Sunday, November 12, 2006

Battlestar Galactica: A Matter of Salvation

The Upshot from Sci-Fi Channel: Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) and President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) debate the morality of deploying a potentially genocidal biological weapon against the Cylons. Meanwhile, Baltar (James Callis) is tortured by the Cylon D'Anna (Lucy Lawless), who is intent on determining who is responsible for creating the deadly virus that has imperiled the Cylon population.

While this was absolutely a solid episode, its relatively quick resolution following last episode’s pretty big build up left us feeling a little flat.

Standard SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t yet seen this episode and plan to catch the encore broadcast on Monday at 11 a.m. E.S.T., stop reading now.

The episode opens with Apollo (Jamie Bamber) leading his “away team” aboard a derelict Cylon baseship with dead and dying Cylons—“toasters” and “skinjobs” alike. Thanks to a half-a-dozen infected skinjob taken prisoner, the Galactica crew learns not only about the deadly anti-Cylon virus but also that Baltar is alive, among the Cylon and leading them to Earth.

The virus—which was left on the beacon presumably by the 13th tribe on their way to Earth—is something that humans have long since developed an immunity but it is deadly to the Cylons without frequent vaccinations.

As luck would have it, Athena—the reformed Cylon Sharon Agathon (Grace Park)—also has the human immunity thanks to her time carrying her human/Cylon hybrid child.

Meanwhile, back on the baseship, Number Six (Tricia Helfer) and D’Anna confront Baltar about the infected beacon that he failed to disclose to them during his exploration of the infected Cylon baseship.

As we cut to the torture of Baltar, at first it seems to be a rather sedate affair. The Cylons had taken the trouble from taking him naked from his bed to putting him in white hospital-like scrubs into a glorified dentist chair with electrodes attached to his fingers—inputting pain via his nerve impulses.

Despite the writhing pain that the actor displays, it all seems quite sterile. The sterility is reinforced by D’Anna, serving as the interrogator/torturer, who proceeds with her task with Dr. Mengele-like detachment. During the torture, Baltar retreats inside his head as the Imaginary Number Six guides him to focus past the physical pain.

The interrogation gets dirtier as she shifts from nerve shock to a good old fashioned puncturing the ear drum with a metal device. Baltar near the breaking point—flashing between his real-life torture and his diversionary tryst with Imaginary Six, he declares how he needs to be believed, he has nothing else left and he declares his love with all his heart.

It seems that Baltar is addressing Imaginary Six but D’Anna appears to take these words to heart. Gaius you cad! He does find a way to get all the hot Cylon chicks.

Back on Galactica, the intelligence gathered from the captured Cylons inspires Apollo to propose a bold plan. Pick a fight with the Cylon fleet, which always has a resurrection ship nearby; execute Galactica’s infected prisoners and bug out as the deadly virus spreads like wildfire after the infected dead Cylons are downloaded.

During the conference with President Roslin, Helo/Capt. Karl Agathon (Tahmoh Penikett)—still serving as Adama’s XO—raises objections. It’s genocide. It’s wrong and it makes humans no better than the Cylons.

True, but Roslin notes that the Cylons struck first, it’s the Cylons who have reduced the human race from about 20 billion down to 41,420 survivors and the Cylons are also looking for Earth. A clear and present danger.

Helo has a tough argument but he stands up for the courage of his convictions. But he stumbles with Roslin when he notes how the humans and Cylons tried to live together in peace on New Caprica. Since he remained aboard ship and she was among the occupied, she cuts him down pretty quick on that one.

Alone, Adama and Roslin continue to discuss the merits of the plan. Adama points out that the law prohibits military use of biological weapons without presidential authorization—passing the buck he acknowledges.

Roslin, with only a little consideration gives the order; as she has determined that the Cylon race should be made extinct. In interviews, even Mary McDonnell has expressed surprise at her character’s pragmatic ruthlessness. For us, it’s been quite a sight to behold as we recall watching Roslin’s hand shake during the mini-series as she first took the oath of office.

It’s interesting to note, that a few episodes back during the Cylon occupation of New Caprica, Roslin was appalled by Col. Tigh’s use of suicide bombers—human suicide bombers—against the Cylons and their human collaborators. Yet she readily green-lights a plan for genocide—racism in the purest sense. Given a choice between the Cylon Race and the Human Race, guess who wins.

But the plan never comes to pass as just before the battle, Helo disconnects a circuit which we later find out went to the brig’s environmental controls. The infected Cylon prisoners suffocated and died before they could download.

Adama and Roslin know it could only be Helo but Adama says he’s “closing the book.” Roslin doesn’t like it but goes along—all without saying a word. The bond of trust has grown so strong between the two leaders, they don’t need words and they’ll back each other, even when they don’t agree.
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