Friday, October 27, 2006

Battlestar Galactica: Airlocks for everyone!

Spoilers for "Battlestar Galactica" coming right up...
"We all feel the need for justice, and we all feel the need for vengeance, and telling the difference between the two can be difficult at times." -Laura Roslin
After the budget-blowing action epic that was "Exodus Pt. II," we get what the "Star Trek" people used to call a bottle show, an entire episode that takes place on existing sets, with minimal use of special effects and guest stars. But where NextGen tended to treat its bottle shows as trifling throw-aways, "Collaborators" is just as important and, in its own way, just as dramatic as what we saw over the previous three weeks.

Ever since Chief Tyrol gave his speech to Gaeta in "Precipice" about what he intended to do with the collaborators once they got off that rock, I was anticipating the exact climax we got here. But it wasn't so much predictable as inevitable. If I had one problem with it, it's the idea that Gaeta didn't know who he was dealing with in the resistance. Maybe I'm just naive about how dead drops work and all that, but wouldn't Gaeta have needed some idea of who he was passing information to -- and, if so, wouldn't he have gone up to that person after the exodus to say, "Hey, no need to thank me, but I was the dude who delivered you every single piece of intel that was necessary to get us off New Caprica. Just so you know, I like my breakfast in bed to have poached eggs and a half canteloupe"?

But there was some contrivance level necessary to put Gaeta in that room and to show just how low our heroes are prepared to sink to get their pound of flesh -- any old flesh will do. Kara ordering him to beg for his life is one of the most horrible, chilling things I've seen any quasi-heroic TV character do. But if it hadn't been for her taunts, The Circle would have gone and executed the biggest hero of the entire damn resistance.

Back in our pre-season interview, Ron Moore did a good job fending and parrying any attempt by me to have him position the New Caprica storyline as a straight one-to-one Iraq allegory. But when I asked him whether Roslin's "It is not an option to be discarded at the president's whim" speech about secret military tribunals was a specific dig at Dubya, he admitted, "That is a statement of principal, and if you want to ascribe that to me as the author as well, I'll take that." Now, I don't know that Laura's general amnesty idea is the right thing to do -- I imagine it'll lead to a lot of vigilante justice from people like the Circle member whose kid died -- but I suppose you can justify it the same way Ford justified the Nixon pardon: there was too much else to worry about for him to spend the bulk of his time dealing with this one problem.

I like the feel of this post-New Caprica fleet. The reset button has been pressed, in that the fleet is back on the run with only Galactica to protect it, but it hasn't, in that so many characters bear scars from the last year and a half. Tigh is never going to be emotionally whole after losing Ellen and his eye (in that order). Leoben's four-month mindfrak ripped Kara into itty-bitty pieces, then scotch-taped them back together in random order. Gaeta was betrayed by his idol, then nearly murdered by the people whose lives he saved. Galactica, once a ghost ship after the settlement, is now vastly overpopulated with the surviving crewmembers from two ships.

(Which raises some interesting questions: Will Adama allow a lot of people to muster out? If so, who gets to become a civilian? And where do they go? Do you have to apply to go to another ship, to become a drain on their resources? etc. Moore has said he's only interested in the nuts and bolts of the fleet to a certain point -- and when he went beyond that point, we got "Black Market" -- but I'd like to see some of this addressed. If nothing else, how crappy is life on the run now that nobody can go party on Cloud Nine?)

A very, very strong start to life after the settlement.

Couple of other random thoughts:
  • When I asked Moore how long Jamie Bamber would have to wear the fatsuit, he laughed and said, "Not long, thank God." I guess Apollo is going to have many, many, many dates with that jump rope.
  • Not exactly wowed by our glimpse of the Cylon ship so far. Admittedly, it's just the one room, and I know we're going to get a more extended look at the place in future episodes, but it just looked like a Swedish architect's apartment or something. Very spartan, but not that unusual.
So what did everybody else think?


velvetcannibal said...

I found this episode extremely affecting. I felt sick during most of it, like I was being torn in too many different directions. Kara is Tigh. Crazy.

This show screws with my mind and my morality. If it had killed Gaeta... I may have had to step back. There's only so much a person can take, and then it becomes very difficult to watch. And I felt so bad for Anders, even as I hated him for participating in the juries in the first place.

I did laugh at "Keep jumping," which was the only light moment of the episode. I would like to see some information from the missing year in the next couple of episodes. I still want to know how and why people left for the surface. I want to see more Cylon models exposed.

