After five seasons, all is revealed, and it turns out to be worth the trip.
From "MASH" to "St. Elsewhere" to "The Sopranos" to "Seinfeld," all long-running television shows become myths at some point or another, reflecting, within the confines of their own universes, the disparate nature of human experience.
Yes, they're entertaining, but to keep an audience committed year after year, a show must offer enlightenment, even if it's just the recognition that the corruptible nature of power extends to the Soup Nazi.
"Battlestar Galactica" which comes to an end tonight after five seasons, was always upfront about its relationship to myth -- it's science fiction, for one thing, which of all the narrative genres is the most unapologetic about its use of symbolism and archetype, journey and transcendence.
In science fiction, anything is possible, which is in itself a metaphor for the human spirit. So it was natural, when watching the trials and triumphs of this scrappy band of humans attempting to survive in a world overtaken by their technology, to wonder if the residents of the Galactica were our past or our future.
Tonight, praise the gods, we have our answer. All this has happened before, and it will happen again ...
-- Mary McNamara
Photo: Cylon Six (Tricia Helfer) and Gaius Baltar (James Callis). Sci Fi Channel
Creator Ron Moore answers questions about his favorite episode and more.
So the end of "Battlestar Galactica" is finally here -- the Sci Fi Channel's (soon to be Syfy's) flagship show docks in the port of reruns and DVD lore.
But there are a few questions left unanswered. Enter the show's creator, Ron Moore, who supplied some answers without giving any spoilers.
Whose job was it to calculate the surviving humans?
It was a three-way responsibility. There were people on physical production, people up in Vancouver. The first assistant director and the prop department would keep track on a white dry erase board aboard Colonial One, and then they would coordinate with the script coordinators who kept track of the script, and then with post-production, who would track the number that would be shown in the main title each week.
The glowing red spine (during sex) in the first season. Was it just abandoned?
It wasn't really abandoned; we just didn't do a lot more Cylon sex scenes.
On "Battlestar Galactica," Cylon couple Saul and Ellen Tigh manage their troubles, which range from garden-variety marital discord to discovering they’re really members of a robotic race, by hitting the bottle.
So with the acclaimed Sci Fi Channel drama coming to an end Friday, the Canadian actors who portray the Tighs, Michael Hogan and Kate Vernon, took coping cues from their small-screen alter egos.
Over cigarettes and pale ale Monday night at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Hogan said the pair was –- to use the show’s favorite curse word –- pretty "frakked up" about it. "I don't know if I'll ever be able to growl 'gods damnit' ever again," he said.
Vernon sipped Chardonnay and recalled how surreal it was playing Ellen, who was "ripped" during her entire first episode. "It was drunkalogue after drunkalogue after drunkalogue," she said.
"There seems to be this hidden supply of booze and cigarettes aboard Battlestar Galactica. We're totally out of food, we're on the run, but still we have booze," joked Hogan. "When Ellen came back, it was like, thank God, we know we're going to have more booze."
Vernon was recently revealed to be the mother of all Cylons — "I'm the OctoCylon!" she said — and admitted difficulty letting go of the show. She's been hosting viewing parties for the final batch of episodes in her Sherman Oaks home for the show's Los Angeles-based cast and crew.
"Everybody on the show was a fan," she said."I love watching with the episodes with Michael. We hold hands and go, 'Awwww.'"
When the actress learned Sci Fi Channel would be changing its name to SyFy in hopes of appealing to a less geeky demographic, she scoffed. "It never even occurred to me that we were shooting a science-fiction show," she said. "Never. It's always been just good drama."
-- Denise Martin
Photo: Michael Hogan and Kate Vernon. Credit: Stefano Paltera / For The Times
Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell, the stars of "Battlestar Galactica" who have been appearing in New York the last two nights, have been saying official goodbyes. Last night at the U.N., McDonnell -- photographed here at the embargoed finale screening in New York on Monday night -- summed up the show in a way that's very germane to this upcoming Friday's series finale.
Olmos spoke first, saying, among a vast and diverse number of other things indeed, that the show was "one of the best experiences I've ever had in my life."
McDonnell, in her quiet and gracious (and possibly overtly Buddhist!) way, summed up what she would like viewers to keep in mind as the series ends -- with a brevity and understatement that is the opposite of Olmos. ("That's why I wanted him to go first," she said.)
