An Analysis of Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica
Written on 2007-04-01
Starting with the back half of season 2, a disturbing drop in storytelling quality was observed. But the beginning of season 3 showed a lot of progress, for the New Caprica arc was far better than expected. Even if a bit disappointing in some ways, things were looking up. By Torn I was pumped and glad that new directions could be just as fascinating as the old vices. But by A Measure of Salvation the momentum had fizzled out. Instead, from that point forward, what we were left with was a season devoid of any real progress, filled with filler and half-baked stories lacking proper depth and emotional resonance.
But like any good critic, I wanted to understand why I felt Battlestar's writing quality was declining. After all, I am only one man and this is all just my opinion. I could be wrong, right? But then I saw the ratings statistics. Since season 2.5, they've been on a steady decline which correlates precisely with what I've independently observed to be a decline in the writing quality. Armed with the reassurance that I'm probably not crazy and the show's writing is in fact on the decline in the opinion of significant quantities of people, I decided it was time to figure out why.
To answer the question of why one needs to look no further than the major cliffhangers of each season. The ending of Kobol's Last Gleaming and Pegasus were both generally widely well received, but starting with Lay Down Your Burdens, "big" cliffhangers were becoming increasingly controversial among the fans. With Lay Down Your Burdens, fans asked "how could the protagonists be so stupid?" With The Eye of Jupiter, fans lamented "come on, Adama's not going to kill off half of the main cast. This cliffhanger is lame!" Finally with Crossroads, Part 2 fans simply responded with "WTF?"
The recurring theme here is the fans are distinctly not reacting with a simple "wow..." or "oh my gods!" as was the case after Kobol's Last Gleaming and Pegasus first aired. These newer stories aren't capturing our emotions as fans and captivating us in the ways that they once were. This is a consequence of a shift in the writing style. More and more the writing on Battlestar is focused solely on the advancement of plot at the expense of the deep introspection of the show's numerous fascinating and gripping characters, with notable exceptions such as episodes like Unfinished Business and episodes prior to A Measure of Salvation in season 3.
Instead we are treated to reset buttons like the death of the Pegasus and the lack of follow through in A Measure of Salvation, lame stories with technical and continuity problems like Hero and The Passage, plenty of filler, and overly drawn out primary plots sprinkled about in a paltry attempt to make up for the general absence of real momentum.
The primary plots in question this season largely surround the story of Baltar's and Kara's ever-deepening connections to the Cylons. Baltar's fall from grace and Kara's alleged "destiny." Unfortunately, both of these primary plots were unnecessarily dragged out throughout the course of the entire season and will continue to do so well into season four because the writers seem to have decided that Battlestar works better as a never ending mystery (like Lost) than the drama they claimed that it was from the start.
Don't get me wrong, Battlestar's always had a good plot. This season's no exception. There's not one episode that's aired so far that hasn't kept my undying attention. But there have been plenty of episodes that couldn't capture my heart. A good story needs to strike an emotional chord with the audience. Force them to feel something. Call me crazy, but I want to feel something when I watch BSG. I want to be emotionally invested in the characters' plights. A good story is more than a good plot. I hope the writers remember that in the fourth season.