Battlestar Galactica #15: The Man with Nine Lives

"This man could be my father."
SO SAY WE ALL: Fred Astaire claims to be Starbuck's father.

REVIEW: Fred Astaire?! Yep. At 80, he's guest-starring on BSG, and - trivia time - it's the very last time he dances on screen, even if it's just Elizabethan high fives and we never see his feet. As a con man quick with a made up story, he's an affable presence in this "R&R" episode, and you can believe the rogue could be Starbuck's long-lost father, but the show isn't particularly well served by the script and direction here.

The pace is, in fact, glacial. Just as I was thinking that, one of the Nomen who serve as antagonists said "Patience, boy". The show needs to stay out of my head, clearly. Or at least take instructions. So much air between lines. A stronger director would also have asked the stars to reign in their overt emoting. There's a scene in there where Starbuck and Apollo might as well be children in a school yard, and Richard Hatch is almost always over-acting. And while there's a heartfelt scene in the launch bay between possible father and possible son, it's drowned out by background sound, somewhere between television test card and dentist drill.

As far as the script goes, The Man with Nine Lives tries to have its cake and eat it too. Astaire's character, Chameleon (but pronounced Shamelion, but it's still as on the nose as a nostril) concocts a cover story that turns out to be true despite the impossible odds the script keeps harping on? Starbuck, pushed out of character by emotion in this, announces his retirement if Chameleon turns out to be his father, so he can make up for lost time (uhm...) so when Chameleon gets the parternity test results, he asks Cassiopeia not to tell, but then Starbuck still kinds of adopts him anyway and asks to have a normal relationship with the man. Just skip the fabricated teenager angst next time, and you can angle for a more natural ending. Not that Chameleon ever reappeared.

Characters that DID reappear are the Borellian Nomen, mentioned as reclusive colonists, but not really human-looking, or if human, then more like Neanderthals. Depending on how you understand the script, they either have their own ship in the fleet, but tried to leave the fleet by cobbling together their own Viper, which doesn't make much sense. Maybe they wanted their own protective escort with the Cylons patrolling out there. Anyway, these guys have big brows and an honor code which sounds like the post-TOS Klingons, but beat them to our screens by some months. It's all a bit bizarre, considering we've never heard of these laser-bolo throwing warriors, but there seems to be more variety in the 12 colonies than we've been given access to. Of course, there's no excuse for the lax security that allows them to get to the launch bay and cause trouble.

Or maybe there is. One of the nice things about an R&R episode is that we get to see ship/fleet life. There are TV shows on closed circuit, and the Galactica is running recruitment ads for warriors. We've been down this road before, with an early need for pilots, but here, it's an excuse for the Nomen to be allowed on the ship. We see gambling (a form of Pyramid that's more like blackjack) and dancing, hear about jobs around the fleet, etc. With the addition of the Nomen, we can safely call this a world-building episode. On a more personal note, Starbuck admits Cass is the woman he would be "sealed" with, when he's ready. It's sweet, though I give the MVP award to Cassiopeia, or rather to Laurette Spang, who manages to blush when Chameleon implies he knows as much.

SPACE DISCO: That hoop dance.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: Even when Chameleon fires a Viper's lasers into a launch tube where they all are, the two Nomen and Starbuck survive.

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: Starbuck's father on the new series is concert pianist Dreilide Thrace, no relation.

VERSIONS: Deleted scenes include Adama telling Chameleon he doesn't want to see Starbuck hurt, and also proof that the gambling scene could have been even more drawn out and tedious.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A likable guest star can't exactly save a tediously padded episode with a muddled script, but the story matters enough to Starbuck to give this some relevance.

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