Battlestar Galactica Newbie Recap: Water, Bastille Day, Act of Contrition
I’m a sci-fi geek who has never seen Battlestar Galactica. Yes, I know, I know. 2013 is the year I change that, and I’m blogging as I go.
Because it’s really, really hard not to push “Next Episode,” after watching an episode of Battlestar Galactica, this week I watched the second, third, and fourth episodes of BSG‘s first season. And it still took some willpower to stop there. Have things gotten any less doom and gloom?
Episode 2: Water
I get the feeling that every episode’s going to give me feels about one particular character, and this time it’s Cylon sleeper agent Boomer’s turn. She wakes up covered in water with an explosive in her bag, and when she goes to return it she notices several other explosives are missing. Then, a few minutes later, the water tanks on the Galactica explode, shooting 60% of their water supply off into the sky, which is really awful, because some ships only have enough water to last them two days. We know Boomer did it, but we also know she doesn’t know she did it. Poor Cylon.
I feel bad for Sharon’s boyfriend, Chief Mechanic Tyrol, too (one miniseries and two episodes in, and I finally remember his name!), as he’s roped into the whole thing when Sharon goes to him after waking up. He’s convinced that someone must have framed her, though Sharon seems unsure that Tyrol believes her innocence. There’s a hearing where Tyrol, whose team examined the tanks after they blew, presents his findings on how it was sabotaged, and he’s so nervous and unsubtle about hiding something that I’m surprised Admiral Adama doesn’t think he blew the tanks himself. Something tells me Tyrol is too good a person to last long on this show. (Then again, though BSG is depressing, I don’t know if it’s one of those shows that kills off its characters willy-nilly. I guess I’ll see.)
Tyrol wasn’t the only one being hilariously awkward this episode: There’s also Baltar. Naturally Adama assumes a Cylon agent is responsible for blowing up the water tanks, so he asks his resident Cylon expert how that whole Cylon screening test thing is going. Baltar’s (paraphrased) response: “Uh… .buh… Cy—Cylon screening?! Er. That was two episodes agin, I thought you’d forgotten about that.” But Adama, like an elephant, does not forget, and furthermore he’s suspicious of Baltar. Maybe because Baltar’s acting really freaking suspicious. Find out if an acting coach survived the Cylon attack. You need help.
Adama assigns Gaeta to be Baltar’s assistant, which is a big problem what with Baltar never actually having invented the screening system Gaeta’s been tasked with helping him implement. Gaeta’s eventually going to pick up on that, no matter how blinded he is by his status as Baltar’s #1 Fanboy. Seriously, he follows him around like a puppy. At one point Baltar says he doesn’t have any money for a poker game, and in the background you see Gaeta go for his pocket to give him some money of his own. And then Baltar blows him off to play card and flirt with Starbuck. It’s Chin up, Gaeta. He’ll notice you eventually. And then probably kill you.
Sharon and her non-Helo pilot buddy (not enough episodes in for me to remember his name yet; he’s just the vampire from the American Being Human) are tasked with scanning one of the nearby planets for water, and in what’s an emotionally brutal scene to watch, Sharon’s scanner shows that there is water, but she says there isn’t. The Cylon part of her brain (well, I guess her whole brain is the Cylon part of her brain, but you get the idea) is trying to take over to doom the fleet to die of thirst, but she’s resisting. She knows something’s wrong with her, but she doesn’t know what it is. She orders another sweep and this time manages to get out that yes, there is water, the fleet is saved. Oh, and there’s an explosive on her ship, too. I guess the plan was that she’d blow up the ship if things went wrong (which they did), only she couldn’t make herself do it? Or something? Not quite sure what the plan was with that bomb, to be honest.
Other miscellaneous things from this episode:
- Caprica Boomer and Helo pick up a military signal on Helo’s radio. They’re going to set off to find it, Helo having no idea that, if any of the military did manage to go underground, he’s leading the Cylons right to them.
