Sat
Mar 7 2009 3:09pm

Battlestar Galactica Round Table: “Islanded In a Stream Of Stars”

Welcome to Tor.com’s round-table style discussion of this week’s episode of Battlestar Galactica, “Islanded In a Stream Of Stars.” The participants this week are Rajan Khanna, Pablo Defendini, Torie Atkinson and Robert Bland. The conversation starts after the cut, and there are many spoilers. So if you haven’t seen the episode, please stay away from this post!

Pablo: Well, the slow pace continues, and it’s driving me a bit mad. Leave it to BSG to take the “slow reveal” to new extremes. I really don’t know what to make of this episode—it was a bit hit-or-miss for me. While the Old Man finally finishes his journey to acceptance of the fact that he needs to scuttle Galactica (did everyone catch that bit of foreshadowing/harking back to the Pegasus when Hera crashes the model Galactica into the model Basestar?), Anders is apparently becoming the ship’s hybrid after all.

This was also a bit of Kara’s episode, as she struggles to make sense of who or what she is—and finally does something she should have done a long time ago: getting the blood on those damn tags tested. It was good to see Baltar back in the lab, even if it was just for a split-second. While it seems a bit late in the game for him to now spawn yet another theological tack, hopefully he’ll play a larger role in the two episodes left (!).

Speaking of Baltar, I was struck by his and Caprica Six’s exchange—and her assertion that he hasn’t changed at all. This is something I think we all suspect, but we may yet all be proven wrong. His rantings about the one true god, angels, and such will probably play a large part in the endgame for this series.

Watching Helo confront first Athena, and then the Old Man was painful. Poor Helo.

My boy Tigh proves once again that he’s made of pure loyalty.

Roslin is a total stoner, if it wasn’t clear before—that wasn’t some weak fumarello or something, that was a straight-up New Caprica blunt (I need to go check my books now...).

The Cylon colony establishing shot was unexpected and impressive, and it feels like it may owe a lot to the original series. I don’t really know, I’d have to check, but it’s got that kind of throwback feel to it....

The ships’ captains fighting over who get bits of the Bucket, and Lee’s subsequent freaking out were nice touches.

In all, a middle-of-the-road setup episode, I think. Which would be fine if they didn’t only have two. Episodes. Left. ARGH!

Raj: I agree with the frustration at the pace. As I was watching this episode I kept thinking that certain scenes could have been cut or compressed. Especially considering there are only three hours left. Total. Did we really need another scene where Tigh tells us his loyalties are to the Galactica and her crew? Did we need so much of the repair crew and their bickering? The Cylon saving them was a little too cliched to me.

My favorite parts were those with Baltar and Kara. For me that was an unexpected pairing at this point in the game, but one that worked, much like the Baltar-Gaeta scene that I thought really worked. Again, it’s another “full circle” move hearkening back to the early days when they flirted and frakked.

It seems obvious that Sam is at some point going to jump the ship. I don’t know how I feel about him being able to interface so easily with Galactica. It seems a bit too hand-wavy for me.

I wonder if they’re leading toward another tense standoff with the Galactica going after Hera and Cavil. They do that well, at least.

During most of the run of the show I’ve had faith in the writers, even during the dip in Season 3, but I have to say that for me, the writer’s room is showing as many cracks as the Galactica is. I hope at least they go out with glory as well.

Rob: I have to say, I really really enjoyed the episode. Yes, it was slow, but it was also very intense and concentrated very much on the characters, including Galactica.

I honestly don’t know if they’re going to be able to answer all the questions and tie up all the loose ends, and I’m beginning to suspect that they’re not. What I do want (and hope for) is that they answer the BIG questions in a dramatic fashion—but more important than that, I want all of the major characters to stay true to themselves. This is more important to me than anything else. The slow pace of the reveals is forcing me to prioritize now. I’d rather have the show end with a bang, leave certain questions unanswered, but keep the spirit of each character intact. I sure in the hell don’t want some character do something that feels forced or contrived just to satisfy some plot point. No way. I love these characters, and if nothing else I want (need) them be true to themselves to the very last minute of the show.

