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Battlestar Fodder

Cylons Revealed, Starbuck Returns on 'Battlestar'

So...can you say "huge creative risk"? The Battlestar Galactica writers certainly can, not to mention love to take them. Season One ended with Adama bleeding out in the command center; Season Two took the year-ahead leap to New Caprica.

But by outing Cylons, resurrecting characters, and jamming to 1960s rock and roll anthems in this week's epic season finale, the BSG brain trust went above and beyond previous cliffhangers...especially when you consider that the show won't return until January 2008. Frak me! Who can wait that long for answers?

Just a quick recap on where "Crossroads, Part 1" left off. Tigh, Anders, and Tori were hearing some unidentifiable song that kept them up at night; President Roslin was dealing with her breast cancer's return; everyone hated Baltar, who was on trial for his life; and everyone hated Lee for joining Baltar's defense team.

On to "Crossroads, Part 2."

If Lee's suit don't fit, we must acquit

Over on "Law and Order: BSG," things don't look good for Baltar and his defense team. Sure, they've weakened the credibility of two key prosecution witnesses, but lead lawyer Romo Lampkin and Lee know that the balance of opinion is still against them. Lee argues the defense should go for a mistrial, on the grounds that the Admiral has already pre-judged Baltar's guilt; quoting his grandfather, he also believes that a re-trial would give the defense a strategic advantage. But Baltar refuses to go along with this idea--he wants a verdict, and Romo assents to try for his client.

However, a shocking turn of events (is there any other kind?) awaits in the courtroom. Testifying for the prosecution, Gaeta lies that he saw Baltar sign the execution order for 200 humans--and willingly, at that. It's flat-out perjury, as viewers and an irate Baltar know it went down a little differently, what with a gun to the puppet president's head, but Romo dimisses Gaeta without a cross-examination. Romo seems to think they can't challenge the perjury, but personally, I'd hoped that this would be Caprica-Six's entree to the trial; she could destroy Gaeta's claims even while provoking questions about whether a Cylon's testimony could be trusted.

Instead, Romo decides to use Lee's idea and go for a mistrial, on the grounds that one judge has pre-decided Baltar's guilt. And to out that judge, he puts associate defense counsel Lee on the stand. I'm no lawyer, but having the defense counsel testify on behalf of the defense...well, that's a little bit of a stretch. We'll let it go, though, since the ineffectual prosecutor basically does.

Anyway, Romo pushes Lee to rat out Adama's lack of fitness for trial, but son isn't so much feeling the dad-bashing for once. Instead, we get a soliloquy--more like a sermon--where Lee recounts every mutinous act, every rebellious action, every crime that the crew has committed over the past three seasons. Tigh--using suicide bombers on New Caprica. Lee--drawing a weapon to the XO's head. Roslin--encouraging secession. And so on. As we know, each character has erred at some point; that's where all the good drama comes from. But Lee notes that every other act was forgiven; the president even issued a blanket pardon back in "Collaborators."

But for some reason, Baltar's exempt. Baltar must be made to suffer for his sins; Lee argues that he's suffering for everyone's sins. Baltar represents the shame over the New Caprica disaster; the hurried escape of Adama and the fleet, the willingness by Lee to leave the humans on New Caprica to die.

Now, viewers know that Baltar's a weak, self-absorbed character, whose crimes go much deeper than what he's on trial for. But Lee's got a good point; when humanity's down to 41,000 individuals, you can't go around killing the leftovers. Maybe this lawyering thing will work out for him.

(It also helps that the foot-dragging prosecutor doesn't interrupt him on this.)

The speech is enough to sway the judges and, notably, Adama's the swing vote in favor of acquittal. This doesn't play well with a furious Roslin. Nor with the masses, some of whom rush to throw Baltar out the airlock themselves. However, there are a few Baltar fans--the weird cult-like followers who think he's got healing powers--and they eventually spirit him away to parts unknown.

Having played role, Romo also takes his leave of BSG; the most interesting guest star since Admiral Cain pulls a mini-Keyser Soze, ditching his cane and re-donning his vanity sunglasses.

Phantoms at the opera
While being treated for her cancer, Roslin has more visions of the Kobol Opera House--again seeing Hera running along the stairs, chased by Sharon, and being swept up by Six. Yet we discover that these are group hallucinations, as the imprisoned Six, Sharon, and Hera are actively sharing in them. Six is surprised that Roslin is apparently "projecting" as Cylons do, for lack of my better understanding; that shouldn't be possible, she notes. Does this mean that Roslin also is rocking some Cylon parts? But then how'd she get cancer in the first place?

