In honor of Battlestar Galactica making it to Netflix streaming, I’ve decided to pepper my blog with posts all about my favorite Science Fiction show. Unlike some people, and there are tons of them, I like the way the series went, from beginning to end. I had absolutely no problem with it. But there are things about the show that might annoy some people, especially towards the later seasons where it seemed to go all loopy. One thing at at time, however. Let’s start from the beginning and deal with the two hooks that made the show for me: The Population number and the Cylon Identity mystery.
At the beginning of every show, there was a number. That number was the number of humans left alive. Cylons killed almost everything on the human colonies, leaving less than 50,000 alive, bouncing around on space ships. The number never really went up much, except when the Battlestar Pegasus popped in. The number mostly went down. Sometimes a little bit, sometimes a ton. The most shocking number shift was at the beginning of season 3, when the population when down by thousands. The number was going down because people were dying. They were getting murdered or killed or maimed or exploded. In a real way, it was like watching money getting spent out of your bank account, knowing that there weren’t any paychecks coming anytime soon. Every time some one died, that was one less human. This was genius. There is no better way to make a narrative seem relevant and important than to give the characters real numbers, a real figure that the audience can witness and engage with. All the action against the Cylons had real consequences. When ever the Cylons popped up, there were real results that mattered.
Another hook that worked, at the beginning of the show, was the secret of the Cylons. Unlike the old series, the new series had “Human” Cylons, machines with all the workings of a human. There were 12 models, and at the beginning you know of four of them, one of them being the “Sharon” model that was a crew member on the Galactica. Anyone could be a Cylon. Anyone could be a secret Cylon. And no one might even know. This was great at the beginning of the show. Not knowing who could be the enemy was the juice that pushed every episode. But, I never thought that any revelations were that important, except for when the Final Five were revealed. It is a pretty easy narrative trick, one that mystery movies and suspense thrillers use all the time. If the audience doesn’t know who the killer is, they’ll keep watching until they find out who. The problem with this is that, eventually, you have to know who the killer is. And, once you know, the show loses some of its spark. There is one way around this dilemma. You just don’t answer any of the questions that you’ve posed over the course of the series, like Lost. However, when you do that, then you risk sucking just like Lost did. Whether you agree or not, Battlestar Galactica did answer all the plot holes and mysteries that it posed. They could have answered all these questions in a different way, but we’ll get to that later when I can be more spoily.