Speaking of ending with a bang, I think it’s pretty clear (which Pablo alluded to) that the Galactica is going to go out with style. It’s pretty obvious that the Old Man is going to crash the mortally wounded Galactica into Cavil’s colony ship. What’s interesting is whether Adama is going to be able to coordinate this action with the Anders/hybrid or if Anders is going to put an unsuspecting Adama into this tactical position.

There were so many good scenes in this episode. The one with Kara and Baltar, the one with Helen and Tigh, the one with Baltar outing Kara. I even liked the generic 8 model dying while holding Tigh’s hand. They seem to be emphasizing character and theme more so than anything else. I can dig it.

The moment that piqued my interest the most was when Cavil took Hera and told her that she’d have more playmates soon. Hmm....

Torie: I’m with Pablo and Raj on this one: this episode felt like total filler to me, biding time before the series finale. This was one of the weakest episodes so far. There were so many needless scenes of people emoting, and entirely too many cases of characters stating their feelings or opinions instead of showing them. We know Tigh’s loyalty is to the fleet, he doesn’t have to say it. We know Roslin loves Adama, we don’t need yet another exchange demonstrating that. This felt like a mid-season 3 episode, not like anything actually leading up to a finale.

I’m becoming increasingly frustrated by the characters themselves. Boomer’s umpteeth change of heart left me cold, and Starbuck telling Baltar of all people about her Deep Dark Secret just didn’t fit. Where’s the Chief? Where’s Leoben, who knows all about Starbuck, but has disappeared since that revelation? Does Starbuck actually know what she is? Did she get anything out of the last episode at all?

Instead of getting revelations, we’re getting thrown a hundred more inconsistencies, all of which are a bit too contrived for my tastes. Anders can instantly interface with the Galactica? What does that make him? Ellen comes back as Queen Cylon, then fades to the background in this episode? Really?

Too many questions, too many loose ends. The show is entirely too dependent on reveals, and I’m becoming certain that none of those reveals are going to be very satisfying. Let’s hope they prove me wrong.

15 comments
nutmeag
1. nutmeag
Yes, this ep left me doing an "uhh . . . did anything happen?" I'm all for character-centric episodes (loooooved last week's), but I'm getting rather antsy waiting for something (anything!) to be revealed. I don't want another ep that is all reveals and no development, but it's seeming as if that's where this show is headed.

I'm just ready for it to all be over with (so I can go back and re-watch it in one go--no waiting involved).
Dayle McClintock
2. trinityvixen
I'm pissed off that they never bother to pace their last episodes ever. At the rate they're going, there's no possible way for them to answer even half the mysteries they've lined up to anyone's satisfaction. Meaning either we'll have to stay tuned for the movies that will be probably half-assed (see: Farscape) or they're just going to throw it all away and call it "ooh, mysteeeerious!!"

I'm with Torie on this one point though: WHERE THE HELL IS LEOBEN? Anders is talking hybrid, why the hell isn't he--scared of Kara or not--all over that shit? Picking out and elucidating meaning from patterns IS WHAT HIS CHARACTER DOES. I'll be really pissed off if it turns out that they couldn't, in eight months of hiatus, secure any of Callum Keith Rennie's time. Lucy Lawless is gone, fine, she at least got to pick her reason for (reasonably) being offscreen. Leoben, as far as we know, is very much around and chilling on the base ship. Get his ass over to Galactica and have him make sense of Anders' nonsense talk.

And speaking of hybrid issues: Galactica's electrics are under the new hybrid's control, but not the computers? Do computers not use electricity? I know the big thing was that the systems weren't networked, but, as far as I know, they're all tied into the same power source. Can't the Anders-hybrid, by seeping into Galactica's electrics, also just tap into the fiber optics?

