After the out of this world Season 3 finale I wanted to jump right into Season 4 and find out what was going to happen next. However between seasons 3 and 4 the mini movie Razor was televised and I felt it only right to continue watching the show in programming order. Razor is basically an extended episode based around events from Season 2 with some retrofitted foreshadowing to lead into Season 4. It's a strange experience overall, you can't really watch it straight after Season 2, yet after Season 3, it kinda feels like going way back until the final scenes which tie things back into the main story line. Razor is told through a series of flashbacks, some go all the way back to the first Cylon war where Bill Adama sees the creation of the hybrids but predominantly shows us what happens onboard the Pegasus after the Cylons attacked the colonies.
The present day in Razor is during Lee Adama's early days in charge of the Pegasus before the occupation on New Caprica. He recruits Kendra Shaw as his executive officer and she is essentially the protagonist of the feature. Her story binds everything together and this doesn't really work for me. After 3 years of getting to know the Galactica characters, I didn't really want a story focused on a character who clearly wasn't present during the Pegasus arc in Season 2 proper. A slight annoyance was also that her Australian accent sticks out way too much in this universe. On a positive note, the show clearly gained the budget to show some of the big battles that they could only describe before so Razor does deliver some good special effect sequences. Events surrounding Admiral Cain's brutality which we only had had described previously felt more serious as whispers, waiting for them to happen in Razor didn't really add anything. All in all, Razor is good for whetting the appetite for someone waiting months and months for another Season, however when your watching it in one sweep, its not so much fun.
Once Season 4 proper kicks off, the four newly triggered Cylons must face and question their whole lives with this new knowledge. To complicate matters further Kara "Starbuck" Thrace thought dead has returned (not too surprising considering how flat her death scene was) and is promising a route to Earth. President Roslin, once so keen to follow hunches and legends, doesn't buy it, and ironically, there is much suspicion that Starbuck is infact a Cylon. Adama, also not ready to redirect the fleet, does however give Kara a small ship and crew so that they can go and follow her leads. She is given a limited amount of time to deliver on her promise and jump back to a rendezvous before the fleet leaves them behind.
The arc involving Kara and co. becomes more interesting and important than that on Galactica regarding the four Cylons who soon become known to little immediate effect. Kara leads her crew on various wild goose chases before doing a deal with a ground of rebellious Cylons. The crew, weary and keen to return to the fleet are brought to boiling point and mutiny just about erupts. The uneasy truce between the renegade Cylons does however lead to the discovery of Earth and the mid season cliffhanger sees the fleet celebrate and land on the planet. However what they find is a world ruined by a nuclear holocaust millennia before and revelation destroys morale throughout the fleet. The one beacon of hope that they all clung to was Earth and finding it an uninhabitable planet is demoralising. What we do learn on the surface however, is this planet was where the five final Cylons were from when memories are triggered that tell us more about what is going on in the greater scheme of things.
When the fleet leaves Earth, things begin to fall apart. Without anything to strive for, unity is lost and mass suicides, crime and even a military coup breaks out across the human race. The penultimate mini arc in the series before the final series of events which finishes the show is in regards to Gaeta’s attempt to take over the fleet. After he loses a leg during the mission with Kara, he becomes resentful of the Cylons among the fleet and believes that President Roslin and Admiral Adama have lost sight of things. He organises this mutiny along with Vice President Tom Zarek. They put Adama on trial for treason and endangering the fleet in regards to going soft on the Cylons in their midst. This is central to the whole series really, are all Cylons robots trying to destroy the human race or something more. By the end of this suspensfal arc, order is restored after some solid action and ingenuity. Gaeta and Zarek in the end, are executed for mutiny, without ironically, much trial.
The final chapters of Battlestar Galactica begin to parrallel that which has been played out in premonitions and vivid dreams which various characters have shared. After many years of battle damage Galactica is being held together more so by good will rather than engineering and Adama decides to evacuate and tear the ship apart so the rest of the fleet may use it for spare parts. The death of the ship is symbolic in that it reflects the cancer killing the other woman in his life, Roslin. However their will be one last adventure for them both before the end.
