BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: “The Worst Ending in the History of Televised Science Fiction”

Republibot 3.0
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PRIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON 8/20/09

Back in July (of 2009), Brad Templeton published a VERY lengthy essay on his site about how the finale of the ne Battlestar Galactica is beyond a doubt the *WORST* ending in the history of any televised SF series ever.
I pretty much agree with him entirely in that regard, though I bristle at a few of the specific comments he makes in support of his conclusion. To put that another way, both he and I agree that it sucked, and we both basically agree about *why* it sucked, but he goes on to expand this in to underlying theories and rules about drama that I don’t feel are as universal as he does. I would strongly recommend everyone here who liked the new Galactica should go to his site and read the exhaustive essay now. Go ahead. Read it, or print it up for reading later, then come back here. I’ll wait.

http://ideas.4brad.com/battlestar/battlestars-daybreak-worst-ending-hist...

Welcome back, assuming you checked it out. Assuming you’re one of the more common types who just ignored the link and kept reading, feh. I deride thee. Anyway, do read it later, ok?

Anyway, the art of Criticism is a delicate and subjective one, and it frequently tells us more about the critic than it does the art in question. If Aristotle doesn’t like Hamlet, it’s not because Hamlet is bad, but because he’s so invested in his half-assed theories about drama that he can’t or won’t wrap his brain around the format he’s being presented with. Likewise, if someone likes the ending of the new Battlestar Galactica, it’s not because the ending is actually good in any way, but that the critic is obviously hepped up on goofballs, or has perhaps taken a bad blow to the head.

Now I do believe that Mr. Templeton’s criticisms of the episode are pretty much spot on and perfect insofar as that goes, and I’ve got no question about that. He cites that most TV shows end badly, and it’s the nature of the medium, and that’s just the breaks. I agree with that. He even goes so far as to state that the ending of Babylon 5 (Which he repeatedly mistakenly refers to as “Babylon V”) was pretty good, though not up to the standards of the series as a whole (I agree), and wonders if the originally-intended ending might have been better (Unlikely, as we detail elsewhere on the site). He says he can’t think of a single ending for an SF show that really was a bang-up success. This tells us more about his own standards. For me, personally - as it seems only fair to play along - I can name three that are pretty solid endings: Babylon 5 (Which is far from brilliant, but has a solid emotional core that makes sense and works for me), The Prisoner (In which all the hell that has resisted breaking loose in the previous episodes finally breaks loose) and the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Despite the fact that I don’t like the show, and the final season entirely sucked, excepting the finale). This is neither here nor there, really, but if I’m going to comment on his criticisms, it seems only fair that you, the reader, have some idea where I’m coming from.

Mr. Templeton goes on to explain what Ronald D. Moore had hoped to accomplish with the new Galactica, and his own rules for the series, and then he explains how Moore ultimately broke all of them (Excepting the “No aliens” thing, kinda’ sorta’). He states that RDM gave us much that TV SF had never done before, including: “A mystery about the origins of society and its legends, and a mystery about a lost planet named Earth.” Well, I can cite several Twilight Zone episodes from the 60s that did the same thing, not to mention that this is exactly what the ORIGINAL Galactica was trying to do (1978/9). Claiming this is a first is either tendentious, or I’m misreading it. I’d also charge that it’s not the first show to have dark stories about interesting characters, or that it’s the first to give us “Artificial minds in humanoid bodies who were emotional, sexual, and religious.” Please. Mister Data, anyone? Or any of a long line of sexbots? I’ll give him the “Religious” angle of it - that is still a taboo on TV, and in SF in general, but two out of three are pretty much clichés.

I totally and completely agree with his assessment of the show’s failings, however.

Where I really start to differ with him is when he starts discussing “God” as a failure in the story. Specifically: “The presence of divine characters in fiction is troubling, unless your goal is to write religious fiction, which is usually aimed at believers of the religion, or at best at potential converts. But even when not writing religious fiction, divine characters spoil the story.”

I’ll duly note how he doesn’t say this is universally so, and I’ll even agree that he’s generally right, but this is one of those things that tells us more about Mr. Templeton’s views than any objective commentary on art itself.

