IEET > Vision > Bioculture > Interns > Ben Scarlato > Technoprogressivism
Battlestar Galactica’s Series Finale
Ben Scarlato   Mar 21, 2009   Ethical Technology  

[Warning: contains spoilers for the Battlestar Galactica series finale]  After five years, Battlestar Galactica finally brought itself to a close with a finale that did not disappoint. In the IEET’s poll, you were divided between whether the series was biocon or transhumanist, or whether we should wait for the end to determine its biopolitics. The final episode had both bioconservative and more technoprogressive elements, but after two hours it was quite refreshing to see some of our modern biopolitical issues quite explicitly addressed in the final five minutes.

Watching the video of the United Nations’ Battlestar Galactica panel this week, I was reminded just how much has transpired throughout the series. In the first two seasons, we rarely saw the Cylons recognized as persons, and they were referred to as “it,” while prisoners were raped and tortured even when they only offered misinformation. The third season opened with the Cylons’ occupation of the human population on New Caprica, and while some of the protagonists turned to terrorism, Adama for the first time gave the Eight model called Athena a Colonial uniform, and she was instrumental in freeing New Caprica. After Athena told Adama that the reason the Cylons wiped out the Twelve Colonies was that humans still fight and kill out of pettiness and greed, her husband sabotaged the humans’ attempts to unleash a genocidal plague on the Cylons. Adama neglected to punish him.

Over its four seasons, Battlestar Galactica has done an excellent job of honestly presenting people’s strengths alongside a myriad of human weaknesses and corruption, as well as Cylon strengths and weaknesses. It is important to understand the mistakes we make and be fully aware of just how flawed we all are. The key to improvement lies in learning from our mistakes so that they are not repeated in the future, and where it is the case that we are unable to learn from our mistakes no matter how many times we make them, as is so often the case in BSG, we must fundamentally alter ourselves so that we can move forward.

In the series finale, we see Adama determined to launch a dangerous rescue mission for the human-Cylon child, Hera. As the preparations for the assault are made, it is remarkable just how enmeshed the humans and Cylons have become. The new admiral of the fleet leaves for the Cylon baseship to command the fleet from there, while Galactica herself is rife with Cylon technology. CIC looks completely different with all sorts of tubes and wires connecting the hybridized Anders in his Cylon tub to the ship. The moment that most vividly depicts these changes is seeing dozens of Centurions aboard Galactica, all lined up and ready to fight alongside the humans.

As the assault commences on the Cylon Colony, we are confronted with yet another of the many difficult situations that Battlestar Galactica has given us over the years. While President Roslin waits in sickbay to die of cancer, she tries to help Ishay tend the wounded. Ishay tells Roslin to use a marker and place a black X on the foreheads of those who are beyond help, but as Roslin tries to stem the blood gushing from a badly wounded man’s chest, she cannot mark him. Ishay must intervene so that they can effectively use their resources to save the most from the flood of people wounded in the assault.

Within the Cylon Colony, the Eight Boomer switches sides yet again and brings the child Hera to her mother Athena, before being killed by Athena. Trusting the conflicted model Eights has been challenging throughout the series, but it is interesting to compare how different individuals have approached it. When Cavil is betrayed by Boomer, he says that trust had nothing to do with it and that he merely underestimated Boomer’s need to engage in gestures of futility. On the other hand, when Adama gave Athena a uniform in the Colonial Fleet and she asked how he knew he could trust her, he said “I don’t. That’s what trust is.”

After Hera is brought aboard Galactica, a deal is negotiated to allow the humans to keep her in exchange for giving Cavil resurrection technology. The Final Five Cylons connect their minds to convey the secrets of resurrection, but in so doing Tory’s secret of having killed Tyrol’s wife is revealed. The connection is broken, Tory is killed, and Cavil’s forces see betrayal. In an instant, the alliance between the Cylon factions is broken, and we see one of the Cavils take his own life instead of waiting to let his organic body deteriorate into death. After this the Colony is destroyed and Starbuck jumps the ship to Earth, though it is unfortunate that the episode did not dwell longer on how so many of the Cylons were left to perish without resurrection technology.

