Battlestar Galactica Revisited: 2.08 Final Cut
Ronald D Moore's re imagining of the 1970's sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica set a gold standard, both for sci-fi and TV reboots. The darker, grittier re imagining, that saw a fleet of human ships fleeing the dreaded Cylons in search of Earth, won a whole host of awards and critical acclaims over its seven-year run. With the series looking to go through another quasi-reboot under show runner Michael Lesslie, we look back at the first reboot that defined the early days of twenty-first century television. Next up is season two's Final Cut, as the crew of the Galactica become the subject of a documentary...
Final Cut serves as something of a palate cleanser after the 'civil war' arc of the last several episodes, while also looking to address the fallout of those events. Namely the civilian murders that took place during Tigh's disastrous marshall law policy in episode four Resistance. It also introduces Lucy Lawless to the show, debuting here as intrepid reporter D'Anna Biers, who is given permission to shoot a 'warts and all' documentary expose on the crew of Galactica.
It's a clever idea. While Star Trek portrays an almost clinical future where all forms of media - from TV to news - is a thing of the past, other shows have attempted to portray a more realistic evolution. Battlestar Galactica has shown that the media is still part of everyone's lives, that the fleet still has a broadcast service, keeping them appraised of current events even in the midst of the Cylon crisis. A news documentary is a natural extension of this. the contemporary-based Stargate SG1 attempted something similar in it's seventh season, while Babylon 5 was the more obvious inspiration. It's season two episode And Now for a Word was a 45-minute documentary featuring the crew and remains one of the show's greatest episodes. It's no wonder, that show attempted to recreate the magic in their fourth season. Final Cut follows a similar pattern as that latter episode The Illusion of Truth, following the recording of the documentary before giving audiences a glimpse of the finished product at the end.
It's naturally a situation fraught with internal politics. It's interesting to see how united Adama and Roslin are on the idea, realising that only by showing the human face to the crew of the Galactica, can they hope to heal the wounds of recent events. And it certainly achieves that. Some of the episode's best moments are the interviews with the crew who often feel part of the ensemble. Dualla's struggle to recount the conflict with her father continues to evolve her character, while is startling to see an unbuttoned Gaeta smoking away, a very different persona to the one he presents in command and control. Most powerful of all is pilot Kat's personal struggles with the pressure of constantly protecting the fleet. Exhaustion and stimulants see her break; Luciana Carro delivers a heart-breaking performance in the episode's final act as Kat is interviewed by Biers, revealing the very human face to the military that everyone was looking for.
There's also some great comedic moments; Baltar's attempts to get Bier's attention is both cringe-worthy and totally in character with his narcissistic personality traits. Far Apollo fans, the interview in the locker room is sure to be a highlight in show's run; the awkwardness at which Apollo tries to assert authority over Biers in barely a towel is equally cringe-inducing.
The episode is entirely focused around the Galactica set. The fighter battle with the Cylons told through audio and the looks of the officers in C&C gives the sequences a very insular, submarine-movie feel. There is a sense that we are in the minds and actions of the characters like we've never seen before; every hope, every fear captured in the footage of Biers' documentary. The final sequence is incredibly emotive - the use of the original Battlestar Galactica theme over the narration is a very nice touch.
But not everything is successful. While Bier's documentary addresses Tigh's actions during the Marshall Law incident, Final Cut feels the need to add a sub-plot involving a PTSD-suffering solider seeking vengeance for the deaths caused under Tigh's command. It feels distracting to the main storyline, which is already holding Tigh into account, in its own way.
The final scene ends Final Cut on a somewhat sour note. While the reveal that D'Anna Biers is a Cylon allows the excellent Lucy Lawless to continue on in a recurring capacity that perhaps her journalist persona would have not, it dampens that sense of hope and true humanity revealed in the closing moments of the documentary. Though, perhaps that's the point. Humanity may have found a way forward to Earth. They may have quelled any unrest over the civil conflict. But the Cylons are always there. And with that final twist surrounding the reveal of renegade Cylon Sharon's pregnancy, the enemy is always going to be on their heels...