Saturday, March 14, 2009

Thoughts on Daybreak

I highly recommend Mo Ryan's excellent article on Daybreak Part 1, in the Chicago Tribune. Mo quotes from a prior interview she did with Ron Moore talking about the finale:

MR: And speaking of the series finale, you’re happy with how that came out?

RDM: Very pleased with it. It came together all at once and it was a strange experience. In the writers’ room, we spent the first day [of breaking that episode] in a lot of difficulty, a lot of frustration. We sort of knew what the plot was, we knew the action story, we knew the plot of the finale. We spent that whole first day just struggling with the mechanics of the plot, how you got from A to B. We were spinning our wheels. I went home and I was in the shower and I had this “Duh” moment – the show was never about that. That’s not why I love the show. It’s not about the plot.

I went into the writers’ room the next day and wrote on the big dry-erase board, “It’s the characters, stupid,” and the writers laughed and we all sat back and said, “Who gives a [expletive] about the plot? Let’s just talk about these characters.”

MR: And what happens to these people.

RDM: Who are these people, how do we want their stories to end, what is it really about? Once we did that, it all broke free. And then it was, “OK, this is what the finale is about.” And the plot was simple, the finale has a fairly simple through-line to it. But it’s really not about that. It’s really about these people you’ve taken this journey with and what the end of their stories are going to be.

Mo also references an interview Ron did with Alan Sepinwall:
In an effort to assess where we stand, here's a list of questions that Moore told Alan Sepinwall would be addressed this season. Let's see what is still left on the list: (Ron's answers in bold.)

AS: The identity of the final Cylon, we will find this out?

RDM: Yeah. [Mo here: Answered -- Ellen.]

The origin and nature of the Final Four and how they're different from the rest of them?

Yes. [Answered.]

The origin of the rest of the skinjobs?

Yes. [Answered.]

What happened to Earth and what happened to the 13th Colony?

Yes. [What happened to Earth -- Answered. What happened to the 13th Colony -- partly answered or fully answered? The 13th Tribe, the Cylons, left Kobol and settled on Earth.]

Who, if anyone, is orchestrating all of this?

Basically, yeah. I don't know if it's going to be wrapped up in a neat bow. The show has an answer for it, whether it's a satisfying answer, I don't know. [Not answered yet]

Will "All this has happened before and it will happen again" be explained in some way?

Yes. [I'd call that partly answered -- there have clearly been Cylon and human wars for hundreds or thousands years. Do you consider this question answered?]

The opera house?

Yes. [Not answered yet.]

What happened to Kara when she went through the Maelstrom?

Pretty much. [Not answered yet. I'm guessing she was a beneficiary of the kind of "organic memory transference" technology that the Final Five used, but we don't know for sure.]

Identity and nature of the "head" characters?

Yes. [Not answered yet. I'm guessing they're Cylon projections of some kind.]

Tigh and Six's baby, and whether that means Cylons can breed?

Yes. That's not a "yes" to whether they can breed -- the question will be answered. [Answered.]

The fate of Boomer and whether there are other 1's, 4's and 5's floating out there?

Yes. [Answered. Boomer, as well as Cavil, Simon and Doral (at least one of each), are all aboard the Colony.]

Roslin's health?

Yes. [Not fully answered, but it's not looking good.]


ProgGrrl said...

I also feel the opera house might be "answered" at this point -- Ellen and Cavil have made it quite clear how special Hera is...and why she is worth protecting. A human leader (Roslin; Baltar) might come to the same conclusion. I know a lot of people are wondering if Roslin is half cylon, etc -- but she had cylon blood put in her body. On this show, that is enough of a reason.

Baltar's presence in the dream is really the only wrench in the works for he a symbol? Why doesn't he share this dream as well? My favorite answer: he's the only one with no cylon blood in his veins. It's certainly possible that both Roslin and Six could be projecting Baltar into the dream -- being that he symbolizes so many things for each of them in their waking lives.

Anonymous said...

As far as the Opera House itself goes, I doubt it's important per se as far as being the venue for the dream, which is what I think many viewers are/were expecting. The vision could have been in any setting, this just happened to be the one it chose. And when we were told that "The dying leader shall know the truth of the Opera House" it was simply a reference to knowing what the vision meant, not necessarily where the Opera House is or why it's happening there and not, say, a Pyramid stadium or the halls of Galactica or something.

(As for the album Kara's dad recorded... red herring, perhaps? We'll know for sure in just 168 hours, regardless...)

ProgGrrl said...

Well isn't the reason that it's the opera house, is because that is the opera house on Kobol? Or am I remembering me S2 stuff wrong? It's been a while...

