This episode puzzled and upset me, but without spoilers I can’t say why. Click the link if you’ve seen it and/or don’t care about finding out what happens ahead of time.If I hadn’t read about it before hand, I might not believe it: they killed off one of the most popular, central characters of the show, who was played by one of their best, most magnetic actors. I’ve been plenty unhappy about some of the things Starbuck has done this season (playing with Sam and Lee’s emotions… almost killing Gaeta?!?!), but she was nowhere near irredeemable or played out, and as far as I know there was no behind the scenes reason Katee Sackhoff had to leave. So I’m stumped. Was this a ratings grab like the death of Aeryn Sun in Farscape, season 2? Or a bizarre attempt at some street cred (“those Battlestar producers, man… they’re hard core! they killed off one of their main cast!”). Given what I know about the show runners, either seems plausible. Spoilers inform me that Katee Sackhoff’s name will not appear in the credits of the last three episodes of this season. Given that the producers did not know they were renewed for a 4th season until a few weeks ago, I really wonder what is going on.
Mostly I’m bothered that this episode came out of the blue. Where were the hints that Starbuck was seeing things and couldn’t sleep? Nowhere until this very episode. To return to the Farscape comparisons (why not?), John Crichton’s craziness in season 2 was built up slowly over a number of episodes until the big reveal of his implanted neural clone. (BTW, Battlestar has been shamelessly ripping off this concept of an implanted personality since Baltar first started hallucinating Number Six in the miniseries.) We didn’t have to reconstruct any backstory ourselves from expository dialogue; we saw it ourselves and wondered what it was all about. But in this much-hyped episode about Starbuck, we are simply told that she’s been seeing things and dreaming about Leoben since her mandala conversation with Helo. No build up. And at the end of the hour she is drawn by this obsession — that we have no real emotional reason to believe in — to kill herself.
Starbuck and Katee Sackhoff deserve better.
I just watched the episode a second time and tried to see it with the eyes of a seasoned TV viewer who hadn’t watched BSG before. It played a lot better that way. The repeated visual ties between Kara’s drawings and the giant storm on the planet and all the talk of destiny indicated that there was a lot more than a deathwish at work at the end. I am pretty sure we’ll be seeing Starbuck again, so… whew! I just wish it all fit better with the episodes before it, or for that matter, any of the rest of this season.
On most other shows, episodes that focus on invididual characters aim to deepen them, to show us other sides of them we’ve never seen before and give us a more nuanced appreciation of them as people. In contrast, BSG’s character-focused episodes have too often lately made me feel disconnected and alienated from characters I think I know. “Maelstrom” did leave me dissatisfied, yet there were a couple of great Starbuck moments that showed her at her most vivid and individual. I’m thinking of the scene near the beginning when Helo asks her: “You OK?” and she flashes him a weird, ambiguous grin and says, “I don’t know.” And another when she describes how she got back at her abusive mother by playing a practical joke, and got her hand slammed in a door for it. Anders, horrified, says, “Frak me,” and looks down, not knowing what else to say. Starbuck says, “It was worth it, though.” And I totally believe her.
Gods damn it, she better not be gone forever. Moore and Eick! I’ll have your heads!!
Addendum: I discussed this topic on the FeministSF Blog as well. The post, with follow-up comments, is [url=http://blogs.feministsf.net/?p=134]here[/url].