In the third episode of the first season of Battlestar Galactica, the plan to use prisoners to mine water from the planet found by Boomer hits a snag of sorts when the prisoners have plans of their own. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.
Well, shit, this isn’t slowing down anytime soon, is it?
Battlestar Galactica asks us to remember a lot of things or to keep certain things in mind while watching the show, yet the serial nature of the show never feels overwhelming to the point of confusion. Because of this, even if there is a main plot that a specific episode deals with, I can see that it allows the writers to address multiple things in each specific story. In this case, “Bastille Day” mainly focuses on the hostage situation on board the Astral Queen, but we still get bits about Baltar’s Cylon test, the progress Boomer and Helo are making on Caprica, as well as short scenes regarding Boomer’s relationship with Tyrol and Tigh’s relationship with Starbuck.
But what I’m most impressed with is the respect with which Toni Graphia writes both sides of the huge debate that is centered within “Bastille Day.” At heart, this is a story about historical oppression and whether or not it is moral to fight that oppression with violence. Graphia doesn’t shy away from injecting this story with some heavy philosophical questions, and those questions also don’t distract from just how entertaining this all is.
It seems we’re back to Commander Adama being angry at his son again, though this time, I plant myself squarely on Lee’s side, most especially by the end of the episode. Personally, I found the entire notion that he had to pick a “side” in this to be nothing more than junior high drama, childish and immature at best. Even right from the beginning, it seemed that Adama was upset at Lee’s suggestion to award freedom points to any prisoners who agreed to work because of his son’s position with the president. Of course, given the limited space the fleet has for anyone to be released from prison, I do understand Adama. (To a point, that is.) But I recognized Lee’s genuine effort to find a solution to this problem, and find it fast. Couldn’t Adama see this? To add insult to the injury of this petty fight, Adama insists that two crew members from the Galactica accompany Lee to the Astral Queen, further undermining his son’s work. (I must say, Lee takes all of this spectacularly well, and I don’t think he lashes out once. Bravo, Lee.) In hindsight, Adama never even acknowledges that by doing this, he essentially sent Cally to get shot in the stomach. DUDE.
Pretty much from the point that Tom Zarek steps out of his cell, a lone man at the end of that long corridor, “Bastille Day” is one suspenseful journey through ideological warfare and imminent violence. I actually rewound this episode to watch Billy’s reaction to Zarek again, and Paul Campbell…good god, you are wonderful. At first, I thought he was reacting with horror at the man, but after having watched this, I now wonder if part of that was reverence. I think my favorite subplot of the entire episode is the argument that Dualla and Billy have over the man’s merits, especially as it highlights the romanticization of rebel leaders and terrorists. God, I love Dualla’s line about how Zarek is not allowed to speak for every person of Sagittaron, too. And it must be said that throughout all of this, Graphia doesn’t make it easy on us. She doesn’t say that Zarek is necessarily right or wrong, but she also doesn’t disrespect the idea that the people he represented were marginalized and oppressed. I’m not sure I fully understand the backstory behind Zarek, and the few pieces we get do generally give me an idea that a certain group of people on Saggitaron were exploited for labor, and in response, Zarek blew up a government building. So I think this basic story is what we’re meant to accept, and what we can use to build the emotional weight of the many conversations that characters have about this situation.
It’s obvious that members of the government and the military view Zarek simply as a terrorist. I mean, he did blow up a building and murder people, probably including some who had nothing to do with the exploitation he railed against. Yet this same political figure means something different to Billy, who seems to almost worship the man. Dualla is disgusted with him more than anyone else. But for Lee, he seems to straddle the two extremes. I honestly don’t think Lee was lying to Zarek. I believe Lee actually respects Zarek as much as telling him that was a bargaining tool as well. Lee represents the most moderate, right-in-the-center viewpoint of the story, and it reflects in what Commander Adama told his son earlier: you need to choose a side.
Meanwhile, Baltar must finally decide for himself what he’s going to do, and his hand is forced by a relentless Adama, who has caught on to the fact that he hasn’t made any progress in developing a test to determine who is a Cylon and who is not. A lot of BSG that I’ve seen so far is certainly tense, and the show does it well. But the scene in Adama’s office (was that his office/quarters?) was the first one that terrified me. Much of that goes to Tricia Helfer, who shows us just how scary Six’s fury can be. More than ever before, the fact that Baltar is talking to an invisible person has never seemed more obvious, so there’s that to give the whole scene a lining of suspense. But when Baltar reveals that he actually cannot create a test for Adama, it sends Six into a rage that causes her to scream into his face and for me to curl up into a ball of fear. Because holy shit I did not expect that.
It’s now apparent that Six doesn’t want Baltar to be “discovered,” so to speak, because as long as he can keep his secret, she can apparently manipulate him. But when she does reveal the actual method with which one could test for a Cylon, I’m a bit confused. How does that help the Cylons, ultimately? I mean, I am only three episodes into this show, so it’s entirely possible this is just the beginning of this season’s full arc. But for how scary this interaction was, I certainly was left scratching my head. What exactly do the Cylons have planned?
