Well, it wasn't "Black Market," but "The Woman King" suffered the usual problems of self-contained "Galactica," even though -- or, I think, because -- it wasn't originally made as such.
Moore explains on the podcast that there was to be a season-long subplot about the Sagittarons and something bad that Baltar, Zarek and Gaeta did to them back on New Caprica. By the time they were shooting the trial of Baltar episodes, Moore decided this aspect of the trial didn't work and cut it. And since they weren't going to pay it off in the end, they had to go back and excise all reference to it from earlier episodes, notably this one.
The problem is, once you delete that ongoing aspect to the story, all you're left with is a parlor mystery crossed with every episode any medical drama has ever done involving Christian Scientists. With Bruce Davison -- who, according to SAG law, is no longer allowed to play non-evil roles -- cast as Dr. Robert, there wasn't even much of a mystery. (Davison needs to go on a two or three year run of nice guy roles before he's willing to play another sleazy defense attorney on "Law & Order.")
The show didn't even work that spectacularly as a Helo character study, in spite of all his stilted talk of "my defining characteristic." We already know that Helo is the conscience of the show, the guy who will always make the right, albeit unpopular, choice. What would have been interesting was if they had followed those impulses to their extreme conclusion and had Helo be absolutely, 100 percent wrong about Dr. Robert. (I don't know how you'd prove that negative, though; maybe there's some kind of Sagittaron extremist killing his fellows to make a political point.) Then you've really got a vehicle for self-examination instead of another validation of Saint Helo.
Again, some of this falls down because of material that was cut from other episodes, as Moore was trying to establish that Helo had been on the outs ever since he killed the infected Cylons before they could resurrect, and that this was some measure of redemption for him in the eyes of Adama and the others. But without that set-up, I don't care about the payoff.
Another problem with the storyline is the way it ignored the unique realities of life in the rag-tag fleet. There are less than 50,000 human beings left alive, and every life is precious, even if it's the lives of those damn dirty Sags. Where's Roslin during all this to demand an investigation? Also, not only is medicine limited, but so are doctors. I was under the impression in the first couple of seasons that Cottle was the only doctor in the fleet, which made his cigarette habit seem blackly comic. I'm okay with the existence of another doc here or there, but it should still be a big deal that one of the small handful of them is about to be thrown in jail; there could have been some mileage out of, say, Tigh suggesting that it was worth ignoring whatever happened to the Sagittarons because a doctor was more valuable to life going forward than a bunch of religious extremists.
And I see that I've now spent a whole lot of words slagging an episode that kept me fairly engaged throughout. A lot of credit for that goes to Tahmoh Penikett, who's really matured as an actor as the series has gone along and was able to carry a fairly trite and predictable storyline. I also thought the production team, headed in this episode by director/producer Michael Rymer did a fine job of establishing the claustrophobic atmosphere of the refugee camp; after about 20 minutes, I was starting to feel sweaty and stinky and disgusting, and my hygiene's pretty decent overall.
Some other thoughts:
- I'd have to go back and watch the first few Tom Zarek episodes of season one, but he seems even less like a typical Sagittaron than Dee. I suppose you could argue that he's a terrorist who took advantage of his people's fundamentalists beliefs to cause some trouble, but his issues always seemed to be political, not spiritual.
- Also, interesting to see that Laura kept her bargain and appointed Tom as her VP, even after she found out about the secret tribunals in "Collaborators."
- Chip-Baltar returns! Huzzah! I wondered how they were going to deal with having to shave James Callis for these scenes while keeping him Jesus-like as the real Gaius, but Moore said Callis's beard-growing abilities are Homer Simpson-esque. Good on him.