent before the pressure makes me explode like a spaceship in a season finale. It’s a tough process—I suppose without the weekly suspense, you have time to think out the plot holes (although Abigail Nussbaum found them in her perceptive essays on the show, penned while the show was still airing). The journey to Earth/wherever has become a frustrating slog, and I suppose we’re still watching it because of the sunk cost fallacy.
Let me give you an example of what I’m dealing with here.
Right now we’ve just finished “Deadlock,” one of the late fourth-season episdoes. Where the story is right now (it could be retconned at any moment!): Ellen, Tori, Galen, Sam, and Saul were scientists who built resurrection technology and escaped Earth right before it was nuked to bits. They decided to go back to the other human planets to warn them about nuke robots but it took forever, so they ended up in the middle of the Cylon Wars and made a deal with the Cylons: if we make you into humans, you stop attacking humans. Or something. It gets extremely tangled up, especially because every single piece of information is delivered through a vision or through a garbled-up speech. The important part is that the “Final Five” created the humanoid Cylons.
In the previous episode, “No Exit,” Boomer helped Ellen, the last of the Cylons to be revealed, escape her resurrection ship and fly to Galactica. One of the plot points on deck for “Deadlock”: Ellen is going to find out that her husband and murderer, Saul, has moved in with Caprica-Six and impregnated her.
OK, Ellen and Caprica’s meeting can go a number of ways that would throw some light onto the Cylons and their beliefs.
How does Ellen feel about her creations? Are they like sons and daughters to her? Cavil treats her like a god to rebel against; is she disgusted by what they’ve done to the humans that she lived among? Does she want to destroy them now? Or will she be happy that they’ve learned how to reproduce, that her creations have become self-sufficient just when they seemed doomed to extinction?
Hell, what about Caprica-Six? Boomer has firsthand knowledge that Ellen created the humanoid Cylons, and we know that she’s been in contact with Caprica since returning to Galactica—did she tell Caprica that Ellen was a Cylon creator? Does she know that Saul, the father of her child, is just not another Cylon but one of the one who gave the Cylons life?* How does this affect Caprica’s religious thought and her feelings toward Saul?
What happens? Ellen and Caprica catfight, and Caprica-Six loses her baby because, I shit you not, Saul doesn’t say that he loves her in time.
So out of all the ways the writers could have written this plot, they went with a contrived medical emergency plot that depicted women fighting over a man and that implies that the most important part of reproduction is the bestowing of affection by the father.
Battlestar Galactica generally disrespects its female characters, turning them from creators and leaders into babymaking machines and weakened romantic fantasies. Or loose ends, in Starbuck’s case. It also doesn’t help that it disrespects its own plot and its characters in general.*** I just want to shake Ron Moore and yell at him, “You could have done better!” It’s been what, six years now? So he’ll never see it coming, just like Roslin and Adama never saw that anti-Cylon mutiny coming despite the Cylons killing off almost all the human race. It’s a perfect plan!
Addendum: Notes From New Sodom has a great essay on the overall themes of Battlestar Galactica, and how the writers shy away from examination and exploration in favor of soap opera and space battles.
* Why wasn’t she freaked out by a Cylon who wasn’t an original model, anyway? I mean, that would be a holy shit moment for me, if I was a Cylon. Why are they so obtuse? Maybe I’m racist against Cylons.
** The man who murdered one of the women, no less. Was this a thing with Ellen and Saul? Did they keep murdering each other back in their resurrecting days? I’d definitely be more comfortable with Ellen and Saul as godlike, mythic characters outside conventional mortal morality, because otherwise the implication is that your resurrected wife will just forget about the whole you-killing-her thing once she sees something more important, like that you moved her hairbrush.
*** Example: in “Deadlock,” why does Galen, a man passionately attached to his ship and his work, a man much more comfortable with humans than with Cylons, who we’ve just seen importing Cylon technology to save the majority-human Galactica ship, suddenly want to run off to an all-Cylon “paradise”? Oh, otherwise the numbers for our voting plot wouldn’t work! For fuck’s sake.