Personally, I didn't think the series finale was particularly bad. I found that the series went downhill pretty badly from around mid-season 3 onwards, with many tedious episodes.
The first half of season 4 was when it got particularly bad for me. Here are a few spoilers of things I disliked:
So if Starbuck thinks she knows where Earth is why not send her out in a Raptor? Would the Admiral accept the resignation of his third most experienced officer? Would the Quorum elect their newest member as president, the non-elected Adama Junior? He has about three weeks political experience under his belt, and is the son of a man they distrust. Would Adama send Gaeta AND Halo along with Starbuck leaving himself short of senior officers? Would Adama put a man into having sex with cylon prisoners in charge of the fleet?
Overall, I think people wanted Battlestar Galactica to continue to be a Sci Fi series, rather than Fantasy, which is what it turned into.
Actually, Apollo getting on the Quorum makes sense when you consider that he was there as a replacement "Vice President" after the whole coop fell apart. Plus, he HAD been the President's "Military Adviser" and then he worked on the defense of Baltar's trial, not to mention his testimony at that trial where he basically called out the entire process as something being a "witch hunt" instead of "justice", not to mention the fact that he was a successful pilot... in other words, being well known in the fleet and somewhat "politically active" against his father, it works nicely.
Well, actually the ending itself wasn't as horribly bad as everyone says it was. In fact, if people took a second to review the ending they would understand that the 1st half of the ending was G-R-E-A-T! Remember the assault on the Cylon base?
But what happened is something that was a bit "too mistake prone" in the second half.
1) They completely switched gears 1/2 way through the story. A big huge climactic action sequence is then followed by mostly talking heads going "okay, well see you later" to each other.
2) Starbuck's story was completely ignored. "Oh, well hey Starbuck thanks for finding Earth for us. Oh wait, you just disappeared into thin air. Oh, okay. Well, guess I'll go back to my tent and take a nap." .... It left the audience going "WHAT THE FUCK?", while the characters just took it in stride that people disappear into thin air every other hour.
3) It worked too hard to get the whole concept of "back to nature" across. I'm sorry, but the ENTIRE fleet was happy to give up EVERYTHING except their cloths and some seeds to go living in the wilderness? I'm sorry, but can you honestly expect me to believe that an entire species of space-faring people are going to give up something like... furniture, medicines, TOOLS! .. just to go live on a planet that they will have to virtually create the entire concept of civilization and society by being CAVEMEN? (I know that I don't.)
4) While Religion (in general) was always an undercurrent to the story-line, what happened at the end was completely unforgivable. Instead of being a backdrop concept to explore differences in believes and concepts, it became the main THRUST of the story's overall meaning. In other words, you have a story-telling method change JUST at the end of the story to become heavy-handed.
5)The "6/Baltar" appearances were never explained. The entire series was based on Baltar having an image of "6" appearing ONLY to him as a possible "insanity" complex that some said was more "angelic" than anything else. Only problem is, that 6 (and the counter-part Baltar) show up, and don't even address how they are seen by EACH OTHER, or the fact that now the real 6 and Baltar can see them BOTH, or that even centuries after 6 and Baltar are DEAD, that they are still actively walking around the modern world with each other as though they are as natural as a blade of grass.
6) The whole concept that a human/cylon hybrid child was DROPPED in the last 10 minutes. What great thing that this creation was going to do? Oh yeah, be "found" by modern scientist to be "older than prior evidence". Only thing is, if you pay attention the skeleton that was found was a "young lady", right? So uh.... she didn't live long after landing.
7) The whole concept of "This has all happened before" was thrown into the story over the entire series. But how did it END? Well, with 6 and Baltar in modern times New York discussing how "this time" things are going "to be different" only to slam us with the concept that we are ON the road to becoming the entire Battlestar universe over again. Meaning, that nothing had changed, and that humans were bound to do it all over again. (Not to mention the whole what the fuck do you mean "he doesn't like that name" reference with "God" from Baltar shows how much the religion-aspect became the main focus.
