Saturday, March 04, 2006

Battlestar Galactica –Lay Down Your Burdens part 1

The upshot: The accidental discovery of a habitable planet sparks debate in the midst of the presidential election between President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) and Vice President Gaius Baltar (James Callis) of whether the fleet should colonize the planet or continue seeking Earth. Meanwhile, Starbuck (Katie Sackhoff) leads a rescue team back to Caprica to look for survivors of the Cylon attack and occupation.

Standard spoiler warning…don’t read until Monday night’s encore airing at 11 p.m. E.S.T.

Despite the hype, we knew better than to expect a blockbuster this episode since the 90-minute season finale is next week and the producers would want to save the good stuff for then. Just as well as we liked the little things about this episode.

It opens with Roslin nervously prepping for her presidential debate with Baltar aboard Galactica in Admiral Adama’s (Edward James Olmos) quarters. They share a nice scene of playful banter and laughter and it’s nice to see how far their relationship has come from reluctant peers, to adversaries to close friends. Watching them laugh together was a most welcome light moment to this often dark series.

Also, whether designed or not, Roslin has been absolutely ebullient since she was cured of her terminal cancer (by her political opponent and secret Cylon traitor Baltar no less). Since her opening scene during the original BSG miniseries, we’ve only known Roslin as the leader thrust into office during the Cylon attack who was dying and determined to do right during her limited time.

With her life expectancy now significantly expanded, it will be interesting to see how her character grows as she is no longer consumed with the thought of her impending demise.

As Starbuck leads her team of raptors back to Caprica, one raptor gets lost on the first jump and finds the planet which seems capable of supporting human life. Roslin and Adama quickly judge the planet to be nothing more than a “rest stop” but Baltar grabs the issue to bolster his flagging presidential bid…and with the advice of Tom Zerek (Richard Hatch) he begins to gain traction in the polls.

Meanwhile in a separate but well executed side plot, Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) nearly beats Kallie to death when she discovers him sleeping in the hanger and he awakens in the midst of a nightmare.

A priest played by Dean Stockwell—continuing BSG’s trend of top-shelf guest stars—counsels Tyrol to get to the bottom of his problem. The priest is a real hard-ass as he gets Tyrol to open up about his recurring nightmare.

The interplay between Stockwell and Douglas is pure acting. Just two men sitting across from one another at a table inject pure drama. After a fair amount of quality acting from both actors, the priest surmises that Tyrol is afraid that he is a Cylon and doesn’t know it…just as his one-time lover Sharon was.

We were glad to see that while Tyrol is working to get over her, there remains emotional fallout. There are no simple answers or quick resolutions on this show…Gods bless ‘em.

BSG has turned another sci-fi trick on its head by taking the traditional “B” plot—or the secondary plot that provides an interlude for the main story—instead of it being the usual throw away time killer, it has more often than not been more compelling and provocative opportunity at character development or plot advancement.

Meanwhile, Starbuck and her team of raptors make it to Caprica (although not without losses) and her team finds the resistance, including Anders, the lover she left behind during her previous return to her home planet.

There isn’t much time for a reunion as the resistance had Cylons right behind them and faster than you can say “toaster” they are under fire and cut off from their escape ships and that dreaded… “To be continued…” flashes on the screen.

We can’t wait.

Stargate Atlantis – Inferno

The Upshot: When lava destroys the stargate while the team is off world, they find themselves trapped as an unstable super volcano prepares to blow.

The team goes to a planet where the natives have requested their help to fix the Ancient technology they have in their possession, including an Ancient battleship. The natives accidentally trigger a chain reaction which causes the planet’s dormant volcano.

As the volcano gets ready to blow, it’s a race against time to get the ship fixed before the planet does a Krypton. This show isn’t BSG when it comes to character development but Lt. Col. Shepherd (Joe Flanagan) and Dr. McKay (David Hewlett), everyone’s favorite wacky Canadian scientist, have developed a near-comic rapport as Shepherd tweaks McKay’s ego in order to get them out of life-and-death predicaments.

Of course they get out but the episode is good in maintaining the suspense level till the end. They escape with the Ancient ship, which will come in handy for next week’s season finale as a Wraith hive ship is headed for Atlantis.

Stargate SG-1 –Crusade

The upshot: Vala returns, sort of, to warn Earth that the Ori are preparing a massive invasion of our galaxy.

Vala (Claudia Black) has been stuck in the Ori galaxy for a while; she got pregnant by unknown means, and has had to hide in plain sight from the Ori. The episode is spent recounting her tale…just setting everything up for next week’s season finale.

Meanwhile, we wish they did more with the Russian demand for their stargate back (the U.S. had been “borrowing the gate found by the Russians since the U.S. gate was destroyed a few seasons back) as they have gotten a better offer by the commie Chinese.

But the problem was resolved quickly, with a bribe of the next space ship off the line. We see this as a missed opportunity to inject some real world politics into a show that after 9 seasons, despite taking place in present day…not some far away future, has increasingly become detached from reality…or at least the feeling of reality.


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