It was gripping watching Roslin’s death on Earth. As she and Adama flew over the lush green expanses of primitive Earth, Adama noted that Earth contained more wildlife than the Twelve Colonies combined. It is important to be reminded just what a beautiful, valuable planet we have here in Earth, and that we hold not only the power to preserve its nature and peoples, but to make to make it better.

Remarkably, Lee’s suggestion that the fleet forgo starting a new city and instead cast aside their ships and technology to start anew on the land of Earth is embraced by the people. Lee desired to break the cycle of machine uprising, and give the primitive people of Earth the fleet’s wisdom but not the dangers of their technology. As for the Centurions, it is agreed that they have earned their freedom and they are allowed to take the baseship and go out on their own, even risking that they might return to wreak destruction again. It would have been disappointing had the series ended there, for while Lee’s strategy of living without technology may have worked for many thousands of years, what is needed is a permanent solution and, as is clearly evidenced today, Lee’s was not. Ideally, a more prudent strategy would have been to carefully study the risks of technology and implement safeguards to mitigate those risks.

However, the series does not end there and the last few minutes are some of the best of the series. We flash forward to our present day, where we see a man, executive producer Ron Moore, reading a science magazine about Mitochondrial Eve (Hera), as the angels Six and Baltar look on. Six comments on the commercialism, technology, and decadence of society, but she is surprisingly optimistic about the future of humanity as she believes that any complex repeating system will eventually produce something new. The final scene includes a montage of modern-day robots, and while Six’s argument is not entirely convincing, not least because the deviation from the cycle might mean annihilation rather than something better, it is beautiful to see the series end on a note of such optimism.

 

 

 

Ben Scarlato, a former IEET intern, studied Computer Science at Rochester Institute of Technology and works as a software engineer focused on security.



COMMENTS

I was also touched by the very light background playing of the original series theme music as the fleet was guided into the sun.  It was one those series that ended-well.

Very good review!

I too was very pleased with the finale. I will greatly miss Battlestar Galactica every Friday..

May the Lords of Kobol be my witnesses, I really wanted to like this show.  But its utter contempt for the intelligence of its audience was infuriating.  Many critics have analyzed the series, from Salon to Strange Horizons, but I will probably say a few words in a bit.

Athena Andreadis

I’ve been a huge fan of the new BSG, literally not missing an episode. I wish I’d never watched the finale last night as now I’m stuck with my final memory of the series being a negative one. I’ve been trying to put my finger on what exactly it was about the show that turned me off so badly but I can’t. I think it’s a combination of many things that add up to create a very negative emotional response. Things like - Seeing Laura die on screen (really could have done without that!); Bill flying off never to return to Lee; 6 & Baltar appearing 150,000 years in the future; Kara just disappearing after all the build up about her origins; The preaching & preaching & preaching about “god” and “angels” - YUCK!; Flying the fleet into the Sun, and on and on. It was a real downer.

The best show on this Earth finally made it to the home ground.It will be a great loss but then again i could see these episodes for many years to come over and over again.If only every SF show was like this one.

What the frack is Starbuck and why did Adama leave his son to go live alone (when he knew Roslin was about to die anyway?!)

That episode left a hole in my heart. So many unanswerd questions.

Who is Daniel?

They should have stopped just before Season 3 wrapped. The writers and Moore let the entire plot get way out of hand. The Final Five rock music trigger, the reintroduction of the Ellen character and everything else which comprised Season 4 was just ludicrous.

While the Series Finale had several noteworthy sequences, the all too pat “Let’s take a leap of faith” reconciliation and then “It’s a trap shootout were just too entirely predictable and improbable and evinced a sharp insight into the minds of the writers, and that they clearly had no idea how to fill that space.

Furthermore, if any of us lived through a nuclear holocaust, survived on bare minimum essentials for 4 years in cramped and crowded ship, do you really believe that at the first truly nice port of call we’d all agree to go crap in the woods and live under the stars and wear animal skins? Heeeeellllll no. Lee Adama would have been tossed off the nearest cliff.