Who watches a one-eyed watchman?
Meanwhile, the mystery song haunting Tigh, Anders, Tori [who is having an illicit relationship with Anders, much to Seelix's chagrin], and now Tyrol too is revealed. And it's no typical, soaring Bear McCreary anthem that has come to mark BSG; if you can believe it, the song is...Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower". As the four start singing the lyrics, almost instinctively, it's perhaps the most jarring moment of BSG to date. And I don't know if that's a good thing.

Regardless, the four are drawn by the tune to a secluded room on board Galactica. They confront the situation: Each was a resistance leader on New Caprica; now, it appears, each is a Cylon. How this is possible--given that Tigh's relationship with Adama seemingly pre-dates the creation of the human Cylon models, plus Tyrol has a child--remains to be seen.

And how a rock and roll song plays into this also awaits explanation, although I'm willing to wait. I couldn't help but groan when watching the scene as the four first hum and then belt out the lyrics; Tigh had the right idea. Enough with the frakkin' song, he yells; regardless of what this means, I know that I'm a colonial officer and that's all that matters for me. As an alarm blares the arrival of the Cylons (see below), each retakes his or her position, with the spectre of a Sharon-like activation now hanging over the characters.

Ionian neighborhood #3 (power's out)
Seeking the next clue on the way to Earth, the fleet finally jumps to the Ionian Nebula...only to simultaneously lose power. Lot of panicked shots of trying to restore the engines. When systems come back online, they detect a Cylon fleet massing for attack--but the ships' FTL drives have been down too long to immediately jump. They'll need the Galactica and its fighters to buy them at least 20 minutes.

As alert fighters scramble, civilian Lee can't help but run to his Viper; before long, he's flying patrol, per usual. In a redux of "Maelstrom," (as well as "Flight of the Phoenix"), Lee chases a mystery bogey that's hopping all over his ship. He can't seem to get a good look at it.

But then the suspicious fighter pulls up next to's a Viper. Being flown by none other than Starbuck! [who, in a tremendous snow job by Ron Moore, is contracted for Season Four, despite appearances to the contrary]

Starbuck's been to Earth, she placidly tells Lee; she knows how to get back. And she's going to take the fleet there. Cue the dramatic zoom-out of the Galactica-Cylon dust-up...through planets and galaxies...and re-orient on Earth from space, a very clear image of North America. There are tons of theories floating around on the whole Interweb about the song, Starbuck's return, and the reasoning behind the Cylon reveal. But if you pushed me, here's my take: The bad guys were originally supposed to be called the Dylons anyway (it's just one key away on the old QWERTY keyboard); Bob is clearly the Cylon God. If only the show had better copy-editors, it would all make sense!

Posted by DD on March 26, 2007 11:32 PM
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The division between the cylons is 5 to assist mankind and 5 to take them out. That is the cause of the conflict. But who is the fifth? Starbuck? I'm thinking it is someone we haven't seen yet.

-- Posted by: Isaac at March 28, 2007 12:24 PM

I don't care if Starbuck is a cylon or a ghost or a figment of my imagination: I'm just glad she's back.

As for "Watchtower," when I first saw the "sing-along" scene I thought it was kinda weird, but since I'm a huge geek I actually rewatched the episode immediately after the broadcast finished and I found the second go-round to be more fitting. It's just weird to hear Dylan lyrics coming from a world that has little to now "Earth-bound" reference points. -- mac

-- Posted by: mac at March 28, 2007 3:56 PM

For my money, I was disappointed that ALL of the evolution of the series during season three occurred in the first four episodes ("Occupation", "Precipice", "Exodus" pts. 1 & 2) and the final two. As my wife and I watched it last night, we tried to consider how much of the story arc one would have missed if they just watched those six episodes? Not very much, I'm afraid. Sure, you might not know Starbuck "died", you wouldn't know squat about the insides of a Basestar (not a terrible loss, IMHO), a few minor details about how they've been lead onward toward Earth ("The Eye of Jupiter" pts. 1 & 2), but really? You could get by without any of that crap.

And that's kind of a summary of my frustration with this season. After re-writing the base-line rules of the show at the conclusion of season two, and actually successfully navigating through all that, the show went nowhere pretty quickly. Many of the episodes in season three felt like filler, and the finale affirmed my belief. No significant Cylon/Colonial confrontations, no real character development, not a whole hell of a lot closer to Earth... Overall, a disappointing season with kinda interesting bookends. Granted, my disappointment is not significant enough to keep me from looking forward to the new season in 2008 (Jeezus!).

