Nasa / Space

The day Battlestar Galactica grew up


Yeah, so, the two-part season premiere (or, technically, midseason

premiere) of Battlestar Galactica debuted last night, and I have to

give an extraordinary shoutout to the show's writers, producers, and

actors.


WARNING: FROM HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.


First, a quick recap. Last season's finale was an echo to the

unfinished series finale of the original Battlestar Galactica. In both

cases, the Battlestar Pegasus under the command of a colonial officer

named Caine appears and joins the Colonial Fleet. This time around, the

show producers used Pegasus as a foil to show that despite the dark and

gritty tone of the previous two seasons, and the hard and horrible

choices the heretofore seen characters had to make, things were not as

bad as they could be. The new Admiral Caine, who outranks Galactica's

Commander Adama, is a sociopath out to avenge the Cylon Attack on the

colonies, no matter if many humans--or even all of them--die in the

process. She also not above the rape and torture of Cylon prisoners, or

the summary execution of any crewman or civilian that wavers even the

slightest bit under the yoke of her command.


In contrast, Adama--in his own words, thanks to the leavening influence

of President Roslyn--understands that it's now about human survival,

not revenge. As such, his first priority is the survival of every

member of his fleet, including those that under the strict letter of

the law deserve to die. That's why Adama hasn't executed the Cylon

Boomer carrying the human/hybrid child of Helo. It's also why he won't

allow Helo and Chief Tyrol to be executed by Caine, even though these

two murdered Lt. Thorne in the midst of his rape of Boomer. A sentence

of death may be just, but it doesn't serve the cause of human survival.

We need everyone we can get.


If the season premiere left it at that, it would be solid television.

That it reached for so much more than that is what makes it great

television. Adama and Caine were plotting mutual assassination attempts

of each other, but Adama actually stops to consult with Boomer, asking

why the Cylons hate humanity so much. Boomer keeps it simple: Humans

are too petty, too vengeful, too savage to deserve survival. In a

conventional show, this would telegraph that Adama would call off the

hit on Caine, but not vice versa, reinforcing the elementary character

contrast. Of course, this show doesn't hit the usual marks. Yes, Adama

calls off the hit, but so does Caine, suggesting that maybe Adama has

gotten to her the same way Roslyn got Adama.


Again, in a conventional show, this would mean that Caine would

survive, and she and Pegasus would part ways with the fleet on good

terms, heading off to rescue resistance fighters on Caprica (a

contingency suggested earlier in the show), possibly with Starbuck in

tow. Again, the show zigs instead of zagging, having Caine executed by

her own Cylon prisoner, paying for her sins even as she had begun to

regret them, turning the Cylon Number Six unit into the same petty,

vengeful creature that Boomer said Cylons didn't aspire to be. A total

inversion, totally from left field. Thematically, this is beautiful.


However, that's only the A plot. The B and C plots are things of beauty

as well. In the original Battlestar series, Pegasus and Caine were MIA,

disappearing to fight a Cylon Basestar. Since the new BG has kept

somewhat tangentially in sync with the old BG, we expected that the

massive spacebattle backdrop behind these episodes to have a similar

outcome. It didn't. Everyone survives, and Caine dies after the

conflict, leaving an intact Pegasus to serve as an unbelievable plot

device for future episodes. A departure of new BG from old.


The battle was almost an afterthought, given precious little

screentime. That's another departure from the old BG: spacefights are

the dull interludes between magnificent character moments, rather than

the reverse. Everyone survives the battle, most of which is observed by

a slowly asphyxiating Apollo, who is willingfully allowing his survival

suit to leak away his air supply. Apollo, who earlier learned that his

most loved and trusted comrades--his father, the President, and

Starbuck--were all colluding to assassinate Caine, probably agreed with

Boomer on some level: humans (and himself personally) weren't worthy of

survival. Remember, Apollo fought his father last season rather than

betray his principles of democracy, but couldn't betray his loyalty to

his father after he and Roslyn went underground. Apollo was a hero of

principle who saw death as more appealing than succumbing to petty

savagery. Also, the scion hero is now broken, another departure from

the old BG. Starbuck--who is closer to Caine's philosophy than

Adama's--is left to carry the torch.


Then, we have Baltar. Excepting Adama's private scenes with

Roslyn--easily the most subtle and powerful moments on television

during the last five years--Baltar had the most affecting scenes in

this show. His longrunning fantasy life with an imaginary or

psychically implanted Number Six was consciously abandoned in favor of

freeing and protecting the imprisoned, real Number Six unit. Baltar

gave up the last shreds of his old life, even the imaginary bits, in

order to embrace the more painful but more meaningful future.


This was the meta-theme of the whole show: out with the old, in with

the new. Caine, and her suicidal devotion to the Old Colonies was

killed for that sin, while Adama, Baltar, the new Number Six and even

the show's producers gave up all that had come before, even the old

incarnation of Battlestar Galactica. We've done our tributes and our

nods, it's time to take the characters somewhere new.


Adama is now an Admiral, not longer hailed by the same name and rank as

the old BG, Apollo is no longer the knight errant leading the Colonial

forces, and the Galactica itself is no longer alone, or even the most

powerful ship in the fleet. Even the Cylons are facing a new status

quo, having lost the resurrection ship that made them immortal. Now

they must deal with their own mission and principle with a much higher

cost attached. Is the price they pay worth it, especially when members

of their own kind become more human every day?


I don't know what the answers are, but I'm sure at least half my

guesses will be wrong, and that the processor of discovery will

comprise what is unquestionably the most daring and complex show on TV.

Frak yes!

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

1 comments
midnite.man
midnite.man

We are just getting the series in Holland...and we've come to the point where Adama & Caine are plotting to assassinate each other after taking on the Cylon Resurrection ship [next week's episode]. Like I said in the title to my post here..thank you for telling me that Caine gets taken out by Number 6. Frankly I wouldn't have cared who it was that got the honor as long as she was taken out. If I had reason to think she'd be a permanent character on the show I would never watch it again. Now I can sit here relaxed and comfortable knowing that b**** gets exactly what any commander with her attitude deserves. Whew!

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