What is God, after all? Whether or not God exists is somewhat immaterial for our purposes since the existence of God can not be proven, nor can it be disproved. What that means then is that in the absence of any objective proof for or against a physical existence, God is an idea. At least. Running with the notion that God is an Idea, I bristle at the thought that there are some ideas which are inappropriate to play with in stories. There are ideas that I may disagree with, or which may make my toes curl, but it seems wrong to me to say one can’t write a good story (of any Genre) with God involved in it. This seems short-sighted to me, and while the notion that it’s generally about conversion or preaching to the choir is certainly true of the majority, I can cite several examples of religious science fiction that are both very good and not intended to proselytize anyone, they are simply toying around with large philosophical ideas in a theoretical playground. The final “Hechee” book by Fred Phol is a good example, as is “The Divine Invasion” by Philip K. Dick. In fact, most of Mr. Dick’s late-sequence books could be considered “Religious Science Fiction,” and they’re quite good, but they’re completely free from the claims Mr. Templeton makes about the failings of stories involving God.

I don’t write religious fiction. I never have - well, aside from one flash story which is clearly intended to be a sarcastic commentary about the goings on inside a particular church, but I don’t think that counts - it’s not my thing. I’m not particularly motivated to write Religious Fiction, or incorporate God in to my stories in a direct and obvious fashion, but saying “It can’t be done well” strikes me as either a rule or a dare, and I bristle at that. It makes me want to go out and try it, like the damned annoying rebellious teenager I still am inside.

For me, personally, I think a bigger problem with incorporating God in stories has nothing to do with perceived dramatic limitations, but rather it’s about respect. If I put God in a story, then I’m putting *my* concept of God - which is a personal, important, and living thing in my own heart and mind - in to a completely fictional story. At best I’m then guilty of turning God in to a fictional character to suit my whims which seems…wrong. At worst, I’m guilty of trying to put God in a bottle and say I know His Mind. “God did this on page 206 of my novel because I know God so well that I know how He’d behave in a given situation.” That seems really really really wrong to me. There are many, many sins that will be laid against me when the end comes, no doubt, but I’m not willing to have trivializing God or claiming to know His Thoughts among them. So I don’t write religious fiction, not because I don’t think it can’t be done well (Though it generally isn’t), nor because I don’t enjoy reading it when it’s done well (Because I do), but rather because it seems that it would be a questionable thing for me to do at best. There’s lots of ways I could do it wrong, and I can’t see a way I could do it right, so I just tend to avoid the whole hornet’s nest. But that’s for me, personally, not a rule I apply universally to the genre.

He later goes on to say that he wouldn‘t have minded so much if the Judeo/Christian/Islamic God showed up as a character in the story but that , “It’s hard to figure out the reason for the introduction of an entirely invented god that nobody actually believes in.”

I’d argue that he’s missing the point here, and it would be just as silly to say “I wouldn’t mind if the Judeo/Christian/Islamic God showed up in the Chronicles of Narnia, but what’s all this business about a lion?“ The Cylon God is (at best) a slightly new-agey, non-dogmatic version of the God of the Bible and Koran, and at worst he’s a stalking horse for Him. I’d point out that our own Burt Cottage has frequently stated that he believes the Cylon God to be analogous to the God of the Bible, only called by a different name. It wasn’t that RDM invented a new fictional God, what he did was set up a framework wherein people could see the God they already believed in reflected back at them when they watched the show. I presume without knowing that Mr. Templeton is an atheist, which is why he didn’t grasp that concept.

Please note that I am not at all criticizing either Atheism in general, nor Mr. Templeton in specific. Though I’m not an atheist myself, I have lots of friends who are, and I’ll gladly concede that it’s the more rational course, even if it’s one I personally can’t follow because of this pesky belief thing. I merely bring it up because there are many tricks and nuances that would be obvious to the members of a club or culture that would be completely unfathomable to those outside it, and I suspect that’s what we’re seeing here. It’s not that “The Cylon God is completely made up,” it’s that the Cylon God is a mirror reflecting whatever you already believe, it’s a religious Rorschach test, and this is the kind of thing that anyone who’s even slightly religious immediately gets, but which is confounding to those who entertain no such beliefs.

