Tanzi and Scott’s Battlestar Galactica Adventure – Pt. 2

In TV by Scott1 Comment

In case you missed it, you can find the first part of our gang-re-watching of the Battlestar Galactica mini-series right here.

Scott: All right, we begin the second part of the BSG mini-series with Apollo (and many others) presumed dead in a Cylon attack, and the Galactica about to make an FTL jump to a distant munitions depot. Meanwhile, Boomer is transporting survivors from Caprica, including Boxey, the little kid character carried over from the original series — he had the robot chimp dog thing and was generally an annoyance contrived to get kids to tune in (as if kids wouldn’t watch a show about people fighting robots in space). I don’t remember if Boxey appeared in any episodes of the new series after this, but he certainly (and thankfully) wasn’t a regular.

Tanzi: I had completely forgotten about Boxey. I know they were trying to give a shout out to the original series but good gravy, the last thing anyone wants to see these days is a cute kid with a young Joey Lawrence bowl haircut. I was really hoping 6 would get ahold of him and wring his neck like she did that baby.

Scott: I had an interesting discussion with a friend of mine recently — he had never seen the show when it was airing but had just finished watching the entire series on Netflix streaming. While he enjoyed the series overall, he made a point about it that got me to thinking: I was watching BSG and Lost at the same time, and while I’m a big fan of BSG, I always enjoyed Lost more, and I could never really put my finger on why — I mean, let’s face it, it’s the old apples/oranges thing overall, but there was more to it than that. Then my pal mentioned that he was kind of put off by the general faithlessness of BSG, and that’s when it clicked for me: the characters on BSG are driven more by pure survival instinct than any sense of faith in the future, or their leaders, or themselves. It’s really a cynical, downbeat approach to life, and in the context of the show it makes sense. Conversely, Lost is entirely about faith — in the spiritual sense, sure, but Lost is also very much about having faith in others and in one’s self. The interesting thing is, both shows explore the theme of destiny and events being pre-ordained, although again, BSG takes a more cynical approach whereas even at its darkest, Lost tends toward a more hopeful outlook (the line from Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous comes to mind: “I’ve seen the future and this all works out reasonably well”). Ultimately, I think that’s why I’m a bigger fan of Lost than I am of BSG, although they’re both excellent shows.

Here’s a great moment: when President Roslin is forced to make the decision to leave behind any ships — and their personnel — that can’t make the FTL jump as the Cylons are closing in. The little girl Roslin had just met on the Silent Running-esque forest ship sits quietly playing with her doll as the Cylon missiles approach, while Roslin sits stone-faced on Colonial One — knowing her choice has doomed thousands of people, including that little girl — as that ship makes the FTL jump. Terrific stuff, and another instance that made viewers realize they weren’t gonna be getting the usual TV science fiction from this new BSG.

It’s also a nice moment when Apollo goes to see Starbuck, who thinks he’s dead. The juxtaposition with Tyrol and Boomer’s passionate reunion compared to Starbuck fighting down everything in herself to avoid getting too emotional about seeing Apollo is a very nice bit of acting on the part of Katee Sackhoff and a good choice by the writers and the director. You can see Starbuck swell up as she struggles to maintain her tough-chick-in-a-guy’s-world persona rather than cut loose and leap into Apollo’s arms, and once she gets it under control she lets it all out with some jokey back-n-forth.

And of course that all plays off Adama’s brutal fight with the Cylon on Ragnar Anchorage, which sets up what we can expect from these new human-looking Cylons — and Adama.

Tanzi: When I first heard the Starbuck character was going to be a woman in the new series I think I just assumed she would be a cliched tough chick, and it seemed at first that’s all she would be but scenes like this one show the character was more complex. She always had that air of having something to hide, something beneath the surface that maybe she didn’t even know about. Of course later we start to see that, first with the weird business with Leoben, then her disappearance and the controversial ending. Sackhoff did a great job, I’m actually a little surprised she hasn’t gone on to bigger roles.

Scott: Wildly changing the subject, it still kills me to think that James Callis got paid to have Tricia Helfer wallow all over him on this show.

