Battlestar Galactica #17: Greetings from Earth

"We ARE a race worth saving."
SO SAY WE ALL: The fleet encounters a sleeper ship from a place called Terra, which the Colonials think might be Earth, running from an evil Alliance. Somehow, android shenanigans ensue.

REVIEW: At twice the normal size, filled with hope the Galactica might find Earth soon (or get another important clue, we don't know what ties Terra to Earth yet), the misleadingly titled Greetings from Earth is a huge disappointment. First, it's quite dull, especially the first half with its oppressive exposition. Characters mull over what to do, talk about ethics, explaining just what's at stake, over and over and over in different character combinations, including Athena, now a school teacher, to a class of young kids. This marks her last appearance, and that of Boxey too (as a child), who by the second half of the episode, is more or less forgotten, because it seems like Apollo might have evoked his son among his excuses not to stay with a sleeper lady. And even if he explains himself thoroughly, I don't always buy Apollo's reasons why no one should tamper with the sleepers, or at least why he's so aggressive about his position. He's certainly inherited his over-cautiousness from his father, but sadly, not Lorne Green's capacity to believably render the show's ever-more unconvincing scripts.

The best thing about that first act is the fleet's reaction, jumping to conclusions, the interference from the politicians, and a civil war brewing among the Colonials. This makes sense even if the script often fails the actors. But I also gotta say... My main frustration with the episode IS the acting. Especially the guest acting. The sleepers offer us some awkward child acting (more awkward than usual), but that's par for the course. Randolph Mantooth as Michael is just boring, and kind of looks too much like Apollo. Kelly Harmon plays his not-mate Sarah very badly indeed though the character itself is perhaps unplayable, what with her falling in love with Apollo at the drop of a hat, and the subplot where I think Apollo's set a jealousy trap using Cass is never really brought to term. For a story with an enormous amount of padding, you'd think they could have cut some out to finish what they started. (The same goes for the pointless runaround in the alien city's bowels.) And then she sabotages the Vipers, and falls in love with Michael anyway (the script is so bad, he notes her saying "our children" as if that were something; it's not, it's his and hers, so ours... I guess it's not as bad as "millenniums" earlier) - the episode keeps settings things up, then resolving them without help from our heroes.

Tonally, you've got a dry first act that leads into an Empire/Rebels story that should have some action to it, but it's wasted on scenes with comedy droids... Why does this sound familiar? In Star Wars (which BSG has always ripped off, at least a little), the droids are beloved. In Greetings from Earth, they look cheap and silly, have chirpy voices, and supply a musical number. Wait, what? I suspect it's got to do with the casting. The daddy android, Vector, is played by Ray Bolger, who was the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. A major, if very retro, get for the show (it's almost bizarre how many older stars BSG attracted, what is this, The Love Boat?!). If you've got Bolger playing an artificial being (his shot at also playing the Tin Man), you might very well find a way to give him a song. It's a weird interlude, but I'm not against it. What's less successful is giving the androids make-up that evoke his look as the Scarecrow (the gold nose). That's just dumb. It's really too bad they cut corners on the androids, because there IS some money on the screen otherwise, mostly thanks to another visit to Montreal's '67 Expo, but you've also got hovercraft, built habitations, and new ships.

As for the Eastern Alliance who are supposed to be the villains of the piece, they're hardly in it. When they do show up, they are quickly captured by Apollo and Starbuck even though the Colonials are vastly outnumbered. The two warriors don't earn the right to laugh at these guys AT ALL, and drive off (leaving their Vipers?!) as if in control of the situation, with a bunch of armed troopers behind them(!!!) and lead them right to the Galactica. And it ends like that without a "To be continued" card or anything. Greetings is so damn ROPY!

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: The episode actually gives the (rounded up/down) number for the fleet's population, about 6000 people. The crew of the Alliance destroyer is taken captive at the end of the episode, but it's not clear how many souls are added to the tally.

VERSIONS: Originally aired as a double-length episode, Greetings was of course split into two for syndication. Deleted scenes show there could have been even more exposition in this thing. Boxey's last scene (as a child) was excised.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - While this is important to set up this leg of the journey, it is boring and badly acted.

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