File this under Can’t Exactly Call it Surprising, but reports are out that Sci Fi will announce officially today that Battlestar Galactica’s fourth season will be its last. After 22 more episodes, the fleet will come to a stop, one way or another.
Unlike the ending-date decision for Lost, this isn’t exactly a case of commerce bowing to the needs of storytelling, though it is being spun as the producers’ creative call: BSG’s ratings dropped last season, apparently enough that the expensive series cost more than it was worth to Sci Fi. But I do believe Ron Moore and David Eick when they say that the show, like Lost, was meant to have “a beginning, a middle and finally an end,” and having one 22-episode stretch in which to wrap things up could be a good thing. (With Earth in sight by the end of season 3, 22 episodes certainly seems like enough time, given how slack the middle of the last season was.)
If this is cancellation, it’s a kinder, gentler one. In fact, I’m less worried for BSG–which has a chance to go out on top–than for Sci Fi. With BSG, it seemed to have a chance to break out of its mold of sheer-entertainment genre series and take a place alongside the FXes of cable, with series that paid as much attention to character, theme and larger meanings as they did to pure genre thrills. But it hasn’t capitalized on that chance as well as it could have. The new Doctor Who is decent enough, Eureka too irritatingly quirky, Painkiller Jane turgid and embarrassingly written. What Sci Fi needed was a BSG companion piece like Bionic Woman promises to be, but that got snapped up by corporate big brother NBC.
Of course, that’s from the standpoint of critical esteem, and as we know, that and 50 cents will get you half a dollar. I like my sci-fi, but I’m not obsessive about it, and maybe to fans who are more devoted to the genre than I am, sci-fi is sci-fi is sci-fi. Is there anything you’ll keep watching on Sci Fi network once BSG fraks off?