Despite a lazy long weekend, I woke up this morning with a raging head cold so bad that I didn’t even question the possibility of attending work: I called in sick. My sinuses, plugged beyond frustration and with that scratchy-slash-gooey feeling deep in my throat, this state has me slugging back hot tea like it was going out of style. In an effort to spend my sick-day-at-home being even lazier than normal — as lazy (and presumably restful as possible) I dug into my media collection and started up the first episodes of Battlestar Galactica (that modern version) a program that has been off the air for a couple years but which has been on my ‘need-to-find-the-time’ radar for a (now long overdue) re-watch.
Woot: Marathon BSG!
And seeing as how I’m sick and have not much better to do besides sit on the couch and feel sorry for myself, I thought I would drag my readers along on this little television reprise in the form of a series of bloggy episode reviews. (It also ensures I stop for at least fifteen minutes between episodes to use my brain for something besides staring at the TV.)
Thus, a new series of articles for you: Re-watching Battlestar
(And just to be clear: since I’ve watched THAT half a dozen times in my previous — undocumented — efforts to kickstart my own mini-BSG marathons, I won’t be re-watching the pilot-slash-miniseries this time through. Deal.)
Episode 1: “33” (Originally aired January 2005)
I remember why I got into this series back five or six years ago, though it wasn’t specifically anything to do with this episode. I was something of a latecomer-watcher to the show, joining in the fun mid-season two and only catching up via a gush of (initially) downloading ripped episodes before eventually just buying the collection. I had seen the pilot, and then jumped into whatever was airing on SPACE at the time. That was a bit of a mistake, I’d realized, before back-peddling and re-indoctrinating myself with the correct order of things. But I’d probably say that it was episodes like this that got me hooked. Baltar is at his purest, the sniffling betrayer of humanity grappling with his own self-delusions of importance and self-serving ways. This frames what we think might be a sub-plot to the far-more-interesting space-battles: but then the two meet in the middle when the apparently-tracked ‘Olympic Carrier’ passenger ship needs to be destroyed and this is inexorably linked back to Baltar’s ego. Yet, we still know so little about these characters. Their plots and personalities are just being seeded here. The Helo/Sharon plot-line materializes in a rain-drenched forest. On ship, characters are still struggling with mere rumours of human-looking Cylons. The mysterious Cylons — because they are stil quite mysterious — are perfectly timed machines, inexplicably arriving to the second at thirty-three minute intervals to launch yet another attack on the ragtag fleet. And we know something big is on horizon for these poor folks.
Episode 2: “Water” (Originally aired January 2005)
It’s not really my intention here to re-hash plot details. If you want that, there are plenty of sites where you can read about the episode itself. Instead, I merely want to give you a sense of my own re-watching. So, I might talk about — say — the theme of an episode such as the one I just now finished watching: Water. Which is a funny sort of thing to think about, because the little literature-critic in me wants to draw connections between the plot — the need to find water after the ship was sabotaged — with the character development that occurred in the show, evoking ideas of ‘new life’ or ‘germination’ in their roles. For example, while this little mini drought is taking place thanks to still-secret-Cylon agent Boomer booming the heck out of the water storage tanks, the other characters are — ahem — germinating into their new roles. Lee is questioning his newfound war-time morality from the perspective of a peace-time pilot. Rosalin is reaching through the metaphorical soil to emerge as a real president. Relationships across the crew are in this kind of quasi-seedling state where they are awkward and probing and just as likely to wither in the sun as they are to flourish. And then there literally is this finding of water and a salvation of the ship, all wrapped up in this Sharon-as-hidden-predator storyline. It’s going to be interesting to see how much of what I remember — what has stuck in my mind these years later — matches with what I am inclined to remember by the hints from re-watching.
Episode 3: “Bastille Day” (Originally aired January 2005)
Aptly fulfilling the title of the episode, politics herein pokes it’s head from the aforementioned metaphorical soil. The quasi-villain Tom Zarek muddies the waters of black-versus-white good-versus-bad as a group of prisoners take prisoners and demand a kind of faux democratic process. The plot thickens as our heroes, already clearly attacked from the outside are suddenly faced with an internal rot as chaos blossoms in the form of internal rebellion spurred by a looming threat of popular uprising. I think what we see here is a merging of something that told us that this show was meant to be more than previous science fiction ever was: in Star Trek, after all, there were abundant wisps of political intrigue but nothing that truly threatened the continuity of the characters beyond a kind of ever-more-complex good-guy versus bad-guy. Now we get see a character like Zarek who’s intentions are not entirely clear at this early stage, but who is pegged out as divisive even as he is introduced as a “prisoner of conscious” — immediately setting two other characters to arguing the nuances of his politics and imprisonment. Three episodes in and we already see that our heroes are about to face just as much strife from the survivors as they have been facing from the agressors. All that, and Cally takes a bullet: she was always my favorite minor character so I was a little sad recalling that her role as a plot-line punching-bag begins this early.
Now… I’m breaking for lunch. Perhaps a couple more episodes this afternoon. Or a nap. A nap would be good, too.
Episode 4: “Act of Contrition” (Originally aired January 2005)
I get the feeling that there were certain things established in the mini-series that the writers of this show wanted to leave behind as the series went forward. This episode is one of those things. Initially the show blossomed this wealth of family tension between a few of the main characters, such as how Starbuck was secretly responsible (through negligence) for the death of her fiancee (who also happens to be son of the Captain and brother of the now-ranking pilot Apollo) by passing him on some long-past flight exam and putting him in harm’s way. I imagine this created a great bit of plot for the miniseries but as the show went forward the writers quickly realized they needed to kick that bit of pre-war history into space. So, we get this episode (and because I cheated and looked ahead) the second-half in the next episode where the kinks of this relationship are laid bare and tucked neatly away. I mean, it makes for a great bit of character exposition and all — and kudos on the writers this early thinking about potential loose ends — but ultimately we end up with a dog-fighting turns sad episode with lots of eye candy.
Episode 5: “You Can’t Go Home Again” (Originally aired February 2005)
The theme of this (second half) episode seems very much to be a story of irrational risk versus personal redemption. The to-be-continued story continues as the Adama boys seem to be putting much more than they should on the table, risking the fleet and the safety of everyone (including themselves) to save a single main character: consequently that whole falling out they had before she went missing plays pretty deeply into the story. At some point the believability of this flip-flop isn’t quite up to the par. A few episodes back we see these same folks blow up an entire starship full of civilians (thirteen hundred or so) on a hunch to protect the fleet. Now, plot-days (and just a few episodes later) we see a wash of irrationality trump the characters actions — I assume to make them more “human” — but these same calculating folks don’t seem to make these same choices when other folks are involved. I guess it pays to be in the captain’s inner circle, huh? I’m just having trouble thinking both these characters would suddenly act like this, even over a friend. Neither did the president, apparently.