Friday, April 06, 2007

Why Revision's Important

This is old news, I'm sure, but I'mfinally getting around to posting my thoughts on the Battlestar Gallactica season finale.

In a word: bleh. It didn't really follow from the previous season's (and previous episodes) build up and references. If anything, it made the Cylon world even more complex than it was before, but not in a good way. It only served to highlight the failings of this season and the direction the show's taken. I'd be more interested to see where they were going to go with this were it not for the disappointmenting revelations behind past last-minute shocks, such as the New Caprica jump at the end of Season 2. And Starbuck's destiny (I'll grant that the episode in which she died may not have been intended to reveal that--though it really should have because the episode sucked without it--and, given that she's suddenly alive again, it's possible that we'll learn of the Import of her Fate in the next season, since she's talkin' more Earth biz).

One thing I found very enlightening for my own skills as a writer was how the entire two-parter finale felt like one of my first drafts. Lots of plot twists for no reason, lots of character conflict that comes out of nowhere, lots of vaguely hinted at backstory that doesn't really make sense in context. This is why you gotta revise. Need to step back, look at the whole, remind yourself of who your characters are and why they are doing the things they are doing, and then start cutting the stuff that doesn't fit.

For example, Lee's sudden fixation with the law didn't strike me as something true to Lee Adama. Rather, it seemed like an obvious writerly manipulation to get the characters into a better position for plot purposes, to invent tension for tension's sake. And then, as soon as the plot and conflict no longer require Lee's passion for the law, off Lee goes back to being a Viper pilot without anyone really batting an eye. I'm betting that the whole "but you turned in your wings" discussion will be handled in five minutes of dialog that really doesn't own up to how they got into that situation, and then everything will be A-OK.

BSG doesn't need to stoop to such tactics. They've already got enough unresolved tension and conflict among the characters--and enough plot twists, too. The fact that the show goes to such lengths to force the plot into another twist and force the characters into even more contentious relationship makes me feel like I'm reading an organically plotted novel in which the author has no idea what the end point is so he keeps going, "Hey, that sounds cool!" and writing the shiny new stuff in so he doesn't have to look at the old mess he's left behind and work his way out of it. Not to mention the inability to research the shiny new stuff appropriately. (Let's summarize, shall we? Baltar's trial was led by a tribunal of five judges, the prosecution's case the weakest the evidence allowed, the defense co-chaired by a Viper pilot with absolutely no legal training never mind passing a bar exam, and said co-chair was inexplicably put on the stand as the defense's entire case in order to reveal the Admiral's prejudice and turned into an impromptu closing argument that went on forever that everyone's cool with? Clearly a society that has FTL tech but 20th century medicine is also going to have 19th century law.)

In short: I'll be watching Season 4 (which is supposedly the last) just so I can further diagnose the failings and learn from them.

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