Battlestar Galactica #21: The Hand of God

"She carries three hundred fighters. Has two long range mega pulsars... here... and here. And over a hundred defensive laser turrets. She's an orbiting killer... capable of destroying every ship we have... including the Galactica." "That's what I like about the Colonel... his optimism."
SO SAY WE ALL: The Galactica stops running and confronts a Cylon Base Star dead on.

REVIEW: Well, that was an exciting season (and sadly, given its quality, SERIES) finale! The big news is that the Cylons are back, and that Adama, for all his natural caution, decides to make a run at them. There's a desperate mission. The boys infiltrate a Base Star (played by the StarLab back-up, one of two NASA references in the episode). Baltar's help is required, leading to one of the episode's better moments as an impassive Adama negotiates terms with the villain. He really plays hardball! Lorne Green is so good in this scene, it makes up for the fact we'll never know how Baltar made out in the end, or that there's no time for him to be treacherous one last time. Because the mission isn't all that difficult, as it turns out, but the direction goes the extra mile by making the interior of the Base Star so weird. We're in unknown territory, so there's slow motion, odd angles on the heroes, quick zooms... By disrupting the show's usual grammar, The Hand of God manages a slick other-worldliness (even if we, the viewers, have already been inside a Base Star). For the purposes of the plot, there's a silly bit where Apollo loses the beacon that will prevent the Galactica from firing on their Cylon fighter when they return, but a joke's been set up, and set up well, about waggling one's wings, and that predictably saves them. The action is fine, and the show builds tension until we get to it, with a great military march that turns into the Galactica theme when the heroes clasp hands before taking off.

Cass and Sheba are more or less left at home worrying, but I like all their scenes, so I can hardly complain. A romance between Sheba and Apollo is finally heating up, just as he might get himself killed, and Anne Lockhart (who I will miss terribly) plays it more and more urgently in the background. Eventually, Sheba cracks and reveals herself to him, they share their first kiss, but it's a poignant and sad moment. Not just because he's leaving for a suicide mission, but because Sheba addresses the ghost of Serina. That THIS is what stood in the way of their relationship all this time. Sheba further intuits that Apollo's been taking all the dangerous assignments because of his grief, that maybe he HAS BEEN suicidal since his first love's death. Wow. And then Cass has a similar conversation with Starbuck, who's own death wish is grounded in disengagement. He doesn't want to dwell on anything, commit to anything, and it's as if he means to prove his point that they might all be dead tomorrow anyway. Our heroes are different, but the same, and I like how it explains why these two are point men on most any adventure. I also want to note the great comedy moment provided by Starbuck in the latter scene, when Cass says knowing him, he'll probably rescue some beautiful prisoner while he's on the Base Star. There's a subtle beat where you see him consider the possibility even though he says it's crazy to think that.

I can't say the same of other comedic beats - the girls giggling at Boomer's boxer shorts, or the older characters wondering about the kids' sex lives - but maybe they were drunk during those scenes. The show opens on an escapade to a far-off, unused corner of the Galactica, a Celestial Chamber just above the engines where one might gaze at the stars. It's crazy to think the Galactica is 500 years old as intimated here, but Apollo shows how, at heart, he's an old-fashioned sailor. And yes, they do seem like kids after a party, looking for a place to make out. It's while they're their that the catch a stray transmission from Earth - bits from the Eagle landing and/or taking off from the Moon, although the footage as edited doesn't make sense unless it's some kind of edited rebroadcast - suggesting this story happens right on our doorstep. Are those planets the Vipers fly by part of our own system? Alpha Centauri? While Galactica 1980 won't really match up with any conclusions we can make here - more on that next week - the possibility makes the episode even more thrilling. Had the story really ended here, I think it would have been bittersweet, but satisfying. We can hope for the couples' future, imagine the fleet's arrival at Earth soon, and even if there are still Cylons in the universe, the victory here makes for symbolic closure.

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: The title was reused for the new series (no real similarity between the episodes except that Adama launches a major offensive in each).

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: I count three Vipers destroyed by Cylon fire.

REWATCHABILITY: High - Feels like this was stuff developed back when Galactica was going to be a finite mini-series, and it's probably my favorite regular episode of the show.



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