BSG Cast - Starpollo

SciFi Sunday

Today was devoted to man's inhumanity to man...or aliens...or Cylons. This afternoon, I finally managed to get to the theatre to see District 9. Then, a couple of hours later, I sat down to complete my Battlestar Galactica Season 4.5 rewatch with the extended cut of 'Daybreak'.

Before I discuss the film, I wanted to mention a few of the trailers I saw. Zombieland looks like it could be a fun film. After a rash of slasher flicks and torture porn, it was refreshing to see a film poke fun at the genre and seeming to do so in a smart way. And it took a moment to recognize Abigail Breslin. She's growing up on screen fast! Legion has an intriguing cast, but I also know from experience that doesn't mean it's a good film. And I have to admit, seeing the Avatar trailer on a big screen and in HD does make a difference. I still wasn't blown away. Nor am I eagerly awaiting the film's release. The problem still remains, whereas District 9 did an amazing job of putting CGI creations in our world seamlessly, with Avatar I feel very aware I am watching a world created on computers.


District 9 looks to be the surprise success of the summer and it deserves to be. It's not a perfect film, but it's ability to provoke thought amidst alien encounters and explosions makes it a standout in a sea of brainless, even insulting, Hollywood sci-fi/action summer blockbusters. While Star Trek was exceedingly well made summer escapism, it didn't make me contemplate what it is to be human or why we too often treat anyone different than ourselves as less than ourselves.

Set in South Africa, the film draws heavy parallels to the country's history of apartheid. The aliens, whose real name we never learned, are referred to as "Prawns", a derogatory name given to them because of their prawn-like appearance. Discovered dying of illness and starvation aboard their ship hovering above Johannesburg, the aliens are "saved" and placed in a camp that quickly degenerates into a slum, District 9. After twenty years of living in squalor, the citizens of Johannesburg decided they have had enough of dealing with a growing population of aliens and growing crime rate. A plan is hatched to uproot all million plus aliens and relocate them far outside the city to a lovely new compound....of tents.

It's clear little effort has been made in over two decades to get to know the race of aliens. Reminiscent of a ridiculous tradition passed down through the centuries, the aliens aren't recognized by their names, but are assigned human names, though they are treated as less than human. It is one of the aliens, Christopher, who comes closest to filling the role of hero and brings into sharp focus humanities failings. We're told by one so-called expert on the aliens (much of the film is presented as a documentary) that the aliens were found close to death because they were nothing more than mindless workers; their masters having perished soon before or soon after the ship arrived and they were thus unable to take care of themselves. Yet, it is made clear that Christoper is highly intelligent. When he's confronted with eviction from his 'home', we discover he can read English, knows his rights, and what is legal and what isn't under the (human) law. More importantly, he's spent twenty years working on a way to get back to the ship hovering above the city and return home and has finally amassed enough bio fluid needed to power a small ship he's managed to keep hidden. And all this accumulated knowledge he's passed on to his young son.

Christopher doesn't just elicit our sympathy; it is he who we connect with and not his human oppressors. We feel the love he has for his son as well as his fears for son's survival. (I spent a good deal of the film worrying something horrible would happen to the boy. Besides stringent population control, there may have been other reasons no other children were seen.) We share his horror as he discovers the remains of his fellow aliens in a lab, subjected to experimentation and dissection. And when he makes a promise to a human, we believe he'll keep it because we want to believe the best of him as we want to believe the best in ourselves.

The human he makes the promise to is Wikus Van der Merwe, a corporate middleman and flunky who learns the hard way the sacrifices to be made in the name of profit. After accidentally spraying himself with alien bio fluid accumulated by Christopher and confiscated in a search, he begins to transform into one of the aliens. When the company learns this can be used to their advantage (all the high tech alien weaponry confiscated over the years is useless without an alien, specifically their DNA, to operate them), the company treats Wikus as they would any piece of equipment; they prepare to strip him for parts, harvesting blood, marrow, organs, and limbs.

Wikus manages to escape the company's grasp and a manhunt begins. He eventually seeks refuge in the only place he can, District 9. Once there, he teams up with Christopher to retrieve the bio fluid that means salvation for both - the ship is not only Christopher's means to return home, but he tells Wikus he can receive treatment aboard the ship that will restore him to his former self.

