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Jane Espenson on Battlestar Galactica's mid-season finale

by Keith McDuffee, posted Jun 16th 2008 9:21AM
jane espenson(Warning! If you haven't watched the latest episode of BSG yet, thar be spoilers ahead!)

After last Friday's episode, a lot of us had questions about what we saw. Was that Earth? Are humans and cylons really bonded together, after all this time? Who is the final cylon? I finally took the time to throw a slew of questions toward writer and co-executive producer Jane Espenson about this episode, and she had a few things to say (though nothing quite as revealing as I had hoped).

Rather than get into what I had to say, I'll let her letter back to me speak on its own. As you'll quickly see, she's not a woman of few words when it comes to this show. I'm hoping she'll have just as much to spill when I ask her questions for our Buffy Retro Squad week next week.

Holy cow, I love this episode beyond the saying of it, and 'thank you' to the fans who have been going out of their way to tell all of us that, too. Adama's reaction to the reveal was stunning -- my gods -- and Starbuck-- her face said it all. A thunderclap. Simply beautiful. You wouldn't want more and you can't imagine less. I'm stating the obvious when I say that a more labored reaction would've attenuated the emotions, given the characters a chance to gather themselves before the big blow that was to come, which certainly would be a mistake. And there's a difference, of course, between finding out that your XO is a Cylon if he's handing you a giftbox filled with a fertile verdant Earth, and finding out that he's holding a cinder-planet. I think the *real* reactions are yet to come, just like in life. The beauty of this episode is in its urgency, in the tumbling breathless slide that lands us on that grim gray unfamiliar beach... It's so gray, in fact, that I think it earns the British spelling. It's grey, which is even worse.

And -- oh -- that haunting devastated city there, with the massive ruined temple and our people trying to find their footing in a strange dead city I did not recognize... that image just kills me. Every time I watch this episode, I well up with hope, and it lasts right up through that handful of soil, and then the radiation counter breaks my heart all over again. I do not easily tear up, but the race to the planet -- don't the ships look like they're *running*? I always think of running... Anyway, that race and then the reveal brings tears to my eyes in a way I'm not sure I've experienced before during a television show. Someday I'll see those images without having to blink through them. Right?

David and Bradley (David Weddle and Bradley Thompson, our writers) did an excellent job throughout this rocketsled of an episode - the writing had to be so delicate, precise and emotional... and they also did such a good job doing little things like dealing with the fallout from my episode the previous week. Baltar saying he loves living is such a gem of a moment among a cascade of gems -- thanks for that, David and Brad! And then, of course, the big stuff starts happening and never ever lets up.

When we screened this episode at Ron's house, months ago, we all sat stunned, and then agreed it was perhaps the best the show had ever produced. And seeing it Wednesday and again Friday night with fans in attendance bore that out... every time the blue clouded planet was revealed, I could hear the inhales of hope, despite the lack of indication of any continents -- and I knew we were about to break some hearts. But, I hope, they only broke like mine did.

I wish we could bring you the next episode right away. In my mind the two fit together so closely so as to almost be a two-parter, and I have that awful sense of having had a phone call cut off mid-sentence with so much left unsaid.

There's so much left unsaid.

Thanks to the fans from me, but especially from David and Bradley -- these two episodes are their babies, and they are so grateful for the appreciation they've been receiving. We all put our hearts and tears and then more hearts into these episodes, and they become parts of us like our flesh. So thank you. Very much. We have the best fans in television.

(And you cannot trick me into revealing the identity of the Fifth by pretending you don't care! I won't fall for that! Not again.)

Smiling,
Jane

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Fernando Paiva

Maybe there will be a some sort of "time travel" to fix the cyclon war and going back to eart since they know the exact location now... Think about it... It will have a very nice closing...

June 20 2008 at 11:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Fernando Paiva's comment
JB3DM

...

Go watch Stargate Atlantis and leave the stupid commentary on their forums.

June 21 2008 at 4:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lisa

Finally, some other people who don't think it's Earth. Everyone else seems to have drunk the Kool-Aid. I appreciate Espenson's partial confirmation that they have not actually landed on Earth. I think the writers are going to re-imaging the Terra Prime colony from the "Experiment on Terra" episode from the Original Series. In TOS, Apollo and Starbuck averted nuclear disaster, but this time around they were too late.

June 19 2008 at 2:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Duncan

The bit that got to me was a proud, defiant Col Tigh snarling at Lee "Go on, then - what are you waiting for?" while he waited for Lee to hit the airlock button that would blow him into space. I know that Tigh is a massively flawed person - well, Cylon - but the calm and bravado he showed as he stepped up to sacrifice himself for the good of the human race was extraordinary.

Michael Hogan has always been tremendous as Tigh, investing his character with an underlying strength and dignity even during his darkest periods, but this was stunning.

June 19 2008 at 10:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tom

I think I've been a loud critic of this show when I didn't think it got it right, but I've obviously been a big fan of the show along the way. That's why I was so amazed by this episode, and I felt a certain solidarity with the creators when they said, in Jane Espenson's words, 'When we screened this episode at Ron's house, months ago, we all sat stunned, and then agreed it was perhaps the best the show had ever produced.' Here's why I agree:

(1) As stated by Ms. Espenson to a limited extent, I think this was an amazingly acted episode. It should win far more than a Peabody, it should win another Peabody and an Emmy. Special Kudos go to Michael Hogan as Saul Tigh. This was his best episode ever and he portrayed his character beautifully here. "I am one of the final five. D'Anna will back down if you threaten to flush me out an airlock!" The scene between he and Edward James Olmos was brilliant on the part of both actors. Adama's disbelief, his denial. Saul Tigh's barely contained bravado. This material is a disaster in the wrong actors' hands, the wrong directors' hands. Here it just...works.