Forget it. The idea of Galactica suddenly being a living ship with a hybrid is stupid. The ship is not alive enough yet (not if it's still falling apart from not doing repairs) to justify this sudden take over. Let alone the fact that there shouldn't be any hybrid take-over subroutine in any of the Final Five since their brains pre-date the creation of hybrids in the first place. I don't get how one of them just up and becomes a hybrid with absolutely no trace of the personality from which it came.
Paul Campbell
3. PaulWCampbell
Did anyone else notice on the final pull out on The Old Man and Tigh, that the books on the table in front of them had corners? Is this relevant to what is coming, or did the props dept forget?

It'll be over soon. I'm really hoping the final two episodes make these last ten episodes worth it.
nutmeag
4. Dave Klingler
I'm trying to think what I can say with confidence.

Paula's going to martyr Gaius.

Sam will move take Galactica to the Colony.

Hera will foil Cavil, and Boomer will play a big part in it.

Sam's removal cleans up the inevitable Apollo/Starbuck triangle.

Safe to say that Gaius rescues Hera. Does he do it with the real Caprica, or the Mental Caprica? Real Caprica is starting to seem likely.

As for the rest, I'm reasonably sure that Galactica's going to break up, but there's an outside chance we'll be given a big happy ending (i.e. a lead-up for follow-ons) and the goop will do what it was sold to do, which was repair Galactica, as opposed to what it was meant to do, which is create a convenient vehicle for making Sam into a ship hybrid and getting him out of the way.

Hmmm. Adama and Roslin will die on board Galactica, with Apollo becoming the new civilian leader. Starbuck as Adama's replacement?

I have to say that I feel as if these last few episodes have been somewhat contrived (ahem...how Boomer found the fleet), as if it was time to end the series so Galactica flies to pieces.
Matthew Velic
5. MVelic
Wow you people hate character development... :)

I really enjoyed the episode. I agree that things are moving slowly and it seems more and more unlikely that the writers will be able to wrap it all up in just two episodes. Still, based on the teasers they gave, something big is going to happen next week that will likely override much of the "mystery" that is still unraveling.

All episode I kept thinking, "Don't they wish they hadn't crashed Pegasus...?"

Yes, Anders as a hybrid is a little disappointing, but at the same time, kind of fitting. Not for Anders, of course, but as the hybrid for the human ship as Anders once thought of himself as human - that is kind of fitting.

I was thinking about it though: what seperates a human from a cylon? Sure, the earlier models are clearly mechanical, but the skin-jobs are completely human in nearly all aspects except they can (a) interface with computers directly and (b) transfer their memories/consciousness to a new body upon death. Without their resurrection ship, they're even closer to being basically human. Just as the 13th tribe on Earth once lost the resurrection technology because they no longer needed it, why couldn't the same hold true for the other 12 tribes? Maybe everyone is a cylon, but they don't have resurrection because they had forgotten it, and as for interfacing with computers, well who doesn't forget certain skills when they've fallen out of use (especially over a couple millennia)?

Anyway, just random thoughts that have been going through my head as of late.
Mitchell Downs
6. Beamish
Raj:
During most of the run of the show I’ve had faith in the writers, even during the dip in Season 3, but I have to say that for me, the writer’s room is showing as many cracks as the Galactica is. I hope at least they go out with glory as well.


I could not have said it better. BSG used to be one of the best written shows on TV. The quality of the writing was a perfect example of how great SciFi could be. But ever since "New Caprica" and the clumsy backtrack from it (I am never letting that go) the shows writing has been extremely inconsistent - and the return for these last 10 episodes has been overall rather poor.

For every brilliantly written episode like last week's episode withe Kara's Father there are three or four episodes so loaded with filler it has gotten depressing.

