Battlestar Galactica #16: Murder on the Rising Star

"Don't you see? You, Apollo, Boomer - even the commander - you all want to believe me, but you... you still have your, um, doubts."
SO SAY WE ALL: Starbuck is accused of killing a fellow Viper pilot.

REVIEW: More straightforward stories make for over-spoilery recap sequences, and it takes Murder on the Rising Star a long time before it can actually surprise its audience, unless you skipped the opening minute. But even if that weren't the case, there are a lot of things wrong with this episode. It deal with a long-standing rivalry we've never heard of, between Starbuck and another pilot and Triad player we've never seen before named Ortega. For the purposes of this tale, Starbuck will be playing Triad with Apollo, and Boomer is relegated to color commentator (did he pull a muscle or something?). The game gets rough, people get thrown out of the game, and no, we're not really told what happens when a two-man team goes down to one (do they have alternates?). Then some truly childish behavior in the corridors - I do hate it when Starbuck is written and acted as a 6-year-old - and Ortega winds up dead, will all arrows pointing to Starbuck (and deadbeat dad Chameleon doesn't even call).

We're soon introduced to quality guest star Brock Peters, though I feel he's a little wasted as Solon, the story's prosecutor. I get it, they wanted to trade on his role in To Kill a Mockingbird, but the episode isn't really a courtroom drama - it's a detective story. Solon is neither villain nor friend, and we don't see enough of the trial to really make use of his powerful screen presence. Much of the evidence to be presented is all seen before the trial anyway, including one that's never explained. In the sf equivalent of a ballistics test, Starbuck's gun discharged the exact amount of energy absorbed by Ortega's body, and even if I believed this nonsense test which sends physics home for the day, there's never any revelation that how the killer got to it. If the murder happens before Starbuck goes back to get dressed, why doesn't he notice Ortega's dead body blocking a door? Different locker rooms not facing each other? Who knows. This deserved more explanation, because the staging of the murder is more interested in creating red herrings (putting Starbuck and then second suspect Chella) in that hallway than it is in logic.

After a flurry of what I will call ethnobabble, giving different names than those we have in our own justice system, including the clunky "termination" standing in for "murder" (I bet that doesn't hold up), Apollo becomes Starbuck's defense attorney, and since he doesn't know what he's doing, he mostly tries to find the real killer. That's fine. Of course, the investigation is a bit straightforward (one clue leads pretty directly to the next), though Ortega's death seems to be connected to the attack on Caprica (we find out he was bribed to let a number of people aboard instead of, like, children, and that one of these free passes was the traitor who turned off the planetary defenses). It also leads to some pretty ropy comedy with a sassy computer voice, and as Starbuck loses confidence, he makes a run for it like a big baby and his escape attempt is never mentioned by the authorities later. Throughout, as with most bottle shows it seems, internal security is complete balls.

The case finally hinges on luring the real killer into a shuttle so he can also kill Apollo and a begrudgingly helpful Baltar (well at least he's still in the show) - which makes no sense when you think about it - and having their conversation broadcast on a certain channel FOR WHICH THERE IS A SPECIFIC LONE BUTTON ON THE JUDGE'S DESK at the right time, even though it's against procedure to do so, because no, there's absolutely no way to record anything... Anyway, it's dumb. The identity of the killer is even pretty obvious once we meet the entire cast of suspects. The only thing really worth watching is the Cass-Starbuck relationship, which has advanced to the point where they openly say they love each other, and that scene where it destroys her to give damning evidence against him, and he's proud of her.

SPACE DISCO: Chella's glittering shirt. They smoke a lot in the casino, which is a bad idea on a spaceship, but would be the norm in bars for more than a decade after this.

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: Karibdis is the one who disabled Caprica's planetary defenses; in the modern series, that was Baltar's act of treachery. The reimagined Apollo also improvises himself a defense attorney, but for Baltar himself.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: Ortega gets it.

- Apparently written in a rush, Murder on the Rising Star is extremely clunky and wastes pretty much everything that's good about it - Peters, the romance, the second act red herring.


Brendoon said...

What's it been like getting your head back into the era?
Your reviews made me consider how rose-tinted my memories are!
While I could jump straight into a B&W 50's Superman episode today I think I'd have to get "into condition" to immerse into the stuff I loved in the 70's and 80's.

I'm hoping there are watchable episodes of the Incredible Bixby/Ferrigno Hulk, but the pilot movie scared me right off...

Siskoid said...

Still better than Space 1999.

Brendoon said...



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