"I think the show, when you scrape everything away, what you're finally left with is two things," she said. "One, the idea of patience being the essential element to evolution. And two, the idea of forgiveness being the necessary action to break the cycle of violence and begin to create a dialogue. And I do think the show, over and over again, brought those ideas to light, and that's where we feel honored. We feel honored to have participated in such profound simplicity toward disciplines which are really difficult to practice, but clearly where we need to go. So that's what I hope you can take a look at when viewing 'Battlestar Galactica.' "
-- Choire Sicha
Tonight, the oddest event in human rights and television history ever! The co-creators and two "Battlestar Galactica" cast members shared a U.N. stage with global terrorism experts and the minister of the Liberian Mission to the United Nations, among other wonks and smart people. This is part of the U.N.'s new attempt to get people to think about human rights in the world of American-run secret torture prisons when people are not watching Whitney Port get dumped on MTV. Oh, and this was moderated by Whoopi Goldberg. Huge "BSG" fan. Seriously.
The star of this live chat show was Edward James Olmos, the head dude of the big ship Galactica. Because he was crazy-awesome! (Maybe awesome-crazy.) First, he took Craig Mokhiber, of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to task (in a friendly way) for use of the word "race" during a discussion of the slippery slope of moral relativism and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Oh my God. Do not use the word "race" around Eddie Olmos!
"You should never have invited me here," Olmos said. ("He always says this!" said cast-mate Mary McDonnell.) "There's no such thing," he said. "As if there was a Latino race, an Asian race, an indigenous race, there never has been a Latino race and there never will be! There's only one race and that's the human race. ... Over 600 years ago, the 'Caucasian race' decided to use it as a cultural determiner to kill another culture. ... I spent 37 years of my adult life trying to get this word out and now I am well-prepared. There is but one race! So say we all!"
He was yelling at this point, and there was some back and forth chanting of the "So say we all" for a while with the audience, which included at least 100 high school students. Later Olmos would say about racism that "when a bug hates you, that's racism." Whoopi Goldberg thought that was deep.
Later on, after some very harrowing stuff about child torture and child soldiers around the world, which sounded really, really bad, Olmos got in again. First he brought up Dick Cheney's comments about the new president making the world more terrorism-friendly, but got a bit derailed in a discussion of "why the U.N. blue helmets aren't there in Mexico" and how the Mexican government has given up and how someone really needs to do something about this horrible shambles where people are dying. (This was a good point actually!)
And at the end, Olmos, delightfully, closed out the evening with a five-minute touching goodbye. In part, he said: "Hopefully you'll come away on your deathbed and look back on your life and not think that you wasted your time. Because there will be moments you look back, films and things you did with your time, and you'll question it." He praised the creators of "Battlestar Galactica" -- David Eick was there, and Ron Moore was apparently eating Cheerios on stage; yes, this was a very weird night! -- and praised the crew and even the special effects people.
And Olmos also praised blogs, at length, for jump-starting the process of the show. "The entire planet started to blog these guys," he said, meaning the writer-producers. "And they started to talk with them. And all the writers started to write and listen to the bloggings and started to comment on the bloggings. And the bloggers were good! They took it to a level that was immensely further than we had ever intended."
This was sounding downright biblical!
"Then they went back," Olmos continued, "the writers went back to the drawing board for the second season and took all of what they learned and threw it in with the augmentation of the blogging. And the process started again. And it got worse. People started to understand what they were doing. Pretty soon it was a direct line between all of us talking about all of us in a medium that had never undergone this type of advancement in history -- television had never been done like this. I don't know if Ron and David have it in them to do another one. You're lucky if you get one. And for Sci Fi? For them... may they understand what they've done. ... Blowing them away. This has destroyed all their thoughts."
-- Choire Sicha
Photo credit: Choire Sicha
A very small audience in New York — about a hundred people — saw the final cut of the two-hour season finale of "Battlestar Galactica" on Monday evening. The episode had been flown on the red eye from Los Angeles the previous evening. Mark Stern, the executive VP in charge of original programming for the network that we now apparently are supposed to call "Syfy," said he had not even seen it; this would probably be the only screening before the show aired, he said.
An NDA and an oral pledge by the audience prevents these attendees — nearly all of them media, many from trade publications — from describing the episode in any way. The pledge was conducted by creator Ron Moore, who made each attendee at the New York Times' Times Center raise his right hand and repeat: "I swear not to reveal any of the spoilers I see tonight."