I really just want this to be over.
Pablo Defendini
7. pablodefendini
@PaulWCampbell #3

Great catch with the books! They've been giving printed matter corners for a while now, at least since the end of season 3. I also thought there may be hidden meaning behind the sudden change in aesthetics, and at the time I thought it might be a clue as to whether the rag-tag-fleet was the seed of humanity on Earth, and that they would become the progenitors of our modern-day civilization. Now, I'm not quite sure what to make of it—it seems like a rather large stylistic change, and I'm hard-pressed to think that it was just sloppy art direction. But as to what it could mean, I have no idea.
nutmeag
8. sofrina
my frustration with this season's character is much the same as my frustration with them in the early seasons. and there were many times that i ranted enough of the character eps! make something happen!

that said, given the myriad unanswered questions that have kept us on the hook over the years versus the number of hours left, i'm narrowing my hopes down to a few things: finding these people a home and full disclosure of the hera/kara/final five/miracle/hybrid prophecy.

all of that can be answered in one script.

the song features too strongly not to be hugely involved in the final revelation. it was playing on a frequency only the final five could hear, then kara's new ship was the only one that could tune it in, hera plotted the notes and kara's subconscious worked it from crayon into a tune. can musical notes translate to numbers, like coordinates that can be plotted on a star chart? maybe this is another map like the one on that planet in the cave. it does beg the question of who planted it and who decided when to deliver the song to the specific characters. cavil says not to believe in god, but who then brought the final five back to themselves at once? and what did anders mean by "this is where it all happens! the miracle...?"

the whole "kara thrace is the harbinger of death" bit cannot be taken literally. the rules of prophecy never fail: no character will ever get out of it what it is really meant to convey until it comes true and at that point it will be a total shock. the only character i can think of that ever came close to getting it right before it was realized was dernhelm and that person got it right a) because they'd never heard it before and b) because they were the fruition.

i tend to think we have to look past "death" in that phrase and wonder what comes after the so-called death be it a dream, hope, or actual loss of life. "and it's in dying that we are born to eternal life" says the prayer of st. francis. that next line "she will lead mankind to it's end" clearly could mean anything, especially with all this issue of cylons trying to reproduce naturally and intermingling with humans. maybe kara - as the original specimen - holds the answer to human/cylon interspecies breeding in her blood and they just need to study her DNA more closely.

kendra shaw tried to warn everyone which set up us nicely to fear starbuck, but we are seasoned fans and we know all too well that a prophecy can't be interpreted and CANNOT be thwarted.

but if they don't get on the grind and resolve this, if they dare to leave these people drifting in space... the holocaust of the twelve colonies will be as nothing to my wrath. "stargate sg-1" meant to nothing to me so i let "unending" go, but you've hurt before, sci-fi channel. don't do it again.
nutmeag
9. no2pencil
Raj, it is difficult to resolve your complaint about too much repair crew, followed by a complaint about Anders' ease of integration with the ship. Doesn't the first do its best to explicate the second in the limited budget allowed?

Didn't the repair crew disaster push Adama the last step toward acceptance, and was that not necessary, given 1)his alcoholic indecision over Galactica's fate and 2)the global theme of integration as a form of cataclysmic re-creation?

Isn't Tigh's "repetitive" declaration of loyalty an artifact of the OCD-like inability of the show's fans to listen to what they're told, instead of spinning up hallucinatory conspiracy theories out of routine production constraints (books with corners, Kara is an angel, Daniel is that lawyer guy, Tigh is Kara's father, blah, blah, blah)?

Similarly, the reveal of the colony, the circumstances concluding Hera's abduction sub-plot, the reveal that Hera can Cylon Project, the finality of Galactica's mortality, the jeopardy of Anders holding the fate of the Galactica in his brain and the implications for the characters of that jeopardy, and the promise of more H/C hybrid children from Cavil can hardly be called "filler" or "slow" within the dense veracity of the BSG narrative world. We should tack with care when indicting a show for being complex, after so many years of praising it for finally giving us the integrity of complexity.

I prefer to believe that criticisms like "filler" betray the twitchy anticipation of a true fan eager to see the next episode, and if the "slow" pace has whetted your appetite, then I'd have to say the writers have succeeded in their over-arching task: to get you to want to watch.

