Turns out this topic will take a while to get through so I think I'll split it over two posts.
I don't watch many shows on television. When I do, I like to watch things from start to finish - like one complete story. And that's why it infuriates me when shows that were once great go complete shit. And the Battlestar Galactica remake is one of those shows.
Battlestar had a very simple premise - their planet destroyed by Cylons, a group of humans must fight or evade the enemy while they search for their new home: Earth.
It's a basic survival story. Like a zombie movie only with robots and, em, space. Okay so it's not all that much like a zombie movie but it does share certain qualities - it puts the characters in constant danger with an ever-present threat and basically the stories came from how they reacted and cracked under that pressure. It's a premise that holds unlimited potential.
And the show opened with the pressure turned up to 11. Remember one of the first episodes where the Cylons would find them every 10 minutes or what ever it was? I'd check tv.com for the exact time but, every time they update their site, they break it. That was, to quote the poster for Point Break, 100% pure adrenalin.
To make things even better for Battlestar, the show had some fantastic characters. Starbuck was a total hardass with a real attitude. Adama was totally military, took no shit and was saved by his total distrust for the Cylons and unwillingness to update his ship. His second in command, an angry drunk only there because he had history with Adama. We had a stranded crewman evading Cylons back on Caprica, unaware that he was falling for one of them. We had Boomer, kind of sexy, but a ticking timebomb waiting to be activated. Chief Tyrol, trying to clear up the mess of battle and get them ready for the next attack down in the hangar bay. And a schoolteacher forced into the position of President, something she wasn't equipped for and made even more difficult by her battle with cancer.
Oh, and we had Adama's son who we all hoped wouldn't turn out to be a complete pussy. And Baltar, the cowardly traitor who oozed charisma.
Great characters and each with a clear, defined role to play in any given story. Worked perfectly with the premise.
And the icing on this Battlestar cake was the Cylons themselves. As the opening told us, and we saw in the pilot movie, they were created by humans, went off and made themselves look human and then unleashed hell on Caprica, killing billions and then pursuing Galactica to make sure they finish the job. And one of them was on the ship. You'd have a hard time creating a threat better than that. Like a whole race of Darth Vaders.
They were interesting too. Remember that one where Starbuck was interrogating one of them? They managed to write the enemy interesting enough that just him and Starbuck in a room kept the whole episode gripping.
The show ticked all the boxes you'll find in basic screenwriting books - a visible, dangerous antagonist, characters we can invest in and the stakes as high as possible. Almost a perfect setup.
And they really managed to milk it. The end of Season 1/beginning of Season 2, for me, is just about some of the best television. Certainly the best sci-fi I've seen.
So, towards the end of Season 4 (or 5 depending on who you ask), what have we got now?
We have a show with no enemies. Most of the Cylons are their buddies now, the rest we have no idea what they are doing. Nothing they have ever done in the show has seemed to make a lick of sense, contrary to the "they have a plan" bullshit that they kept in the opening sequence until even a blind ferret could see they clearly don't.
So we also have no pressure. No stakes. No goal. The ship and its Admiral are just sort of wandering around space. Looking for a home? Well, kind of. They don't really seem to be doing anything. The show has no point. No reason to exist. It its most basic level, it is now a show without a premise.
That should be reason enough to explain why it is shit but there's more, too much for one post, and I'll go into detail next time.