I did feel the film began to loose focus at this point. When Christopher announces it will be three years before he can reverse the change in Wikus, Wikus, in a desperate move of self-preservation, knocks Christopher unconscious and steals the small ship, with Christopher's son onboard, to make his way to the mother ship. It's unclear how he could begin to heal himself with no knowledge of the alien's science or technology, but I can believe the idea of losing oneself proved greater than rational thought. Quickly, the ship is shot down and all hope seems lost to Wikus's self-serving actions. But whether the better part of himself or alien DNA drove him, he ultimately performs one selfless act, providing an opportunity for Christopher and his son to escape.

Amidst the smaller, more personal moments between Wikus and Christopher are full scale assaults by the company's private military as they track down their prized asset, exploding bodies thanks to alien weaponry, and counter attacks by a Nigerian gang living in and doing business in District 9 with their own reasons for wanting Wikus (it involves a rather cliched and ignorant interpretation of voodoo) . In other words, stuff you typically see in summer blockbusters and at least some of it I felt was unnecessary.

And one question I had throughout the film was how such a large group of aliens, many of whom had weapons more powerful than the humans, could be moved quickly and without an extreme, violent reaction to a new location? The question is never answered, but we learn at the end of the film that the relocation happened and the population had grown to over two million.


'Daybreak' I had not watched since March. I worried that my largely positive feelings about the finale may not still be there. I worried I hadn't watched with a critical enough eye the first time around. I worried all the negative reviews and posts I had read would alter my opinion. I worried I would love the show just a little bit less. It turns out I worried for nothing. I liked it more.

Maybe it's that time has passed and absence makes the heart grow fonder. Or maybe I like being contrary. ;) In truth, I think reading all the backlash helped me to focus more on the finale and Season 4.5 as a whole. Not to look to contradict those who didn't like it because, yes, there are legitimate criticisms to be made, but to find answers to lingering questions I had. None of this is to say there aren't flaws. I can watch the finale a hundred time and the damn pigeon will never make sense. And I may have fast forwarded through some of Adama's scenes. But in the end, I asked myself how it could have ended differently and.....I've got nothing.

I have more in-depth thoughts to share. It's a matter of taking pages of notes and dividing them up into easy to digest posts rather than, "OMG, when is this going to end?!" Right now I'm thinking there will be a general thoughts about the finale post, a Kara post (yes, you read that right), and a 'Why Lee Adama is AWESOME and He Was Happy, Dammit!" post.
  • Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
I did feel the film began to loose focus at this point. When Christopher announces it will be three years before he can reverse the change in Wikus, Wikus, in a desperate move of self-preservation, knocks Christopher unconscious and steals the small ship, with Christopher's son onboard, to make his way to the mother ship. It's unclear how he could begin to heal himself with no knowledge of the alien's science or technology, but I can believe the idea of losing oneself proved greater than rational thought.

As much as I wanted to punch Wikus at that point, I thought that moment was a wonderful, wonderful display of all of Wikus's ingrained assumptions. After all, if the prawns could do it, how hard could it be? He'd had 20 years to get used to the idea of space travel, and had spent that same 20 years thinking of the aliens as animals. In other words, his privilege screwed him over, which would have been much more satisfying if the fate of Christopher, his son, and all of the aliens in District 9 hadn't been riding on his actions.


Amidst the smaller, more personal moments between Wikus and Christopher are full scale assaults by the company's private military as they track down their prized asset, exploding bodies thanks to alien weaponry, and counter attacks by a Nigerian gang living in and doing business in District 9 with their own reasons for wanting Wikus (it involves a rather cliched and ignorant interpretation of voodoo) .


I would like to think that at some level, what they were going for was showing that there are different levels of oppression, but if that's true, it really didn't work. The plot was fairly complicated, though, and hinged on the Nigerians' participation--they had the weapons that Wikus and Christopher stole; their firefight with the corporation's goons prevented the goons from going straight at Wikus and Christopher when they came back to try to fly the module again. But their motivations were never other than cartoonish, which I think is a real problem. (I also think it's important to distinguish between voudun or voodoo, which is a distinctly Haitian practice with some basis in African religions, and different tribal African traditions. They are not at all the same.)
After all, if the prawns could do it, how hard could it be?