So, to the harsh, to those who have named the shows that disappointed them before (which shows, BTW, resemble BSG as Scooby Do resembles Star Trek, and therefore provoke no cause for preeptive strikes against a BSG writing staff whose episodes are in the can to the crew's and cast's public satisfaction, and have not even aired yet) I ask:
During this "slow," "cracked," "frustrating," "repetitive," ep, did you stand and go to the bathroom other than during the breaks; did you go to the fridge; walk away from the screen during a scene; did you nod off? Do you pay that kind of attention to SG-1? Drinking game scorn is fine for Ghost Hunter ("I felt something!" Drink!), not BSG. See the difference?

I have complete trust in the writers. At this point, anything is better than a jukebox Journey song followed by a black screen.

Thanks, Rob, for a self-aware contribution.
Rajan Khanna
10. rajanyk
no2pencil: For me the repair crew scene does nothing to address my issues with the Anders-as-hybrid development. I understand that the Galactica is being filled with the "Cylon goop" and that it's partly alive because of that, but that doesn't explain how Anders can integrate with the ship as has been mentioned above. The Final Five predate the actual hybrids used on the Cylon ships and no other Cylon other than the hybrids has demonstrated an ability to interface with a ship on that level. I'm not saying it's completely out of the question, just that they introduced it without much reasonable explanation and it might have been preferable to have more on, say, that than some of the scenes that I found superfluous. Frankly, some of the decisions that were made with this episode felt like some of the things that you see in early drafts of stories by writers or beginning writers where they keep these scenes in just to reinforce a point, to themselves more than anyone, that aren't really necessary because the reader (or in this case the audience) already gets it.

It just feels to me that things are very uneven for this last run and that's not something I felt much before. I still think that the show is better than most of the other shows out there and one of the best of all time. But I suppose I expected a better sense of direction out of this last run of episodes and any hint of that has only come very recently.

And I'm sorry - I don't get how Tigh's repetitions are related to conspiracies. I think his feelings are something that everyone gets and those other things you mention were theories to address the mysteries that the show created deliberately.
nutmeag
11. Breemgrrl45
I liked this episode more in retrospect than after first watching it, and have decided I like this calm before the finale storm. The characters are starting to accept their fates - not with resignation, but with a mostly calm assurance. (Well, except for Baltar. But that's hardly a surprise.)

Perhaps I get what you're saying about the conspiracies, no2pencil - on message boards on other sites, I've noticed a tendency for some to spin elaborate, somewhat ridiculously complex theories concerning various plot points of "Battlestar Galactica," and they will seize on any point to keep on spinning.

Not that this show is simple, of course, but what this all reminds me of is how, before the final book in the series came out, so many Harry Potter fans were spinning increasingly elaborate theories about what was going on. And, in the end, the resolution was straightforward, logical, and based pretty solidly on what had gone before.

Now, there are things about the "Battlestar Galactica" plotting that have annoyed me - the whole jump ahead one year business on New Caprica, and the "Oh, look, here's yet another Cylon!" reveals of the past couple seasons, especially. (There have been times when I've wanted to sing, to that old Dr. Pepper jingle, "I'm a Cylon, he's a Cylon, she's a Cylon, we're all Cylons, wouldn't you like to be a Cylon, too?") I'm still not entirely thrilled with those points, but have come to mostly accept them, and they've actually worked out rather well.

Ronald Moore and company have a lot to cram into the final three hours, and I'm hoping we'll get some closure on at least a few things. As long as they don't end with "it was all a dream," I'll probably be fine with it - unlike a friend, who's predicting doom and gloom, I'm predicting "bittersweet."

