”Battlestar Galactica”: Going on strike
I’m of two minds about this episode. The first mind is pleased that we’re back to the kind of clear-eyed, moral dilemma-based storytelling that Galactica used to do so well. The other mind is concerned that the show has, for the time being, abandoned the two over-arching story arcs: finding Earth and confronting the Cylons.
I like Chief Tyrol, always have. He’s a more solid character than Helo, which is why his ”I’m caught in the center of a class struggle” quandary works better here than in last week’s episode. And it also helps that Tyrol’s dilemma has two equal but opposing sides, and either can be seen as right. Do the workers on the Tylium refining ship deserve to see their lives improved from the abject misery/borderline slavery existence they’re enduring? Absolutely. Do the baseline needs of the fleet — the capacity to jump to safety in the event of a Cylon attack — outweigh the desire for comfort? Damned skippy. Which side would Tyrol fall on? Kind of a no-brainer, really. Not only was he a union organizer on New Caprica, but he’s a preacher’s kid. His heart bleeds for the people.
My only real quarrel with BSG’s newfound class awareness is that it’s so newfound. It feels like an aftermarket add-on, like fancy chrome-plated rims for your car, or extra memory for your computer. If classism was the epidemic that we’d been led to believe it was in the last couple of episodes, why hasn’t it ever reared its face before? It feels like something the writers cooked up recently, as part of a lead-up to Baltar’s trial, and attempted to retcon it into the ongoing story. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, I know, but I just wish it didn’t look so much like a piece of the puzzle.
I did, however, love Baltar this episode. From the abject humiliation of him standing alone is his cell with his pants around his ankles to his moving (or just manipulative?) description of a prepubescent boy’s quest to change his appearance and by doing do, his destiny, James Callis added some welcome new complexions to Gaius Baltar. And is that book he’s writing really the work of a man who wants to bare his soul to the people, or of someone who wants to sow dissent? I’m sure I’m not the only one who saw the parallels between Baltar and a certain Marquis de Sade, who also smuggled pages of a forbidden book out of a cell. They both, it seems, are drawn to the mixture of pleasure and pain.
And who doesn’t dig the moments of ceremonial cool, like when Seelix finally got her transfer out of the pit crew and into the pilot corps, and the deck gang all saluted her? That stuff is meant to feel good, and it does.
But… where are the Cylons? Where is, as Joss Whedon so aptly named it, the Big Bad? After all, a chase isn’t a chase unless you see both the prey and the hunter. Yes, it’s dramatic to watch people you’re invested in barely keep self-destruction at bay, but it’s more dramatic to play that against a relentless external threat. I miss that. I fear we’ve seen too much of the shark. I just hope we’re not revving up the speedboat and preparing to jump.
The Trial of Baltar had better deliver. I’m just saying.
What did you think? Would Adama really have shot Cally? Why haven’t we seen a ton of Lee or Kara? (I know we’re done with their romantic roundelay — thank the gods — but even before that they were so central to the show, and now they feel like day-players, lucky to get in a scene.) And do you think, as Baltar does, that we’ll ever see the Colonial fleet led by someone other than an Adama? Would you want it to be?