The final episodes of Battlestar Galactica centre around Hera, the daughter of Helo and Sharon who is kidnapped by another number 8 Cylon, posing as Sharon. She brings Hera to Cavil who plans to experiment on her in order to find the secret to Cylon survival without their resurrection hub. So it all comes down to the most instinctually human action of protecting a child, a half human/cylon child at that. Adama is left to decide whether to simply move on into oblivion, or send his troops in one more tme.
A simple choice in the end, determined in the most simple of ways. Adama draws a red line down the hanger and asks for volunteers to stand on one side, everyone else on the other. The scene is brilliant because even though it has an us and them tone to it, it isn't the case. The fleet is finally a family and there is nothing but trust and respect throughout. Those who go are able and willing but those who stay are not begrudged.
Once more unto the breach, Battlestar Galactica, manned by volunteers jumps into the heart of the remaining Cylon fleet for an epic final battle. The action set piece is great and the most exciting battle in the show, fittingly intertwining the visions certain characters had been having into the actual happenings.
As the battle ends, the reasons for Kara's return from the dead is revealed, by plotting the final jump, from the notes of a haunting version of All along the watchertower. The ship escapes the destruction of the Cylon base and appears over a beautiful blue planet; Earth. At least the Earth we know, not the planet they believed to have found earlier.
On the surface, they find fertility, beauty and some primitive humanoids. A place to start over, leaving all their technology and possessions on the fleet of ships set to fly into the sun. The 40,000 or so humans spread across different continents and start their new lives. All except one, Kara, who disappears, her mission complete. This is something many viewers have struggled with however I believe it is fitting and we shouldn't expect any explaination, especially in a show that has thrown us so much divine intervention.
As we watch the crew go their seperate ways and begin new simpler lives we understand that they have all accepted their role in rebuilding the human race would not be as they may have expected. It isn't a traditional happy ending, but a fitting ending none the less which ties everything up. In the end, the characters are content, and that is enough.
150,000 years later, we are in modern day New York where Ronald D. Moore (sticking out like a saw thumb) is reading about the bones of a woman found by archaeologists thought to be our oldest ancestor. He is being watched by Gaius and Caprica, at least the two guardian angels who had spoken to their real world counterparts for much of the show. They look at the city around them and ask whether this world is heading down the some path as Kobol, Earth or Caprica? Perhaps this time however the may be hope that the cycle is broken. As the credits roll, "All along the watchtower" begins to play over a montage of present day robotics.
Battlestar Galactica, is a layered story questioning the nature of creation and begs the question, are we worthy of survival? It proposes a vicious cycle, were from a clean, nihilistic slate, we evolve into a greedy, narcissistic and corrupt species, stretching beyond our reach. Over and over again leading down the path of destruction.
A lot of the shows themes and settings echo Philip José Farmer, The Unreasoning Mask with its religious undercurrent and the cycle of death and rebirth. However I felt more uplifted by Battlestar Galactica's interpretation regarding whether we choose our own path or where our destiny is predetermined. Battlestar Galactica asks us to take a leap of faith regardless whether everything is programed or not? Perhaps Lee Adama got it right this time, by letting go of all the old baggage, the cycle can be broken? By breaking the fourth wall and placing Ron Moore in the final scene, the creator's show us that our world is in fact the Earth that the character's created and perhaps this incarnation of human life (us) can dare to follow a different path to that which has destroyed the previous incarnations of humanity.
All in all, an amazing show which blends action, few but well worked comedic scenes and metaphysics to deliver a layered and complex story rightfully considered a classic piece of television, let alone sci-fi. I'd definetly recommend to anyone who enjoyed Star Trek: Deep Space Nine specifically as a lot of Ronald D. Moore's Star Trek trade marks have carried over.
A quick word on The Plan which followed the series. Much like Razor which preceded the final season, it feels like an unnecessary re-telling of what we already know but from the perspective of the Cylon Cavil. His involvement in the original invasion plan, his role on Galactica as a priest and also as the one who joins the resistance fighters on Caprica. Overll it is a nice spectacle to fill in visual gaps as to what happened on the various colonies during the attacks now that they have the budget to show us, but its all unnecessary really. In fact it almost takes away from the ending of the show to go back into all that again. The magic of imagination was enough the first time around, without having to see every little detail, especially in a show like Battlestar Galactica where the special effects really don't matter outside of progressing the story.