At least these writers haven't written themselves into a corner - as did, say, Chris Carter on "The X Files."
nutmeag
12. Francis Burdett
One question I had was answered by Bear McCreary

That is, where was Chief Tyrol during this episode:

One of the biggest challenges of Islanded was actually scoring two different versions of it. In addition to the version you just watched, I also scored an extended version for the DVD release. Not only are many of the dialog scenes expanded, but there are several scenes that were cut entirely from the show that required substantial original music. One of these scenes established that Tyrol is now in the brig for his role in Boomer’s escape and kidnapping of Hera. I was disappointed that this story point was cut from the episode, since Chief’s arc last week was so emotionally powerful.
Dayle McClintock
13. trinityvixen
@12: Yeah, I'd heard that. That made me call bullshit on the shenanigans of this last half-season all over again. Given that Boomer's kidnapping of Hera is a SRS PROBLM, you'd think they could have taken one minute out of Starbuck peeing in front of Baltar to show the Chief in the brig. That seems significantly more important than the umpteen minutes of Bill Adama having yet another breakdown.
nutmeag
14. Erehwonnz
I understand the sentiment that little happened in "Islanded," but I think that this organic development of the characters covered ground that plot mechanics would have been unable to cover without feeling contrived, and took the characters to new places.

1. Adama moves from clinging to the ship to giving it up.
2. Boomer moves from being stuck in a home that never existed to finding it in Hera.
3. Tigh moves from clinging to the ship as the last crutch of his humanity, to accepting his identity.
4. Kara accepts that she is not the old Kara Thrace.
5. Baltar moves to be something better than himself, tries to show that he has changed, but still falls short. He's still a showman, even when he is honest.
6. And, of course, the Agathons brief and futile scenes set up forward motion in the finale.
7. Anders becomes a hybrid, a necessary callback to the Guardian who exists at the beginning of the cycle. When in a universe where 'all of this will happen again,' someone must assume this role at the end as at the beginning.
8. We also lose one home while another is revealed (the Cylons' home, The Colony.)
9. And Roslin wraps it up for us: it was never about Earth, nor Galactica, but about the people and journey together.

So, I guess that I was impressed with how many characters' arcs this episode addressed, and how it did so within a minimum of space and without short-changing the pieces. Battlestar, for me, has always had literary qualities and a thematic richness that set it apart from most shows; perhaps that is why I found a lot to enjoy in all these people's discussions, and the way these characters lament lost things to be quite beautiful and elegiac. At any rate, I think that "Islanded" did a lot of moving that will pay off once we understand how the show ends.
nutmeag
15. no2pencil
raj, the thing is, I agree with your observation of the symptoms, but I can't figure out how to criticize the writers, because of the nature the disease itself, which a couple of other posters have also mentioned.

In the good ole days, say, WWII-1992, audiences could experience fictional narrative secure in the knowledge, or ignorance of the counter-possibility, that their iteration of the show, page, or broadcast was stable. The words of the cloth and paper editions were the same, as were the events of the play from city to city, the scenes of the movie from Screen to screen, and the premises of a serial from season to season.

The influences on the work were all front-end loaded in production; writers, sellers, budgets, even the pernicious influence of focus groups produced an end product that compositionally sat still.

Then Lucas came along and allowed the fans to dictate terms. There can be no stronger evidence of the age old writer's axiom that the best way to disappoint an audience is to give them what they say they want than Anakin Skywalker and JarJar Binks. Well, maybe Snakes On A Plane.

And in BSG, there are entirely too many footprints of the Web2.0 feedback loop, which, yes, include those deliberate mysteries you correctly mention, but also Tigh's redundancy; Season 1's silly D&D mysticism, steroidially Metaphorical and Important in Season 3; the jarring New Cap(I)r(aq)ica interlude; the proliferation of half-dressed Sharons and 6s; the concomitant exclusion of what can now accurately be called the token black cylon; and even the emotionally extortionate delay between the patronizingly named seasons "4.0" and "4.5"

The instantaneity of the web chatter puts the creators in the position of the lounge lizard: Because I need you I resent you, because I resent you I will use you, then hate you, then I will leave you to iterate my self-contempt for being needy upon someone else.

But trapped - involuntarily - within the terms of their pathology and given the lottery-scale win that just getting the show to air represents, what form does a fair statement of their blame take?

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