Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Battlestar Galactica—Taking A Break From All Your Worries

The Upshot from Sci-Fi Channel: Imprisoned and facing charges of treason, former Colonial president Gaius Baltar (James Callis) survives a suicide attempt — only to face extreme interrogation techniques by his captors aboard the Galactica.

This episode ended up being turning point for a number of the show’s key players—but all in all, Taking a Break From All Your Worries was something of a mixed bag as it contained some a couple of the best moments of the season but also some of the most cringe-worthy.

The episode opens with the captured and disgraced former President Baltar a prisoner in Galactica’s brig as he fashions his escape via a makeshift hangman’s noose. As Baltar hangs himself, we next see him next emerge from a Cylon resurrection pod—greeted by three Number Sixes.

Yet the dream of salvation turns quickly into a nightmare for our resident mad scientist as the Sixes drown him and he wakes up again in Galactica’s brig—resituated by his marine guard.

Was it just a near-death dream or was Baltar resuscitated before he could “die” and download? Is Baltar a Cylon? Baltar desperately wants to be because that would make him a patriot of the Cylon rather than a traitor to humanity.

For our part, we desperately hope that Baltar is NOT a Cylon. Why? Because what makes Gaius Baltar such a compelling “bad” guy is his self-delusion—that he, above all, sees himself a victim and in a way he is. Baltar is a victim of his own hubris, his own actions and of his cowardice. To discover that he is a Cylon would cheapen everything the character has done to date.

Baltar’s capture allows Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) to step outside her tightly controlled presidential reserve as she interrogates her one-time vice president.

Roslin says she has no desire to see Baltar suffer—but deep down she really, desperately does want him to suffer—and to admit guilt. She admits as much to Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) later.

When either direct confrontation or the threat to put him out of an airlock fails to yield results, Adama proposes a more drastic method to get answers from Baltar in the form a special experimental interrogation drug.

For us, this stretches the plot’s credibility a bit thin as we are asked to believe that Galactica—a “bucket” on its way to be decommissioned prior to the Cylon attack—just happened to be carrying what’s presumed to be a highly top secret truth drug. That is unless it was part of Adama’s secret stash—we HAVE learned that he has a history in black ops, so we suppose it’s not wildly unheard of.

Meanwhile, we find that the Galactica crew has built an onboard bar— Joe’s, Galactica’s own version of The Enterprise’s Ten Forward perhaps? It’s here at Joe’s that the episode’s “B” plot finally resolves the drama of the Starbuck (Katie Sackhoff) and Apollo (Jamie Bamber)—in love and married, but not to each other.

To their credit, Anders (Michael Trucco) and Dualla (Kandyse McClure) both tell their respective spouses to move on. Yet Apollo begs Dee for a second chance (and receives it) as does Starbuck from her husband.

The will-they or won’t-they soap opera drama had us eagerly, if perversely, awaiting the cut back to Baltar’s torture. We weren’t disappointed—Thank the Gods!

Under his hallucinogenic drug trip, Baltar admits he was duped by Caprica Six into his participation on the attacks. He also cops to the existence of the Final Five Cylons but he manages to withhold that he is the “chosen one.”

The experience of getting his secret out in the open and past his constant fear of discovery appears to have made Baltar stronger, and not a moment too soon.

For our part, we’ve been watching Gaius Baltar crack a little at a time for 2 ½ seasons now to the point where it made him clownish—let’s see a worthy adversary come from this.

In the miniseries, we saw a glimpse of the pre-holocaust Baltar—a supremely arrogant rogue who was accustomed to being the smartest one in the room and always in control of his circumstances. The Cylon genocide, along with his guilt and constant fear his unwitting role being exposed, left Baltar perpetually off balance—to say nothing of unbalanced if you take into account his Imaginary Six.

Now that he’s been broken, it’s time to see Baltar put himself back together with some backbone and a genuine sense of menace. We already see hints of hits new Baltar as during his chat with Lt. Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani) as he attempts to implicate Gaeta in some of the New Caprica occupation atrocities knowing he’s being watched.

Whatever it was that Baltar whispered to Gaeta, it set off Gaeta off enough to stab Baltar.

Later, in pondering Baltar’s fate with Roslin, Adama floats the idea that it’s not too late for Baltar to “disappear” before word spreads of his capture—but Roslin vetoes it. For all of his crimes “he’s still one of us” and he’s owed a trial.

Edward James Olmos, who directed this episode, does a good job by allowing the stronger Baltar storyline carry the far weaker “B” plot of the Starbuck/Apollo resolution.

In the bonus scene at the end of the show, viewers are made privy to a deleted scene in which we see Roslin attempt to gently interrogate an imprisoned Caprica Six. We have since viewed the complete 2 ½ minute scene on the show’s website (www.scifi.com/battlestar) and without a doubt it is (or would have been if not cut) the best scene of the show.

We have longed to seen Roslin and Six share a scene and this showed they are every bit the formidable adversaries as we had hoped. We hope that the scene may yet find its way into the next episode featuring the trial of Gaius Baltar and/or they share a scene again in the future.

Sci-Fi Channel has wisely opted not to air a new episode during next week’s Super Bowl Sunday. So enjoy the break and see you in two weeks.


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