There have been a number of sensational finales for drama series in recent years, including the unforgettable endings to NBC’s The West Wing, FX’s The Shieldand HBO’s Six Feet Under and The Sopranos. Tonight’s grand finale of Sci Fi’s Peabody Award-winning space opera Battlestar Galactica doesn’t simply belong on that distinguished list. It should sit proudly at the top, the perfect ending to a series that is not only the most distinguished in Sci Fi’s history but one of the best that television has ever offered, period.
Before a recent advance press screening in New York City of tonight’s big show (two hours and eleven minutes, to be exact), BSG executive producer Ronald D. Moore asked the journalists and critics in the room to raise their right hands and repeat after him, “I swear not to reveal any of the spoilers I see tonight.” So I can’t go into any deep detail about it here. I will say that the finale exceeded my expectations, thrilled me over and over, made me laugh (pay close attention to the Centurians during the fight scenes), choked me up and left me completely satisfied. We were watching it on a large screen, so I had to continue repeating to myself, “It’s only a TV show,” rather than a feature film, even though it was excitingly cinematic in so many ways, and better by far than most of what passes for escapist entertainment at the multiplex. It wrapped up almost every plot thread from four seasons of dramatic exposition, left a couple of narrative components open to thought-provoking interpretation and forced me to recall and reconsider BSG’s collective content beginning with the miniseries that started it all back in 2003. Most significantly, the final hour of the two was so sublime in its reflection on all that had come before that it made me want to watch the entire series all over again from what may now be an entirely different point of view. That’s a first for me.
Given its bold examinations and deconstructions of timeless issues that are and will continue to be of vital importance to the human race and the preservation of its essential humanity, I have to believe that BSG will be experienced and discussed across a broad selection of media and communication platforms (including some we can’t even imagine) for decades to come, and maybe longer. Unfortunately this unflinching saga and all that it represents will never get old, and even if the world as we know it changes for the better BSG will still provide critical historical perspective. Fortunately its vital blend of action, emotion, insight and thought leadership will remain as entertaining and enriching in the distant future as it has been in the immediate past. (As I watched the finale I couldn’t help but wonder what celebrated novelist and essayist Gore Vidal would think of BSG. His collections of published essays include Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, a chilling concept that reverberated throughout the series.)
Are noted television critics and major BSG fans including Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune and Alan Sepinwall of Newark’s Star-Ledger, not to mention yours truly, over-reacting as the show reaches its end? Hardly -- and here is the proof. BSG is the first television series in the history of the medium to be honored by the United Nations upon reaching its conclusion. I attended a BSG retrospective in the Economic and Social Council Chamber at the United Nations on Tuesday night, during which self-declared super-fan Whoopi Goldberg moderated a series of panel discussions featuring executive producers David Eick and Ronald D. Moore, series stars Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell and UN representatives Radhika Coomaraswamy (Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict), Craig Mokhiber(Deputy Director, New York Office, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights), Robert Orr (Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, Executive Office of the Secretary-General) and Famatta Rose Osode (Minister and Deputy Permanent Representative Permanent Mission of Liberia to the United Nations). They addressed global issues explored during the run of the series including human rights, children and armed conflict, terrorism and reconciliation and dialogue among civilizations and faiths. One hundred area high school students were seated around the chamber and invited to ask questions throughout.
I have been to countless events celebrating television programs during the last 20 years, but I have never shared an experience quite like this one. (When I attended a press conference for the BSG miniseries that started it all during the January 2003 Television Critics Association tour I could not have imagined, six years later, that I would be invited to the United Nations to bid farewell to the franchise as we have come to know it.) To say this event was historic is to understate the obvious. The same applies to BSG itself. Television was made better by it and so, I believe, were its viewers.