Like many, I have found this season of Battlestar Galactica to be pretty disappointing. After a strong start that gave us some of the best episodes in the entire series, things seemed to deflate a lot. The writers didn't really seem to know where to go next with the story, putting Baltar on the basestar and then not really using him much, whilst the Galactica crew seemed to lurch from one bland crisis-of-the-week episode to the next. Now the season has concluded with four episodes which have been more interesting, whilst still not constituting a true return to form.
Maelstrom was heavily pre-hyped as the most shocking episode ever in the show's history. Mostly a character piece, it focused on Starbuck and her background, who's been startlingly under-used in Season 3. Her oft-mentioned destiny plays a key role in the episode, and some interesting minor details that first turned up way back at the start of Season 2 were used to further her storyline in an intriguing manner. Unlike most of the rest of the episodes this year, Maelstrom was pretty well-written, with no ham-fisted editing to wreck the pace of the episode. The ending had been spoiled months in advance, but even so it was pretty startling stuff, even if there was something very suspicious about it. Nevertheless, some strong acting and superlative CGI rounded off a worthwhile episode.
The Son Also Rises examines the aftermath of the startling episode before it and addresses the development of the fleet's nascent legal system in the face of Baltar's forthcoming trial. For an episode many feared would degenerate into BSG Law, it actually turned out to be quite good. Pretty much the entire episode lives or dies on Mark Shepard's performance as the lawyer Lampkin, and he delivers an outstanding portrayal with some exceptional dialogue of the kind this show used to deliver weekly, but has tailed off in the latest season.
The two-part episode Crossroads is a somewhat unusual season finale. Whilst the trial of Baltar delivers some good acting and some strong dialogue, it hardly seems the stuff of the major dramatic paradigm shifts that BSG excels in its season and mid-season cliffhangers. However, what at first seems to be a minor subplot about Colonel Tigh cracking up due to stress and guilt over his wife's death suddenly turns out to be of critical importance to the series. The final twenty minutes of the second part are pretty dramatic, jaw-dropping stuff which I'm pretty certain will leave half the audience convinced BSG has lost the plot for good, and the other half confirmed in their belief that this is the best show on television. Whilst I found the finale to be excellent, both of the big revelations at the end seem to be filled with plot holes of varying degrees, and it will be interesting to see how these are resolved. I'm also uncertain about the last show of the finale, which uses some slightly dodgy CGI and over-the-top music in a manner more befitting The Matrix than the show's normal realistic approach. However, the finale still achieves its goals of raising questions the audience will be desperate to learn the answers to, although we'll have a long wait for Season 4 to find out.
317: Maelstrom ****
318: The Son Also Rises ****
319: Crossroads, Part 1 ****
320: Crossroads, Part 2 ****
Forthcoming: a Battlestar Galactica TV movie based around the story of the Pegasus will air in the autumn of 2007. Season 4 will debut in January 2008. Season 3 continues on Sky One in the UK for the next several weeks and will be released on DVD in August 2007.