Later on, he states that “One of the main elements of the original show” - that is the 1978/79 Galactica - was the idea that it took place in the past. This is patently nonsense. The show took place in the then-present. Every episode started out with narration that quite clearly stated “There are EVEN NOW brothers of man who fight to survive somewhere beyond the heavens.” and the final episode involved the Galactica receiving a transmission of the first moon landing in 1969. I suppose one could argue that the show took place in the very recent past - 40 years ago - but clearly not in the dim recesses of prehistory that Mr. Templeton assumes. Two years later, Galactica: 1980 made the notion that the show was set in prehistory even more ludicrous. This doesn’t invalidate Mr. Templeton’s overall point - that “Ancient Astronaut’ stories are anti-intellectual claptrap and “Secret Histories” are silly at best - but it does suggest that he was either not paying attention when the original show ran, or that his memory of the show is faulty, and he didn’t bother to look it up before he wrote his otherwise-fine-and-exhaustive essay.

Somewhat later on, he talks about how Galactica became basically yet another “Noah’s Ark” story. This is true, it did, though I’d argue that it *always* was this. (Indeed, the original concept for the original Galactica was called “Adam’s Ark”). He then says “The idea that humans are the result of an Ark that landed in (relatively) recent history is both one of the most discredited ideas in the history of history, but also one of the most likely to resurface again and again because of the religious motives of those who push it. If a good SF show has any duty to get its science right, it wants to avoid the Ark theory in all its forms.”

Again, I bristle at this. Mr. Templetons’ comments imply that (A) we can only tell right-thinking properly secular-humanist stories that avoid any inkling of muddy-headed religious hoo-hah and that (B) there’s some kind of religious conspiracy amongst the western monotheistic faiths to keep re-launching this story. This bugs me for two reasons - firstly it’s remarkably strict in it’s concept of what is and isn’t appropriate to daydream about. Every bit as dedicated to the idea of an orthodox “Righthink” as some religious groups are. It’s every bit as closed-minded as the religious stuff he’s annoyed by. I don’t mean ‘closed minded’ in the sense of “unwilling to accept the Great Flood might have happened,” but rather in the sense of “We must only enjoy things that are real.”

The second element of this that bugs me is that it neglects to consider the fact that Ark Myths are *not* just a product of the Judeo/Christian/Islamic tradition. Wikipedia lists 27 here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Flood many of which have absolutely no relationship to the Biblical ones. What Mr. Templeton is overlooking is not whether or not a world-wide flood happened (I don’t believe it did myself), but rather that the story *keeps* popping up in unrelated civilizations throughout the world and history. Why? Because it’s a powerful story, and exciting story, a somewhat condescending story (“I’m not descended from the bad people, I’m descended from the ones clever enough to survive by hook or by crook.”) The story pops up because it’s simple, elemental, and it fills a deep psychological need in the people who think it up. It can be taken literally (“The gods saved us above all others”) or it can be taken metaphorically (“If I please the gods, they’ll save me from death.”) In fact, the Bible itself plays the story both ways in different places.

Ark stories are not a case of simple ignorance among religious people, Ark stories exist because people need them to, and saying “We shouldn’t think such silly things or tell stories about them” isn’t going to make them go away any more than telling a clinically depressed person “Just cheer up” will fix them. We’re humans. Ark stories are just one of the things humans do *because* we’re humans. The story inherently resonates with us.

Later on he confesses that he would have preferred the show to be set in the future rather than the past, “Not just because of my tastes, but it would have also Moore’s goals better. Moore wanted to generate a real connection between BSG and our real world. He felt, for reasons I don’t quite understand, that a future setting didn’t provide that. Since most SF, including meaningful SF, is set in the future, I find this surprising. Future SF, if done with realism, says, “This could be our future.” This is what might actually be, something we might have real concern over.”

Again, there’s a couple obvious considerations Mr. Templeton is missing here. Firstly: If most SF is set in the future, that alone is enough reason *not* to set a show in the future. It’s a cliché, too easy. It becomes a personal challenge to the artist to see if he can compellingly do something no one else is even bothering with.

