Friday, May 09, 2008

Changing My Approach

Towards the end of Battlestar Gallactica's third season, I started to really not like the show. I had always griped about the brain-numbing dichotomy between the technology and medicine the show employs and also bemoaned the theme-bludgeoning. But toward the end of seaons three, it felt like characters I thought I understood suddenly started doing things solely for the sake of conflict and plot, acting out required roles to keep the story going forward rather than actually being themselves. I notices this first in that episode where Tyrol leads a workers strike. I just didn't believe that Tyrol, Adama, or Roslyn would've handled that situation in that fashion. It seemed to contradict the people we had been getting to know. By the time Starbuck died and we all knew that wasn't going to be real, I was really annoyed with the show. Then came the Trial of Baltar and Four Cylons Revealed Musical.


By the end of the third season, I knew I didn't like the show, and I was starting to figure out why. The overall impression I got from BSG by then was of a show throwing everything but the kitchen sink at me to keep ratcheting up the conflict. There didn't seem to be a pattern or method to the plot hurling and character twists. Big huge sweeping arcs of drama were tossed my way and discarded for the next shiny thing that caught the show's eye. So what about the cylon baby? Now we've got TWO, and no one seems to care anymore. The cylons have a plan, you say? All we determined it to be was annihilation of the human race, but the Plan was implied to be something more than that. But that dwindled into nothing by the time we got the four new models (which the other models aren't even supposed to think about), and suddenly the cylons are squabbling over equal rights for Toasters and killing each other because said Toaster aren't doing their job in the Big Plan that seems to be nothing more than killing humans. Then there's the whole God thing which seems more and more like it's really just the fanatic ravings of Caprica Six in Baltar's Head (and where the hell is Imprisoned Caprica Six's Gaius in Her Head?).

This show feels more and more like one of my first drafts from a few years ago when I understood that I needed to build tension and conflict on each page but didn't understand how to keep tension and conflict linked from one part of the story to the next, so I kept throwing new plot twists and challenges at the book without figuring out how the story I started might twist and turn on its own. Recognizing the "I don't know what I'm doing" technique just made me cranky everytime I sat down to watch the show because I know from experience that the odds are not good that this show is going to resolve in any logical fashion, let alone a satisfying one.

But then something happened as I watched the first few episodes of season 4. I can't remember what it was that triggered the click, but I finally realized that this show isn't SF or even a space opera so much that it's a soap opera set in space. And we're talking Days of Our Lives type stuff with Marlena getting possessed and Stefano mind-wiping and controlling people and aliens arriving in Salem. No wonder it feels like kitchen-sinking. That's not to say that soap operas are inferior shows, it's just that soap operas are not for me. They are often plot-heavy to get the characters into greater and greater scales of conflict and tension in ways that resemble the random insanity of life. This is not bad, but it is not what I'm looking for in my narratives at the moment.

This realization means that I need to go back through the whole show from the very first episode and watch it as if it were a soap opera and not anything else. I have a feeling I'll like it a whole lot more that way if only because I've changed my expectations of the show. And I might be able to figure out if the show is intentionally modelling itself off of soap operas for some clever purpose or if it's just a soap opera in space, which means I might enjoy it more watching it from that set of expectations, but I won't enjoy it as much as I could had it not been just a soap opera in space. Regardless, I'll see if looking at the thing like it's a soap opera enhances my viewing experience tonight.

Note to Self: Watch a soap opera if only to look at that genre of story-telling and make sure I understand it as well as I claim above

No comments: