I don’t typically have time to watch a particular episode of television more than once.
But I watched last Friday’s episode of “Battlestar Galactica” two times in a row.
...Director Wayne Rose did a very cool job of shooting inside the damaged Cylon base star. The intermittent lights that flashed all over the broken ship made for some beautiful screen pictures. And as Alan Sepinwall pointed out, the final sequence, in which Athena’s opera-house visions and present-day search for her daughter were intermingled, was a case study in terrific directing and editing.
Then there’s Gaeta’s song, which stole the show. It was beautifully sung by Alessandro Juliani, who plays the long-suffering Gaeta and, according to “Battlestar” composer Bear McCreary’s blog, has had opera training (should we ponder the possibility of “Battlestar Galactica: The Musical”?).
FlickFilosopher MaryAnn Johnson reacts to GWCTD with:
Wow. Just wow. This is the kind of episode that reminds you -- as if you needed a reminder -- why this is one of the best shows on TV, and why it’s must-viewing every week. How everyone is at crosspurposes and misunderstands everyone else even as they’re trying to find common ground: fantastic.
The Six [Natalie] talking to the Quorum has got to be one of the most thrilling scenes the show has ever come up with.
“We’ve changed but the humans haven’t,” Six [Natalie] says to the other rebels, but the rebel Cylons have changed to become more human. Does she really expect the humans to change to become more Cylon? Maybe she does...
And then who kills the Six? Athena. A Cylon. Wow.
...I love the score under this episode, toward the end, when Roslin and Baltar go to visit the hybrid on the base ship: it’s more plaintive and almost melancholy than the score usually is, the drums and the strings and the wordless vocalizing. Really beautiful.
James Poniewozik in Time's Tuned In Blog writes:
So that's what happens when you unplug one of those things and plug it back in. Hybrids, apparently, really are like computers; if you don't shut them down properly, you can't be surprised when they behave erratically on restart.
There were a lot of nicely done scenes and elements in this episode—I particularly like Roslin and Baltar together, which it now looks like we may get more of than they bargained for. And there are all manner of implications to the Cylon rebels' decision to become mortal. (Although really: making the entire resurrection process vulnerable in one central hub? Wouldn't robots understand the need for redundant systems better? Ah, well, dramatic convenience.) Not to mention the anxiety among the Four that they're about to get fingered by D'Anna.
Eric Goldman for IGN observes:
We're getting to the good stuff now. This episode of Battlestar really ramped things up, and for the first time this season, truly reminded us that the show was heading towards the end game.
Len Neighbors for Athens Exchange praises Battlestar Galactica's complex writing:
It's been compelling for the whole season, complicated and beautiful. I think what's going on is that people are unaccustomed to processing television, or media of any kind, that deals with religion on more than the bumpersticker level. We've gotten used to complicated relationships (see The Sopranos or Studio 60), complicated plots (see The Wire, and then watch it again), and complicated mysteries (see Lost, and then wonder if something is really a mystery if even the writers don't know how it ends), but television, and especially science fiction television, doesn't deal well with religion.
Sure, science fiction arcs often include religion. Usually, religion motivates a monster, or the crew encounters a strange religion, or a show deals with the conflict between science and faith. But what's happening on Battlestar Galactica is utterly different from these situations. The Colonial Fleet is in the middle of a honest-to-goodness culture war. Human civilization is teetering on the edge of oblivion, and they're arguing about polytheism.
The odd thing is that it works. It's some of the most compelling science fiction I have ever watched, and the fact that they constructed a world in which this is believable and sustainable over this many episodes floors me.... For the first time, we're stuck in the same place the characters are: picking a side to believe in as a matter of faith.
Todd VanDerWerff for The House Next Door writes:
After a string of relatively contemplative episodes, Battlestar Galactica’s seventh episode of its fourth season, “Guess What’s Coming to Dinner?,” zips along with verve, finding little time for the character moments the last few episodes have been filled with, and concluding with one of the show's better cliffhangers. Written by Michael Angeli and directed by Wayne Rose, the episode must have been manna to fans who’ve been distressed by some of the more philosophical stones the show has overturned this season, especially one that made such excellent use of the entire cast. While there are a few points where the plot takes easy shortcuts instead of doing something more complex and interesting in the interest of time, the episode is another strong one for a season that is shaping up to be one of the show’s best.
Galactica Variants reflects on GWCTD:
How can it be expressed? All one could have hoped for and more. Guess What's Coming to Dinner blew the doors off! BSG is going exactly where I'd hoped and in strange and amazing ways ... and Gaeta's Lament - unexpected, bold, strangely beautiful (in that Bronze Age sort of way) ... and portentious.
Brittany of TheTwoCents writes in her recap and review:
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
Okay, thank you. That was my reaction for a total of twelve hours after seeing the episode. I’m not usually one of those ‘let’s e-mail and instant message everyone on the internet’ kind of people after an episode of this show, but Friday night I was calling people I’m sure don’t even watch. It was that good.
The Battlestar Galactica Review Blog describes the events of Guess What's Coming To Dinner this way:
It’s very much like a chess game between the Humans and the Cylon Rebels, played out on several levels. And like a chess game, the true intrigue and fascination is not in the checkmate, but in the quiet and delicate movements long before the endgame. Because this season is more serialized than ever before, the nuances require careful attention.
Marc Bernardin of Entertainment Weekly recaps the episode, as does TV Fodder, io9, along with Cinemablend, Den of Geek, and Buddy TV.
BSG co-exec producer and writer Mark Verheiden answered readers questions about the episode, Guess What's Coming To Dinner at ComicMix.
Mark's fellow co-exec producer and writer, Jane Espenson commented on her screen writing blog about Michael Angeli's script:
So did you see last night's new episode of Battlestar? This one, called Guess What's Coming to Dinner? was written by the amazing Michael Angeli, and I think it's one of the strongest episodes ever. Suspense, chills and singing!
In celebration, I'm going to use a line from his draft to demonstrate one of my favorite writing techniques. Check this out:
INT. GALACTICA - CORRIDOR
Athena, frantic, wild-horse eyes, bolts down another part of the corridor, no sign of...
I've talked about this before, and this is a great example. And I'm not even talking about the stunning description of Athena's "wild-horse eyes".
See what he did structurally? By creating a sentence that bridges over the change in formatting ("...no sign of Hera"), he's making the inherently choppy structure of a script read more like prose, like a short story. This reader-friendly technique can be part of making your spec script feel enjoyable, not just as a description of a good potential filmed product, but in itself. Angeli's scripts are always literary objects in their own right and if the Battlestar scripts are ever published, I encourage you to devour them.
On her blog, Jane also details how she wrote the scene in Escape Velocity where Chief Tyrol becomes emotionally unhinged with Adama at Joe's bar.
She recently got back from Vancouver where they were filming an upcoming BSG episode she wrote, and has some other great tips and observations for screenwriters here.
Her Vancouver adventures also took an interesting turn... to find out how she ended up back in L.A. with a FedEx package of Ringo Starr's clothes, and how she dropped them off at his residence, you'll want to check this out.