Secondly, Mr. Templeton is obviously an SF fan, and as such he’s probably somewhat unaware of the problems Non-SF fans have with the genre. To most people, SF is either big noisy Terminator/Transformers-styled shoot ‘em ups, or frankly embarrassing shows about goony utopias centuries in the future where people wear too-tight uniforms in bright primary colors and quote Shakespeare a lot on starships that have no bathrooms. A big problem for SF is trying to give some sense of connection between the audience and what they’re watching. Most people don’t like history, most people don’t see how the lives and troubles of people a hundred or a thousand years ago have anything to do with their own lives. By extension, most of those same people couldn’t give less of a crap about the lives of people a hundred or a thousand years from now. The lives of the crew of Babylon 5 (Not Babylon V) or any particular Enterprise you want to pick have *nothing* to do with the guy who’s a greeter at Walmart, or the table-dancing Canadian hooker who works the lounge across the street.

It is very difficult for people to get past this, to connect with strangely-dressed people from another era. This is why the original Stargate was so successful: it took place right here and now. The SG teams explore the galaxy, then come home and watch Adam Sandler movies in Colorado at night, right here, right now. It sidestepped the lack of audience identification. Setting a show in the future, however, makes it very difficult for a casual viewer to identify, or to even give a damn. Added to which, setting a show in the future is invariably going to give an entirely hokey, badly realized view of what the future will be like. On the other hand, Mr. Moore’s approach was obviously meant not to tell us what we can become, but rather *What We Are Now.*

Templeton then asks “Why were we so convinced it was in the future?” I’d say this was twofold - firstly, his own cultural baggage with regard to SF - he clearly *likes* stories set in the future; secondly I’d say it was deliberate misdirection by RDM himself. The man was playing in to the preconceptions of most SF fans, and then trying to give them the old switcharoo in the end. Of course he blew it so badly that he utterly devaluated and destroyed his own series, but obviously that’s what he was going for.

Somewhat later on he says “In a character-driven story it is the strengths and failures of the characters which generate and resolve the story, not the tweakings of an interventionist deity.” Once again, I’ll give him that this is usually the case, but it’s not a universal rule. What if we’re dealing with a war of the gods, where both sides manipulate people to their own ends? In that case, the actions of humans - even if manipulated - still affect the outcome. What if the gods have a plan, but that plan is repeatedly thwarted by people who choose to go shopping or randomly drive to Cleveland because of their free will, rather than do what was intended for them at a particular moment? What if we’re looking at a gnostic situation where the demiurge actually dies? There are lots of creepy/sexy/cool story ideas anyone can come up with to get around this limitation, though many of them are terribly offensive. Templeton is right, however, that most of the time people don’t explore this avenue.

The remainder of the article is mostly Monday Morning Quarterbacking about how he would have ended it all, given his druthers. I like to engage in that sort of thing more than most, but in this context I don’t think it really works. It takes a well-reasoned critique and gives it a tinge of “I don’t like it because it surprised me.” That’s clearly not the intent, but it seems a bit out of place to me.

Re-reading my comments here, I can’t help feel that I’ve harped on the negative, but that’s only because his positive comments - which far outnumber the bad ones - really require no comment. He calls the Cosmic Unconcious Bullsh!t, and I wholly agree with that, particularly in the half-assed manner delineated by Mr. Moore. He comments on the bad science, particularly on Kobol and with Mitochondrial Eve. He cites all the major problems of the last year of the series. All these criticisms are bang-on perfect, and he cites - correctly - the reliance on a Deus Ex Machina ending was a complete and utter betrayal of not only the audience, but the concept as a whole. He even contributes an exhaustive list of *all* the random happenstance that can *only* be attributed to God in the show, and it is sprawling and undeniably sloppy writing on the part of the authors. http://ideas.4brad.com/battlestar/story-bsg-god-gog Even the most fanatical of Christian authors would feel they were asking too much of their audience with such a lon

It is a great essay, with minor caveats that I’ve addressed here, and I agree with 95% of it. If you didn’t read it when I told you to before, go do it now. Here’s that link again http://ideas.4brad.com/battlestar/battlestars-daybreak-worst-ending-hist...

Seriously, it’s worth reading. Go check it out!

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Comments

He had some good points but

neorandomizer's picture

I read Brad Templeton's article when it was first posted and it's a long winded way of saying the end of Battlestar was badly written. His complaint about using an ark story line might be as dumb as the shows ending for a few reasons.

