And they have a plan: BSG rewatch 1.6-8

(I made the mistake of googling Gaius Baltar to find an image, and am now slightly scarred by the cosplay pics I found of Baltar and Six…)

1.6: Litmus

We get a bit of Helo on Caprica, but mostly it’s about a Cylon (the not-actually-a-PR-agent one) getting aboard Galactica and blowing himself up, and then the ensuing investigation and trial. The deck gang get into a tizz trying to protect the Chief, because he was off having forbidden nooky with Boomer at the time. I don’t remember whether I picked up on it last time, but of course it turns out that the bomber stole the explosives from Galactica itself, and almost certainly got to them via the hatch combing that Boomer left open. Given her previous experience of unwittingly planting explosives, this is clearly meant to indicate that Boomer’s Cylon-self has once again come to the fore. Ultimately, one of Tyrol’s gang cops the fall for him and winds up in the brig. Tyrol has a meltdown over this, tells Boomer it’s all over and tries to get Adama to change the sentence. Adama gives him a bit of a lecture on leadership and refuses, mostly because he needs Tyrol to keep the Raptors and Vipers running which is… in some ways a terribly weak excuse for allowing a travesty of justice to continue. I can understand why he did it, and perhaps allow that the circumstances might warrant it, but being in such a situation where justice takes a backseat is a harsh harsh thing.

Much of the episode is taken up with Sgt Hadrian interviewing people and then bringing them before the tribunal. I love Hadrian. She’s a total hard-ass, and I’m amazed to discover that she’s only in two eps – this, and Act of Contrition. I had it in my mind that she was there far more often, as Master of Arms! Sad that I don’t have more of her to look forward to. Anyway, she asks right off the bat that the inquiry not be subject to the commander’s oversight, and to his credit Adama barely blinks before granting it. Of course, when he himself gets dragged before it, things are a little different and he reacts very poorly. The viewer is, I think, put in quite a difficult position: do we side with Adama, that cuddly yet prickly military man we all love, because we know the truth about Boomer and Tyrol and we know Hadrian is barking up the wrong tree? Or do we side with Hadrian, who after all is running a very thorough, sensible inquiry, and the questions she is asking are important, and the Commander really shouldn’t be negating an independent tribunal anyway? Deep stuff. I love it.

1.7: Six Degree of Separation

Again we get a bit of Helo/Caprica-Boomer action, and this time they actually get it on!, the episode is really all about Baltar getting accused of being a Cylon-collaborator and destroying the defence mainframe on Caprica. This is a marvellously intricate piece of plotting for several reasons: he was, of course, responsible for that, just not in the way he’s accused; and the woman accusing him, Shelly, is none other than another Number Six, and therefore a Cylon. This viewer, at least, got a bit carried away and dizzy with all the delicious irony. It’s a great episode: Tricia Helfer gets a slightly different role, although she’s still a bit of a sex-goddess trying to seduce Adama – which naturally doesn’t work; we get to see Baltar totally melt down again, which is usually entertaining; and we get a wonderfully snarky conversation between Roslin and Baltar showing Roslin’s true feelings for the creepy little scientist.

This episode also really starts the ball rolling on one of the things I find most interesting about the whole show: the religious aspects. Now Baltar has had something of a conversion to Cylon monotheism before this, but even at that time it felt pretty forced. There has been some mention, but no real discussion, of the Lords of Kobol – the pantheon of the humans. Here, admittedly when he’s facing the death penalty, Baltar appears to undergo a genuine (at least for him) conversion to the Cylon God. There has been endless discussion about the religious nature of BSG, and I’m not going to get into the aspects of Mormonism that are or aren’t in here, because I’m not conversant enough in it to add anything relevant. But I find it fascinating and somewhat refreshing to watch a show where religion isn’t just for the savages and the backward; it’s a genuine part of the whole society – even if most of the characters seem functionally agnostic, perhaps like much of Western society. And that the Cylons have developed (had revealed to them??) monotheism is deeply intriguing, and Six’s devotion in particular likewise. There are things which are deeply problematic, of course, from Baltar’s conversion right up to the apparent idea that monotheism and pantheism are completely unable to coexist. Still, it adds a depth and philosophical nature to the show that I think helps make it some of the best TV of the last decade.

1.8 Flesh and Bone

Again with the little bit of Helo and Caprica-Boomer at the start, but really their narrative seems to be included just so we don’t forget about that little bit of human/Cylon action goin’ down. The focus in this episode is back to Starbuck, hooray! and her interrogation of Leoben, which gets particularly… um, heated… when he declares that he’s planted an atomic bomb somewhere in the fleet. This is a hard-hitting episode that really starts to ask the hard questions about the humanity, or sentience, or life-y-ness in general of the human-looking Cylons and what that means about how you can treat them. Because Starbuck has absolutely no compunctions about brutally torturing Leoben, and presumably neither do the guards; and while Roslin appears scandalised by this and attempts to communicate with him, she ultimately – and totally callously – has him sent out the airlock. I found the torture section quite hard to watch, which I guess it was meant to be, and of course it brings up the whole ‘how far to save lots of people’ argument. And on top of all of that you get Leoben messing with Starbuck’s mind, suggesting he knows a whole lot about her and making comments about her background that for the viewer put Starbuck in quite a different, and quite a wounded, light. It’s a masterful episode for one that – to a much greater extent than any other yet – largely takes place in just one room.

It’s a really, really good episode. Tough, and hard to watch, but good.

And now, something I meant to do at the start but forgot, and a blatant rip-off (I guess we could pretend it’s an homage) of Tansy’s Xena stats. Because it’s such an amusing idea.

BSG stats:

  • Starbuck in the brig: 1
  • Baltar in the brig: 1
  • Women Baltar shows interest in (not including Six): 2
  • Women Baltar actually gets to sleep with: 0
  • Baltar religious conversions: 2
  • Different sexy dresses worn by Caprica-Six: 2
  • Apollo sides with President against Dad: 2
  • Number of Cylons viewers know about: 4
  • Number of Cylons humans know about: 2
  • Roslin has a vision: 1
  • People deliberately thrown out the airlock: 1
  • Ships lost: 1

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