Poor Tigh. Ellen would have been pardoned. And does this mean that Baltar has a pardon as well? Something to ponder. That speech was a twist I did not expect, but I like it. It allows me to watch with hope.

Let's go find Earth.

Anonymous said...

Try to imagine Mr. Sulu being found guilty of treason, and not knowing whether or not the sentence was actually going to be carried out until the last second. Hell, try to imagine it on any other show on TV.

Rain said...

The issue I had with the killings--and the suicide bombers on New Caprica--is the complete disregard for the loss of human life. (Of course, when dealing with such aspects in "real life," it should be important, too, but let's forget that for a moment.)

When they're dealing with the fact that as a species, they are very close to complete extinction, isn't every life, no matter if its the life of a complete asshole or not, pretty damned important?

Anonymous said...

The heavy-handedness of the military tribunal issue almost - almost - threatened the rest of the story. These are compelling times in the show, and the characters have clearly been affected by the year on New Caprica. However, in the writer's room, is Moore's narrative dictated more by a pursuit of a narrative goal or the irresistable impulse to comment on contemporary current affairs? With the suicide bombers, insurgents, and now military tribunals, he is beating us over the head with it. I mean, we get it. Thanks. Appreciated.

This is not to say the episode wasn't powerful. But, every so often, I was thinking to myself, to Aaron Sorking guest-write this?

Anonymous said...

"When they're dealing with the fact that as a species, they are very close to complete extinction, isn't every life, no matter if its the life of a complete asshole or not, pretty damned important?"

Even if keeping them alive might mean even more loss of life?

Taleena said...

What I think made Roslyn mad was not that Zarek had a point about show trials and the neighbor accusitory witch hunts, but that she wasn't the one to give the order.

I don't think that Zarek was wrong to impanel the Circle but a) it needed less hotheads and b) more oversight. Tigh and the greiving dad could not be objective. Tigh is a nut job, Adama may desperately need his experience but I would be grooming Helo hot and fast.

I think Gaeda was silly not to have gone straight to Tigh in CIC and have thrown Gaeda's role as spy in his(tigh's) face. Everyone knows Tigh led the resistence, even if Tigh was not Gaeda's contact; Tigh had to have known who Gaeda's contact was and a big scene in CIC would have flown through Galactica quicker than a Cylon out the airlock.

Perhaps Gaeda felt traitorous because he let Baltar get away.

Anonymous said...

In response to: "I don't know that Laura's general amnesty idea is the right thing to do". Throughout the episode I was thinking that the appropriate solution for everyone to deal with the aftermath of New Caprica was a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And my understanding is that that's exactly what Roslin did. Which is not the same as just letting the "traitors" off the hook. It's an actual alternative to trials.

In response to comments about what Gaeta should have done. I agree that there was a little bit of contrivance to achieve the climactic moment that the episode required. But the one thing that I really liked and that rang true, was that Gaeta didn't run around proclaiming himself a hero because he was sick with second-guessing what he had done. He probably couldn't sleep at night wondering about whether he'd done more harm than good sticking it out with Baltar. And even after he learns that his intel had been crucial, he just says "I did what I could". It shows up Tigh as using his role as "super resistance fighter patriot" to allow him to sleep at night even though plenty of humans were killed, some civilian, in the name of the resistance.

Anonymous said...

I thought the secret tribunal finally crossed the line between allegory and direct commentary.

I also agree taleena that it doesn't make sense that Gaeta didn't tell Tight about his role in helping the resistance. Everyone seems to know Tigh lead the resistance, all the humans and all the Cylons. Given Gaeta's close workings with both the Cylons and the humans, it doesn't make sense that he's the only one who didn't know Tigh was the insurgent-in-chief.

Anonymous said...

By the way, does anyone remember if we were shown last week what happened to the dog who drank from that yellow bowl? I can't remember if they showed us whether he got off the planet or not.

Anonymous said...

He was a Cylon.

Anonymous said...

The dog was K9 in disguise.

Alan, I agree about the Cylon ship. My first thought on seeing that set of Baltar's room was -- gosh, this is not good. It recalled the original cheesoid series, not in a good way. I thought, if anyone new to the show sees this, they're going to think it's a certain kind of sci fi -- which of course it is not.

Glad I'm not the only one who thought that.

I cannot wait for the Jane Espensen ep that's coming up, the Passage.