After some five years, Battlestar Galactica ended with a giant two-hour episode. I enjoyed it, though I felt that, in the end, it undermined one of the series’s core themes: it’s individual’s decisions that matter, and those decisions, even if made for what seem like the right reasons, can turn out badly. The road to anywhere is paved with good intentions.
It didn’t have to be that way. I think a few changes to the final episode would have reinforced the theme of people’s individual choices.
The main problem is that everyone happily agrees to settle on Earth, and what’s more, agree to wander away in small groups. There’s no evidence of dissent. No one decides to do something different. It’s the kind of simplistic unity that the show previously had avoided. Change that, and a lot of the finale’s tone changes.
Leave the finale as-is through the Cylon colony being destroyed. Foreground that a little more — they’ve just destroyed most of an entire civilization. The humans and their Cylon allies have won the war by mass killings that mirror what the Cylons did to the colonies.
Ditch everyone happily signing on to settle Earth. Some will be afraid that it’ll turn out like New Caprica, with any remnants of Cavil’s gang hunting them down. Others will be so shell-shocked over what they just did that they won’t feel like they deserve such happiness. Some will want to keep exploring. And some won’t want to live under the restrictions the settlers agree they’ll abide by: they’ll reduce their technology use as much as possible. They’ll found an agrarian society, and without ships bringing in new supplies and factories making new gadgets, in a few generations they’ll have lost what tech they had. The settlers will stay mainly in one city, though: who’d be so silly as to go from being city dwellers to subsistence farmers without having as many people around for support as possible? C’mon, they know otherwise they’d all be dying of tetanus and exposure and gazelle-induced high cholesterol in a year.
So you can have a scene with President Day Player and Admiral McBitPart presenting everyone with their choices. A handful of people will take the remaining ships and strike out for new territory, just like the centurions do. They cannibalize the ships to fully stock the handful that’re needed and jump the rest of them to random coordinates. The settlers don’t want any technological temptation orbiting over their heads. But Galactica can’t jump, so Sam still gets his noble shaved-head ending piloting the ship into the Sun. The rest settle on Earth.
This leaves all of the teary scenes completing people’s character arcs without simplifying and homogenizing everyone’s decision.
But I still don’t know what to do with Starbuck.