- Adama says finding a planet with water is like finding a needle in a haystack, to which Tigh responds that, no, it’s actually like finding a grain of sand on a beach. Tigh also grumpily asks someone if he’s ever witnessed a death-by-dehydration. Tigh. You’re not helping, dude.
- Roslin asks Lee to be her personal military advisor. Wuh-oh. Drama incoming.
Episode 3: Bastille Day
Last episode belonged to Sharon, and this one belongs to Lee. Too bad for him, because it’s not really that good.
To get the water Sharon found to the Galactica they’ll need 1,000 men to work on the planet under very dangerous conditions. Wouldn’t you know it, there’s a prison ship in the fleet with 1,500 convicts who were headed for parole before Caprica went bye-bye, so they can’t be all bad. Roslin doesn’t like the idea of using the prisoners as slave labor, so Lee suggests volunteering to work would earn them “freedom points” (good God, that is so cheesy) toward their release. Admiral Adama doesn’t like the plan but eventually lets Lee—along with Billy, Dee, and maintenance staff member Cally—go to the ship to propose the system to the prisoners.
It doesn’t go well. One of the prisoners is Tom Zarek, a freedom fighter/terrorist who wants Roslin’s government overthrown to make way for free elections. He engineers a prison riot and takes the Battlestar folks captive. A rescue squad, led by Starbuck, sneaks onto the ship, and they’re going to kill Zarek until—surprise!—Lee saves his life. He really only wants to die in a blaze or glory, Lee explains, but he can prove that he really wants democracy by standing down and telling the prisoners to cooperate with the water mining project. Then, in seven months, when the term held by Roslin’s predecessor is up, they will hold free elections.
Naturally, Lee’s snap decision makes both Adama and Roslin a bit peeved, the former because he gave Starbuck direct orders to kill Zarek, and the latter because Lee’s gone and committed her to an election without so much as a by your leave.
There’s a bunch of talk about how Lee has to “pick a side”—is he serving Roslin or Adama? Is he on the side of the military or civilians? Even Zarek says something about “picking a side” at one point, which, considering he doesn’t know anything about the Adama-Lee-Roslin drama triangle, is laying it on a bit thick on the writers’ part. And then, after the prison ship debacle, each “side” is ticked off at him for not being on their side enough.
But he was working for both sides! Or, rather, there are no sides to work for. In insisting on elections and democracy, Lee was upholding the law and protecting citizens’ rights, which is, for lack of a better word, Roslin-y. But he also made a snap tactical decision—which turned out to be the right one!—on the ship with Zarek, which is Adama-y. This episode manufactured a lot of drama where much, much less should have existed.
While all the prison ship craziness is going on, Baltar fesses up to Adama that he doesn’t actually have a Cylon screening test, but he could make one, he just needs the plutonium from a nuclear bomb. That’s Six’s suggestion; Baltar does not, at this point, seem to have any idea how to make a screening test or any plans to figure it out. Baltar, Baltar, Baltar. You cannot keep this up. Someone’s going to realize, if not that you have a Cylon living in your head, at least that you can’t be trusted with basically anything.
Doesn’t Adama realize that Baltar was lying about the Cylon he said he ID’ed before, the person they marooned on the planet with the military stores? (He actually was a Cylon, but it’s not like Baltar knows that.) He clearly framed that guy. Adama’d better be asking himself why Baltar lied about that.
Other notable things:
- Cally gets attacked—and will presumably be raped by—a prisoner, so she bites his damn ear off. Go, her.
- For the second episode running Tigh’s first scene is him wandering around making grumbly noises and drinking. I think this will be a thing.
- Tigh tells Boomer she has to break it off with Tyrol, considering she’s his superior officer and all. Later in the episode Starbuck tries to apologize to Tigh for mouthing off to him, saying she realizes she has flaws, too. Instead of accepting the apology gracefully, he responds that his flaws are personal, but hers are professional. You were working while drunk earlier this episode, Tigh. You have no room to talk. There has to come an episode when every single one of Tigh’s interactions with other people isn’t negative. I don’t know whether I’m looking forward to that episode or dreading it.
