Mark Watches ‘Battlestar Galactica’: S01E10 – The Hand of God

In the tenth episode of the first season of Battlestar Galactica, dwindling fuel reserves inspire the Galactica crew to make a risky (and potentially disastrous) decision to go after the Cylons directly. In the process, Baltar and Roslin unknowingly become at odds with one another. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.

Well, all that well-placed humor is gone, and in its place is one goddamn tense forty-five minutes. Even before the bulk of the story is underway, we’re giving a cold open that is remarkably frightening. (And I imagine if you have a deep fear or phobia of snakes, you probably sobbed yourself to sleep that night you first watched this.) Roslin is now experiencing hallucinations, much like Baltar (OH GOD I LOVE THE PARALLELS ALREADY), that are incredibly distracting to her present state. While trying to update the fleet’s remaining journalists/officials on the state of the fuel reserves, she begins to see snakes covering her podium. The image is creepy enough, and it’s even more uncomfortable because no one else can see them. But now Roslin freezes, like Baltar does, and the crowd stares on in confusion. It’s a disaster, to put it lightly, and it’s only a matter of time before someone starts to spread the idea that Roslin is sick with something. Also, seriously? That part where she has to slowly remove her hands from under the snakes made me want to curl in a ball in bed and never come out. Good god.

While Vipers are out scanning for any possible tylium to process for fuel, Roslin, on the other hand, goes to see the fleet’s priest, Elosha. I’m getting the sense that Roslin might be spiritual or religious in some part, as I’m not sure why she’d choose a priest to speak to about her chamalla hallucinations over her doctor. Unless, that is, she believes that this sort of counsel will help her.

I’m ready to state that I’m endlessly excited for the way that this show is portraying religion, too. (I’ll get to Baltar towards the end.) We have two known faiths, and I also think that there are probably some non-believers on board who haven’t once said anything about the gods or God. (Adama, Gaeta, Dualla, and Lee all come to mind, and Adama in particular doesn’t strike me as a very spiritual person.) Yet just the existence of the religions is interesting enough, and that’s why I was totally blown away by Elosha’s reveal: Roslin’s life appears to match an ancient Pythian prophecy regarding the exodus mankind. Hell, even I can’t ignore how well it fits. Roslin saw two and ten snakes, is leading the remaining survivors to earth, and–most crucial of them all–is herself dying.

To be honest, I’m generally not a fan of the concept of prophecy being used in fiction all that much. I don’t dislike it, but it generally pigeonholes stories into this weird, deterministic character arc. (It’s actually why I like the use of this in the Harry Potter books because the main prophecy involves a choice on the part of one villain who…oh, I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it. But you get what I mean!) So I was surprised by how much I liked the idea that this Secretary of Education came upon the job as president, and is now possibly part of something larger. It’s scary to think that she might not survive the trip, but could it be that the prophecy is just mere coincidence? Will Roslin choose to act on it anyway?

Given those kind of questions (and given how massively huge this reveal is), I was then a bit bewildered that it’s seemingly not brought up again. We spend no time with Roslin as she contemplates what this means to her life, and the episode begins to focus on other characters, especially Lee and Baltar. Starbuck, still in rehabilitation for her leg, assists Tigh, Lee, and Adama with plans to steal tylium from under a Cylon base that Boomer and Crashdown discovered on a floating asteroid. In a way, I almost feel that there’s a meta subtext to “The Hand of God,” in that the writers are acknowledging that the fleet cannot simply be written as constantly fleeing forever, that the concept could become distractingly stale rather quickly. For the characters, Adama vocalizes the need to confront the Cylons plainly: it’s time that they finally stood up the schoolyard bullying who is tormenting them every day.

In addition to this, the story between Helo and Boomer on Caprica is rapidly progressing towards a point that also needs to be acknowledged: Helo has to figure out that Boomer is a Cylon. There’s only so much the writers can do to drag out the story, so it’s nice to see that they’re taking steps to bring the issue up. First of all, clearly Boomer is pregant. Why else would a Cylon human throw up? GREAT. Cylon babies are on their way!

I didn’t find this as pressing as Helo’s discovery that the woman Boomer clearly killed is now leading a group of Cylons. We know that Caprica Boomer is self-aware of who she is, so is she finally just going to tell him what’s going on? I actually think she’ll find a way to tell him that Cylons look like human, but she’ll keep her own identity a secret and try to keep her relationship with Helo. Which….is going to be a problem, I imagine.

