Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Battlestar Galactica—Escape Velocity

The Upshot From Sci-Fi Channel: Gaius Baltar (James Callis) sows unrest in the fleet by promoting belief in the Cylon god. Meanwhile, the four secret Cylons—Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan), Tory Foster (Rekha Sharma), Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) and Samuel T. Anders (Michael Trucco)—on Galactica clash over how far they should go to keep their mutual secret.

While incredibly well written, performed and presented, FanBoyWonder had a very hard time viewing this episode.

Watching the sheer raw pain of Chief Galen Tyrol as he mourns the loss of his wife Cally’s death and the guilt following her “suicide” was so powerful, it nearly broke through the Fourth Wall.

Of course, we the viewer know that Cally didn’t kill herself, although she intended to and her baby boy by ejecting out of a viper launch bay but she relented, prompting secret Cylon Tory Foster to finish the job, after saving the baby.

Why? Because Tory knew that Cally knew, even as the others remain unaware of lengths that Tory went to keep their shared secret.

Tory seems to be embracing her “Cylonness” quite readily—declaring herself to be “better” than human and she is even taken to “counseling” Gaius Baltar about the One True God.

The point was punctuated when the compartment housing the Church of Baltar found itself ambushed by the Sons of Ares as they look for Baltar and pretty much just bust up the place.

Seeing themselves attacked for their beliefs, Baltar leads his followers to the Kobol Temple and quicker than you can say “holy war” he disrupts services—tit for tat—before he’s taken off to his old cell in the brig.

His holiness Pope Gaius the First—prompted by both Imaginary Six (Tricia Helfer) and by a very corporeal Tory—stands up for the right thing but with him you know there’s always a wrong reason not too far away.

As we see it, the genius of Baltar’s “anti-villain” character is that there is no evil in his heart—selfish, vein, cowardly and narcissistic perhaps—but NOT evil. Yet our poor boy Gaius seems to constantly find himself in the middle of and/or instigating some VERY BAD THINGS.

We really can’t blame followers in the Church of Baltar for not being able to see through his bulls**t We have had the lowdown on Baltar since day one and WE can’t help but feel pity for the miserable fraker.

Misplaced or not, part of that pity comes from the morally questionable—if you’re not with us, you’re against us—tactics employed against Baltar by President Roslin (Mary McDonnell).

It’s a classic, if tragic, over-reach that does him short-term harm but rewards him in the long view as he is perceived as the persecuted religious martyr.

As Roslin has been so fond of saying to others, she has “lost perspective” where Gaius Baltar is concerned.

During a visit to the brig, Roslin as much confesses as warns Baltar that she is dying …that she is slowly feeling herself slip from this life. As such the old rules…the old conventions of morality and restraint are less and less important to her.

So for the “safety” of his followers, Roslin says she will restrict public assembly for his worshipers and for his worshipers alone. Thus Gaius should be a good boy and life a quiet life and she will die a quiet death and she won’t have to quash him like the bug she thinks he is.

During a Quorum meeting, Delegate Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber) is back standing up to President Roslin by questioning the legality, morality and the political wisdom of singling out Baltar and his people for special legal restriction.

Mary McDonnell does a masterful job of silently expressing Roslin’s frustration by Lee Adama’s opposition and his seeming going to bat for Baltar, especially as other delegates chime in with their concerns.

Why can’t they see Baltar for the threat that he is and that Roslin is doing what she sees is necessary to protect this fleet? How can they be so blind?

One can almost hear Sean Connery’s Malone from the classic 1987 film The Untouchables whispering into her ear—“You wanna to get Baltar? If he pulls a knife, you pull a gun. If he puts one of yours in the hospital, you put one of his in the MORGUE—THAT’S the Caprica way!”

Roslin does NOT want Baltar to again amass political power—power that will grow and be expressed through his devotees—but when she waives the bloody shirt of New Caprica, Roslin has diminished herself and strengthened Baltar in the eyes of the people and she knows it.

Meanwhile, Cally’s death has profoundly affected not only her husband Galen Tyrol but also Col. Tigh who is rudely reminded of the loss of his own wife.

When Tyrol fraks up an otherwise ordinary Raptor repair—nearly killing Racetrack (Leah Cairns) and her co-pilot—he’s terrified because Tyrol doesn’t know if he was “only” distracted by his grief or if his “sleeper” Cylon programming prompted him toward subliminal sabotage.

When Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) tires to pep-talk Tyrol at Joe’s Bar—widower to widower—Tyrol goes off on an obscenity laden rant, desecrating Cally’s memory and literally daring Adama to demote him and yank him from the flight deck.

Adama takes the bait and so “Specialist Tyrol” gets what he asked for and a credit to Aaron Douglas’ performance, Tyrol looks gut punched and horrified in the afterward.

As for Tigh, we find that he has been an early and often visitor to the imprisoned Cylon Caprica Six (again, Tricia Helfer) in Galactica’s brig. But during his visits, Tigh has started having visions of Ellen (Kate Vernon) as Six.

It’s good to see Kate Vernon again—even in this very weird way. It’s a pity that, like Saul, FanBoyWonder didn’t really appreciate Ellen until after she died.

For our cubits, Saul Tigh is hands down the meanest Mother Fraker on the show and also the most pitiable.

We first got to know Tigh as a self-hating drunk with a whack job wife who both loved him but also brought out the worst in him at every turn. Tigh is one the best guy to have with you in the foxhole under fire, but when the guns go silent, he’s a peacetime frak-up.

On New Caprica, Tigh ruthlessly and effectively lead the resistance against the Cylon occupation—expending dozens of lives in the form of suicide bombers. But the worst death would come as Ellen was caught colluding with the Cylons (to save her husband’s life).

Her actions got other people killed so she had to pay and he had to be the one do it—he poisoned her. And then he found out that he’s a Cylon. Talk about self-hate.

So when Tigh visits Six, he asks her how she can live with all the death she caused—as in the destruction of nearly the entire human race.

Does Six sense Tigh’s desperation or does she sense “feel” that he is one of the Final Five as she claimed to Roslin a couple episodes back?

Whichever it is—Six rolls with it and Ellen/Six’s “counsels” Tigh first by punching the frak out of him, then with kisses. Geez, the poor guy really IS a sucker for man-eating blondes.

A couple of end notes:

It was bittersweet to again see Roslin and Admiral Adama address her dismal prognosis. Rather she addresses it by telling Adama that she would like a funeral service just like Cally’s. For his part, Adama is still painfully in denial.

Also, we’re still not quite sold on “Delegate Adama” but through him the viewer is allowed to see the Quorum on action and the workings of fleet government. It punctuates the fact that BSG really is a political drama—think West Wing in space without all the fast walking and self-important talking.

We did notice however the absence of Vice President Tom Zerek (Richard Hatch) who during the last episode chaired the Quorum (as President of the Quorum the same way the Vice President is President of the Senate???) while President Roslin seemed to be in the Parliament Prime Minister’s role.

Yes we know it was just a brief scene and perhaps not worth from a production standpoint flying Richard Hatch to Vancouver but we do home that we get to see more Zerek in the near future. So say we all!!


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11:11 AM, April 30, 2008  

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