Episode 4: Act of Contrition:
… a.k.a. NOOOOO, LEE, WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING, WHY WOULD YOU TELL ADAMA THAT, NOOOOOOOO!!!!!
Ahem. Excuse me.
This episode pained me to my very soul. Unlike Bastille Day, it was smaller-scale, with nothing nearly as big as a prison riot going on. It starts with something happy: One of the Viper pilots has his thousandth landing, which means everyone’s celebrating on the flight deck. And then a freak accident leads to thirteen Viper pilots killed and seven more injured. Holy emotional whiplash, Batman!
Only Battlestar Galactica takes a moment of genuine happiness and what could, in another show, be a slapstick-y accident and turn it into quite so much doom and gloom.
As a result of the accident there are very few Viper pilots left, so Adama asks Starbuck, who’s served as a flight instructor in the past, to train more. This is a major sore spot for her, as her fiancée (and Adama’s son) Zak died in part because she didn’t flunk him out of basic flight school even though he wasn’t a good enough pilot. Adama, not knowing this, assures her that if she gives all the newbie pilots (or “nuggets”) “the same attention you gave my son” everything will turn out fine. Ouch. This episode pulls no emotional punches.
Starbuck’s unable to refuse Adama’s request, but she only trains the pilots for one day before flunking all of them out, ostensibly because they suck (which they do, but who wouldn’t after only one day?) but really because she’s letting her emotional issues get in the way of her professionalism. Lee calls her on it, which he’s right to do, and when she doesn’t listen she goes up the chain of command to Adama.
And Lee is apparently, to borrow a phrase fron Merlin, a gigantic dollop-head, because some vague wording from Adama leaves him the impression that Starbuck’s already told him about her role in Zak’s death. So he mentions that Starbuck’s feeling some guilt, which confuses Adama, because what Starbuck have to feel guilty for? Uh-oh. Lee refuses to spill—he’s already done enough, really—so Adama asks Starbuck directly. She tells him the truth, and he’s… not pleased, to put it lightly.
Lee, you dumbo. I get that it was a mistake, but this is literally Starbuck’s deepest, darkest secret, one that she’s never told anyone but you, and you’re not going to bother to confirm that Adama already knows before trying to talk to him about it? You probably could have convinced Adama to change Starbuck’s mind without bringing Zak into it! I hope you feel appropriately guilty about this for a long while, Mister.
Starbuck, under orders from Adama, agrees to give the nuggets another shot. They’re all happy about it, so it makes complete sense that when she takes three of them out on a test run Cylon raiders show up, because I’m getting the feeling that happiness only exists on this show as a way to twist the knife when things go to hell later on. None of the nuggets die, surprisingly, though I was sure one of them, Hot Dog, was going to when he disobeyed Starbuck’s orders to return to the Galactica and instead tried to help her fight off the raiders. I like this Hot Dog fellow. I prefer characters who are unapologetically obnoxious, mean, manipulative, or whatever (hello, Tigh) to those who cover up their character flaws with a veneer of moral superiority (Lee). Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter character type—it can be very complex—but I prefer the former.
Hot Dog and the other nuggets survive, but for Starbuck it’s not looking so good: The episode ends with her plummeting to the planet below, the Galactica crew assuming she’s dead. A Cylon raider crashes to the planet with her, and I’m going to assume it’s not dead either. Just a hunch.
Miscellaneous bit and bobs:
- Roslin went to a doctor—a doctor who smokes and chews Roslin out for skipping breast exams, so you know how very edgy and military he is—about her cancer. She wants to try something called Chamalla, which the Doctor’s not supportive of because it’s a New Age-y pseudo-treatment. An awful lot of time was spent on the Chamalla discussion for it being just an innocuous herb, though. I would not put it past this show to hinge a tragic death-and-destruction plotline on a life-saving drug.
- Back on Caprica, Helo and Evil Cylon Boomer have tracked the military signal they were following back to an empty fallout shelter. These two only get a few minutes per episode, but they’re boring minutes. I hope Evil Cylon Boomer starts putting whatever devious plan she has into gear soon.
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