Even further, the brief moment we get on Caprica with Boomer and Helo also features Six and the Conoy Cylon, who discuss the necessity of having to destroy the human race. They observe Boomer and Helo, and clearly they’re part of some master plan. But even that seems a bit flawed. Helo can’t return to the Galactica because he’ll spoil the secret that there are copies of Boomer. So why follow him around and keep him alive? Clearly, I am massively unprepared for everything that this show is going to give me.
Back on the Astral Queen (which, in my mind, keeps getting substituted with the Astral Plane), Lee does his best to maintain Zarek’s attention and to prevent the situation from erupting in chaos. (Oh, Lee, you had no idea that this was what Zarek had planned all along!) I was fascinated by Zarek’s desires because they were so ridiculously sensical, and I’m glad Graphia didn’t write him as some sort of violent fool. Even Roslin herself recognizes the political power that Zarek holds, so when Lee realized Zarek wanted a massacre of prisoners, he knew just how serious the situation was. At the same time, Graphia doesn’t ignore the inherent contradictions in what Zarek does, especially the obvious one: For someone who values life and freedom, Zarek sure was willing to use his power to sacrifice other prisoners to his cause, many who probably had no idea what Zarek had planned.
Yet Lee can’t ignore that Zarek does have a point. The entire human race was nearly annihilated and they should just accept that Roslin is now the leader of them all? Don’t get me wrong. I adore Roslin and she’s the best person for the job. I’ll echo Lee’s sentiment at the end of the episode and say that I’d vote for her, too. Still, why should this be the case? Why couldn’t there be elections to vote the most capable person for the job?
Zarek’s plan, however, is not without it’s flaws, and leaving the prisoners to roam free proves to have dire consequences for Cally, who gets the negative attention of a prisoner named Mason. And look, I understand it’s part of the story, and I actually kind love how it transforms Cally a bit, but I get kind of uncomfortable when watching or reading about rape in the context of science fiction. I understand the reasons to include it for “realism,” or to make a commentary about how not every prisoner is a victim necessarily. (Though that traces a very, very fine line anyway, so I’m happy this episode doesn’t deal with it too much.) It’s just a personal thing at this point. Thankfully, I didn’t actually have to watch it this time around, and Cally proves to be rather adept at fighting back; unfortunately, she’s shot in the process and Zarek’s entire plan falls apart.
With the Marines closing in on the prison facility, there’s very little time for Lee to put this all together. Cally’s going to die if she doesn’t get help soon (AND BOY, WOULD I RAGE IF CALLY HAD DIED), and Zarek is going to die if Lee doesn’t get them to disarm quickly. Even Zarek knows this is now completely awful, and he looks upon Cally with horror, realizing how wrong this is. Hell, I believe Zarek genuinely didn’t want any of the hostages to get hurt. Utilizing the confusion, Lee quickly swipes a gun and places it at Zarek’s head. The speech he gives Zarek is electrifying, both in what he agrees to do, and in the urgency with which Jamie Bamber delivers the lines. It shows us how truly talented Lee is as a leader, able to make such a tough decision with little time left to spare.
I expected that Adama and Roslin would be upset with Lee at first, but the barely-contained rage that Commander Adama shows his son just irritates me. UM, SIR. Your son just saved all of the hostages, negotiated the situation, and did so within the confines of accepted law. Will you put aside your petty differences for ONE GODDAMN MINUTE to acknowledge how fantastic this is? Roslin would have been up for election in seven months anyway, and, as Lee points out, the Astral Queen is still entirely dependent on the Galactica to survive. Do you know how easy it will be to keep them under control? It’s not like they can just float through space and jump on to another ship, right? And guess what? You now have volunteers to mine for water. This is an ideal situation given the utter disaster that just happened.
I’m glad that of everyone, Roslin is able to recognize that Lee made the right decision, and that it certainly wasn’t an easy one, either. I just wish Adama didn’t think that this was about “sides,” so that he could enjoy the moment, too. For Roslin, though, she now knows she can finally trust someone else with her secret about having cancer. It’s unfortunate that even in this society, disease and illness can be used against a person in the public eye, but Roslin accepts this reality and simply asks Lee to keep things a secret. But I imagine it must be nice for her to have another person both to cover for her when she needs it, and to talk to her about what she has to keep private. I feel that Roslin is in a good place for once.
- I loved the way Starbuck led her pilot meeting, and dug the outfit she was wearing. Very Top Gun, I might say.
- Seriously, Billy is crushing so hard on Dualla! Dude could not be more obvious about it.
- Oh lord, I totally thought Tigh was going to confront Boomer about the G-4 explosives, but thankfully I was wrong about that. Well, sort of. I mean, I’m not thankful that Boomer and Tyrol cannot see each other anymore.
- Tigh’s drinking is getting worse, isn’t it?
- No, seriously, I hate the way the word “protocol” sounds. UGH.