Now, take that and still toss in the mix of "great storytelling" that was through the entire series. The way that Adama and Rosaline's story ended was completely emotional devastating. Baltar's character having to go from the "Leading Scientist in our time" to being the "Farmer like his dad" just to live, had to be one of the biggest "downfalls" in the story for any one character.
So, while most people will say that the ending was "terrible", I found it to be 1/2 GREAT with a dashing of brilliance buried in bullshit for the second 1/2. Bringing the over-all ending to "Majorly disappointing".
1) Yes, there is a huge shift in tone from the first half to the second half. I didn't necessarily think that if hurt the finale because I thought the final hour of character wrap-ups was done brilliantly.
2) I do agree that seeing Starbuck disappear at first left me going "WTF!". While you say her story wasn't wrapped up, I think it did a long time ago. In the third season episode Maelstrom when she died, she went into the Malestrom ready to embrace her destiny. She always knew that she was meant for a special purpose and she did fulfill it by dying. She was sent back by God to lead everyone to Earth. At the very end, she realized what happened to her and was ready to die.
3) Yes, I do agree with you on this point. I understand that the remaining humans would want to turn their back on technology because of the amount of turmoil they all went through but when you think about it for 5 seconds, its stupid as hell. Yeah, just throw away all medical equipment, firearms and useful tools to survive. Good luck living in the Stone Age! There's a reason why we built building. TO ESCAPE NATURE!
And furthermore, it won't stop the cycle at all. There would be no way of passing down the story if there is no technology available at all.
4) Ah, the biggest complaint of all for BSG fans. Here's my question. If you thought this was a great ending, then WHY IN THE LIVING HELL would people like Lost's ending. Not only was the purgatory ending completely out-of-touch with the rest of the series, it ultimately adds nothing. It was well-shot but that doesn't change the fact it was completely useless. With BSG, religion was an crucial part of the entire show. From the very beginning, religion was at the fore-front of the show. In season 2 when many of the characters found the map to Earth, it was a huge step into the Sci-fi/Religion territory.
5) They f***ed this up. The creators didn't know how to answer this so they just looped it into religion. As soon as Mind-Baltar showed up, I knew they had no idea where to take the idea.
6) That whole story-line ultimately lead to nothing. The only purpose it served was to use its blood to save Roslin and to bring the "love" connection to human-cylon sex. She was basically a plot device.
7) I get what the ending was going for, I really. However, its tacked on. I would have thought about the "Its all happened before" idea even if the epilogue was taken out. They should have just ended on the line on old Earth.
1) And yes, it was handled brilliantly. The problem is, that when you switch gears like that from the first half of the show and the second half, it tends to throw people off. If they had had the huge battle and then the "character wrap-up" as it's own special show, it would have worked better. Mostly because the audience would have been allowed the time to prepare themselves for the emotional roller coaster of the show's ending.
2) Except that depends on how you take it. Seeing the "burnt" Starbuck, the "returned", the "crazy", the "intuitive", the various aspects of Starbuck after the Maelstrom.... there had to be MORE that was just never given to the viewers, almost like it was a "well we can't think of a way out of the box we are in, so let's not write it" approach.
3) Yeah. It does seem sort of silly.
4) Honestly, I don't know. I still wonder why everyone seemed to accept the "religious" aspect of Lost's ending to begin with. Don't get me wrong, if that is the way that the show's main storyline was leading you, then that's fine. But in a show like Lost and BSG, when it becomes the main part of the story for the ending? That doesn't make sense.
5) Yep, completely dropped the ball on that one. When "Caprica" 6 started to see Baltar, that was okay. Could have been a glitch in the resurrection or a sign of her mental instability showing. But when they started to inter-act with each other, it just lost it's way.
6) LOL, that's how I felt. She saved Roslin for a little while longer, but not much else.
7) While personally I enjoy the "happened all before" ending while the credits roll to show that we (the audience) are on the path that BSG was on centuries ago..... it did feel sort of tacked on and more of a tongue-in-cheek laugh by the writers.