Wednesday 28 February 2007

Galacticawatch 3

Following a month's break over Christmas, BSG returned for the rest of its third season. Following in the footsteps of the rest of the season, this latest batch of episode has continued BSG's insistence on being extremely and frustratingly variable in tone and quality.

Rapture picked things up from the mini-cliffhanger, with the Colonials ready to nuke the Temple of the Five to stop the Cylons from finding their way to Earth ahead of them. This cliffhanger is resolved in a fairly logical although surprisingly subdued manner (I was expecting Galactica to just nuke three of the Cylon basestars with no warning). Down on the planet there's fighting between the Cylons and Colonial ground troops and Dee mounts a rescue attempt to recover the wounded Starbuck, whilst Athena boards the Cylon basestar to get her daughter back. There is some very good stuff in this episode (Six breaking Boomer's neck after she goes a bit nuts; Tyrol decking Baltar) but in the main it struggles to make much sense. The explanation for the Eye of Jupiter at the end of the episode feels unconvincing and the supernova sequence, although visually spectacular, doesn't work scientifically. However, the episode is saved by Three's death scene, which is very well acted by Lucy Lawless and Dean Stockwell.

Taking a Break From Your Worries is a much better episode, a real return to form as Adama and Roslin pull out all the stops to get Baltar to confess his crimes, only for Baltar's impressive ability to pin the blame for his mistakes and weaknesses on others to become absolutely awe-inspiring as he twists and lies his way past Adama's best efforts to expose him. James Callis, always one of the show's best actors, is absolutely outstanding in this episode.

The Woman, King, is a much weaker episode, tieing with Hero as weakest episode of the season to date. A lot of characters behave very oddly in this episode, displaying racist sides to them that we've never seen before, and after everything Helo has done to save the fleet in the past it seems highly unlikely that no-one would listen to his concerns. However, even worse is the fact that Helo turned out to be right. Actually having him fall apart and start fantasising about menaces where there are none would have been far more interesting. A very disappointing episode.

A Day in the Life sees Adama confronting memories of his wife whilst Cally and Tyrol's lives are put in danger. This episode is better, with some strong CGI in the rescue sequences and a nice look at Cally and Tyrol's home life. Given how their story was emphasised in the Season 2 finale, it was strange that their relationship hadn't been explored again since the start of the season (although a couple of scenes in Unfinished Business did refer to it).

Dirty Hands is more of an old-school, Season 1-feeling episode showing how life in the fleet actually works. The episode is a bit of a downer, actually, showing that post-New Caprica the fleet is an absolutely appalling state, even compared to what it was before, with people working 12+ hour days, seven days a week, with no breaks or any hope of time off. Its examination of the class structure in the fleet, of the dangers of an inherited caste system unintentionally developing, and of how this can be exploited by an opportunistic politician (or in this case a political prisoner trying to win support and gloss over his past crimes) is surprisingly sophisticated. However, the episode is sunk somewhat by very inconstant characterisation of Roslin (who turns 180 degrees through this episode with no explanation) and through Adama's unusual attitude (do we really believe he'd murder Cally?). The idea from the first season that both characters would at least try to obey the law has long since disappeared by this point, leaving little doubt that the fleet is now under the control of a dictatorship (Roslin, it should be remembered, has never been elected by a public vote), benevolent and well-meaning though it may be. I hope this fact is remembered by the writers as they map out Baltar's trial.

Next week: allegedly the most shocking episode of the entire series to date!

312: Rapture ***
313: Taking a Break From Your Worries ****
314: The Woman, King **
315: A Day in the Life ***
316: Dirty Hands ***

Forthcoming: Maelstrom (04/03/07), The Son Also Rises (11/03/07), Crossroads Part 1 (18/03/07), Crossroads Part 2 (25/03/07).

Thursday 15 February 2007

What's Cooking

What I'm doing at the moment:

Currently Reading: The Confusion
by Neal Stephenson
Currently Watching: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy on DVD, Life on Mars, Rome, Heroes, Battlestar Galactica and Lost on TV.
Currently Playing: Baldur's Gate on PC.

The Confusion is a worthy and surprisingly superior sequel to Stephenson's Quicksilver, displaying Stephenson's trademark humour and eye for detail. The apparently pointless sprawling morass of storylines in Quicksilver has been replaced by a much stronger and focused plot as well.

Watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy again on DVD is an interesting experience. Viewing just one disc a night, spreading it across six nights, is a good way not to get too overwhelmed. Despite some minor flaws, the trilogy is very much an impressive and enthralling viewing experience.

On TV Battlestar Galactica seems to have gotten stuck in the doldrums. I'm hoping it pulls itself together because watching this once-fantastic show fall apart in front of me is a distressing experience. Lost seems to slowly be getting back on track, although I'm not putting money on it getting as good as it was when it started. Heroes continues to impress and Rome gets better with every passing episode. Great stuff. And the new and final season of Life on Mars is also looking very good as well after two episodes (with six more to go).

I played Baldur's Gate when it was first released (a distressing nine years ago) and it's surprising how well it stands up on a re-play. Just a solid RPG experience. I'm hoping to go straight through Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate 2 and Throne of Bhaal, so we'll see how that goes. However, there's a fair few games coming out this year I hope to play along the way, such as Jade Empire, Crysis and Dragon Age, so I'm expecting interruptions to this schedule.