The ark story is universal not because of some shared race memory or people pushing a religious view point it is in many ancient stories because all the races of man on earth lived through the end of the last ice age. Their have been articles written that state this. The black sea area and the Persian gulf where both fertile valleys that flooded quickly 12,000 years ago. There is a ancient city off the coat of India that is now being studied. He makes an uninformed statement about ark stories if he does not know this. Maybe he needs to watch the History, Discovery or the Geo channel some.

The idea that man has a lost history is also a old story that predates Erich Von Daniken and his books. Forget about the ancient stories of Atlantis and Mu and just read some old sci fi. The Treasury of Science Fiction a book I have somewhere has 3 or 4 short stories about this from humans coming from somewhere other than earth to humans had spaceflight 100,000 years ago and devolved scientifically. It's older than sci fi and can be good if done right.

The ending of the new Battlestar could have made sense and been good if it was well written. It's just that it was not well written the last part of the final episode seemed rushed and not thought through. The idea that Neanderthals where the original humanoids of earth and we replaced them has been done a few times. Is it good science no but this is fiction not an undergraduate class in anthropology.

The God part of his argument I will not touch but to say that people that do not believe can be just as pushy as some that do. All that should count is that it be well written.

note: I am now reading the first Lensmen book and it has a story of aliens hailing the humans they meet as the return of the masters. the story was written in1961.

Lensman

Republibot 3.0's picture

Actually, the first Lensman book was written in 1934. You must have a reprint.

I agree, though. Mr. Templeton goes on longer than he needs to to make his points (I'm very guilty of doing that myself. A lot.), but his points don't really compliment each other.

Point 1) The RDM Galactica ended up being so bad of a turd that it devaluated the entire series: Agreed.
Point 2) The Religion angle of the show grew increasingly tedious, and was used as a sloppy deus ex machina (Literally!) to wrap everything up in a lazy way that didn't really follow the style of the show: Agreed
Point 3) Religion has no business being in SF: Disagree.

Point 3 is especially silly given that we're talking about Battlestar Galactica here, which has always, from it's inception, been a very religious show. It was created by Glenn Larson, who's a Mormon Bishop, and who deliberately wove a ton of his own religion's elements in to the show, along with a ton of stuff that he got from Von Danikin, which we could also argue is a new religion of sorts. I mean, hell, they're hanging out with the devil and a bunch of angels in the last third of the original show!

Bitching and moaning about how there shouldn't be religion in Galactica is like saying "Star Wars is great, except for all that 'force' nonsense," or "The New Testament would be a great story if it weren't for that really preachy guy in the first four books..." It's just stupid, and Mr. Templeton is really writing more about his own hangups here than he is about the show.

He is right, however: In the end the RDM Galactica sucks worse than I could have ever imagined.

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

Triplanetary

neorandomizer's picture

The book I have has two stories Triplanetary from 1934 and Masters of Space from 1961. I was just giving the date of the second story. The reprinted books have the stories in order of when they happen in the Lensmen story line and not in published order.

Ah.

Republibot 3.0's picture

Ah.

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

A few misunderstandings

Since you've taken the time for such a detailed response, I took the time to do the multi-step registration to leave a comment (normally it scares me away.)

A few of your criticisms are just misreadings. I am fully familiar with when BSG 1978 (and 1980) were set. What is in the past in that show is the history of the colonies and the founding of Earth from Kobol. The show itself is in the very recent past. The element under discussion on the past/future question was whether Kobol was a colony of our Earth or our Earth a colony of Kobol, setting that colonization in the distant past or distant future. BSG 1978 set it in the (modestly) distant past, about 10,000 years ago. I was not referring to the events of the show, but the colonization. I guess I could make that clearer.

You also misread my list of great things in the show as if I am saying they are all unprecedented. I do not. This is a list of the great things, some of which are unprecedented.

Now on to the real meat of things:

Divine characters are indeed a problem because as you say, no human writer can actually write them. It is not just hubris. By definition we can't write gods on the level of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim sort. If you write a story of a god it's just a fantasy, whether I believe in that god or not, because you are making it up and by definition doing it badly. That's why stories to be meaningful have to be about things we can comprehend the meaning of.

There can be success with limited divine characters, who are just powerful but not omniscient and eternal. You can write a Hercules and Ares story if you like.