(2) Further proof that the acting was just brilliant here. The way Michael Trucco (Samuel T. Anders) and Aaron Douglas (Galen Tyrol) exchanged knowing glances when they were revealed to be Cylons. The expression on Lucy Lawless' face as she looked towards Adama surveying the oblivion on the planet they had put so much hope into. And as Ms. Espenson pointed out, Katee Sackhoff's reaction to learning Anders was a cylon. These moments were more than just beautifully acted, they were the perfectly scripted payoffs to tensions played out all season long, in some cases all series long.

(3) A lot has been blogged about the pacing of this particular episode, that it was rushed. After I got over the initial shock of them revealing the four cylons AND finding the location of earth AND watching the Humans and Cylons make an uneasy peace AND jumping there immediately AND then to reveal the devastation of this "supposed" earth. WOW! That was a lot. But I felt that plot wise and story-wise, it really made sense. First, the revelation of the final four was brilliantly conceived. This was the perfect scenario, to back Saul Tigh into a corner, to have him reveal the truth in order to save so many deaths, to save his best friend's love from certain death. And it makes sense he would reveal who the others were, and they would go quietly, as if almost relieved. And the way Tory Foster schemed to get herself on board the base star without revealing her true identifty, as if it was part of her job! Second, jumping to earth once the coordinates were known makes perfect sense. Here they are, jumping around the universe, seemingly aimless, but all the while looking for clues. When they had the coordinates, why wouldn't they go? Just plot them into the navigational computers and spool up the FTL drives! Finally, the payoff of a devasted earth--that was an eerily beautiful and engaging cliffhanger. It leaves me with so many questions about these characters and their stories and where they are going to go from here, instead of scoffing at how they did this or that or why the writers used this lame device or other. I want to know!

(4) The musical score for this show is underrated and not spoken of often enough or in good enough terms. But its so important to the dramatic tension of the show. It builds in beats and pulses all the way through to each segments' dramatic climax. It should win awards (if it hasn't already).

(5) My final thought for the evening is this. It has been tremendous fun tracking how this show, in its present incarnation, tracked and paid homage to the original series from the 1970's. I still am asking questions about Count Iblis and Beings of Light, about Experiment in Terra and the Eastern Alliance, about whether or not they will ever really find earth. I've enjoyed immensely the reimagining of the Pegasus and Admiral Cain. But I really feel that to attach the name Battlestar Galactica to this show, does something of a disservice to THIS SHOW. It has surpassed the original to such an extent and to such a degree, it is so much more than that campy 70's-style star wars counterfeit (that we all loved). This is, on the whole, achievement in story-telling at its finest. And I can't hardly wait to see where it takes me next.

I've been hard on this show because I love it so much. Like our own lives, its had its peaks and valleys. But like us, it took all those experiences, good and bad, to make it what it is today. And I think where it is today is a high-water mark for science fiction and dramatic television combined.

June 18 2008 at 2:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
biggdawg

Okay it was a good episode but I can't be the only viewer who had the following thoughts before the episode was halfway over.

Odds are the planet is not earth.
There was no way whatever planet our heroes landed on it was going to be fertile and friendly and the answer to their problems.

As for the big reveal that stunned the writers of the show and had Jane wailing even though she never is moved emotionly by a television show. Are you kidding me?!
I'm a big fan of the show so don't think I'm a hater but theres no way that ending stunned viewers familiar with sci fi. Its just a spin on the "its not our time its the future or the past etc..." Charlton Heston and a destroyed Statue of Liberty leaps to mind as does a dozen episodes of The Twilight Zone.
Possibly I was expecting too much but I thought the episode felt rushed and a bit predictable. If the writers were stunned I am afraid the series finale will be a huge disapointment.
I have an ongoing joke with several friends who also watch the show. The joke is that the finale will be that cliche done to death sci fi chestnut of gasp the two survivors are Adam and Eve and bigger gasp they are on Earth pre biblical times.
I can only hope the finale won't be a joke on savvy viewers.

June 18 2008 at 12:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to biggdawg's comment
shorva

A friend of mine and I tossed out the possibility of human/Cylon Nicky and Hera being this Adam and Eve...after all, Hera was sought by the Cylons as the new face of humanity. Let's hope they give the viewers something more than this.

July 03 2008 at 12:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Eelke Halbertsma

I think it ís Earth, but not in a state that they hoped for. They alle thought that Earth would be the new green shiny paradise for the remaining humans to live on, but it never came up in their minds that, while they were living on their planets, the humans on Earth blew eachother to pieces in an all-devastating nuclear war. Because if you look right at the scene on Earth, it looks very similar to a nuclear winter and the radioactive-measuring-device confirms it. This also fits in the society-criticising morale of the series.

I am very curious what happens in the next episodes. A pity that we have to wait till 2009 for that. I guess we will have to entertain ourselves with the new Stargate Atlantis season that will come this year, till that time.

June 17 2008 at 5:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
zerock

I thought I recognized the planet from the pictures in Adama's book.

June 16 2008 at 2:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Karen

I love that she said that she didn't recognize the devastated city. I have been in the "no WAY that was the Brooklyn Bridge" camp from the moment I saw the speculation that it WAS the BB, and this feels like vindication.

June 16 2008 at 1:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joey Geraci

Yea, that is interesting that she didn't say definitively that the planet was Earth. Ron has been definitive at certain times before, like when we all wondered if they were really Cylons or just thought they were, and he said they were. Hopefully he will come out and tell us definitively.

June 16 2008 at 1:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nattyff

(And you cannot trick me into revealing the identity of the Fifth by pretending you don't care! I won't fall for that! Not again.)

again???

June 16 2008 at 12:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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