Thursday, June 18, 2009

What BSG should have learned from Futurama

BSG finale spoilers

In the Futurama episode Godfellas, Bender is catapulted into space, to drift alone. His body ends up supporting a little civilization of creatures, but everything he does goes wrong. When he interferes too much it causes trouble, because he is too powerful and damages whatever he touches: creating wind power with his breath, for example, blows a villagers into space. When he does nothing things get worse -- the civilization debates how best to worship him and devolve into nuclear war. In the end he meets a star system and this is the scene (the quality of this clip is not fantastic, as it is a camera in front of a TV but it is exactly the clip I wanted):

In my blog on the Battlestar Galactica Finale there was a final stray anonymous comment, that came three weeks after the conversation ended, probably by someone who was just looking up reactions to a finale he may have watched a bit late. He said "Why the fuck did any of you even watch this show? It obviously had religious/spiritual overtones through the whole series. I guess some people just want to have shit to complain about when they blog."

That last bit may be true, but what is not right is that "religious/spiritual overtones" means that the show can just explain EVERYTHING with a deus ex machina at the end.

What is shocking about putting the Futurama scene together with the Battlestar Galactica finale is that Futurama is actually doing a pretty good job of suggesting how to think about the role of God in the Universe in which we live every day, in our LIVES. Battlestar Galactica -- a show most of us got together and decided to call "smart television," -- failed to translate Futurama's lesson into the much smaller realm of the TELEVISION SCRIPT. For a while there "god" in Battlestar Galactica had the light touch Futurama says he should -- you really aren't sure he is doing anything at all, especially in a show with advanced technology: the Six that only Baltar can see could be, as the show points out, caused by a chip in his head or even a tumor; the clues to earth could have been left by the earlier civilization. But in the end the show was just like Bender, using too much force to interfere in the little world, blowing our characters around like little toys into the void of space where they would just vanish, like Starbuck, who was CLEARLY an ANGEL for all of season 4.


neilshyminsky said...

I agree with all the sentiments you express here, Geoff, so to add anything more would be redundant.

What I would like to ask, to paraphrase a certain anonymous commenter, is why the fuck anonymous commenters bother to leave comments weeks after the discussion has dried up. When I made my second post about The Dark Knight, based entirely on promo shots released half a year before the movie itself, one of the images was picked up on Google Images. And then I got angry posts for months after the film was released from people who, for the most part, didn't realize that my post was already quite old and would never come back to follow-up. Why bother?

Kyle said...

Good post.

Neil: I'd imagine three weeks is a more sane delay than a year or so.

Stefan Delatovic said...

Ironically, if the Futurama episode had chosen to focus instead on Fry's search for his lost friend, only for Bender to crash back to earth at the end claiming 'God did it', it would've worked. It would've been funny.
Not funny on BSG.

And I loved that BSG tackled religion. Loved it. That is different to the ending though. It's not 'religious overtones' to have, basically, that animated penguin from Madagascar pop up to say 'you didn't see anything ... God did it.'

Shlomo said...

Never watched BSG, but i loved that clip.

Kenney said...

Neil, I've commented on old blog posts before, when someone has written something that I really liked. The discussion might be dead, but I imagine there are email notifications and such (if enabled) that alert the blogger to the comment. Feedback is the main currency of blogs, so when it's earned, I give it up.

No harm, no foul.

neilshyminsky said...

Kenney - It's not the compliments that i'm talking about, though - those are always appreciated and are usually aimed at producing a dialogue. It's the people that post only to complain, and who have no intention of engaging in a meaningful exchange, that I'm wondering about.