I hadn't thought about his actions in those terms, but, yes! Even though Christopher seemed to be more intelligent, or at least more knowledgeable, than the average "Prawn", Wikus still viewed himself superior merely because he was human. It makes sense that he had convinced himself he could just figure out how to cure himself once he arrived on the ship.

I think one significant problem in the depiction of the gang was their leader didn't seem to extol any great leadership skills. Nor was he's confinement to a wheelchair ever directly addressed. If they had shown a desperation in him to walk again then perhaps I could have rationalized him convincing himself that eating alien body parts would somehow heal him. But it seemed he thought it would make him more powerful rather than able bodied. It was all quite muddled.
I totally agree with your entire D-9 review. I left that film thinking about humanity and how wrong it could be. The film did lose focus toward the end and became a sort of buddycop/hero film, but I did appreciate the fact that Wikus ends up biologically turning into an alien. You don't see that every day. I wondered if Christopher would come back to help him. Or even if Christopher should.

I had throughout the film was how such a large group of aliens, many of whom had weapons more powerful than the humans, could be moved quickly and without an extreme, violent reaction to a new location?
Why didn't the aliens form a resistance during that whole twenty years? I missed this point but the IMBD synopsis was helpful. Apparently, the alien leadership (of which Christopher might have been a surviving member) died on the ship. The rest of the aliens were more of the 'worker' class. Or maybe this is just how humans interpreted the aliens' behavior. We don't really know. I also think it's possible the aliens weren't naturally violent unless pushed. Even Christopher, smart as he was, had never thought to really raise weapons against the humans.

I'm afraid to watch the BSG finale again. Though I do like that first hour very much. I could watch that just fine. But the last part, I just can't. I've finally gotten my rage down to a point were I could maybe vid BSG and vid with clips from Daybreak. (Which would require me to watch it, I suppose.) I know I can make it make sense. Not the pigeon because there is no sense for that, though. Most of my rage wasn't about what happened but that I was so confused in the beginning about what had actually happened to Kara. I simply didn't know and that made me mad. I still wanted lots of death. Heh, a friend in my journal said that Christopher could come back with an army and wipe out humanity. I'm not sure I'd want that but it would be an interesting take. Some of us just want death, if it is in keeping with the bleakness of the story that's being told.

Kara post! Yes, write one! I will never get tired of reading about Kara Thrace. And Lee was happy? Even after Kara disappeared? I trust your reading of Lee and I will be curious to see that post. I do remember Lee walking with Adama in that videoblog. He was beaming and Jamie sold the hell out of that. I'm so curious as to what you think Lee was feeling at the very, very end, though.
Some of us just want death, if it is in keeping with the bleakness of the story that's being told.

I'm more on the anti-Daybreak (er, the episode *g*) side, but I'm still really grateful they didn't just kill everyone. I always thought BSG at its best wasn't simply bleak; it balanced the darkness with a sense of hope. So it feels right to me that they chose to end on that tone. And it makes Kara's journey much more meaningful, which is always a plus AFIAC. (Laura's too.) YMMV, obviously.
I always thought BSG at its best wasn't simply bleak; it balanced the darkness with a sense of hope. So it feels right to me that they chose to end on that tone.
I think that BSG did often have hopeful moments. And it's not that I couldn't have accepted my people healing and surviviving. But if it was going to go that way, I wanted it to feel earned and organic to episodes previous. I didn't want to have to bring so much and dismiss so much in order to have to believe it. A good example is Gaius Baltar. He's a character I didn't even like for most of my watching of him. But his journey felt complete. I think enough time was spent in the last eps and in both parts of Daybreak to make his growth believable to me. I don't begrudge he and Caprica their ending because them ending up together felt well-written and plausible. (Him surviving on Earth 2 is a different story. :-))

I went on at length about Kara's journey in my very lengthy post about her and the latter part of season 4.5 here. She was my favorite and I simply would have needed the dots to be far more connected at series' end to have been satisfied. I even went and tried to connect them myself through the seasons and it can't be done. Her character deserved to be written as well as Baltar's was, in my opinion.