Back on the Galactica, the fuel raiding plan presents problems for Baltar, Lee, and Starbuck, though for entirely different reasons. Starbuck, on the one hand, is not used to being left behind, to submitting her ego to commanding a fleet from the CIC. Adama prevents her from taking flight, despite her dogged insistence, in a particularly agonizing scene in which he uses a leg press machine to demonstrate that she’s not ready for flight. Even Starbuck has to admit that the Commander is correct, but you can see how much it pains her. Yet it’s not just about being in pain, either; she is simply inexperienced at leading from a distance, and throughout “The Hand of God,” we see just how awkward everything is for her. She’s physically uncomfortable, shuffling about the room as if she has no purpose.

Lee himself is not the least bit excited to be taking command, knowing that if there is any pilot who could lead a suicide mission to destroy a Cylon base, it’s Starbuck who has the creative talent, not him. He is just out of his element as she is, confused as to how he’s supposed to step into her shoes when everyone around him suggests that Starbuck is the best pilot for the job, not him. I was happy to see Adama step up to comfort his son, and in a way that is genuine and affectionate. It may seem like nothing to have Adama state so directly that he believes in Lee simply because his son, but you have to remember how distant they were for two years, and how Adama took that fact for granted. Sometimes, acknowledging things outright can be more powerful than flowery statements of love.

Baltar, out of everyone who suddenly is conflicted by the plan to attack the Cylon base, has the most precarious position. It seems his “conversion” isn’t quite complete, and when he’s called on to give the fighters the best location to bomb, he doesn’t know. Worse, Six doesn’t know either, telling him to open his heart to God, and God will give the answer. I don’t think that Baltar believed the concept at all, despite that giving in to God had worked so well for him. Taking a step back from this, it is kind of an absurd notion: God has the power to give Baltar the right location, but he’s just going to wait until Baltar gives him something back? So the entirety of the human race depends on this one dude, and that’s a totally fair thing for the rest of humanity? Sorry, I’d be pretty pissed if I died, went to the pearly gates, and discovered that I died because some other dude failed one of God’s tests. You can see that even Baltar thinks this is a bit much, but he gives it a try. He names a place, but does so at random. God said nothing to him. Six assures him that God speaks through other means.

YEAH, OKAY, COULD HE JUST SPEAK UP? I’d be a lot more comforted by that.

But there’s nothing here to comfort us! Because the second that this mission is put into motion, we are given about fifteen minutes straight of nail-biting terror. Starbucks plan to use decoys to draw the Cylons away from their base is good, but it’s not fantastic, especially since there’s no real recourse if the plan is spotted. And good fucking god, everything goes to shit so fast. The Cylons do take the bait, but this was under the hope that the Cylons would send the bulk of their ships to go after the mining ships. Unfortunately, the base releases reserve ships–FIFTY OF THEM–towards the Galactica, which now has nothing to protect itself. All the Vipers have been deployed.

God, it is just so awful. The writers do not avoid this, as the screams of dying pilots fill the room, and Starbuck, Baltar, and Roslin are all clearly upset by this. Starbuck feels responsible, since she devised the plan. Baltar is terrified that even if the plan does work, he provided the wrong information. Roslin has never properly experienced a mission like this, and the fate of the rest of the survivors will be decided in the next few minutes.

And in the face of imminent doom, Adama instructs Dualla to relay a message to Lee: the back door is open. Revealing that they did have a contingent plan, we find out that the decoys are anything but: they’re hiding another fleet of Viper fighters. OH SHIT YEAH. Oh, misdirection, I never saw you.

I don’t even really have anything insightful to say about Lee’s flight down to the asteroid. It’s frightening, especially as pilots begin to perish, but mostly it’s just FUCKING COOL. From the visual reference to Star Wars when Lee enters the mining tunnels (IT TOTALLY IS, RIGHT???), to the magnificent special effects that make this all look so real, it’s just fun to watch. I don’t need to say anything deep about it, do I?

Well, I suppose there is a huge point to be made here, one I’m glad that appears. The humans have finally won a battle. Starbuck and Lee are both relieved that they could actually pull this whole thing off. Baltar is happy to find out his guess was right, and Roslin is overjoyed that they are alive and with fuel. Honestly, this group just hasn’t had a victory like this against the Cylons, and it was something they truly needed. I know that I love the doom and gloom more than most things, but every so often, I’m perfectly fine with a little bit of joy, too!

Yet I couldn’t ignore the fact that I had no idea why this episode was called, “The Hand of God.” There was a bit of talk of God earlier, but, like the Roslin plot, it seemed to be left to the side. In truth, I was merely unprepared until the end of time. Spawned by a conversation with Six about the logistics of how he pulled off guessing the correct location, Baltar comes to realize his life fits the prophecy of Pythia. The very same prophecy that fits Roslin’s life. The once-atheist Baltar now declares himself an instrument of God and, unknowing to him, sets himself up against President Roslin, who may very well be the hand of God as well.