Is this god a reflection of the Christian one? I don't think so. Moore's a mostly atheist party Buddhist as I recall. His god acts a bit like Yaweh, but largely unlike the Christian one. His god intervenes a *lot*, even more than Yahweh.

As for SF set in the future, I can see what you're saying if you are trying to do TV for a broad audience. Though good SF still manages to get people to care about the story. A lot of people looked at the world of Star Trek and asked "how can we get there?" and it wasn't just the nerds. This gave it relevance to our lives. On the other hand I don't see any relevance to people of any stripe to the silly idea that long ago our ancestors bred with some alien robot people who had identical DNA to ours. What does that mean for their lives? How do they relate to it? They know it's not true, and with a little education know it can't be true. No, I think the fact that most relevant SF is set in the future is no accident.

Now as to Arks. I don't say you can't write Ark stories if you want to, though they are very cliche -- it was a popular fad in the SF of the 50s. What I say is that writers may want to examine their own goals and see whether they want to write Ark stories. You're wrong on one thing. The Ark idea does keep showing up because of a fundy conspiracy. It is not a hidden conspiracy, it is very real. There are various groups with offices, fundraising, publications, conferences -- you name it. Yes, it also exists in our legends but that doesn't make the conspiracy non-existent or unimportant.

You may care a lot about that, or a little, or not at all, or support it. However, I think most SF writers would, if they examined it a bit, decide they don't want to give credence to it, and might think twice about doing Ark and intelligent design stories. I am not saying you can't do them, but you should know what you are doing when you do them.

I'm not saying you can't enjoy these stories. We all did long ago, it's a cute idea before it was overdone. I even wrote one myself in creative writing class in school, thought I was being all clever.

As to great endings:

a) The Prisoner: Great ending but imperfect because it lost so much of the audience. Perhaps it is their fault but I think you should try to avoid that.

b) ST:TNG: Star Trek is notorious for overuse of time travel, to its detriment. I can't score this one great because it fell into this trap again.

c) B5: The Climax (where the great alien races went all puppy dog) was a letdown. Season 5 was good but not stellar. Sleeping in Light was a nice capstone but came too late. Better without S5 in the way, as filmed.

Brad Templeton

Republibot 3.0's picture

Brad,

Wow! Thank you for taking the time to read all that and reply in detail. I had no idea our little site would ever come to your attention, and I thank you for taking the time and interest to join in the discussion, seriously!

As to the premise and setting of the original '78 Galactica (And it's bastard stepchild, Galactica 1980), the interesting thing (to me) about that show is that the behind-the-scenes folks kept going back and forth about when the show was actually set. Initially it had been conceived of as being in the far future (5999 AD), and they were heading back to Earth after the colonies got destroyed. This quickly turned in to the story being set in the antediluvian past when filming began, then most of the series seems to have been produced with the idea that it was taking place in the year we were watching it -78/79. Galactica '80 retconned this to it taking place in 1950 or so,and contradicted some of the original series internal details in the process. Really neither here nor there, I guess, but it interests me because at one point or another the concept for the orignal series entailed *all* of the ideas you've mentioned.

I would disagree that divine characters are always problematic. Obviously, we both agree that it's frequently badly done, and that it was spectacularly badly done in the case of the RDM Galactica, but I don't think it's always the case. The recent series "Kings," for instance, managed to do this very well, and made no bones about the fact that their fictional version of God was manipulating people's lives for His own ends, whatever they might be. Lost *may* be doing this as well. But even when done well, it's frought with peril because - in the case of Kings, for instance - you're taking a God that people believe in (Yahweh/Allah) and you're turning Him in to a fictional character to play with as the writers see fit. If one is a believer, this is perhaps like trying to capture an image of Jesus in a stained glass window at best, and at worst, it's just openly demeaning. And it's just this hesitance to turn God in to a fictional character that has tended to limit His use in fiction for the last thousand years or so, which, ironically, might be partially at root for your own umbrage of it. A "This sort of thing simply isn't done!" reaction, which a lot of conservative Christians had when God started showing up in Galactica. Both Galacticas, really, now that I think about it.

But, again, I think we're mostly on the same page here: Both of us agree the RDM Galactica did it badly, and whether or not it *can* be done well is perhaps beside the point.