Oh and if you think there's gonna be any more of Kara and her Dad and some cassette tape of his concert...I pity you. :-)

Brisotope said...

ProGrrl, I believe you're right. The visions are set in the Opera House on Kobol...the same one Baltar and Head Six projected into in that beautiful scene with the passacaglia in the score.

Scilon said...

I hate to ruin a party, but 4.5 has been (apart from a few exceptions) very weak.

A book, a play, a script is always about the plot. The consistency of the plot. The characters are secondary to the plot. No plot = nothing.

Most of 4.5 seems rushed. Seems like they've felt obliged to put things together, in order to bring this series to an end (?).

Did I mention that I love BSG? I love the philosophical aspects of it. The series IS about the plot. It's about perceptions of existence, how we think about ourselves and how we deal with "outsiders" - no matter who they are. It's about how we evolve, in order to find meaning and solve the mysteries that haunt us.

This is the plot and this is what BSG is about.

It's not about the characters and their lives. They are devices to the plot.

4.5 has showed itself many problems. I don't know if there were budget constraints, which forced the producers to stretch the action in the final episodes (most people agree on the "slow" episodes we've seen lately). Things don't get really explained, they are rather thrown together to our faces, every now and then.

I want the series finale to prove me wrong, but I have the feeling that what could've been a masterpiece, lost a click or two in the quality scale.

P.S.: sorry for any mistakes, english is not my first language.

Anonymous said...

Saying there's nothing without the plot implies your abiding in a theoretical understanding of dramatic fiction as old as Aristotle. Aristotle said plot was the most important part of drama. That was ~2400 years ago, and since then there have been other, more compelling theories.

Anonymous said...

Re: "It's the characters, stupid." It's nice that RDM pulled his head out in the 11th hour and remembered that, but perhaps the ending, not to mention the last season and a half, would have been more effective if he had not lost sight of this along the way.

Ian said...

I'm in two minds about what I want from part 2. Personally it's gotten to the point where I don't really care if we don't get the answers to these questions. 4.5 has made it very clear that BSG is a show about the characters and I just want to find out where these characters end up.

On the other side I dread the shitstorm that'll ensue if all these questions aren't answered. I can see a lot of bitching in a week's time if everything hasn't been neatly tied up and thrust in your face with enough force and repetition to make it entirely unambiguous.

Unfortunately there seems to be some people who can't live without knowing all the answers. I remember the aftermath of the end of Babylon 5 (which did an incredible job of answering all the questions!) where there were still people nitpicking the fact that some story thread mentioned once in season 2 was never tied up.

Logan Gawain said...

Ian, you have it exactly right.

I remember the end of B5 too, and yeah, there were a lot of isolated complaints.

But, the ending of B5 was meant to be an emotional capstone to the story.

Neither B5 or BSG are murder mysteries where every plot point is supposed to solved in a big drawing room scene with Columbo explaining everything and taking away the bad guy.

That's just not what the story is about.

In the interview with Alan, Ron Moore says what will be answered. And he even says people may not like some of the answers. But, they will get their answers.

In the years to come people won't care about the answers, they'll just remember that they cared about these characters.

But, that's the thing: You have to have been interested in these people to begin with. I care about them, and their struggles, and how they can overcome great difficulty. The show is about their flaws and their nobility.

Eric H said...

Thanks for posting this. Really, if Ron Moore simply provides satisfying (not necessarily complete) answers to the big questions in Alan's interview, I will be very happy, because I think what he's going to do with most of this story is blow us away with how these characters end up. I can't wait.

Greg said...

I am going to wait for the DVDs and HOPE they put in all the stuff they've been leaving out that makes a critical difference in whether these shows make any sense or not.

Yes, I know tv shows can't be 60 minute or 90 minutes sans commercials, but there's been so much cut and the audience left to infer things they do not know about that it detracts from the experience.

that said, last night's episode was good. But I kept having the feeling I was missing out on something.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I think the issue here is that we want a sense of closure. The answers need to be satisfying, but we also need to have a sense that even though we may never see these characters again, and that they still have more life to live, that we are ready to say goodbye at this time.

And I hate to say it, but BSG has always had its weak spots. I remember people bitching about the second half of Season 2, after the end of Admiral Cain's reign of terror. And much of Season 3, after the escape from New Caprica, felt weak as well - the fandom was in uproar over the Kara-Lee-Anders-Dualla mess for quite some time.

I would not have chosen to wind down Season 4.5 as the BSG writers have. But I do not take that to mean they have done a bad job of doing so. It's their story and I am privileged to have been watching it from the time I stumbled onto the Miniseries while flipping channels one night in 2003 to this climactic end.