Tanzi: Watching this again I have to keep reminding myself that at this point we still don’t know much about the Cylons, we’ve only seen one human model. And what’s all this with Baltar seeing her everywhere? Is she a hallucination? Are the Cylons somehow projecting her into his head? It’s a question that’s left open for most of the show, and even when they answer it we still can’t be sure.

And this episode has another great moment that shows us just how unscrupulous and devious Baltar is. At one point he realizes he needs to find a fall guy to divert suspicion from him so he pretty much chooses the reporter guy Doral at random. He comes up with some bullshit Cylon test that “proves” the guy is a Cylon but of course Doral loudly protests his innocence. It’s actually pretty horrifying to see how quickly everyone turns on the guy, solely based on Baltar’s word. I suppose it’s meant to be some kind of post-9/11 allegory about witch hunts or something but aside from that I thought it was more evidence of Baltar’s craven self preservation. Of course we later find out that Doral really is a Cylon but it doesn’t lessen the impact of the scene.

Scott: I’m watching the scene now where Adama and Roslin really face off for the first time since she took the office of the President. I love the adversarial relationship between the two, and knowing how it all works out over the course of the series makes it even more fun to watch Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell verbally slug it out. Of course, this scene pays off very nicely in the following scene where Adama talks shop with Tigh and Apollo.

Tanzi: This is another decision that Ronald Moore discusses in the DVD commentary. He specifically wanted to divide the command between civilian and military, not only for the inevitable conflicts but because it would free up Adama to be a real military leader and not a Picard-esque diplomat. The great thing about the dual leaders is there would be so many times throughout the series where they disagreed but you could see that both sides had merit. Roslin’s decision to abandon part of the fleet shows she’s capable of the tough decisions and let’s us know that she’s not just basing her decisions on emotion, she’s just as cold and logical in her own way as Adama.

Scott:As rugged as things can get in the mini-series — and as cold-hearted as the characters can be — I remember being almost shocked at how grueling and brutal the first episode of the series, 33, was. It was a perfect way to kick the audience in the crotch, make us understand that this time around, the folks on the Galactica wouldn’t be stopping off at the casino planet or reenacting Shane.

Good grief, even though I’ve seen this thing before and I know how everything turns out, this battle scene that’s going on now still has my ass cheeks chewing on the sofa cushions.

Tanzi: Adama’s big speech ends the miniseries with a strong emotional note and gave Olmos a chance to strut his stuff. It was actually one of the first scenes shot, at Olmos’ insistence, and he improvised a lot of it, including the repeated “So say we all”. I imagine it got the entire cast and crew pumped up for the rest of the shoot. I know i was ready to light up some fracking toasters after that.

The first time I watched the mini-series I took a liking to Grace Park as Boomer, she’s cute of course but she really did a good job portraying the young rookie pilot who was out of her depth with the Caprica evacuation. That’s why it was a real punch to the gut for me when they revealed she was a Cylon, I truly did not see it coming. Of course there would be more of that later, I’m pretty sure the writers had no idea who would turn out to be a Cylon later on in the series. That brings to mind my one real criticism of the show: despite the repeated instance that the Cylons had a plan I really don’t think the writers had the whole thing mapped out, they were clearly winging it at some points. Part of the blame is on the Sci Fi channel for never truly committing to the series but it also shows why sometimes the British model is better for this type of show. Having a predefined end to the series would have allowed the writers to map out the entire story arc from the beginning. As criticism this is pretty small potatoes; apparently I’m one of the few people who didn’t have a problem with the ending, maybe because I didn’t watch it during the original run. I think the show was so good and dragged viewers to hell and back over several seasons that the real fans of the show had built up expectations for the ending that couldn’t possibly be satisfied, especially because it wasn’t all planned from the beginning.

Scott: The series definitely had its ups and downs throughout its run but the low points were few and far between (Apollo as space cop was a particularly bad decision). I went into the series finale figuring there was no way it could live up to what I hoped for, but I must admit I was still mildly disappointed. I thought the first half of the finale was amazing, but the second half fell a little flat. As a whole, however, BSG is one of the best damn shows in TV history, in my opinion.

I do wish Baltar could’ve sat in that big chair John Colicos used to sit in on the original series and spun around dramatically just once, though.

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