Six Damn Fine Degrees #82: Murder

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

It’s an ugly thing to kill someone, and more or less willingly, isn’t it?

There is the sanitized version of murder in countless whodunits, where the rules are clear: someone might be dead by the hand of another, and some clever brain will figure it all out, preferably in a showdown before a chimney fire, holding a long speech that ends in a big revelation. The rules are clear; the culprit, more often than not, is punished by the law, as if this was only slightly more atrocious than any hockey game. And while any sturdily waxed moustaches might have been replaced by squint-eyed scientists, the rules still apply. Miss Marple is never wrong, but science can’t lie.

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The Rear-View Mirror: Halloween (1978)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Psycho never scared me. I think the main reason for this is that I came to it too late: by the time I saw Norman Bates dressed as his mother, stab-stab-stabbing his way through various cast members, I’d seen all the quotes, echoes, parodies. (You can’t be a teenager watching several seasons worth of The Simpsons without seeing an average of 17.3 parodies of Psycho. It’s a scientific fact.) To some extent, I ended up watching the film and feeling that, meh, it’s all been done before – which is unfair and inaccurate, because so often and in so many ways, Psycho did it first. I still enjoy the film for the sheer craftsmanship that Hitchcock and his collaborators put into the film, and for the impish glee with which they establish the female lead – only to kill her off. But no, Psycho never scared me.

Halloween, though? Halloween scared the living daylights out of me.

Halloween
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Reaping the whirlwind

Battlestar Galactica is an odd sci-fi series. On the one hand, it’s much more down to earth than any other series in the genre; in terms of the world it depicts and the atmosphere it evokes, it is remarkably un-SF. Life aboard the Galactica doesn’t seem to be that different from life on some 21st century aircraft carrier (except for the lack of blue sky, fresh air, water and a home port, that is).

At the same time, though, it is perhaps the series I’ve seen that is most interested in metaphysical issues, sci-fi or not. And at least for some of the fans, this element has become too dominant in series 3. I won’t say anything more, because not everyone reading this blog knows how season 3 ends (bode, bode)… but suffice it to say, things go in a direction that makes it impossible to ignore the metaphysical strains of the series as an aberration and that BSG is really about space warfare and about man vs. robot.

Cylon & Garfunkel

***Warning: Spoilers for “Maelstrom” to follow. If you don’t know what happens and are interested: all three seasons of BSG are available on DVD! What’s keeping you here? Go to Amazon and buy, buy, buy! Or get it on Netflix, if my cheap consumerist less-than-subliminal messages fail to do their dirty job on your synapses.***

“Maelstrom”, better known as “the episode in which Starbuck goes kablooey (and this time not in a metaphoric way)”, does something interesting with the metaphysical world of Battlestar Galactica. Are we watching a long, drawn-out suicide that is couched by Starbuck’s mind in spiritual/psychological gobbledegook, because she is too much in denial to face her death wish? After all, much of the series has shown us just how self-destructive she is. Or is there something to Leoben-or-is-he? and his allegations of Kara Thrace’s special destiny? Is there a Cylon Heavy Raider ducking in and out of the clouds – or is it but a Raider of the mind, conjured up by Starbuck’s constantly eroding psyche? (Good thing they didn’t throw Birnam Wood at her while they were at it.)

In search of a bad cover band

Either option is possible – but just like we don’t know about the Final Five, or what exactly Baltar’s mind-Six is (a delusion or a chip?) or the Cylon God, we are denied an answer about Kara, as her Viper goes kerSPLAT! right in front of Apollo’s eyes. Are the series creators intent on frustrating us? Are they, as the characters might put it, frakking with us? Or do they, as they claim about the Cylons, have a plan?

Do Cylons play “Trick or Treat”?