Battlestar Galactica: The Plan was released on DVD and on iTunes last week, and in keeping with Tor.com tradition, we’ve put together a round table from a couple of BSG Round Table regulars, and a newcomer. Is it a glorified clip show? An excuse to show some boobies in the tubs o’ goo? Does it even add anything to the show, or does it put a sour bookmark on the series? Read on to find out….
Theresa DeLucci: Maybe I am still harboring some resentment at Ron Moore for the terrible BSG finale, but I felt The Plan was as muddled as any season four episode while making me watch a helluva a lot of clips that made me wish I was watching “The Hand of God” or “Flesh and Bone” instead of this snoozefest.
The opening was very strong—new footage of shit spectacularly blowing up across all of the Twelve Colonies, what’s not to like? Also good was no Lee-mo Adama angst in sight! There was very little of anyone’s angst in sight, which is a plus, but I just wasn’t enjoying the dialogue. And I’m saying this as an Espensen fan and not a Moore detractor. The only scenes that really kept my interest were the ones with the sleeper agent Simon choosing between his human and Cylon families. Like Pablo, I thought the Simon model was very underused in the series. My favorite model is Leoben and he doesn’t make much of an appearance here. The Cavil models, however, are really uninteresting to me, despite my love for Dean Stockwell. Brother Cavil is just too cartoony in his villainy (i.e. he really doesn’t like children) here and his motives make very little sense; he just wants to kill humans to teach the Final Five a lesson? Really? That’s it? What? It’s always so disappointing when writers introduce an awesome badass villain then explain away every shred of mystery and menace. The less you know about a bad guy, the better. (See the first vs. second Pitch Black movie. Or how about all three of the Star Wars prequels? Or the Others on Lost?)
And how come other Cylon models seem to look at or react to the Final Five in the Fleet and on Caprica like they know who they really are? How come Cavil is giving direct orders to Boomer? I thought she was pre-programmed, which is way cooler.
Edward James Olmos is a strange director. The few episodes of the show he’s filmed have felt off in their rhythm, both internally and as a part of the overall series. He seems to like a mix of darkness, madcap jokes, and a lot of awkward line delivery, thrown together with really weird shifts in tone. The Plan was pretty much no exception. With the bonus of pointless nudity thrown in. Did we really need a camera zoom on some extra’s penis, Eddie? Just because you can show boobs on unrated DVDs doesn’t mean you have to. And if the promise of nudity is the only reason you’d watch The Plan on DVD instead of Syfy, firstly, that’s a little sad, but also—don’t bother. It’s not like it’s Grace Park or Tahmoh Penikett. And it’s definitely not like any scenes in this dressed-up clip show really merit extension. I’d say it’s a renter for hardcore fans of the show who enjoyed the last season only. I want to keep my memories of early Galactica nice and shiny and untouched by all of the disappointing Cylon religious debates and supernatural stuff that bogged down what was once one of my favorite science fiction shows.
Pablo Defendini : While I still want to see RDM’s head on a motherfrakkin’ pike for that gods-awful ending, I do feel like The Plan gave me a bit more of a solid feel for the overarching storyline. Mind you, this has absolutely nothing to do with the revelation that there was a fully-functioning Cylon cell in the fleet after all, and much, much more to do with the character development of the Ones: John the Daniel-Killer and Brother Cavil in particular. I actually really loved the idea that emerged towards the end of the show: that the entire attack on the colonies and the subsequent persecution of the fleet was orchestrated by one rogue, manipulative, and rabid Cylon model: the model that most wanted to shed his ‘humanity’ succumbed to the most depraved of human emotions, after all. There is good, classic, SFnal irony in that, and I wished they had delved deeper into it in the show. The Plan gave me that.
It also gives the utterly silly Cavil suicide sequence in the last episode of the series some much-needed context.
I also enjoyed the focus on the Fours. Simon was by far the most underused Cylon, and I think that giving him this conflicted backstory really puts a good perspective on how the character(s?) was portrayed in the series proper. I was never sure whether Simon was a cold-ass bastard, or a rather conflicted Cylon, which led to his often reserved and clinical disposition.
I agree on the nudity. I don’t need boobies in my tub o’ goo, and we get it: Picons are a bunch of hedonistic heathens. Fine.
I actually think that Espenson’s script was fantastic. Going through the myriad flaming hoops of continuity and keeping everything relatively cohesive must have been a daunting task. I also think that the timeframe used was a deft touch: The Plan ends pretty much right before many people think BSG started going off the rails, and I think couching that in Cavil’s realization that he needed to change tacks and really ramp up his plans speaks to that, a bit. Whether it’s contrived or not, I’m on the fence about.
EJO’s direction is a bit odd, I agree. But I can’t really decide whether the ‘off-ness’ of The Plan (and it was there, for sure) is due to that or to the fact that, since there were so many clips form previous episodes, I kept being taken out of the story by asking myself if I’d seen that particular sequence before or not.
One thing is for sure: as Torie said on IM, it really made me want to watch the first two seasons all over again. Which I am.
Dayle McClintock: In an attempt to make the disastrous last half-season make any sense, The Plan pretends that everything there was never any evidence for in 4.5 was there all along. Comparisons to the Nikki/Paolo debacle on Lost are entirely fair because that’s what The Plan is doing—it is rewriting the history of the two best seasons of Battlestar Galactica to suit its absolute worst half-season.
Take, for example, the actions of the models who meet routinely with black-mustache-twirling Cavil in the Fleet. The Six known as Shelly Godfried and the Two known as Leoben Conoy are both revealed to be careless fuckups where previously they’d been clever, even devious scammers. Godfried pretended to set up Baltar for a crime he absolutely committed; when her “evidence” was disproved, it left unwitting assistant-of-the-Cylon Baltar still in a position of trust. Leoben’s interrogation at Starbuck’s hands is what broke her against considering all Cylons evil and unworthy. What The Plan would have you believe is that Godfried was supposed to really discredit Baltar (so why not use the REAL evidence that he did leak information to the Cylons?) and Leoben had gone around the twist about Starbuck long before ever meeting her (thus reducing the eerie spiritual factor of his innate understanding of her). That’s what The Plan does—it takes interesting plot developments and explains them to death. Pretty impressive that it manages to do that much with only half of the two hour running time devoted to new material.
And permit me to be cynical here, but after the failed attempts to address representative biases in the show with Razor and the Gaeta-centric webisodes, I felt like the beefing up of Simon’s backstory, though enjoyable, served an entirely hollow, “Look we gave a character of color some screen time, are you happy now?” sort of purpose. Given that Lucy Lawless and Callum Keith Rennie barely had any part in this series, it felt more like an accident of casting availability than an honest attempt to put a POC in a more central role.
Worst of all, The Plan isn’t about the planning. We never see how Cavil convinced his Cylon brothers and sisters that God wanted humanity dead. We don’t see how the Final Five lost control and ended up mind-wiped. Probably because the lunacy of 4.5 makes actually explaining all that impossible, but I had really hoped that a movie about the Cylon’s oft-touted plan would be about, well, their plan. Instead, it’s two hours of Edward James Olmos making love to Dean Stockwell via surrogates, and that, I could have lived without.
Pablo Defendini is the real 13th Cylon.
Theresa DeLucci is a graduate of the 2008 Clarion West Writers Workshop. When not hunkering down to write fiction this fall, she is looking forward to watching House, Dexter, and Stargate: Universe. She will also give HBO’s Bored to Death a look despite her extreme prejudice against Brooklyn hipsters.
Dayle McClintock is still more of a fan of Battlestar Galactica than its creators. She believed it could have redeemed itself, once.