The third episode of the 2003 version of Battlestar Galactica--the first episode after the two hour intro---is called "33".
Battlestar Galactica is a show about the destruction of humanity at the hands of their own creations, a race of cyborgs called the Cylons. The very first scene of the new series shows a man in space, waiting in a room at a desk. We're told that every year, on the anniversary of the signing of the treaty that ended the first Cylon War, the human race sends a man up to the room where the treaty was concluded, to wait for a Cylon representative in case alterations need to be made. It's been 40 years, and the Cylons have never come. Until today.
For 40 years, the Cylons have been planning, evolving, growing and increasing. And when they come back, it's with a terrible vengeance. Every person and every thing alive is destroyed by the Cylon attack except for the Battlestar Galactica, saved by its outdated technology, and a small flotilla of ships that it protects--all that remains of the entire human race. With nowhere safe to go and Cylons hounding their trail, the prospects for humanity are dim indeed.
Episode 33, first episode of the first season, begins with what will come to be a pretty consistent feature of the show, the launch of small fighting craft called Vipers from the Galactica in defense of the ship and its civilian flotilla, but there's a difference between this and later episode. Everyone's exhausted.
The pilots are exhausted. The crew in the Galactica is exhausted. The president is exhausted.
Because every 33 minutes, no matter where they go or what they do, on the dot...a Cylon base star "jumps" into their quadrant and launches an all out attack, trying to finish off the last vestiges of the race. And this has been going on for days. Every 33 minutes. You can almost see it on everyone's faces---f--- it. Let's stop running. Let them kill us all. Only, let me get some sleep.
What BSG as a show was best at, during its memorable 4 year run, wasn't emotional intensity so much as emotional strain.By the fourth season, which we got to about a month after watching the first, I was exhausted, depressed because they were. Because the whole time they were running, they had nowhere to go, they were trying to survive but for what, and how and most importantly why? Just not to die? Everyone died, was dying, was going to die. Why? It got so dark and so bleak that watching the shows made me exhausted. But I couldn't stop watching. It was that good.
Some of the episodes were thought experiment episodes. Okay, Earth is gone, what do we do about currency? What do we do about labor rights, when work is a matter of survival? Okay, abortions were legal in our civilization, but should they still be when all that's left of humanity is what's on a handful of spaceships? When do we restore full democratic processes, and what happens if we do? A constant theme of the show is the balance between civil and military authorities in addressing issues, and who should have the final say.
Other episodes dealt with the Cylon threat, or with interior threats. A rebellion of prisoners, or a black market. In one string of episodes they find a blasted, blighted planet that can nevertheless support some life and they're so desperate for anything they settle there--until the Cylons find them.The constant, almost Vietnamesque fear of enemies appearing from nowhere, of the end coming too soon and too fast is the driving motor of the show, but the evolution of the characters--almost uniformly--from brave, strong, wise leaders to exhausted, broken, desperate men and women is its art. Several times in the last season, the captain of the ship breaks down weeping, publicly destroyed. Several times families are built only to disappear as if nothing.
So you can see how all this reminds me of the Mavericks season.
As in the episode, "33", Mavericks games come around with a numbing regularity and they are exhausting. Win or lose, there's no final victory--all we really want to do, at this point, is sleep. In a memorable scene in BG, Commander Adama says that though humanity has been driven by the will to survive it never asked the question whether it deserves to--and it's not enough, not to deserve to.
Over the last five games, Darren Collison has averaged 8.2 points, 3.8 assists on 37% shooting. Mayo is averaging 14, 46% shooting but 3 turnovers a game. The Mavericks have lost 4 of 5, two of which--to the Lakers and the Rockets--represented the best chances remaining to squeak into the picture. One of which they had won by 20+ points, before losing.
As pundits, we deal with situations. It's not whether the Galactica should allow unions to protect workers, but more along the lines of whether any of this year's pieces, beyond Dirk and Marion, are salvageable. What the Mavericks can do to position themselves for a better season, what they can do right now to win a freaking game.
But the major similarity between the TV drama and the Mavericks season is this---as of now, we are cut free from the past, we no longer live in our comforting, 11-year long galaxy. We don't know where we're headed, or whether we'll survive the journey. As the season progresses, the second since it was all intact, the AAC grows quieter, the debate on this webpage less active, something vibrant leaching slowly from the tone. There is no certainty of safe harbor, and like the Galactica, we don't really know and cannot imagine what that will look like.
It takes a strong will to be a fan of a losing team, but it's harder to know it didn't have to be this way. In the parlance of Galactica, its harder that this bitter experience came suddenly from the sky, that there was no warning, that we had no say and that there was, perhaps, not nearly reason enough to it.
Perhaps the real lesson of Galactica, here, is that the people who are on this ship---Donnie, Mark, Dirk, you and me--are on this ship, like it or not, headed there together, towards some unseeable, unknown harbor. Whether that's Dwight Howard, or Nik Pekovic, or waiting and seeing. An unknown harbor that maybe doesn't exist, to which, maybe, we won't all make it.
But if you're along for the ride, you're along for the ride. It'll get grim and gross and exhausting and next year we'll have to make big decisions, we'll have decide whether to elect Laura Roslin, Gaius Baltar or OJ Mayo president, and think about what kind of expectations we can have. This season is just playing out its string, but there will be another one, if the Cylons don't get us.
Not all who hope, survive--but those who survive, hope.