Battlestar Redactica: Visual Revision of Narrative Error
by Julie Levin Russo — Stanford University
November 17, 2009 – 20:27
The series finale of cult favorite Battlestar Galactica offered glib and one-sided resolutions to the program’s complex and ambivalent questions. In so doing, it proved extremely divisive among fans. Some of those who objected staged creative interventions to reclaim their beloved narrative, asserting the authority of diversified fan production over univocal industrial production. I here present two examples of such interventions (with similar form but differing tactics): fanvids that appropriate the show’s footage to visually rewrite its ending.
The first section of "Moon vs. Sun" by Beccatoria presents the events leading up to the final season traditionally, as a metaphorical "rap battle" with divine stakes between political antagonists Laura Roslin and Gaius Baltar. At 1:33, however, when Baltar prevails by fiat, the vid shifts its attention to the show’s "meta" battle between Laura Roslin and God (the intangible prime mover of the storytelling injustices that culminate in the finale)—"a big white guy in the sky," according to the lyrics. After reviewing and rewinding Roslin’s disempowerment at the hands of Baltar and Adama and chronicling the violent ends of other female and queer characters, the vid concludes with the colonization of Earth’s prehistoric natives and the reduction of Hera to humanity’s genetic womb… or does it? In an authoritarian inscription that counterpoises the vidder’s position with that of the vid’s "God," the credits reveal in writing that this figure stands in for Ron Moore, Battlestar Galactica’s auteur (whose officious cameo then appears). By retroactively inserting the showrunner into the vid as its "big white guy in the sky," "Moon vs. Sun" engages the question of how vids can "write back" to the tyranny of sanctioned authorship, capturing both the futility and, through its very existence, the possibility of this struggle.
Rather than incorporating the events of the finale in order to critique them, Chaila’s "Order in the Sound" excises them completely to offer Battlestar Galactica an alternative ending. But this "derivative work of a derivative work" takes as its source not Battlestar Galactica, but an ambitious fan-edit of the entire last season: Battlestar Redactica. Limited by the available footage, the fan-edited finale supplants pat plot-driven closure with an open-ended visual reverie, leaving the story essentially unfinished. By rendering Redactica a collaborative fanworld and synthesizing its conclusion in vid form, "Order in the Sound" provides it with metatextual (if not narrative) fulfillment. Through the perspective of Kara Thrace, this vid stitches back together the connections—between the central female characters, between technological innovation and divine revelation, between humans and Cylons with a hybrid destiny—that the final season had sundered. If we consider the aired finale a metaphor for "old" media’s fantasy of regression to analog discipline and hegemonic ideologies, Redactica and "Order in the Sound" furnish a counter-metaphor for the capacity of "new" media (in the guise of Kara) to transform the terms of creative production.