In the tenth episode of the third season of Battlestar Galactica, Kat deals with a resurgence from her past while on a dangerous, life-threatening mission, and Three’s visions in between life and death inspire Baltar to do something foolish. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.
I love this show. I love it dearly, and I am going to be gutted beyond belief when it ends. I know that’s a weird thing to say because it has ended for most of you. You’ll never get another episode. (That makes me sad just typing it.) But I’m still in the midst of this massive, epic narrative, and even if in a real-time sense, this show is long gone, it’s not for me. I’m beginning to appreciate just how timeless this show is going to be. Yes, Ronald Moore and the team of writers have reacted to a whole lot of political issues and events from modern times, but they do so in a way that lacks the specificity that might makeBattlestar Galactica seems dated when you view it in another time period. (Which is not to suggest that I’m watching this in some alternate time FIFTY MILLION YEARS IN THE FUTURE.)
Yet I know this isn’t the only thing that’s keeping my interest and turning me into a gigantic stan for everyone and everything in this show. It’s the characters. That is a cliche to say these days in some circles because, as folks who are heavily involved in fandoms, we know how familiar it is to hear that claim. BUT IT’S THE CHARACTERS WE LOVE. But this cliche has an inherent truth in Battlestar Galactica, and it’s that the writers care so deeply for these portraits of pain, loss, and love that we are given complete people. Yes, their stories are ever-evolving, but they are whole people. And that even goes for the side characters, which is something that BSG does remarkably well.
I’m listening to Bear McCreary’s “Violence and Variations” on repeat, and I’m remembering how it felt to watch shows like LOST, or The X-Files, or The Wire, or Six Feet Under. Shows where the people on it began to eclipse any care you might have for the story. (Which is only really the case for the first two, since I don’t consider plot to be a problem on the latter two.) Obviously, I know these worlds are fictional. But it feelsreal, and it’s something that we, as fans of fictional worlds, begin to experience as we immerse ourselves into these places. The characters there are what help us believe that in some other world (or in our very own, in the case of The Wire or Six Feet Under orRubicon), these things are happening right now, or they already happened.
Battlestar Galactica feels real to me. Of course, one of the reasons why is the writers’ dedication towards discussing and elaborating on the logistics of a diaspora into space, but I am also fascinated by the way that these people interact with one another. (I do feel the need to acknowledge that things are not perfect on this show, and that there certainly have been unrealistic character turns from time to time, so I’ll be speaking in a more general sense about it.) It’s why I am interested by the way I interact with these characters, too, and it’s why there wasn’t a better choice than to make Kat the focal point of “The Passage.”
I made it a point to state how annoying Kat was, and “The Passage” forces me not only to confront my own feelings about her, but to realize why it was so easy for me to do so. At heart, Kat and Starbuck are not that much different from one another. Because I was introduced to Starbuck first, and because I fell grossly in love with her, any character that might have been propped up against her to highlight her flaws or act as a foil is one that I totally fell for on the Character Hate Train. I do think that Kat could be irritating outside of this, but “The Passage” brings back these very concepts to show how my view of her was flawed all along.
The plot that strings this all together addresses logistics: the Fleet’s food supply has been poisoned and, with the threat of starvation looming, Sharon sets out through a gas cloud full of radiation to try and locate passage to a nearby planet that hopefully has protein-rich algae to replenish supplies. And look, let’s not ignore that the plot of this episode is inherently stressful, frustrating, and intense as hell, which is what Battlestar Galacticadoes quite beautifully! In this case, both radiation and light are factors of tension. I am repeatedly blown away by the method with which this show uses various elements of the physical world to essentially torment our characters. In this case, the bright gas cloud that surrounds this planet not only blinds the pilots during their entry, but the radiation can have an adverse effect in a frighteningly short time.
Given this (and Sharon’s terrifying journey into the cloud), we have the set-up for “The Passage”: in order to assure the survival in the fleet, the Raptors of the Galactica will essentially guide skeleton-crew filled ships through the two jumps necessary to clear the atmosphere. And they’ll do it five times. Not one agonizing, complex trip through the atmosphere: FIVE OF THEM. The crew begins to prepare for this mission, and this includes a large number of civilians being dropped onto the Galactica. It’s during this process that Kat is stopped by one shady looking dude and he calls her Sasha. OKAY, WHAT. That is Kat. Maybe you don’t know names, sir.
But it’s that one line that truly begins the deconstruction of Kat’s character. This man knew her before, and she had a different name. Well, shit, your character just became more interesting to me, Kat. Why the name change? Why did this man seem so interested in her in the sketchiest way imaginable?
We don’t get our answer, and that begins to eat away at us and at Kat, though for entirely different reasons. The return of this man triggers memories we don’t see, and they magnify as they all set out on their mission to escort ships to the surface of the planet below. Battlestar Galactica is not afraid to take characters to difficult places, and even knowing this, I was still shocked that on the very first run, Hot Dog lost his ship, the Adriatic. That means that whole crew is gone, forever, never to be found again. Did they die of radiation poisoning? Did they jump out and are now drifting about space on their own? Anyway you look at it, it’s a horrifying thing for the show to do because it leaves their fate up to our imaginations. There are a million things that could go wrong, and there was one thing that could have gone right. And it did not, so they’re left to float amongst all those wrong things, and we’ll never know which one it is.
I don’t think it was surprising that on a following trip, Kat was one of the ones to lose another ship, this time the Carina. It needed to happen to explore this sudden revelation that she might not be who she said she was this entire time. I’m fine with that; that’s what writing is, and it’s realistic that even the best pilots would be a victim of the gas cloud of that planet. From here, this episode shows us how Kat takes this loss extremely personally. And even without seeing Enzo again (LOL I HAD TO LOOK UP HIS NAME BECAUSE I COULD NOT REMEMBER IT), I think this would have happened anyway, but just not to the same degree.