Regarding the finale, and the music, and their "location" in space. My astro-brain wants to put the following together: if their proximity to Earth is what triggered the new Cylons' Dylan mind-fuck, then let's allow for the idea that it has something to do with radio waves sourced from Earth. (Perhaps the new Cylons are "tuned" to receive Earth radio signals?) If the source of the radio waves *was* Earth, and the waves travel at the speed of light, then that would put the fleet somewhere around 40 light years from Earth (a quick Google search indicates "All Along the Watchtower" was released around 1967-68). The last scene in the finale appeared to confirm the fleet is definitely in the same galaxy, and reasonably close to Earth as well. (Incidentally, I tried to ID the nebula the fleet had reached at the end of the episode... it looks somewhat like the "Pillars of Creation" in the Eagle Nebula, but that is approximately 6,500 - 7,000 LY from Earth... seemingly too distant for the radio wave theory to hold up.) I am consistently interested in how much tillium = how much time-space the fleet can traverse, but it appears fairly constrained ( i.e. taking 12 jumps in this episode to reach the nebula). So how much time refining tillium would it take to jump 40 light years? I dunno... my geek-brain just melted.

I *do* like the idea that now exists of a human alliance with a second collection of Cylons. For too long, the odds have been way stacked in favor of the Cylons (you pretty much can't kill 'em) and there are dwindling numbers of humans (Since *when* were there only 38k survivors left over from New Caprica, as was revealed in the trial? Have ANY of the opening sequences confirmed numbers even CLOSE to that low?). "Good Cylons" vs. "Bad Cylons" sounds okay to me... although it starts to get into strange parallels with "Lost"'s collections of multiple "Others", another show that has decided to suck recently...

This interview with R.D.M. gives me some hope. WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS: (Kudos to Ron for referencing flying motorcycles when asked what will happen when they reach Earth.) I'm still a (reluctant) loyal fan and I'll still think the months between now and the new season will be about 4 months too long, but I've got enough hope/confidence/wishful thinking to let Ron et. al. do their thing. But they better have an eye on those 22 episodes of season four being the LAST episodes of the show. Ratings have declined, their core audience is becoming restless, and we wanna see flying motorcycles, dammit.

-- Posted by: Three Eyed Toad at March 30, 2007 10:39 AM

Three Eyed Toad, a longer response is forthcoming--but in recognition of your State of the Union post, a point I can clear up in the moment: The 38k figure quoted at trial reflects the number of New Caprica residents who survived and doesn't include the about 3.5k who never left the various spaceships (hence the discrepancy).

-- Posted by: DD at March 30, 2007 10:52 AM

Galactica 1980! Galactica 1980!

While I'm glad the Sci Fi network has put on this show and allowed it to go and stay on, I still wonder how much better it would be in an HBO format. HBO's series are all shorter: Oz was only about 8 episodes per season (except for 'season 4', which was 14 episodes but still pretty much two seasons as it was written, filmed, and aired in two halves). The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, The Wire: all 12-14 episodes. I think BSG Season 3 would have benefited from being 12-14 episodes; and I think it would have helped the "inside the base star" segments if BSG's budget had been larger. Didn't they say a lot of that was scaled down due to all of the money spent on the New Caprica episodes?

Anyways, here's hoping that the final 22 stay closer to the game plan. I'll wait (grudgingly) until January if it means they spend more time maintaining the tightness of the story arc. No 'Hero' or 'Day in the Life' episodes, please! And if you spend an entire episode making someone like Kat into a hero, don't wait six episodes to even mention their name again!

At least we're not having to suffer any "baseball games on the holodeck" episodes.

I think the distraction theory about the core team being involved in so many other projects is also a good one. While South Park has been generally good in all seasons, season 10 seemed to be particularly intense and biting all throughout. I read somewhere that Matt and Trey were more focused on the show again that season, not off making other movies on the side. Here's hoping Ron and Co finish up or put aside their other projects when they're working on Season 4. If we've indeed entered the third act, then we should be heading towards an exciting conclusion. I'm sure (at least, I hope) they're smart enough to go to a solid conclusion and leave it at that.

Or... I hope they turn Season 4 into Galactica 1980, right at the beginning. Or, I hope that someone builds Hera a robot dog. And then the ship catches fire. And then we get to spend a week on the casino planet.

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