In the seventeenth episode of the third season of Battlestar Galactica, Starbuck becomes increasingly haunted by the events on New Caprica, and her ability to be a pilot is called into question. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.
Trigger Warning: Discussion of abuse below
I don’t ever do this sort of thing, and anyone who has been following me over the past two years knows that I have been more frank and open about the things that have haunted me than one might expect of a stranger on the Internet. I enjoy the freedom that writing has brought me, and it has allowed me to heal in beautiful ways. So understand that for me to say this, it truly means something to me:
I don’t think I can write about this episode.
At least not in any traditional way. I already have an idea of the words I’m going to fill this empty document with, but they’re a poor excuse for what I normally do. That’s okay. I’m fine with that, and I think I need to also understand that sometimes, opening up and being honest in brutal and detailed ways about myself and my past can actually be incredibly painful.
I’ll start by saying this: if you have ever wondered what it was like to grow up with the mother that I have written about extensively, look no further than Socrata Thrace. I think lots of us who grow attached to different shows, books, and movies and all sorts of works of fiction can find things in the text that speak to us. It’s one of the transformative acts of fiction, and it’s why I keep seeking out more and more, and why I dearly love what I do.
I did not see myself in “Maelstrom.” That is an understatement. That woman on the screen is my mother. It is as if David Weddle and Bradley Thompson, who wrote this episode, were flies on the wall in the house I grew up in Riverside, California. It’s as if they took detailed notes for eight years of sadness, depression, physical and emotional abuse, and an overbearing mother, and they simply copied it. They did not borrow from my story. It is the same, down to the very things that come out of the mouth of Socrata.
My mother smoked. My mother had cancer. My mother refused treatment. (Up until a point, to be fair, before finally conceding to surgery and chemotherapy.) And my mother believed that I was special, so much so that any attempt of mine that did not result in me being number one was met with derision, anger, pain, and a whole lot of abuse. I once got grounded for getting an A- in a class. Once, I tried to join Mock Trial. My mother believed that the teacher who taught it would try to steal my glory and then seduce me. Do you know what she said to me when I tried to be a part of that group?
I would be pissing my life away. I would be pissing my life away but wasting time working for a “megalomaniac b****.”
When my mother started to die, she made sure we felt the guilt and shame she did. She thought she was letting us down, despite that that was about as far from the truth as possible. But she couldn’t see that. She needed to be in control of my emotions in addition to my school work and what modicum of a social life I managed in between classes.
My mother is Socrata Thrace. So before we even got to the final act of “Maelstrom,” I was a wreck. Tears brimmed my eyes not out of sadness, but out of fear and shame. Have you ever read something, or watched something, and felt like it just opened your entire life up to the whole world? That every secret grain of fury and guilt and terror you had was now exposed to millions of people? That a moment of fiction knew your own life better than you did?
This is why I want to do this, despite how absolutely brilliant and genius “Maelstrom” is. To analyze this episode, to pick it apart, is to pick apart what happened to me. My wound is not new or fresh, but this is too weird. It hits too close to home. And it makes me feel wrong. It’s not that I blame myself for what happened to me or anything! But it’s likeâ€¦in order to talk about how Socrata’s actions affected Starbuck, I’d have to talk about myself far too much.
I guess this is a new thing for me, and even writing it, I feel strange, like I’m cheating myself out of the opportunity, but the truth is that I’d just rather not revisit this period in my life. I think that I was also comfortable doing this because we have something even more tragic to discuss.
As I said before, this episode put me into a fragile, vulnerable place. The shock I had felt during the scenes with Socrata started to wear off, and when Leoben allowed her to visit her mother again, to finally face her death, I thought that we were leading towards Starbuck’s chance to heal herself. I don’t actually know what Leoben is. He operates in a similar manner as Carolanne did to Admiral Adama; he is remarkably familiar when compared to Head Six and Head Baltar as well. So what is he? Whatever he is, I felt a sense of comfort when Starbuck saw her mother day, and then I could see how positively it affected her.
But as soon as Starbuck flashed back to her Viper, nothing went as I expected. First of all, Lee sees the Heavy Raider. I had assumed it was all in her mind. Was this whole thing orchestrated by the Cylons? Or was the first image of the Heavy Raider an actual hallucination?
Like most things in this show, I thought that Starbuck’s plunge was a way to build suspense. Would she allow herself to strike the hard deck? Would she pull up at the last minute? Well, she just found peace in her heart, so of course she’ll pull up! Right?
The white light flares; it’s the same white light from the opera house, isn’t? The same light from the end of season one, from Three’s vision inside the Temple of the Five? It looks too similar not to be. But why is she seeing this? Why is she telling Lee that she’ll see him on the other side? She’s notâ€¦she’s notâ€¦..
When her Viper exploded, when Lee screamed out in agony, I felt like the world had been swept out from underneath me. You can’t. You cannot do this, Battlestar Galactica. It’s Starbuck. She’s alive, right? She ejected, didn’t she? It’s all part of a plan, isn’t it?
I know it’s a weird time to gush about acting, but that first shot of the CIC after Lee confirms that there’s nothing left of Starbuck’s shipâ€¦.I am thankful for this cast. That image will haunt me. It is so raw. It looks as if no one actually knew Starbuck was going to die. It’s as if they all found out in that exact moment.
I felt numb at this point, so completely devoid of any emotion that wasn’t shock. But I lost it when Admiral Adama completed his model ship, adding the last bit that Starbuck had given him earlier, and then cast it aside violently, sobbing worse than we’ve ever seen him. The floodgates were down because I knew there wasn’t anything clever behind this. There was no “To Be Continuedâ€¦.”
Kara Thrace is dead.
good fucking god.