Tuesday, March 24, 2009

So Say We All

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. - William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I Scene V

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. - Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of The Future

The best TV show I have ever seen is over. I am a little bummed, but a story is not a story until it ends, and on Friday Battlestar Galactica came to a grand ending. However, a quick search through my Facebook friends reveals that not everyone agrees with me. The word "cop-out" comes up a lot. There is this insistence that the writers chose to chalk up all of the unanswered questions to "God did it." Accusations of lazy writing have been made. I would counter that with an accusation of lazy viewing.

The technical details of, say, Starbuck's resurrection are not what the show is about. If made-up tech-speak floats your boat then go watch one of the shittier Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. On the flip side of that coin, I would argue that BSG made a specific effort to avoid any sort of definitive "God did it" answer to everything. The only thing the show would admit is that there is something going on that is beyond our current capabilities to comprehend. But BSG did not argue that we should stop learning, stop exploring, stop seeking the truth. Quite the contrary.

From the beginning, Battlestar Galactica has been populated by characters who held strict and unchanging views. Sometimes those views were religious. Sometimes it involved a faith in military discipline. Sometimes it involved assumptions about human nature. Much of the conflict in the show arose when one character would insist, perhaps even force, his views on others. But at the resolution of the series, the survivors had reached a place where they could accept the fact that they did not have all the answers. A pivotal moment in the final episode is a speech made by Gaius Baltar. I will admit that on the first viewing the speech rubbed me the wrong way, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that Baltar was not arguing for God. He was trying to get everyone to admit that their lives were influenced by forces at work in the universe that they do not yet understand. I will concede that it the dialogue is couched in some religious-sounding overtones, but the important part is that he is not arguing for, say, the Cylon God over the fleet's pantheon deities. He is arguing against the idea that any of the characters have a claim to the One Right Answer.

Some might argue that the fleet's decision to give up their ships and technology was an advocation of Luddism, but I think it was more an acknowledgment that what they had been doing wasn't working, and it was time to try something else. The whole series wrapped around the line, "All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again." Our heroes won, in a way, because they managed to put off a repetition of the cycle for at least 150,000 years.

There were some things that I would have changed. The discovery that the Earth they'd found burnt to a crisp halfway through the final season was not in fact the real Earth was a bit of a fake-out, and there was probably a better way to do it. Whether it was planned in advance or not, it felt a little convenient. However, I loved the idea that the "Earth" they had searched for was not a real place but a Utopian ideal, and that the fleet would have to create it for themselves.

And the robot montage at the end was not great. I got the joke with the first glimpse of Asimo on the TV screen. I didn't need to be beaten over the head with it.

All that aside, I was very satisfied with the resolutions of most of the characters' stories. In particular, Baltar stating that he knew about farming was heartbreaking. And the end of Boomer's story was certainly appropriate. And I particularly enjoyed the moment when Tyrol, linked to the rest of the Final Five, discovered what Tory did to Cally - and then all hell broke loose. It was almost a scene out of a Quentin Tarantino movie. Really, the whole first hour of the finale was non-stop action and nerd awesomeness. The second hour was more somber, but in a good way. It was like the Grey Havens at the end of Lord of the Rings. A lot of goodbyes to be said.

I'm gonna miss this show. I wonder if Caprica will even come close to the quality of writing, acting and technical achievement reached by Battlestar Galactica. They've set a very, very high bar.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

This Can't End Well

I left the house at one o'clock today and headed toward the bus stop four blocks away. Halfway there, I approached a corner and saw a gentleman up ahead crossing my path. He was some distance away and did not notice me but it was hard not to notice him. His back curved a bit so his head thrust forward and his face angled slightly downward. He took long strides, ungraceful but full of purpose. His arms swung haphazardly, out of rhythm with the rest of him. The crown of his head reflected the sun, but the rest of his hair hung in long greasy strands down past his shoulders. His beard was gray and unkempt and grew as low as his sternum. He wore a navy blue vinyl jacket, unbuttoned, with a dark-colored shirt beneath. It had some sort of faded yellow lettering that I could not make out. His jeans were almost shiny with grime, and from the calves down both legs were tattered and frayed. He wore no socks, and his sneakers were probably white once but had traveled a long way down the gray scale.

And he carried a drill.

If I knew more of the story I would certainly tell it. No doubt it is a fascinating one, but my part of it ended there. I paused for a moment when I saw the drill and watched him pass and then continued on toward the bus. I would love to know where he came from and where he was going and why. But I wasn't about to get close enough to ask him.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


It's got Ian McShane being imperious and conniving. It's gorgeous, and the story is Shakespearean. Well, technically it's Biblical, which might get annoying. I feel I can let it go a little farther though because it is essentially an alternate-universe fantasy. I'd kind of like to see a map of this kingdom. The capital city of Shiloh is obviously New York, but after that the geography is pretty vague. The history, too. I'd also like a timeline.

I give the two-hour premiere episode three and a half stars out of four. Enough to make me watch the next one. Besides, Battlestar Galactica wraps up after this week and I will need to find something to fill the gaping hole in my life. It's too bad the show is on network TV; I'd really love to see the old Al Swearingen call somebody a cocksucker one more time.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Busy Busy Busy

Writing has taken a backseat for me these past several months. You may have noticed by the diminishing number of posts on this here blog. I have often (too often) lamented my lack of motivation when it comes to writing, but this time I shall spare you my infernal whining. I do not apologize for my silence because quite frankly I have been too damn busy. I have not had a theater-free week since August 2007, and I have been having the time of my life as a result. The work has begun to overlap, which thrills me - although I will confess I miss the lazy evenings on the couch watching television with my wife. Right now I have her penciled in for late June.

While I have not written anything of note in many months, I am nonetheless satisfied with my creative output. This coming weekend I open Camp Freedom, a project I've been working on since the beginning of the year. I am proud to say I contribute to several aspects of this production: I am a member of the ensemble; I choreographed the stage combat; I even contributed a short piece of original music for the score. Also, I shaved my head. This week will be spent in tech. Tonight, Monday, is the one night the actors are not required. We'd really just get in the way. I suspect that most designers believe we do that anyway.

So, I have tonight off, right? Of course not. Tonight I begin rehearsals for Busman's Honeymoon at Lifeline Theatre. This will be my second show with the good folks at Lifeline, and I can't begin to tell you how flattered I am that they asked me to participate.

So I have little to complain about right now. I've got a day job I actually almost look forward to, and the theater work has been steady. If you folks are in town, come see Camp Freedom! running March 8th through April 19th, or Busman's Honeymoon from May 1st through June 21st. I will do my best to get some writing done between now and then, too.