In fact, they have done such an excellent job with these characters that there really is no conclusion that will be satisfying. I will always want to see more and know more about the relationship between Baltar and Caprica-Six (the relationship that hooked me on the show and that I still feel is in some ways at its hear). I'm going to want to see more of Colonel Tigh. I'm going to want to see more of Starbuck, who I've been crushing on ever since the Miniseries and who has become one of the most richly developed characters on TV, with Katee Sackhoff having acted the hell out of that character for years.

Ultimately I'd like to see what happens to the merged Human-Cylon civilization. But we're not going to get that or any of the rest, because as the finale should be making clear, this show is about the final mission of the Battlestar Galactica from the attack on the Colonies to its attack on The Colony. The characters are what make up the Battlestar; the "old girl" is themselves, and they are coming to realize this. One the old girl is gone they're no longer who they were. They will be other people, on a different journey, which we will not have the privilege to see.

And that's fine. Goddamn that we got five years out of this anyway, more than it ever seemed we would at the close of the Miniseries.

Scilon said...

"SonOfAMitch said...

Saying there's nothing without the plot implies your abiding in a theoretical understanding of dramatic fiction as old as Aristotle. Aristotle said plot was the most important part of drama. That was ~2400 years ago, and since then there have been other, more compelling theories."

The characters are part of the plot, not vice versa. You can't just throw a bunch of people in front of a camera. You have to tell a story; not just any story, but a story that makes sense.

(There are many ways of telling a story. David Lynch always tells a story in his one special way, despite the fact that many don't understand what is going on. Especially those with the attention span of a child in a candy store.)

The argument about the Aristotelian (although it's older than Aristotle) view of the mythos, doesn't stand. If something seems to work so well for thousands of years, for millions of artistic works, then it should mean something. Democracy is as old as Aristotle, but more "compelling" systems (communism sounds good on paper) didn't work.

And did I mention that modern dramas try to explore the same aspects of humanity, as Plato, Aristotle and others did?

P.S.: Ever heard of Talos? The Cylon of that era? :)

Anonymous said...

The show is not only about the characters for me. I want to know why the hell they were led to Earth with so much prophecy only for it to end up being a joke or not real. That is my BIGGEST BY FAR question. Where is God in all of this? They turned the show into a damn soap opera instead of addressing the amazing potential plot they built. The finale will not be enough for me. I feel cheated and lied to.

Jose said...

For me, THE Earth is yet to be found. I found Daybreak 1 quite powerful, very character driven, very enjoyable. I believe we shall have quite a few suprises in the last 2 hours of this incredible show.

Those prophecies might still become the truth after all. The Dying leader? We're wathing two at the moment. But I honestly believe, that the dying leader might be Galactica itself.

DP said...

What Robert Cruikshank said: closure is the key. It does have to tie up, or into, the themes set early on--the cyclical nature of the human-cylon conflict (or perhaps the breaking of same); the nature of God(s) and His/Their intervention; the place of the characters in the overall scheme of providence, for lack of a better term; and finding a home. If it can manage to hit upon all those things in the last two hours, I'll be happy.

Oh, and if someone can help me with the Admiral Adama flashback, I'd be much obliged. I was completely at sea with that one. :)

Robert Cruickshank said...

I got the sense that the Admiral Adama flashback was regarding his appointment to oversee the decommissioning of the Galactica, as shown in the Miniseries.

At the time Adama had to decide whether he wanted to take this low-grade and perhaps even insulting post (implying that Adama too was past his prime) overseeing the end of a storied battlestar. Now Adama has to make a similar decision but in a very different context - does he want to oversee the end of a storied battlestar?

DP said...

Thank you, Robert!

ProgGrrl said...

Why do so many of you prefer using the word "soap opera" to what BSG really is -- a "drama". It's insulting as hell to those of us who like drama...and stories that question human nature...

Meanwhile, @dorkyturtle: discovering Earth was a huge frakking deal! Totally lived up to all the prophesizing. Why do you need even more than that? Earth revealed 2000 y.o. cylon bones, the origin of the final five, the identity of the 13th tribe, the fact that the (human) writers of the Scrolls of Pythia changed history to suit the needs of their religious gods, it was HUGE.

Eric H said...

....discovering Earth was a huge frakking deal!

Indeed yes, and that is why so many episodes were devoted to the shockwaves from that shattering discovery. I don't think I've ever felt more excruciatingly immersed in the characters' worlds as when we saw the fleet progressively crumble and very nearly fall apart in the aftermath of Revelations. People can say what they will about whether they liked this storyline, but the show runners totally had the courage of their convictions in following through the buildup and then the tear-down surrounding the discovery of Earth.

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