Why the red eye, Mr. Moore — why so last minute, when shooting was concluded last summer? "A lot of last-minute visual effects getting dropped in, we need that ... shot, where's that shot, no, go back and do this again, a lot of sound effects — it was just a mad scramble," he said. "I think the lion's share in the last week was done by our visual effects guys and girls who were just sitting in a dark room staring into monitors for like literally 24 hours. They just never took a day off for the last four weeks or something. ... We just beat the ... out of them. They really gave it their all."
Gosh, that sounds expensive! "Oh, yeah. We sort of raped the treasury of Universal for the last one," he said. "Universal stepped up. The network was, 'Fine, make it three hours! But somebody has to pay for it and it ain't going to be us.' And the studio, in particular Todd Sharp, our head of production, they went back, they crunched numbers, and they came up with a whole extra hour of money to do it with. That's an amazing thing for these corporations that are supposed to be heartless and not care about anything but the bottom line."
There was a Q&A after the screening; pretty much each of the answers and the questions, and even the offhand remarks, concerned events of the episode and would constitute a spoiler, and so they won't be repeated.
After the screening, Moore went out for a cigarette. Did he have plans to quit? "I am a social smoker, at best," he said. "I really only smoke when I'm around actors."
The flashbacks were nice on "Battlestar Galactica" -- anything to satisfy the fans' insatiable desire for more backstory about their favorite characters -- but I was worried. Then right when I was about to go a bit crazy, like Laura-Roslin-in-the-fountain crazy, we were shifted back to present time in the there and then.
Not at all saying that they weren't great scenes. Roslin throwing her sister a baby shower, only to wake up later to have police inform her that her father, little sister and pregnant sister were killed by a drunk driver. Her reaction was silent, internal, touching, symbolic and brave all in one action. But, and don't get mad, we know who Roslin is, and after three seasons we may not have needed to see what helped shape her in this, the second to last episode.
In this episode directed by Edward James Olmos, Adm. William Adama, the rock of "Battlestar Galactica," and other characters are seemingly on the brink of life or death, or at least involved with life or death situations, that tear at them.
A hull breach starts most of the trouble. On a ship that has seen many wars and hundreds of FTL jumps even before the current residents moved in, Galactica is not what it used to be, illustrated by a deadly rip in the ship's hull that kills 61 members, Cylon and human, aboard. Adama may have been trying to save the ship at all costs, even using Cylon technology, but that may not be enough.
The accident interrupted a discussion about whether to mount another rescue attempt for Hera, seeing how she's the key to human-Cylon relations. Boomer is actually taking good care of Hera on the base star, bonding with the little girl despite knowing that she will have to give her up to Cavil to do god-knows-what with her.
Like a good basketball player, "Battlestar Galactica" lulled everyone to sleep, slowly dribbling the ball as we all tried to steal it. Suddenly, with the shot clock down to 5, it darted past us for a slam dunk. Two points, and even though many knew (or thought they knew) it was coming, there wasn't anything you could do to stop it.
Did we ever really trust Boomer? A little. Athena worked hard and gained our trust, and it's difficult not to trust someone who has the same face of someone you trust. Got that? The stupid Cylon projection trick, seeing Galen smile ... Boomer not only made him believe, but many of us may have thought, "Oh, maybe she's reformed and they'll still kill her because of her crimes" 'cause that's how the gritty "Galactica" seems to work.
Apparently, poor judgment carries over when a Cylon is regenerated, and even after thousands of years, Ellen Tigh is still annoying on "Battlestar Galactica."
Ellen, the final Cylon, a maternal model who says that the eight models of Cylons are the children of the final five, touches down on Galactica, bringing trouble with her. First up is Boomer, who is not supposed to be on Galactica after trying to kill Adama and is quickly put in the brig. More on her next episode. Then there's sexy time with Saul Tigh. Come on, Tigh! You've got a new woman and a baby, and sex on tables in interrogation rooms can only lead to trouble.
The Cylon revelations are crystallizing in "Battlestar Galactica" as the final one of the final five is unveiled, Anders becomes aware of the history of the final five on Earth, and the extent of Cavil's hate toward humanity is put on display.
The humans are going through their own evolutions as well. Bill Adama must struggle with the fact that his ship, a symbol of stability and safety among this ragtag fleet, is crumbling around him. Galen Tyrol shows him the damage, and is charged with fixing it. The other Adama, Lee, is given just as big a responsibility by President Roslin: basically to rebuild the government after Tom Zarek decided to scrap the last one (which I still believe was a wrong, out-of-character act for Zarek, despite his history of 20-plus years as a revolutionary who killed people, commenters!). Laura would remain as the president, but Lee would do the actual work.
To the Cylons on Galactica ...