UM FUCK YES. THIS IS AWESOME. oh my god are these two going to come into conflict soon???? OH THIS IS JUST SPECTACULAR I LOVE THIS TWIST FOREVER.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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117 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Battlestar Galactica’: S01E10 – The Hand of God

  1. You know what this show needs more of? FUCKING SPACESHIPS BLOWING UP OTHER SPACESHIPS AND POSSIBLY OTHER THINGS AS WELL. There will be more of that in the future, thankfully.

    Oh, sorry, was that a spoiler?

    Spoiler Alert: Stories Are Not Spoiled by 'Spoilers'

    DISCUSS.

  2. echinodermata says:

    Oh look a prophecy that seems to be coming true. Definitely not my favorite plot either. And I'd rather it not be Roslin specifically who's caught up in it, just cause I like her and I'd rather all her decisions be guided by her own agency and not any sort of pre-destination issues or even self-fulfilling prophecy issues. Can't we just let Roslin be Roslin?

    Otherwise, I thought this was a pretty decent episode. Vaguely memorable in a 'yay Starbuck gets to have an awesome plan' way in my mind (vaguely memorable since I didn't know what the ep was about by title alone, and I don't remember the details very well, but I remember the premise).

    <img src="http://i55.tinypic.com/t7o4go.gif"&gt;

    And a moment of happiness that goes at the end and is therefore unsullied by bombs going off accidentally or whatever it was in that one previous episode. Yay! (And I will just pretend the ending with Gaius and Six didn't happen.)

    <img src="http://i51.tinypic.com/e67i53.gif"&gt;

    One thing that I just have to point out, though it goes for basically every episode: it kills me to see the music summarized on the captions as just "suspenseful" or "heroic" or (lol) "pounding." I kind of love BSG's music, so it's hard to see the music skimmed over like that. This is not a criticism of the captioning itself, mind, just that it sucks to not be able to give the music the credit it derserves (though I still want to acknowledge that I fully understand the context is such that would make a vast description of the music out of place).

  3. monkeybutter says:

    Okay, morning sickness already? Really?

    It's hard seeing Starbuck in uniform and walking around stiffly, when before she was so gleeful while flying. It was nice to see her joyous at the end when it turns out that yes, she is good at strategery. So in the end, it was cool to see her out of her preferred element and adapting pretty damn well.

    If Roslin is the foretold leader, is she going to have to start writing vague shit down so when this happens again, the next foretold leader will be aware? Or does someone else get to do that? Roslin and Baltar, instruments of God. The Olympic Carrier (ha! I just realized that Olympus = home of the gods. Well done, self) is in for a helluva good time.

  4. NB2000 says:

    Frak yeah Colonial Fleet pwning the Cylons for once! The celebratory music playing when everyone returns to Galactica is awesome, all hail Bear McCreary!

    My favourite moment has to be Kara hugging Laura after the mission succeeds, and then Laura hugging her back a few seconds later. Just, AWWW <3<3

    No seriously, it's time to find someone to act as Press Secretary for this administration.

    I'm ever so slightly distracted by scenes around the map in the war room because those little models of all the ships look so cool and I want to play around with them. Yes I'm very strange.

  5. LucyGoosey says:

    Yet another episode demonstrating an absolute truth- Boomer and Crashdown? Clearly Hufflepuffs

    The leg press bit made me cringe beyond all belief. I've done a little work in physical therapy, and I know I couldn't handle it as a career because so many of the early points involve so much pain. And then Adama telling her that he actually put on LESS weight than required? Heartbreaking for Starbuck no doubt.

    And I imagine if you have a deep fear or phobia of snakes, you probably sobbed yourself to sleep that night you first watched this
    Yes. Yes I did. :shudders and runs from the room:

  6. enigmaticagentscully says:

    LOVE THIS EPISODE. I don't care how cheesy the end is, it makes me weep with joy.

    And this right here, is the point where I think Baltar finally starts to believe. Before it's always been a convenience for him, but now…you can just see the moment in that final scene where he gives in and actually accepts that, for him, there is no other explanation. The coincidences have stacked up too high. He can't deny it any longer. He is an instrument of God.
    And the look of pure joy on Six's face when she realises that he finally believes her is so weirdly chilling.

  7. Ryan Lohner says:

    Ron Moore calls this episode a "Big Mac," just providing some fairly mindless action to try to lesson the unrelentingly grim premise. And yet it's still tied in to the precarious situation the fleet is in, with their fuel about to run out.

