Why Battlestar Galactica Ended After Season 4 (Was It Canceled?)

Facing falling ratings, Battlestar Galactica’s writers ended the show on its own terms, giving audiences big issues to ponder in its finale.

In March 2009, Sci Fi’s Battlestar Galactica came to an end after season 4; here’s why it was canceled. Since it began as a miniseries in 2003, the gritty Battlestar Galactica had brought prestige to Sci Fi (now SyFy) at a time when audiences were tuning into must-see TV like The Sopranos on HBO and Lost on ABC. Battlestar Galactica won multiple Hugo and Saturn Awards during its run and was nominated for several Emmys, a surprisingly positive reception for a reimagined version of a single-season science fiction series from the 1970s.

The show generated glowing critical reception and a loyal fanbase through the years. By the time of the series finale, the Battlestar Galactica survivors settled on an Earth from the distant past. Although this ending proved controversial with some audiences, it was generally received as a bold finale in keeping with the themes of the show, focusing on the humanity of its characters (even the non-human ones) and their struggle to rebuild and maintain a civilization under the worst of circumstances. Much like these surviving members of humanity, Battlestar Galactica managed to scrape together a definitive conclusion in the face of adversity and cancellation.

In 2007, Sci Fi announced that Battlestar Galactica’s fourth season would be its last. With falling ratings and a large effects budget, the decision seemed natural. It would take nearly two years for the series finale to air, during which time the writers crafted a conclusive ending for Battlestar Galactica, avoiding the pitfalls of unresolved cliffhangers caused by more sudden cancellations. While Battlestar Galactica only aired 76 episodes, a seemingly light number when compared with the seven-season-long Star Trek series of the 1990s, its creators were able to end it on their own terms.

The 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike affected the production of this final season, with only the first half of the episodes completed before production was halted on scripted series. The final 10 episodes would air in the winter of 2009. This allowed the writers additional time to ponder the ending. For every Lost and Battlestar Galactica, the 2000s were littered with attempted prestige shows which introduced mysteries only to be canceled after a season or two. These sudden cancellations often left audiences confused and disappointed. On the other hand, shows like Lost ended in controversy by wandering long past any creative vision their creators may have had for a tidy ending. Battlestar Galactica ended in a way that served its premise and prevented any massive audience letdowns.

For any criticisms that the Battlestar Galactica finale may have received, audiences could not accuse it of being boring. By reinventing the mythology of its original 1978 inspiration and taking its premise seriously, the show was an invigorating presence at the beginning of what audiences and critics now recognize as a new Golden Age of Television. Not content to end with mindless action or a cliffhanger, the series finale prompted audiences to ponder humanity’s fate. Battlestar Galactica proved that science fiction had a place at the table with prestige dramas, and has shaped the decade of television since it aired.

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