The flash forward to the future was also completely unnecessary unless the writers assumed we were all too stupid to put the implications together and realize they were our distant ancestors.

The ending with humans being decended from both the original colony humans and the cylons was great. And it made sense out of the obsession with protecting the girl.

Replacing the original Earth with our Earth solved the problem of the fact that the original Earth had become unlivable.

The humans and the cylons who had joined them giving up modern technology was, of course, totally implausible, but was needed for the story line and therefore acceptable.

There were, unfortunately, loose ends. Who Starbuck actually was, was never explained. And Daniel was introduced and then left out. Clearly he was supposed to play some kind of role and they ran out of time.

There has been a lot of comments on net about Starbuck not being explained, but to me it was very clear that she was some kind of angel who was unaware of her own identity. She even calls herself an angel in the last episode, so very odd for people to say that it wasn’t explained.

Obviously what an angel actually is, is not detailed, since we can’t expect ron moore to spend the last episode explaining the meaning of ‘god’. The point is that there is a higher life form and that starbuck was some sort of agent of this being. Some things you just have to accept.

I am of mixed opinion about the finale.

Here’s what I liked:

- It provided closure.  It wrapped up a number of the questions provided by the series itself and nicely integrated the story into what facts we know about human evolution.

- It was, more or less, a happy ending after a long struggle for these survivalists and rebel Cylons ... not that I’m into exclusively happy endings.

- We knew Roslin was about to die but she lived long enough to see the “promised land.”  That added a bitter-sweet element to the finale.

Here’s what I didn’t like:

- Starbuck unexplained: What exactly was she when she came back?  How did she actually make it to the original Earth and die there during its nuclear holocaust?

- Too many religious overtones even though it was more agnostic in it’s approach.

- To abandon the technology, fly the ships into the Sun, and join the natives in animal skins was implausible (but provided part of the closure to the story line).

- Bill Adama leaving to never see his son was, again, implausible.

- The flash-forward to the present at the very end was more anti-technology in my opinion than progressive.

  Ultimately, I would have changed final season if I had *my way* but it wasn’t bad as far as ending go.

I left this show when it went to hell at the end of season 3.
I’m glad some people could stand the unholy amount of semi-religious mumbo jumbo.

I watched the caprica pilot ~ didn’t watch the whole BSG series ~
mainly the pilots ~ thought caprica would help w/ what I seen as, gapping holes in the new “take” ~

  didn’t understand matriarchal “zoe” logic ~ I suppose it’s not relatable ~
  mayb it’s the queen mary of bots ~ read moore was a lapse catholic~

  I think we’ve seen the blantant, opportunists religionists, on Utube & etc ~ does any1 know of any1 like zoe? ~
  Religionists are normally theologically shallow, hypocritical, stress self & deity worship ~
  I miss the daddy rich dazs ~
   
The dudes who produced the caprica pilot, during the commentaries, didn’t seem to give a rat’s a#s about the religious dialogue ~

  ~ for the most pt ~ it’s a well crafted show ~ caprica ~
  ~ the two mains were good ~ esp. Mr. “la bamba” morales ~ dam he’s versatile ~
  even though the logic can seem off-beat ~

~ If moore-savvy fans can better explain the script ~ feel free to do so ~

LOVED THE ENDING! I thought the whole series was great, in fact. Great review too 😊

... i see alot of people complaining on the ending that they didn’t explain the thing with kara and daniel arguing that the producers were out of time. The thing is it could have lasted like three or fours seasons longer to explain it all but it would have become stale and crappy so i say they did the right thing ending it at just season 4 and creating a new series that would explain it all. It’s success it guarantied by the high ratings of Battlestar.

Maybe Daniel was that piano player that was with Kara. He was a ghost/angel, and it was never really explained who or what he was/

@ Nathan.. could be?

Yet Kara was not, (or no longer?) mortal nor a Cylon - And the Piano player served as an analogy of her father, (and messenger before he disappeared), for the purpose of Kara to realise the encrypted musical code - that lead them finally to (New)Earth where ultimately their purity of species was doomed as they were sure to inter-breed - Thus Kara was “the harbinger of death”?

“Frack them toasters!”
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