    Love Baltar's douchey little pose at the end, and so does Moore if you listen to the commentary.

  8. cait0716 says:

    Ok, so this episode is really the heart of why I don't mind the Gaius conversion story-line. Twice now his life has been in danger and he turned to God in a moment of desperation, but it never really stuck. And I think Six finally picked up on that. Because this time she appeals to his ego with the prophecy (more thoughts on that in a second). As soon as Gaius thinks he's important and sees an opportunity to gain power and prestige he is all in. I really don't see him as a true believer, this is just more fuel for his ego. Meanwhile, I do think Roslin is a true believer.

    As to the prophecy, personally I think it has a better chance of being about Roslin than Baltar. Six seemed to stretch the metaphor to make it fit Baltar's situation (Vipers are totally the same as snakes!) and Baltar isn't dying. But the pieces match up fairly well with Roslin's experience. I like the ambiguity a lot, though.

    Starbuck is a complete BAMF. Her transition from pilot to commanding officer is a beautiful thing to see. I love when Adama reassures her that it isn't easy for anyone. And her hug with Roslin at the end makes me smile.

    It's so nice to see an episode go out on a moment of triumph and celebration!

  9. enigmaticagentscully says:

    That scene with the snakes on the podium…URG it's so hard to watch.
    Not because of the snakes (I actually quite like snakes? I think they're cute) but because of the second hand embarrassment. I just can't stand watching Roslin give a conference and being all Madame-President-y and then just dissolving into a nervous twitchy wreck with the press looking on. It triggers all my public speaking fears.

  10. Jenny_M says:

    Gaius Baltar is the most amazing Hollywood Atheist ever. He can't just come to God, he has to come to God and then find himself to be something akin to the HAND OF GOD. Like, try not to be too modest, Gaius. I think that's why I don't mind the trope being employed here: it's subverted by the fact that Baltar is literally like…the most self-centered person ever and, of course, would believe that God is using him specifically for a higher purpose.

  11. Maya says:

    The lyrics to "Wander My Friends" aka the gorgeous Irish song played in this episode

    Wander my friends, wander with me

    Like the mist on the green mountain, moving eternally
    Despite our weariness
    we'll follow the road
    Over hill and and valleys
    to the end of the journey

    Come on my friends and sing with me
    Fill the night with joy and sport
    Here's a toast to the friends who have gone from us
    Like the mist of the green mountain,
    gone forever

    Gaaaaaah the music in this shooooooow

  12. Suzannezibar says:

    I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF THESE MOTHERFRAKKING SNAKES ON THIS MOTHERFRAKKING PODIUM!!’

  13. Kaci says:

    The more I think about why the Cylons would want Caprica!Boomer to get pregnant, the more I wonder if that's how they make more models of the human-looking Cylons? Maybe they either get pregnant by or impregnate humans and then those offspring are the human-looking Cylons? But then, I guess that would have the huge problem of the fact that, well, it's easy for Six to seduce Baltar–she looks human. How the hell did a non-human-looking Cylon seduce a human, if that were the actual truth of why they're doing this?

    NO IDEA. I'm just throwing things out here because that's part of the fun.

    Also, re: the above thread about that study that said people enjoy things more if they're spoiled, for me, at least, that's true (although I'm doing my best to avoid spoilers for this show so that I can watch it along with you). I think my reasoning is that…let's say someone told me right now that Starbuck will make it out of this series alive (for the record, no one has, I have no idea, I'm making this up, etc etc). Then from now on, any time she's in danger, I wouldn't have to worry. I would be a lot less stressed. I don't particularly enjoy being stressed (which is why for the most part, I avoid drama and stick to comedy), so for me, that's a bonus. I think it's a personality thing–people who have that trait in common with me might like knowing the outcome, where as people who don't have that trait enjoy the suspense. Just a thought.

  14. Ryan Lohner says:

    This episode also continues our look at what Ron Moore learned from what happened to the Borg on Voyager (he never wrote for the show, but did a lot on TNG and DS9 so obviously he paid close attention to it). As soon as they started showing up every week and being defeated, they lost all sense of threat. So on this show, the Cylons rarely appear as a direct threat to the heroes, and whenever they do they extract some kind of price. Despite the victorious denoument, several pilots died to achieve it, most notably Chuckles after he'd gotten a fair amount of screentime in "Contrition." And so we're able to keep seeing the Cylons as a force to be reckoned with.

  15. lyvanna says:

    I like this episode, the crew needed a win, but I was eyerolling hard at Adama's 'I routinely restrict tactical details so that the viewers will be surprised' line. Hmmm.

