About Me

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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Battlestar bloggery

James and Isaac both spent considerable time writing up their views about Battlestar Galactica's finale, I thought, what the heck? Who am I if not a follower of trends?


I've heard the criticism that Battlestar was made up as they went along, and that it was reflected, to an extent, in the finale. I, personally, have no actual problem with that. I get the impression that the number of seasons that Battlestar was going to exist was an open question for quite some time. I also get the impression that by writing the show this way, it opened the series to making bold moves based on what made sense with the characters and the show at the time. It allowed them the freedom to fail, be eccentric, go for broke. There were things that didn't work (Baltar as cult leader was obviously a weird misstep) but things the most definitely did as well. I think we can overestimate the value of a plan executed well: that can become a clinical exercise. Battlestar's writing was always a mixture of plotting, pretense and experimentation. That's why it could be so gloriously wild and engaging; and also utterly head-scratching.

The finale did boatloads of things right for me. It was freewheeling, it's action was intense, and you had a real sense that many of the characters were in very real jeopardy. The death of Boomer felt right. The music soared. The acting was great. Tori's death was perfect. Cavil committing suicide was, at the very least, ironic. The idea that there is more than one "Earth" was the sort of bold, epic idea that worked perfectly for me. I always suspected that they would wind up being the forefathers of our civilzation, our past in some way. They were, but not without first discovering that they had already found some version of the same story, with a terrible ending.

Isaac brought up a point I would generally agree with about using "God" as a free pass for narrative chicanery. Deus as Deus ex Machina, maybe. What didn't bother me about this in terms of Battlestar's finale was that the question of divine influence was in the show's DNA. The question of monotheism, polytheism, divine actors and prophecy and fate; they were part of the show from the first episode. The idea that they characters would find their way around to an acceptance of something greater than themselves, and not really giving a damn what you call it, was actually an earned moment. It didn't come out of nowhere.

I also like that the show accepted, even reveled in, the fact the the unknowable remains unknowable. There are a lot of people that think the Starbuck story was a cop-out. I don't think it really was. I think they made sense of the All Along The Watchtower thing (which was such a big deal that it needed some firm resolution) and allowed Starbuck to be a mystery. There is, and should be, something mysterious about "divine" intervention. No complaints here. In fact, any attempt to explain her would have almost necessarily reduced her impact.

I was glad, in fact, that even as they clicked through the list of explanations and the tying up of loose ends, it never felt like a checklist for hardcore fans. There were some things that just didn't need more explanation (Daniel, for example) and plenty of expository scenes to sift through in the last few episodes. We already pretty much know what we need to know about the characters, the story. I just wanted to know where their journey ended. And it ended in a satisfying, even poetic, way.

I had a quick back and forth with a friend about the idea of sending all their spaceships into the sun. His thought (not an uncommon one I'm sure) was "Um, they even got rid of their hot showers?" I think it makes sense. For nearly five years, this entire race of people were trapped in ever deteriorating small boxes in the middle of deep space, with no real air, no hope of survival. I can understand how they might say "We prefer grass, my friends. Lets go live in the hills." If anything would make you never want to look at a machine again, it would be the events of Battlestar.

Were there hiccups? Sure. They wrote off the Baltar cult storyline very quickly. Glad to see it go, it should have gone sooner. There were certainly some leaps in logic. And I'll admit the the episodes leading TO the finale were exasperating for me. They were portentous, dull, and sometimes woefully silly (Saul and Ellen Tigh stopped being interesting after New Caprica, if you ask me.) But I don't seek perfection, only satisfaction.

And so, put me in the "Went out with a bang" crowd. Well done, Ron Moore and crew. Well done.


David D. said...

I definitely enjoyed it. But I also feel that at the end of this season the 30,000 or so people that WEREN'T the main characters, who used to be hard to convince, and who used to do things like go on strike, mutiny, and generally be hungry and angry, sort of became like the crowd in Shakespeare who will do whatever you need them to do if you give 'em a good speech. So the idea that the fleet-- who by their nature if they were the crews and inhabitants of space ships when the war broke out-- would so easily have their space ships destroyed so they could go play Survivorman for the rest of their lives on an unknown planet seemed... a bit tidy.

Yes, I was that one, amidst all the Fate and Divine Providence, who immediately questioned the lack of showers. But, I also wonder if those who would have a career on spaceships would sort of be like many of us who live in New York City: Dependent on technology, accepting of being crammed in together, and utterly incapable of farming or foraging for food in a pinch. I mean... I've gone camping. But we had Trumbull's gas stove. And a car. I don't know how keen I would be to camp if step one was destroying the car.

But, like anything big and bold, if you pull at the strings too much it will unravel, and why be that guy? At the end of the day, it was a hell of a finale, much better than I expected. And the series as a whole was better than we deserved, considering the low expectations and fan unrest about the re-launch in the first place.

I just hope when they all stepped out into The Fields of the Lord, their pockets were full of seeds and penicillin.

And I never want to read the fan-fiction where Galen romances the cavewoman and invents Scottish people or whatever.

Freeman said...

You fear trees.

David D. said...

I do.

And you fear mountains.

I will say no more on that.

I just imagine myself in the world of that story as a spaceship administrator. Maybe, if I stuck with the computers, a spaceship IT guy.

And I would be food without my spaceship.