Monday, July 8, 2013

So Good I Have to Stop

Beware of spoilers.

I think that my geek story starts with my uncle.  He was the one who had the whole family watch the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation shortly after it aired; thus was born my pattern wherein I'd become a rabid fan of something, moving to live, eat, and breathe it.  Trek was at the top of the list for the Next Gen years, Superman's been there with Lois and Clark as well as Smallville.  For each of them there was that nerdish dedication: I've met a few Trek actors, I saw Terry Hatcher (from afar) on her way to film as Lois Lane, and so forth.

Perhaps entering my twenties brought some sense of maturation, to leave that maddening thirst behind.  Perhaps the shows themselves changed (I did, after all, slowly abandon Trek before finding it again and making my way through seeing all I had missed via Netflix).

There was, however, one show in my twenties that was worthy of such adulation.  In my more mature mindest, though, I've found it so good I had to stop.

It was December 2003 when I recorded the first part of the new Battlestar Galactica miniseries.  I'm not quite sure how I found it, or what drew me to it.  But somehow it was on my radar (or dradis, for you BSG fans) and I watched it.  It was what few science fiction shows--indeed, few dramatic presentations--had the courage to be: daring, unapologetic, deliciously dark, terribly brooding.  I loved it and the second part which aired soon thereafter.  I waited with baited breath for SciFi to pick up the series, as indeed it did.  Filming commenced in the summer... with the show proper to start airing in December 2004.

The first season was, and remains, wonderful.  It was a bit of a shock at first how serialized they are with the show, but that indeed was also boldly going where Trek could not (indeed, in my Trek rewatch I've been aghast to read about particular episodes where characterization was knocked down since Gene Roddenberry felt "that sort of thing" (usually romance, or lust, or anger) wouldn't be a factor in the 24th Century.  (Pity the writers who had to remove romance, lust, and anger out of their literary toolboxes.))  At any rate, the first season ended with a shocking cliffhanger--the very sort of ending that made you wonder if they truly can come back from it.  (Hint: they did.)

The notion of "so good I had to stop" came in the second season.  Due to a VCR error, the Friday night airing of an episode was not recorded.  I didn't discover it until over a week later, when its reruns were over.

(I'll pause with a bit of a history lesson for our younger readers.  You probably have seen VCRs at school, so you understand that part.  But back in 2004, there were few realistic options if you had missed a TV episode.  Illegal sources online surely existed, but the combination of high speed internet and having a computer capable of adequately playing such video wasn't the norm.  Similarly, iTunes didn't start selling some TV shows until October 2005, let alone have most series as is assumed today.)

So there I was, having missed an episode with no recourse.  Sure, I could have picked things up with the next episode... but that wasn't how I wanted to watch Battlestar.  It was so good that I had to stop.  And wait.  Wait for that episode.

At that point, I must admit I did fall out of the BSG habit.  Other things occurred--graduating college, looking for and finding a job, meeting my future wife.  Life happened, but always in the back of my mind I was waiting for the right time to return to BSG.

When Netflix announced last fall that BSG (and, I suppose, other shows) would be available in the latest streaming deal, I was absolutely elated--to the point that I raced home the afternoon it came out and watched the first episode of the first season.  That weekend, I voraciously consumed the entire first season.  Should I be proud or ashamed to have watched 13 hours of TV in three days?  I slowed myself to an appropriate speed--but still a fast one nonetheless.

Luckily the show had a built in way to slow me down even more, for each season (or mid-season) cliffhanger is so good that I've had to stop for a bit.  The episode "Pegasus," with the revelation that off-camera a baddie Cylon woman has been captured and repeatedly beaten, tortured, and gang raped into a non-verbal, non-responsive state is something that left me so troubled that I probably will never watch the episode again.  "Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2" has that same victim killing herself by detonating a nuclear bomb... and coincidentally leads to her Cylon brethren finding the human's interim home and occupying it.  "Crossroads, Part 2" kicks viewers in the gut by revealing that four beloved (well, some of them anyway) characters are Cylons, and does so by having one of the most extended mindscrews I've ever seen.  Said the joker to the thief, so they say.

Similarly, I'm back at not watching again, because it's so good.  Last night, in bed, I watched "Revelations," which is the mid-season cliffhanger for season four.  After having watched BSG since 2003, I have 11 episodes left.  But I won't watch it tonight, or for a few days.  The ending of the episode--where, rather shockingly, they find Earth--started out to be a happy moment, albeit a confusing one.  Since the miniseries, finding Earth had been The Goal.  Now, with 11 episode left, they find it?  Where could the show go?

The closing minutes of "Revelations," with no dialogue and little music, show the main cast and the key guest starts standing on a cold, gray, Earth beach.  They all look either grim or upset.  The camera, in a long, uncut tracking shot, shows the wreckage of a building.  And another.  And another.  And crumbling, destroyed buildings in the distance.  As a demolished bridge comes into view, the scene cuts to black.

Last night, I had dreams of finding disappointing things... all due to this most wonderful of television programs. 
They can't get no relief.

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