Yep, my mileage varies a lot. With Laura too. But I'm still interested in others' views, particularly Asta's with Lee. What I'm finding is one has to bring a lot to the table to have the finale work. I need things connected for me and need to see it plainly on screen. That what the show had been for a long time. I don't hate the whole series, but I think they got tired and lost focus at the end.

Now you've gotten me thinking, I didn't simply want death. I wanted a well-written ending. Heck, they could have done death poorly too! I hadn't thought of that, but anything's possible. I liked the idea of them going down with the ship and that four years wasn't enough time to recover from genocide. One fantastic battle. Long and drawn out and where we all weep for all of our people and what they'd lost. Season 4.5 got pretty dark and it could have worked. But now you remind me, that the death could have been done poorly too. Goodness, this show.
Baltar and Caprica probably were the best developed and written relationship on the show and had the most satisfying ending. Even when they were apart and Caprica was carrying Tigh's child did we doubt they still loved each other?

I'd say Ellen and Tigh were a successful pairing as well. No way I would have said THAT before season 3! And while I never was sold on Laura and Adama, the turn Adama took in season 4 caused me to lose all ability to rationalize the two of them being together.

As I said in my last comment, I can make parts of Kara's arc work, but, I have to agree with you, it's impossible to connect the dots and I find that frustrating as well. And in order to make sense of it (in my mind) I really have to fan wank at least one plot point.

Contrary to what Ron says, I actually felt he lost sight of the characters as he hurried to attempt to tie up as many plot points as possible in 4.5 and A LOT of time was taken up explaining the Final Five (though I did love 'No Exit' :).
They all die, which I feared was a possibility, I felt, like you, would have been too bleak. I've seen some people state Ron wanted a happy ending and it's actually a horribly depressing ending; both statements I disagree with. My feeling is that Ron felt these characters deserved some peace and, at least in the short term, after years of struggling and being on the run, they had that. Lee's smile said it all to me. People felt joy for the first time in years. And maybe people died of disease and wild animal attacks, but how much better were their prospects floating around in space on decaying ships with supplies running out and Cavil chasing them? At least on Earth 2.0 there was hope.

I'll have a lot more to say on the subject when I get to my various posts, but, even though we may not agree on everything about the finale, we seem to agree on this point. :)
I did appreciate the fact that Wikus ends up biologically turning into an alien.

I agree. If this had been a Hollywood film he would have been miraculously saved at the end.

I read a comment in another LJ that Wikus was so self-absorbed and delusional that he believed Christopher would actually return to save him. But I believed him too! Granted, Christopher's primary goal was to return to save his people, but I think his promise to Wikus was genuine. I felt the filmmakers were showing that Christopher was better than us or at least a large segment of humanity.

I also think it's possible the aliens weren't naturally violent unless pushed. Even Christopher, smart as he was, had never thought to really raise weapons against the humans.

It is possible they wouldn't fight back unless their lives were in jeopardy and it was clear Christopher was unaware of the experimentation going on. Had that been known, I'm sure there would have been an uprising.

I also think Christopher was hesitant to fight back because he had a child. As I mentioned before, his son was the only child we saw. Who would be able to take care of the boy if something were to happen to Christopher?

I'm not about to encourage people to rewatch 'Daybreak' unless they are inclined to do so. I will say a few issues I had were cleared up, somewhat, on second viewing. Kara's role makes more sense to me and I'm more at peace with her parting with Lee. Though, I also must admit I have more of a problem with her destiny, which was revealed in the first season, and events in 'Maelstrom' which were always a bit confusing to me.

I actually feared the finale would be a blood bath and, given Jamie's history on TV and in film, I was very worried about Lee's fate. I was relieved that people (especially Lee!) lived.

And I do feel Lee had a sense of joy that he hadn't experienced in years, if ever. That's not to say he was happy about losing Kara *and* Laura *and* his father within the span of a few minutes. But he at least understood why they had to go. Adama might be the biggest stretch, but Lee was used to him abandoning him and he likely accepted his father's true love, the Galactica and, by extension, the military life, were gone and he had nothing left to live for. Not even his son. The Bastard.

I was bummed the additional footage of Lee and Adama was not in the extended cut. As you say, Lee was beaming! And I'm a sucker for seeing Jamie smile like that. :)

With any luck, I'll get at least one BSG post up before Dragon Con.