As to whether or not the Cylon God is The Christian one, certainly a lot of people have taken Him to be. One of our own contributors wrote a lengthy essay called "Why I Love the Cylon God" and got it published in one of those companion-reader books you see on Amazon. This doesn't prove he's right or anything, but he makes a pretty compelling argument, and certainly the Cylon God seems to describe himself in Christian terms quite a bit. I don't know what RDM's current beliefs - if any - are, but I've heard him describe himself as a "Recovering Catholic" on several occasions, so it's only natural that if he's doing a story involving God he'd cop concepts from the God he was exposed to growing up.

BTW, Yahweh *does* intervene - a lot - in the Old Testament. He drives Adam and Eve out, He personally curses/protects Cain, He has dinner with Abraham, He wrestles with Jacob, He does all that smiting stuff with Moses, He appears as a whirlwind and screams at Job, and on and on it goes. Granted, that does settle down a bit as the book progresses, and He tends to work more through second parties rather than doing things Himself, but He's very much intervening throught the old Testament, and of course He sent Jesus in the new. I'm not arguing that you should believe these things, of course, just saying I think you're mistaking on that point: God is more-or-less constantly raiding the game and sending people scrambling in the bible.

Again, what's interesting (to me) in this is that if you watch the earlier, better episodes of the show, the whole "God" thing was clearly intended to be metaphorical. This was right after 9/11, when fundamentalist muslims blew up the twin towers, outraging our own reasonably multicultural, reasonably tolerant society. In the pilot miniseries, the Cylons were clearly, clearly, clearly depicted as creepy monotheists, and as such the bad guys. They were intended to be surrogates for fundamentalists - Muslims, the kinds of Christians who blow up abortion clinics, etc - and the colonials were obviously polytheistic pagans as a means of getting across that they tolerated a whole bunch of different beliefs and outlooks and what have you. It's interesting to me that as the show progressed, the monotheist view subsumed the pagan one, and the destruction of the colonies went from being this unfathomable evil perpetrated by those bad fundies to being equated with The Great Flood, a tool of God to redeem some remnant of humanity, or whatever. It's curious, and more than a bit disturbing that the show made that switch, and I can't help but feel they were selling out their own narative roots the closer they got to it. They started out effectively railing against the Judeo/Christian/Islamic/Baha'i tradition, and they ended up embracing and celebrating it in the most half-assed fashion imaginable (And DELIBERATELY wasting our time in the fourth season in the process).

As to Arks: I wouldn't call it a 'conspiracy' - conspiracies have to be hidden, and the whole literal interpretation of Noah's Ark school is fully out there for everyone to see. They've definitely got an agenda, they want to prove for the whole world that the bible is literally true, but there's no conspiracy in this. I've known some of these people quite well - I went to college with a guy connected to several Mt. Arrarat expeditions, for instance - but I've never know any of them to plant evidence, or fake stuff. Disingenuously misrepresent circumstantial evidence as fact? sure! Absolutely! Outright build a boat and burry it in Turkey? Nah.

But what I was trying to get across - and I could have phrased it better - was that there are, by conservative estimate, 1.3 Metric Assloads of Flood/Ark myths in the world, and obviously most of 'em aren't related to the Judeo/Christian/Islamic one. Check here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deluge_myth Some of these - Noah, Utnapishtim, Ducaleon, Zisudra - are clearly related, but others clearly are entirely independent standalone legends. Obviously, the reason for this is obviously that humanity *likes* the idea on some level. It makes for a good story, it's exciting, and you can apply it to any kind of moral value you like. It wouldn't keep spontaneously popping up in unrelated human cultures if it didn't fill some psychological need. As such, not only has it turned up a lot in the past, but it's going to continue to turn up, even among our descendants ten thousand years from now, who (presumably) will never have heard of The Bible or (If we're lucky) Earth.

I do totally agree that it was overdone in the 50s in genre literature, and in the teens/20s in spiritualist literature before that (Madame Blatavsky and all that atlantean hoo-hah), and I do agree that it's become a tedious cliche. I wouldn't urge writers to 'avoid giving it credence', however. That makes it a taboo, and I rail uncomfortably against people saying 'you shouldn't write this, or you should only write that.' (Which, as we speak, a major Christian ministry in Texas is urging their members to do. I don't like that kind of thinking.) Personally I'd like to see someone reinvent it in some fashion that undercuts its obvious meaning. For all I know, RDM might have been attempting that with Galactica, but if that's the case, he utterly failed.

