Is Ronald Moore Out of Ideas?

You know, through three and half seasons I’ve found Battlestar Galactica to be a strong show. It’s got a very watchable visual style, decent acting for a sci-fi series and, until recently, a really engaging plot. I especially liked how creator Ronald Moore skillfully wove contemporary themes through the show. It’s something that science fiction often does, but Moore and his writing team managed it without being overly preachy. I’d recommend the show to nearly anybody.

There’s seven or eight episodes in the show’s fourth and final season–there was a quizzical six month hiatus between the first and second halves of this season.

Something seems to have gone deeply wrong in-between.

I was underwhelmed by last week’s episode, and tonight’s was really no better. The show just seems to be recycling scenes and plot points from early seasons. How often have we seen (minor spoilers from tonight’s episode ahead) these scenes before?

  • Starbuck jawing with fellow officers in the pilot’s room.
  • Admiral Adama and President Roslin having mopey conversations about her mortality.
  • Tom Zarek fomenting dissent among the fleet.
  • Ships rebelling against Admiral Adama’s ham-fisted martial decrees.
  • Admiral Adama approving the use of deadly force against his fellow humans.
  • A lot of pitched drama about babies.

And the show seems to have abandoned any of its perspective on or critiques of our world. The last two episodes just seen like talky soap operas in space.

Maybe the extra few months away from the show flipped some ambivalence bit in my head, but I find myself totally unimpressed with BSG‘s latest efforts. Anybody else?


  1. Also agreed. My brother and I both watched it, and consistently were looking at each other with the “WTF” face. It was extremely disappointing and seems to be on a course for a lame-o ending. They better pick it up or… or… or I’ll watch it anyway.


  2. I think that Moore is in a way stuck with the clock running out. It’s kind of like the X Files situation, where there’s this complicated Smoking Man story running in parallel with episodes that are just entertainment. Some fans are coming for the long story, some for the short story. As the show nears the end, the pressures of wrapping up the long story, of answering questions, can overwhelm the per-episode storytelling. And the unfortunate thing is that usually mysteries are more interesting than their solutions. That being said, I was surprised to see the storyline take a turn to Yet Another mutiny, plus Much Ado about babies.

  3. @Richard I think the particularly insulting part for fans is that the latest two episodes have only piled on the mysteries without resolving any. Moore might have thrown us a bone after making us wait six months for a new episode.

    I wonder if somebody has assembled an exhaustive list of unsolved BSG plots. Julie and I last night were trying to recall whatever happened to that other Cylon baby that Grace Park’s character had. Has the show totally lost track of her?

  4. Sharon and Helo were playing with Hera (their baby) and had Dualla come babysit her two episodes ago (the one where Dualla dies). And one can argue that the (supposed) revelation of the final Cylon is throwing us a bone (though a really picked over and dissatisfying bone).

    I’ve not been enjoying the show very much since part way through the third season. It just doesn’t seem like it knows where it’s going and even if it does, it’s going incredibly slowly and repetitively (as you mentioned). With each episode I find myself shaking my head a little and going “They only have __ episodes left and they wasted one doing this?!?!?”


  5. @Darren I’m trying to track the major unresolved issues in my Zak Adama is a Cylon blog. (And the BSG wiki and other fan sites are probably doing so as well.)

    As I said, I think Moore is in the same place as any successful “first big idea” show – like Lost, Heroes, X Files, and others, the explanations are a lot less entertaining than the mysteries themselves. Particularly in a highly-constrained format like BSG, where you’re basically doing a four-season long submarine drama, your only choice is to mix and match all the existing players in every different way you can think of.

    I thought the miniseries and the first season were extraordinarily strong, but I don’t know if it would have been possible to sustain that level of drama, tension and mystery while also moving towards resolving the show and all of its plot points.

  6. I’ve been having an easier time with season 4 than 3, most of which I felt dragged mercilessly, pulling 16 tonnes of cliches and empty ideas. I’d really like the writers to return to some of the themes that made the miniseries and first season and a half so compelling: the created and creator, religion and human guilt, parents and children, the cyclical nature of history. These were such well-done themes, and many of them have died on the vine in BSG.

    I don’t blame the writers, though, but rather the nature of producing TV in North America. Writers can never know their finish line from the start. How can anyone sustain a storyline with the richness of what BSG started with when they might have a year, maybe two, three and a half, seven…? Maybe Moore et al could do better, maybe not, but as long as the show finishes by answering more questions than it asks, I’m ok with loose ends.

  7. @darren – Sharon (Athena) only had one baby, which is now a toddler.

    Interesting post. I reluctantly agree with pretty much all of it. This excellent show has lost something.

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