I wasn’t exactly sure why Kat was taking this so hard. Obviously, it’s a ding to her pride and, like Starbuck, any sort of failure on her part, even an understandable one in a near-impossible situation, means that something is wrong with her. It’s an intense sense of disappointment. But still, something wasn’t right. Why would she risk exposing herself to radiation for that long? Why would she appear even more upset when Enzo tries to corner her again?
It’s Starbuck who becomes the acting force to bring forth the truth, and I adore that this episode does this. If there’s anyone else on this ship more haunted by their past, it’s Starbuck. But she herself is not aware of the dynamic of this situation at first, choosing instead to confront Kat out of anger. And part of me doesn’t blame her; Kat gave her an overload of grief the last time the two of them butt heads and I still maintain that Kat was kind of a hypocritical asshole about it.
Did I expect Kat to reveal that she used to be a drug runner? Or that she stole her name from a child? NO, I DID NOT. And with one person already living on the Galactica with a manufactured past (Boomer), it was an interesting choice for the writers to make. Kat’s identity had been cemented as a pilot throughout the show. That’s what she was to me, plain and simple, but now we find out that she was still a trainee. In that moment, laced with anger, Starbuck herself chooses to make a fascinating decision: keep Kat’s secret, but insist that she embrace who she “really is.” Starbuck is angry that Kat has lied, especially since she basically tricked her way into a crew that had spent time becoming what they were. To Starbuck, it’s like Kat cheated her way into her position. But I think her resistance to tell Admiral Adama the truth plays into what happens at the end.
Katâ€¦.jesus christ, Kat. As soon as she switched out her radiation badge for Helo’s, I knew she was walking into some sort of disaster. This could not end well, and as the Galactica begins to suffer from the heat, I could sense this was building towards forcing Kat to make a choice: would she remain in the cloud to prove a point to herself? Or to Starbuck? Would she relent and return back, feeling broken or as if she betrayed her crew? We had already seen that the radiation was having adverse affects on her, but now her radiation badge is black again, and in that moment, she decides that she is a pilot. It’s completely unspoken, but she takes Starbuck’s advice and embraces who she is: she is a Raptor pilot, and she is tasked with bringing the Faru Sadin back. So even when the fleet believes her to be dead and believes another ship lost, she brings them home.
She is a Raptor pilot. This is what she does.
I am just going to give you my thought process after Kat collapses. It’s the only way I know how to explain this to you.
- Oh my god, Kat looks so awful. Oh, her radiation poisoning is a lot worse than I previously thought.
- Oh, Starbuck. You actually apologized. This is really sweet.
- Wait, why did you just give her sleeping pills? Are you telling her to kill herself? She’s alive. She’s fine. She just has to deal with the radiation poisoning.
- Adama. This is why I love you: your fatherly sense of empathy is just a beautiful thing. OMG you don’t care what Kat needs to tell you.
- omg Adama made her CAG and Kat is crying and now I’m crying
- wait why did she just say she’s not leaving that room i am lost
- omg he wanted a daughter just end me now
- omg they are making her CAG on the chart WHY IS EVERYONE CRYING, THIS IS A GOOD THING
- oh my god.
- oh my god how the fuck did i not realize this
- oh my god what is wrong with my brain HOW IS THIS SHOCKING TO ME
- OMG KAT.
Sometimes I don’t know what my brain does. I did not see this coming, despite how it was spelled out to me. And Kat is gone. She sacrificed herself to save one ship, and one that had a minimal skeleton crew. She wasn’t even saving hundreds and hundreds of lives. She gave up her life for a select few.
oh god BSG what are you doing to me
OH HEY LET’S TALK ABOUT THE CYLONS
Look, it’s not like Kat’s story was boring, uninteresting, or distracting at all. If the entire story with Three, Baltar, and the Hybrid was not included in “The Passage,” I would still shower this episode with praise. It only makes it better that we are getting this glimpse of where the Cylon plot is headed.
AND WHAT A GLORIOUS PLACE THAT IS. We got that bizarre glimpse of something in Three’s vision between life and death, and now we find out that she is actively trying to determine what it is. Whichâ€¦christ, that has to hurt. She’s killing herself over and over again to see this vision, and those deaths are cumulative for her.
I was excited to see Baltar take a bigger part in this as well becauseâ€¦.well, he feels a bit underused so far. I don’t like a lot of his choices, but his character is just so intriguing to me. So it’s nice to have him inject himself into Three’s story, since he suspects she is doing exactly what she is doing.
I still can’t believe I didn’t make the connection to the final five Cylons, but I’m sort of glad I didn’t. It gave a powerful edge to Baltar desperately asking Three if he was one of them. It’s clear that Baltar wants to find meaning to what he’s done, and if he was a Cylon, then he hasn’t been betraying the human race this whole time. But I don’t think he’ll be given an answer that is this simple for him. He’s not a Cylon, and I feel pretty confident in stating that. I do think that these final five models are deeply important to the remainder of this show’s mythology, but we are only getting clues towards that now.
Those clues come from the Hybrid. I won’t lie: I was COMPLETELY LOSING MY SHIT when Baltar decided to touch her, causing her to begin speaking with some sort of regularity and sense. Is she really giving them clues to the location of Earth? Is it true what Baltar says, that everything she says is actually knowledge aboutâ€¦something?
UGH I LOVE THIS AND I WANT A WHOLE LOT MORE OF IT.