Great Endings:
The Prisoner: It worked for me. I was completely aware the whole way through the series that it was intended as an allegory for the different kinds of rebellion (I mean, hell, MacGoohan gets elected leader of the village while his followers are chanting "666" [pause] "666" [Pause] "666," it's not like you have to be fellini to figure that out), but for people who can't distinguish between Gilligan's Island and Playhouse 90, I can see how the idea that one thing might actually mean a different thing might be sort of confusing. I say, "Screw 'em if they can't figure it out." This is a smart show, it's about something. They should either try harder to understand, or they shouldn't watch.

The TNG ending: I'm not going to argue too emphatically on behalf of this, since it's been more than a decade since I saw it, and I don't want to give the impression that I like Trek. (I don't, really.) Suffice to say that I was overjoyed with it at the time, and that it was better than the two seasons that came before it, and the movies that came after it, which migh thave shaped my judgement. If you say it's crap, I'll believe you on this one.

Babylon 5: I do feel they fumbled the ball a bit on the abrupt ending of the Shadow War. It was, well, abrupt. JMS has said that the reason for this is because the show wasn't ABOUT the shadow war, it was about how major changes in history affect the lives of people who survive them, and I think he's right. It wasn't just Cowboy Bob against Black Bart, it was "How does Cowboy Bob find meaning for his life after Black Bart is finaly defeated?" That said, it could have been handled a bit better, but this was made up for by the brilliant Civil War with earth arc, which filled out the season, and I'd say that's the true climax of the series - "We have come to place President Clark under arrest." Season 5 is deneument, easily the weakest year of the show, and it doesn't get going until the last 8 episodes or so, but I was refering to the final episode - "Sleeping in Light" - and not the climax of the story. "Sleeping in Light" was intimate, true to the characters, touching, hopeful, quiet, and sad all at the same time. It puts a lump in my throat every time I see it.

I agree that it works better if you see it at the end of Season 4, though, and without seeing season 5.

And that's about it, Brad! Again, I thank you for taking the trouble to register and point out where I missunderstood you, and for allowing me to clear up some of my own points as well, and suggest some new ones. Thank you! I do hope you'll stop by and visit us again sometime, it was fun talking/typing to you.

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

>>“In a character-driven

>>“In a character-driven story it is the strengths and failures of the characters which generate and resolve the story, not the tweakings of an interventionist deity.”<<

The tweakings of an interventionist deity only devalue man's involvement if you hold to the view that determinism/destiny is incompatible with man's free will.

I'm sort of a romantic

Republibot 3.0's picture

>>>The tweakings of an interventionist deity only devalue man's involvement if you hold to the view that determinism/destiny is incompatible with man's free will.<<<

I'm sort of a romantic, so I don't really feel "Either/Or" are the only options here. As Straczynski said, for instance, "Faith and Reason are the shoes on your feet. You'll go further with both than you ever will with only one alone."

I believe in Free Will and not really Destiny, but I don't think that obviates the possiblity of Intervention. Rats have free will to go through the maze, or just sit and poop, but a behavioral scientist can yank rats out of the maze, and put them elsewhere - a cage, another maze, back in the wild, whatever - this doesn't remove their free will, it just occasionally makes it subordinate.

I suppose I'm saying "I believe in free will, and am very skeptical of destiny, but I recognize that free will can be limited on occasion."

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

I believe that you were

I believe that you were predestined by God from before the beginning of the world to write those words. And that (assuming no one was holding a gun to your head at the moment) you wrote those words on your own, of your own free will.

But that rats in a maze analogy is spot-on as well.

thanks

Republibot 3.0's picture

>>>But that rats in a maze analogy is spot-on as well.<<<

Thanks! It's off the cuff, just thought it up on the spur of the moment...as I was predestined to. <G>

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

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Sorry about that ...

but the comments disappeared on me :( and I was keen to re-read Brad Templeton's response. I thought that posting my own comment may encourage the others out of hiding and ... voila!

Congrats

Kevin Long's picture

Truth be told, I'd completely forgotten about this entire article, not to mention the fact that he'd posted. So: well done.

Sincerely,

Kevin Long

http://www.kevin-long.com