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Writing 101

Spoilers Below

Don't read this if you haven't yet watched the season finales of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and/ or LIFE ON MARS. I've finally seen both (we are TIVO junkies, so we don't always watch shows the night they air), and... well...

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA ends with "God Did It." Looks like somebody skipped Writing 101, when you learn that a deus ex machina is a crappy way to end a story.

And now LIFE ON MARS ends with "It Was All a Dream." Curiously, I actually found that a bit more satisfying than the end of BSG. But still... really??? C'mon. Writing 101.

Oh, and while I'm at it, let me spoil the new Nicholas Cage movie, KNOWING. I actually enjoyed that one, mostly, although everyone else I know who has seen it hated it. But the ending... this time it was space angels who did it. And when the little kids starting running through the alien grass toward the glowing alien tree, I almost thought the boy was going to say, "My dad used to call me Caleb, but my real name is Adam," and then the little girl would say... oh, wait, you've seen it?

Yeah, yeah, sometimes the journey is its own reward. I certainly enjoyed much of the journey with BSG, parts of LIFE ON MARS, and even some stuff in KNOWING. But damn it, doesn't anybody know how to write an ending any more?

Writing 101, kids. Adam and Eve, God Did It, It Was All a Dream? I've seen Clarion students left stunned and bleeding for turning in stories with those endings.


(I sure hope those guys doing LOST have something better up planned for us. Though if it turns out to be They Were All Dead All Along I'm really going to be pissed).


Apr. 5th, 2009 09:06 pm (UTC)
I just went and checked how they ended the US Life on Mars. Woah, that's really crazy stuff. Different, and less nihilistic I suppose, than the UK ending (although since the UK show has a sequel series, there may be more to the mystery than "It was just a coma-induced hallucination,") but still bonkers. It was all a VR-induced hallucination? Hmm.

BSG's ending was not quite what it could have been. The writers lost their way towards the end and seemed to have difficulty satisfactorily addressing all the mysteries they'd set up. That said, there was at least one vague hint that it wasn't God but some kind of space alien. Still weak though, and the "Robots are bad OMG!" ending was over-egging the pudding.

LOST, on the other hand, has been on fire this last season. Its use of time travel has been really fascinating to watch and implemented intelligently (unlike, say, HEROES). I suspect the writers have also got a better idea for the finale in mind than either BSG or LoM had, simply because they've set up all their mysteries ahead of time instead of just making them up as they went along, like BSG.

I take it we shouldn't be expecting R'hllor to turn up, resurrect Ned and then save the day at the end of A DREAM OF SPRING then? :-)
Apr. 6th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
there was at least one vague hint that it wasn't God but some kind of space alien

Are you talking about the "it doesn't like being called that [god]" comment?
Apr. 6th, 2009 04:42 pm (UTC)
Yup. There was also a load of dialogue cut from this scene which would have made it a bit more clear, with Baltar and Six betting on what would happen next in the cycle, but it got cut for time. A shame because it did seem to give a little bit more closure to what was going on.

Also, one of the writers said later as far as she was concerned, the head-beings and 'god' were basically the Beings of Light from the original series who'd turned up to give humanity a helping hand along the way.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 8th, 2009 06:08 pm (UTC)
The problem is that the events ARE real. When the series ended people forgot that in the very first episode, Sam changes time so the maniac gets put away in prison 30 years earlier and never kidnaps his girlfriend, and in later episodes we see his girlfriend is okay.

Similarly, at the end of ASHES TO ASHES Season 1, Alex remembers Gene Hunt being the policeman who turned up after her parents were killed, indicating that he was also real. Apparently Season 2 will focus on this a bit more and ends with an 'Empire Strikes Back' moment which will put the mystery a bit more to the fore in the third and final season.
Apr. 6th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
I didn't read the ending of the UK Life on Mars as nihilistic. To me, it wrapped up the storylines while preserving the mystery. There's enough evidence that the present-day life isn't "real" that you're left not knowing for certain which is the "real" life. I consider it a textbook example of how to wrap up a "weird stuff" series.

The US finale was the worst of "we must explain everything" and beat you over the head with it because Americans are assumed to be too dumb to get subtlety. It was worse that "it was all a dream," it was "it was all a TV show" (or the futuristic programmed-dream equivalent.) Feh.


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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