Friday, March 23, 2007

It's Not the Size, It's What You Do With It

Bad news for people who still believe Battlestar Galactica's problems have anything to do with season length:
SCI FI Channel has increased its episode order for the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica to 22 from the original 13, including a special two-hour extended episode that will air during the fourth quarter of this year and be released on DVD by Universal Studios Home Entertainment thereafter. SCI FI made the announcement at its upfront press event in New York on March 21.
If, like myself, you think the argument that Galactica's writing staff--which includes veterans of such shows as Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Roswell, Smallville, Dark Angel, The Dead Zone, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer--don't know how to handle a standard-length season has long ago lost whatever credibility it might have had, this could be yet another point against coming back to the show next season.

11 comments:

Ilana said...

Actually, I wouldn't expect a writer from "Smallville" to be able to handle anything. :)

I was going to start this show ever since Joss Whedon raved about it on Whedonesque, but after reading all the negative comments about later seasons it doesn't sound like it's worth it to get invested.

Niall said...

Oh, I don't know -- the first season is a complete story in itself.

kellys said...

Yeah, season 1 is great storytelling and worth checking out even though the following seasons stumble.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Wait, I'm confused. Are we talking about BSG or Smallville?

Because while I would certainly agree that the first season of BSG is worth watching (as opposed to the first season of Smallville) it's not exactly a complete story. Not unless you add the first seven episodes of the second season (which, by the way, is a pretty good point against the 'BSG started to suck because of the 20-episode season' argument - it was the first, and excellent, season, that was 20 episodes long).

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they need the extra episodes to complete the "earth" story arc. Maybe four seasons is all they planned for, but then again they "killed off" the only character I really cared anything about, so my faith in their ability to tell a complete story is beginning to wane. This series was the first one to lure me back into watching episodic television since I got burned with Lynch's Twin Peaks. I haven't been able to eat a piece of cheery pie since then without having to supress horrible thoughts spawned in dark corners of my id.

Iain said...

I would argue that while a 22 episode season shouldn't be beyond the talents of the writers, it clearly and inexplicably is.

I would largely blame the executive producers for this, since what the show appears to lack is a clear direction and sense of continuity. When the writers get the rare chance to plan ahead coherently they can achieve a fair bit, but increasingly the series feels like driving at speed in thick fog, with vital events emerging fully-formed without warning and then disappearing as quickly as they came. Either planning of even the most cursory variety has been tossed out of the window in favour of creative spontenaeity, or the wrong editing choices are consistently being made. There really does seem to be a tendency to shoot every episode too long, forcing the editors to discard any scenes which serve the ongoing plot in order to make the episodes coherent in themselves. Favouring standalones in this way, and hackneyed melodramatic standalones at that, leaves the big arc moments stranded, isolated from any organic development.

I'm tempted to feel that a 13 episode season poses a more manageable planning challenge, and forces the writers to discard unnecessary standalones.

As for the two-hour "event", this appears to include a flashback to events on board the Pegasus during the Cylon attack from the pilot mini-series. I remain to be convinced that we really need to see something which sounded overblown even when confined to a bit of exposition. Unless of course our expectations will be overturned, however that would make something of a mockery of our heroes' actions in the season 2 three-parter.

kshaw said...

I was referring to BSG.

Niall said...

I could play it cool and say that I was referring to the "twenty episode season" theory on the sly. But the truth is that I somehow ended up with the impression that this was a Veronica Mars discussion. What can I say? I'd just woken up.

Therem said...

There's an interview with Ronald Moore in today's Salon.com. It reveals some interesting details about his working process and partly explains what went wrong with the series of standalone episodes in late season 3. (An entire plotline spanning many episodes was edited out at the last minute.) It also bolsters the argument that they can't handle a full series arc at one go. Sometimes they get lucky as with season 1/2.0. Sometimes they don't (2.0/2.5). I've reached a point where I don't expect consistency from this show; occasional standout episodes or a fluky run of good ones still make watching worthwhile. I wish it was good all the time, but oh well...

Iain said...

Therem: Interesting interview, thanks. Hearing what happened does make sense of a few things in S3 in retrospect (although other elements of the season remain fairly irrational). I strongly suspect that something similar happened in the second half of season 2. I really don't think the writers appreciate the extent to which this damages the show's narrative flow.

It's ironic because they talk about needing standalones to placate the network and provide a jumping on point, but a standalone with an intriguing couple of story arc hooks should actually be more successful at grabbing and holding someone's attention than a pure standalone, IMHO. Especially since Moore admits that standalones don't really work for this particular programme.

Ilana said...

Niall, I'd have agreed with you if we WERE talking about Veronica Mars...that's often the argument I use to try to get people to watch the show.

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