The year of skipping

Saturday, February 10, 2007 by

The slow way. The bizarre tradition of serial dramas and sitcoms is the attempt to mimic real life even though they’re clearly set in some alternate reality; so the ensemble cast of The West WingERDawson’s CreekGilmore GirlsFriendsBabylon 5, even Alias, drift onward on a yearly basis for the length of their run, as we watch five to 10 years in the life of the characters, countless Christmases and birthdays.

There’s no reason for this really – and you can see each series trying desperately trying to fill the time, coming up with decent drama to fill in the gaps between the really exciting stuff. This is the time when most shows fail, because there’s a feeling of going through the motions.

The new Battlestar Galactica doesn’t do that and unless you’ve seen up to the end of season two I’d skip the rest of this post. Every now and then a month will drift by between episodes and I’ve just watched the season two finale on DVD and in a really, exciting audacious move they’ve skipped a whole year in the middle of a scene

Cylon collaborator Baltar is sworn in as president, the remaining dregs of humanity have been ordered to settle on a planet that can barely support life, he drops his head to the table, there’s a crossfade and a caption reads “One year later”. I don’t like captions. They tend to be quite distracting and too much of a short hand for lazy programme makers trying all too quickly to set the scene when a bit of dialogue, or I don’t know, everything else on screen should suffice.

But this caption was special. This caption made me shout “What?” indignantly. Yet it made absolute sense. Although watching a year’s worth of people settling, dealing with a nuclear holocaust, the fleet being mothballed and the breaking up of civil order might have been pretty interesting, skipping it all is even more dramatic. For one thing it means that these characters and this story which we’ve all become quite comfortable with becomes a mystery again – the character dynamics have moved on and relationships that were settled are now in the air – I mean why, for example, aren’t Apollo and Starbuck on speaking terms? So the chief and Callie are together now? Adama has moustache?

And the truly great thing about all this is that unlike Star Trek: Voyager which did much the same thing over two episodes in “The Year of Hell”, there isn’t going to be a reset switch. There are no helpful temporal anomalies in the Galactica universe, no benevolent nebula, things will never be completely the same again. 

Creator Ron Moore and his staff have decided it’s time to move the story on, treat the narrative as a much longer construct, and make it fascinatingly novelistic. People have been saying this is one of the best sci-fi shows ever and watching this past season I’ve begun to understand. This audacious move seals it. I only hope that it isn’t all revealed to be a dream or some alternative reality. That would be disappointing. Roll on the DVD of season three.


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