    Love the Starbuck/Roslin hug.

    As someone who has has knee injuries in the past, the scene where Adama is testing Starbuck's knee is almost unbearable to me.

    Oh, Gaius. And for that matter, oh Helo too.

  16. notemily says:

    Standing up to the schoolyard bully: does that actually work? I always HEAR that, but when I imagine trying it, I then imagine getting beat up, because I can't fight for shit.

    Really, the thruster pedal requires that ridiculous amount of force? Seems unnecessary, but I don't know much about flying a very small spacecraft.

    Anyone else hear the Titanic music when Lee and his dad are talking about the lighter? I think Titanic has just ruined whatever instrument that is forever. /musicallyclueless

    I have to LOL when Adama says "Gaeta, launch strike force one" and he immediately says "Dee, launch strike force one." I know that's How Things Are Done, but seriously?

    I think Adama's response to Roslin asking why he didn't tell her about the other fighters should have been "oh, you know, dramatic irony."

    Gaeta HUGS BALTAR. Aw.

    Vg'f fb fnq gb frr Tnrgn ybbxvat fb UNCCL, xabjvat jung sngr unf va fgber sbe uvz.

    James Callis's hair is looking particularly awesome in that last scene.

    Caprica plot:

    I hate vomit scenes. Hate them. This is why I will never be able to re-read a certain Neil Gaiman book which Mark may or may not decide to read in the future so I will not name it. It pretty much ruined the book for me.

    At any rate, Sharon's not going to be able to hide everything she knows from Helo for much longer, and after that it won't take long for him to realize what she is. *bites nails*

    Katee Sackhoff apparently hated the scenes where she had to be in the Viper, so she loved having her knee broken for a lot of season 1. Supposedly it's so hot inside the Viper/spacesuit rig that you get sleepy, which explains why Hotdog always looks like he's about to nod off.

  17. who_cares86 says:

    That scene with Starbuck lifting those weights with her leg doesn't make any sense. It's supposed to be half the weight the leg receives while making an attack run. Lifting that amount of weight with your leg should be impossible for anyone without heavy training over an extended period of time. So how exactly could those amateurs they picked of the street three weeks ago even remotely control a viper? Their legs can't be much better than mine and I sure as hell wouldn't be able to lift that.

  18. karate0kat says:

    The hug between Kara and Roslin always makes me feel all squishy inside. The future is so bleak for these people, those moments of happiness and connection are so precious. Which is why I just love seeing everyone celebrating at the end. There was a price for their victory, and I have no doubt that they mourn their fallen comrades. But not just yet. They desperately needed a win, and they got it, and they deserve to savor that for a little bit.

    Roslin's visions – the issue of religion on this show is obviously important. What I love is that so far we don't have one belief system being validated over the other. Six says there is only one God and he certainly seems to be helping Gaius at times, but Pythia is from the polytheistic religion and now seems to have weight as well. I think that duality is part of why I never felt preached too. Certain characters on the show may be preachy, but the over all narrative is offering up something much more complex and twisty.

    For something a little different, have a live version of Wander My Friends, instead of the album version.

    [youtube KolccUy3fQw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KolccUy3fQw youtube]

    I absolutely adore this track and it's triumphant use of the Adama theme. But we also get another great piece of music this episode. Battle on the Asteroid. Action themes are usually the songs on soundtracks that just don't work as well for me on their own as they do in the context of the show/movie/whatever. But BSGs action scores are gorgeous. I love the mix of instruments Bear uses to give BSG's music a really unique sound.

    [youtube Vs5pI1gO37o http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vs5pI1gO37o youtube]

  19. Coughdrop01 says:

    I dunno if its the tension of the episode or the acting or what but I never fail to burst into tears when Apollo accomplishes his mission and everyone cheers. Stupid bagpipes don't help either. What can I say, I'm a crier.

  20. ChronicReader91 says:

    This, right here, is the episode that cemented my love for this series. Not that I haven’t loved most of the previous ones, but this just made it official. Mostly it has to do with that big victory at the end- seriously; I love stories that are dark and dismal, if only because on the occasion when things DO go right, it’s so much more rewarding. And if the story has been told well enough to make me care about the characters – and this one has– then it feels like a victory for me too. I’ll admit, I was pumping my fist into the air when Lee managed to blow up the base, and then had tears in my eyes for the rest of the celebrations.

    Also, THAT MUSIC. Holy frak that music. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned Bear McCreary’s score yet, but yeah, I have a weakness for movie/TV scores anyway, and that is some of the most perfectly in tune with the mood of a show I’ve ever heard.

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