Sunday, July 18, 2010

Blogging Battlestar - Zen, Ambrosia, and Blowing Shit Up

On the menue for tonight's Battlestar Galactica rewatch: "Flesh and Bone", "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down", and "The Hand of God".

In "Flesh and Bone", a Leoben model is discovered aboard one of the ships of the fleet and Starbuck is dispatched to interrogate him. Here we see the line between the "goodguys" of the fleet and the "badguy" Cylons blur pretty thoroughly as Kara starts in with the torture. Sure the Cylons are responsible for genocide, but (and this is putting aside what many experts agree is the highly questionable validity of information gleaned from it) the viciousness necessary to administer torture, and Starbuck's willingness to administer it (even justifying it as simply as "He's a machine, there are no limits to what I can do.") certainly don't cast her in a good light - in fact, the ongoing brutality forces one to remember Adama's words in the pilot about people still committing acts of violence, and his questioning of whether humanity deserved to survive.

Meanwhile, there's a very interesting aside moment when Boomer checks in with Baltar to volunteer to beta test his Cylon detector. As I've mentioned before, it's those quick little flashes of emotion on Six's face that tell us so much about the Cylons, and the same thing happens here. When Baltar gives Boomer his greeting/come-on, we see a scowl on the face of the "angelic" Six behind him, and for the rest of the encounter her body language is stiff and guarded. Now, for a character who turns out to be, by the end of the series, an angel, this makes absolutely no sense. The imaginary Six, to date, and for the rest of the series, has absolutely no problem with Baltar fucking half of the fleet, so long as his mind remains hers. Why now this awful stab of jealousy towards Boomer. Sure she's an undercover Cylon, but why should that matter to an angel? We know from their behaviour in previous episodes that the Sixes have it in for the Eights, but again, that should be completely irrelevant to an angel. And yet, this angel is pretty unhappy to see Boomer anywhere near her Gaius. Here's one of the first big stumbles of the writing team. At this point, when we saw the series for the first time, we saw the imaginary Six and figured she was a delusion of Baltar's or some kind of Cylon neuro implant. Both of which would completely make sense in terms of accounting for the imaginary Six's dislike of Boomer in this scene. But, as viewers who've already seen the entire series through to its to some degree questionable ending, a rewatch makes this scene very strange, because we know Six is an angel, and so her snarl of jealousy is just plain baffling. At least the mystery of of the Shelley Godfrey Six's disappearance from the Galactica in "Six Degrees of Separation" is explained satisfactorally in The Plan, but no such explanation is forthcoming for this discrepency. More to come on this front.

On to "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down", one of Edward James Olmos' (Commander Adama) directorial contributions to the series. It's also one of the few episodes that really tries to be funny. I've heard a lot of people take potshots at this epi, but I think it's pretty good. A nice change of pace (and one that's needed from time to time) from the sturm und drang of day-to-day refugee survival. The humour works and it's as good a way as any to introduce Colonel Tigh's trouble-making wife Ellen, because the fact of the matter is that Mrs Tigh is such a petty, conniving, manipulative, occasionally stupid, destructive force, that treating her arrival any other way would have required such a degree of menace and sadness that it would have been too hard to watch. It also highlights that even under stress, the ridiculous can and will air its head from time to time, and if you're not the one who's embroiled in it, it's pretty funny. Of course, the episode does end on a serious note when Baltar gives the "results" of his test - he tells everyone that Ellen his human, but then confesses to Six that he'll never tell anyone what the real test result was. At least, by playing coy, this time the writers avoided telling us something that would have created a difficult-to-explain-away inconsistency later. Here they've left it wide open so they can exploit it at the end of the series to make Ellen the last of the Final Five.

"The Hand of God" is all about blowin' shit up. And a magnificent job it does of it too. Just a straight-forward story about the Galactica's crew figuring out how they're going to get their mitts on an asteroid loaded with tylium that's in the clutches of the Cylons. Okay, okay, there's the odd cutaway to Caprica to check-in with Helo & Sharon and where, courtesy of a cold-can-of-beans-induced bout of puking, we discover the important fact that the first human-Cylon hybrid is on the way. But it's still mainly a story about people in fighers blowin' shit up. And what a great job it does of it. Exciting battle scenes with some nice nods to SF antiquity. The first was when the decoy mining ships blow their cargo containers, revealing that they're acting as pocket carriers full of vipers ready to launch the real attack - an allusion to the pilot of the old series where the Cylons coverly made their way into Colonial space during the peace treaty signing hiding their raiders in freighters. Then of course there's the general image of vipers flying across the surface of an alien body trying to ignite tylium to destroy Cylons, except in this case it's an asteroid and a Cylon refinery base, rather than the old series with Starbuck & Apollo single-handedly (or would that be double-handedly?) igniting the surface of the insect planet Carillon to destroy a pair of basestars. Lastly, Apollo's run down the canyon and through the conveyor tunnel was a total love letter to the Death Star attacks in Star Wars and Return of the Jedi.

The only thing that bugged me about this episode was during the planning of the attack when the military types called-in Baltar to identify the best part of the Cylon base to hit to cause maximum damage. Now Baltar may be their Cylon expert, but what precisely does that have to do with tylium mining and refining? Wouldn't they have been better served calling in some of the senior staff from the fleet's tylium mining and refinery ships? That is their bread and butter after all. But, they had to find a way to leverage this epi into another public display of Baltar's vital role for thei fleet's survival. Ah well. This logical hiccup certainly wasn't enough to take away from the enjoyability of this episode.
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